ISLAMABAD: The Ministry of Religious Affairs and Inter-Faith Harmony on Wednesday removed Mufti Muneebur Rehman from the post of chairman of Ruet-i-Hilal Committee and replaced him with Maulana Abdul Khabeer Azad, Khateeb of Badshahi Masjid, Lahore.
The ministry also notified new members of the committee, which include 14 clerics and religious scholars belonging to the four mainstream schools of thought in the country, namely Brelvi, Deobandi, Shia and Ahle Hadis.
The committee also includes four officers of grade 20, one each from Suparco, Met Office, Ministry of Science and Technology and Ministry of Religious Affairs.
The clerics and religious scholars in the committee are: Dr Raghib Hussain Naeemi, Allama Mohammad Hussain Akbar, Maulana Fazal-ur-Rahim, Dr Yaseen Zafar, Mufti Mohammad Iqbal Chishti, Dr Mufti Ali Asghar, Mufti Faisal Ahmed, Syed Ali Karar Naqvi, Mufti Yousaf Kashmiri, Hafiz Abdul Ghafoor, Mufti Fazal-i-Jamil Rizvi, Mufti Qari Mirullah, Sahibzada Syed Habibullah Chishti and Mufti Zameer Sajid.
He is replaced by Badshahi Masjid Khateeb; 15 new members of body also notified
However, there is no structured law regarding Ruet-i-Hilal Committee and the current set-up has been functioning under the Ministry of Religious Affairs as per a resolution passed by the National Assembly in 1974.
Respective governments have been striving to formulate laws and rules to administer the committee for the past decade.
Mufti Muneeb was the longest-serving chairman of the committee. He was appointed to the post at the end of 1997 for two years. However, he was reappointed the committee chairman in 2000 under the Musharraf regime, and re-notified in 2012 by the PPP government.
Traditionally the head of Ruet-i-Hilal Committee is appointed for two years, but due to Mufti Muneeb’s continued retention of the office, which offers perks and privileges equivalent to those of a federal minister, he attracted opposition from clerics.
His serious opposition was mainly from the clerics belonging to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Mufti Shahabuddin Popalzai of Qasim Ali Khan Mosque, Peshawar, openly challenged the decisions of Ruet-i- Hilal Committee on several occasions and as a result the country witnessed more than one Eidul Fitr for many years.
Mufti Muneeb was also at loggerheads with Federal Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry.
Mufti Muneeb had strongly opposed the annual calendar prepared by the Ministry of Science and Technology.
Talking to Dawn, Fawad Chaudhary said that his opposition to Mufti Muneeb was due to his resistance to science and scientific interpretation of Islam.
“We are in the process of establishing four lunar observatories. The first one will be established in Islamabad followed by another in Pasni, Balochistan,” the minister for science and technology said.
By the end of 2021, there would be no need for having a Ruet-i-Hilal Committee in the country as any citizen could go and see the moon by themselves at these observatories, he said.
Published in Dawn, December 31st, 2020