ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry, who again triggered a controversy over moon sighting by declaring that Eidul Fitr would be celebrated in the country on Sunday (today) even before the announcement of the Ruet-i-Hilal Committee on Saturday, said that successive governments had always tried to accommodate sectarian issues into affairs of the state.

“This cannot be so. The state is above controversies and sectarian issues. The state does not favour groups but runs its affairs according to the law and constitution of the country,” the minister said at press briefing which he had called to announce Eid on Sunday.

He said that because of such practice, sectarian groups had become strong and imposed their say in the matters of the state.

“In various matters, including the issue of moon sighting, sectarianism prevails though logic, law and science and technology should be consulted and given priority,” he said.

He said that while Mufti Shahabuddin Popalzai had announced moon sighting separately from the Ruet-i-Hilal Committee, the government had realised that moon sighting was no longer difficult anywhere in the world.

“Islam is a forward-looking religion and encourages its followers to acquire knowledge, adopt technology and apply logic. We dismiss contrary opinions that discourage adopting science for progress,” he said.

The minister said it was the government’s intention to settle the controversy surrounding moon sighting for Eidul Fitr and for this purpose a committee of experts such as space scientists and mathematicians, officials of Meteorology Department and ulema had been formed.

He said that the committee came to the conclusion that moon took a little over 29 days to revolve around the earth and for its sighting, the crescent had to be 6.5 degrees above the horizon, its luminosity should be at least 0.8 per cent and its angle above the horizon should be nine degrees.

The minister quoted Imam Hambal, Dr Tahirul Qadri, and Dr Javed Ghamdi as arguing that it was not necessary to visually spot the Shawwal moon.

“The new Shawwal moon was born on May 22 at 10:39pm. On May 23, the new moon of Shawwal can be easily spotted with telescope in Sanghar, Badin, Thatta, and Pasni between 7:36pm and 8:15pm. The new moon will be 20 hours old,” Mr Chaudhry said.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and other Arab countries, Turkey, Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei will celebrate Eid on May 24. According to the Ministry of Science and Technology, Eid in Pakistan would also be on May 24, the minister said.

However, he said, the ministry would convey its findings to Prime Minister Imran Khan who would decide further line of action.

Even though Mufti Popalzai had declared Eid in Peshawar on Sunday, it was unlikely the moon would be sighted there, he said.

Published in Dawn, May 24th, 2020