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Has Mufti Shahabuddin Popalzai been vindicated this time?

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May 29, 2017

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PESHAWAR: The Ramazan moon was clearly visible in the sky Saturday evening as it was luminous and exquisite.

It made the faithful in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa heave a sigh of relief as they had reluctantly decided to keep fast on Saturday despite the fact that the Central Ruet-i-Hilal Committee head Mufti Munibur Rahman, who has been holding this position for years, had announced that the Ramazan moon had not been sighted anywhere in Pakistan. Mufti sahib was wrong as the moon that was seen high above in the sky Saturday evening was more than a day old and would have been surely sighted Friday evening by those with good eyesight and having interest in such things.

Mufti Shahabuddin Popalzai, the head of the private moon-sighting committee that traditionally meets at the historic Masjid Qasim Ali Khan, was vindicated as his decision to announce the start of Ramazan from Saturday was proved right. It wasn’t his call alone as the committee had other members who are known and respected. They had collectively made the decision after ensuring that those claiming to have sighted the moon were truthful. It couldn’t have been easy taking responsibility for such a major decision at a time when the Central Ruet-i-Hilal Committee had already and hurriedly made the announcement about non-sighting of the Ramazan moon.

As usual, Mufti Munibur Rahman and his fellow religious scholars in the central moon-sighting committee had not bothered to wait for and accept the evidences of the sighting of the moon from persons belonging to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Even the Zonal Ruet-i-Hilal Committee in Peshawar, which is an official body, couldn’t convey to the central committee headed by Mufti Munibur Rahman, that 12 persons from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had conveyed to it that they had sighted the moon late Friday evening.

In fact, many people in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have stopped trusting the Mufti Munibur Rahman-led committee. Instead, they trust the Mufti Shahabuddin Popalzai-headed moon-sighting committee even if it is unofficial and is operating illegally. This committee is approached by clerics and commoners from almost all over the province and is presented with proof of moon-sighting. Once it is satisfied that the evidences of moon-sighting are substantial and credible, the happy news about the first day of Ramazan or celebration of Eidul Fitr is quickly passed to the network of Ulema present all over Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Fata and before long it is conveyed to village after village through the mosque loudspeakers. It is an efficient system of communication and decision-making.

It is true that the decision by Mufti Shahabuddin Popalzai and his committee wasn’t accepted by everyone in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Fata. The people in Malakand and Hazara divisions follow the Central Ruet-i-Hilal Committee and observe Ramazan and celebrate Eid with rest of Pakistan. However, majority of the people in the province and in Fata eagerly follow the decisions of moon-sighing made every year by the Mufti Shahabuddin Popalzai committee. They would continue to do so if the moon-sighting issue in Pakistan isn’t resolved to the satisfaction of all stakeholders.

As for Mufti Shahabuddin Popalzai, he stood his ground despite speculation that he had been warned by the government not to announce the sighting of the moon on his own. There were also rumours that he had been won over and would no longer challenge the Central Ruet-i-Hilal Committee’s announcements about moon-sighting. None of this was true as he again defied the Mufti Munibur Rahman committee and went ahead with his decision to accept evidences of moon-sighting at the Qasim Ali Khan mosque and announce the sighting of the Ramazan moon. His decision irked many people who wanted Ramazan to start on the same day all over Pakistan. But many others believe he did the right thing as the Ramazan moon seen by almost everyone Saturday evening wasn’t the first day’s moon, but was more than a day old. They are convinced the first day of Ramazan should have been Saturday rather than Sunday.

 

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