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May 24, 2020

Controversy revisited: Shawwal moon sighted, nation celebrates Eid today

Top Story

May 24, 2020

KARACHI: The Central Ruet-e-Hilal Committee Saturday announced that the Shawwal moon had been sighted and the country would celebrate Eidul Fitr on Sunday (today).

The committee met in the provincial capital to sight the Shawwal moon with Mufti Muneeb-ur-Rehman in the chair. Zonal committee meetings took place at their respective provincial headquarters. The Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD) experts were also part of the session, media reports say. Referring to science minister Fawad Chaudhry — who had already declared Eid in Pakistan on Sunday — the mufti said the minister "has no real authority" to decide on such matters.

Federal Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry said that he had already declared the Shawwal moon could be sighted Saturday, and the country may celebrate Eid-ul-Fitr on Sunday.

“The Shawwal moon was born on May 22 at 10:30pm and will be visible between 7.36pm and 8.15pm tonight in Badin, Thatta and Pasni,” Chaudhry said while addressing a press conference in Islamabad on Saturday.

He added that, according to the Ministry of Science and Technology, Eid-ul-Fitr should be celebrated in the country tomorrow. Taking exception to his announcement in advance, Mufti Muneeb said the minister "should not interfere in religious matters".

"We demand that the prime minister prevent him from interfering in religious matters."

He denied that there was any "government pressure" to make the announcement.

Earlier, in Quetta, the province's zonal committee announced that it had received a few testimonies from Pasni and Ormara. "We have informed the central committee of this," said Qari Abdul Rasheed.

The zonal committee said the final decision would be made by the Central committee.

Mufti Muneeb, addressing the media, had said, "When the final decision will be made, it will be announced before the media". He said it was "not appropriate" to speculate at this time.

Religious affairs minister Pir Noorul Haq Qadri, in a conversation with Geo News, said the committee would be the one to make the final decision about the observance of Eid.

"The matter is a religious one, which needs religious expertise," he said.

He said input from science "will never be turned away and can be used" but it is "unacceptable" to declare the moon sighted in advance without eyewitness testimony.

Qibla Ayaz of the Islamic Council of Ideology said that if Badin and other cities of Sindh provide testimony, there would be greater chances that Eid will be held tomorrow. He said word from these cities was being awaited.

Speaking of technology, he said Ulema do not oppose science but "the tradition of Ruet must be kept alive".

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) will celebrate Eid-ul-Fitr today, as the moon was not sighted on Friday.

The Jeddah-based Okaz paper reported that the moon-sighting committee had said that Saturday, May 23, would be the last day of Ramadan, while Sunday, May 24, would be the first day of Eid — Shawwal 1, 1441.

The UAE will also celebrate Eid on Sunday as the moon-sighting committee set up by the justice ministry announced that the moon was not sighted and Shawwal 1 would fall on Sunday, May 24.

The newspaper also reported that Indonesia, Turkey, Indonesia, and Qatar would also observe Eid on Sunday.

Meanwhile, unlike the past, there is no uncertainty among the faithful who follow the decisions of the private Ruet-e-Hilal Committee led by Mufti Shahabuddin Popalzai as they all know beforehand that Eidul Fitr would be celebrated today.

There was no wait on Saturday for the Shawal moon-sighting as the influential committee, based in the historic Masjid Qasim Ali Khan in Peshawar city, had already decided that Sunday would be the day of Eidul Fitr. Also, the faithful completed 30 days of fasting on Saturday and the committee felt there was no need to observe yet another one as under the Islamic lunar calendar the month is either 29 or 30 days.

It is a strange feeling for many as there used to be uncertainty until late evening if the moon would be sighted or not. Often, the decision to celebrate Eid was taken late after receiving and investigating the claim of moon-sighting from the witnesses. No worries this time as the decision has already been taken whether the moon is sighted or not.

No doubt there are more chances than the past of celebration of Eidul Fitr on the same day, ie Sunday, in the country this year, but you never know. Mufti Munibur Rahman, the long-time head of the official Ruet-e-Hilal Committee, is known to end his moon-sighting meeting rather early instead of waiting longer for witnesses and he could announce that the Shawal moon hasn’t been sighted and that Eidul Fitr would fall on Monday rather than Sunday. In this case, there would still be two Eids in Pakistan, one on Sunday in most parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa following the decision of Mufti Shahabuddin Popalzai and the other on Monday in line with the announcement by Mufti Munibur Rahman. The former had started Ramazan a day earlier than the latter and his followers completed 30 days of fasting on Saturday.

Mufti Shahabuddin Popalzai has faced some criticism this year for following the moon-sighting decision in Saudi Arabia, where the Shawal moon wasn’t sighted on Friday, instead of leading his Ruet-e-Hilal Committee to take its own independent decision.

Another strange coincidence is the common ground that Mufti Shahabuddin Popalzai and federal Minister of Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry have taken this year with regard to celebration of Eidul Fitr. Both want it to be celebrated on Sunday, the former on the basis of completion of 30 days of fasting and the latter on the basis of scientific work. Ironically, the two had differed on the issue of the Ramazan moon-sighting as Fawad Chaudhry had ridiculed Mufti Shahabuddin Popalzai by arguing that this moon couldn’t even be sighted with a pair of binoculars on that particular day.

Fawad Chaudhry has also expressed concern that Mufti Munibur Rahman could announce the celebration of Eidul Fitr on Monday rather than Sunday. He has been at odds with the latter and if he has his way the official Ruet-e-Hilal Committee would be disbanded and the moon-sighting duty handed over to scientists and weathermen.

Mufti Shahabuddin Popalzai, the scion of a respected scholarly religious family of Peshawar, was made to disappear last year and taken to the UAE. His followers said he was seized and put in a hotel in Dubai to stop him from making his controversial announcements about Ramazan and Shawal moon-sighting. However, this hasn’t stopped him from doing what he does annually, convening his private committee of clerics from Peshawar city and district and making moon-sighting announcements that are usually in conflict with the official committee.

He also took to the social media this year after announcing the Ramazan moon-sighting a day earlier than the official committee’s announcement. He remarked the next day that Mufti Munibur Rahman and Fawad Chaudhry won’t need binoculars to sight the clearly visible Ramazan moon after having missed it the first day. Now the equation has changed as Mufti Shahabuddin Popalzai and Fawad Chaudhry are on one side while Mufti Munibur Rahman is on the other.