A SUGGESTION that scientists should be brought in to determine precisely when the Muslim month-long period of fasting – Ramadan – should begin has upset religious groups in Pakistan.
According to this report, Imran Khan’s government faces a clash with Islamic faith bodies because his Science and Technology Minister Fawad Chaudhry, above, said Pakistan would use scientists to predict when the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan starts, rather rely on clerics with telescopes.
Chaudhry said the new committee of astronomers and meteorologists would devise a 10-year calendar for the start of religious occasions that rely on a new moon.
He said the new committee would end annual disputes on whether the moon has been sighted.
Pakistan has this year again found itself split on whether or not a new moon had been sighted today (Monday) ushering in a month of dawn-to-dusk fasting.
The state-run moon-sighting committee declared the first day of the month should begin on Tuesday, while a notoriously dissenting cleric declared it was Monday.
The new five-person committee would include scientists from Pakistan’s space agency and its meteorological department, Chaudhry said.
This will end uncertainty about moon-sighting..
Islamic scholars disagree on whether the moon must be physically seen for Ramadan to begin.
Chaudhry’s plan provoked anger from the head of the moon-sighting committee, who said he already drew on scientific advice to make his annual declaration.
Mufti Munib-ur-Rehman, above,the chief of the central Ruet-e-Hilal Committee, accused Mr Chaudhry of being:
Unaware of religious matters. I have previously appealed to the premier to let speak only concerned minister on religious issues.
Chaudhry admitted the plan was likely to face opposition.
The calendar drawn up by the scientific committee would first have to be agreed by the federal government and he said no one would be forced to abide by it.
There’s also an important financial aspect to the row. Mullahs with telescopes don’t come cheap. Up to around Rs4 million (£21,500) are spent on the moon-sighting nonsense every year, and Chaudhry believes that the Ruet-e-Hilal committee should carry out the sighting voluntarily.
Where is the wisdom in spending Rs4 million on moon-sighting for Ramzan and Eid? At least the [Ruet-e-Hilal] committee should do it voluntarily. All around the world [the sighting] is done without remuneration.
The Minister said the national exchequer was incurring hefty expenses on the moon sighting, and that it was time to utilise science and technology for the practice.
He said “educated scholars are supporting my suggestion,” inferring that that clerics were greedy fools.
Muslims in Southeast Asian countries including Indonesia and Malaysia, and much of the Middle East, including Egypt, Iraq and Saudi Arabia, began their fast on Monday.
Millions more, however, in India, Pakistan and Iran, were due to mark the start of the lunar month on Tuesday based on moon sightings there.
Traditionally, countries announce if their moon-sighting council spots the Ramadan crescent the evening before fasting begins.