Minister’s tweet on Ramazan moon sighting stirs controversy again

Published April 4, 2021
Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry. — APP/File
Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry. — APP/File

ISLAMABAD: A tweet by Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry on Saturday that the Ramazan moon would be sighted in all major cities on April 13 has once again stirred a controversy as religious circles, including the newly-appointed chairman of Central Ruet-i-Hilal Committee, expressed their annoyance over his statement.

The ministry of religious affairs and the Ruet-i-Hilal Committee had been facing controversies over moon sighting in the previous years.

Meanwhile, Ruet-i-Hilal Committee Chairman Maulana Abdul Khabir Azad said the country had faced a serious image issue due to the many announcements related to moon sighting in the past.

“This may not be a matter of Sharia disobedience but shatters the national pride when there are different dates for commencement of Ramazan and Eids in the country,” Maulana Azad told Dawn.

Fawad Chaudhry should have waited for meeting of Ruet-i-Hilal Committee, says chairman

He said the state had authorised the Central Ruet-i-Hilal Committee to make the final announcement related to the new moon for commencement of Islamic months.

“Minister Fawad Chaudhry sahib should have waited for the meeting of the committee. Besides, a senior officer of the science ministry is a member of the committee,” Maulana Azad added.

After taking charge as the chairman, Maulana Azad held several meetings not only to woo the disgruntled elements in the religious circles, including Mufti Shahabuddin Popalzai but also Fawad Chaudhry with the request that only one announcement needs to be made regarding sighting of the Ramazan and Shawal moon.

“We are holding the upcoming meeting for the sighting of Ramazan moon on April 13 in Peshawar and Mufti Popalzai has been requested to attend it or send any of his representatives so that a consensus decision is made,” the chairman said.

Besides, for the first time the central committee has established Rue-i-Hilal committees at the district level to ensure that witnesses can be examined at ground level.

Meanwhile, the minister in his tweet said: “The moon will be clearly sighted in Islamabad, Lahore, Peshawar and Karachi.”

Pinned with his recent message was another tweet about the Ruet mobile application which he has been promoting since 2019. The five-step app helps users spot the precise location of the moon by holding the mobile handset towards the sky.

Fawad Chaudhry had said earlier that in this modern age every problem has been solved with the help of scientific knowledge and only those nations are making progress that are using science.

“Islam and science are not contradictory but the importance of knowledge in Islam distinguishes it from other religions,” the minister said.

Earlier in January, the Ruet-i-Hilal Committee Chairman Maulana Khabir had expressed his willingness to use scientific knowledge in moon sighting within the limits of Sharia in order to end repeated controversies surrounding religious festivals such as Eids.

Minister Chaudhry had assured Maulana Khabir of full cooperation from his ministry in sighting the moon.

He said his office would support the committee in order to reach consensus regarding the sighting of the moon with the help of science.

In the past, the Ruet-i-Hilal Committee had opposed the Ministry of Science and Technology’s offers to use scientific evidence to announce events of Islamic importance.

To end controversies surrounding religious events, the ministry also developed a lunar calendar, which contains all the dates of Islamic events in Pakistan, including Ramazan, Eidul Fitr, Eidul Azha and Muharram for the next five years. But the committee opposed any assistance from the ministry, cautioning Fawad Chaudhry not to interfere in matters he did not understand.

Published in Dawn, April 4th, 2021

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