In Pakistan, not over the moon

September 25, 2009

By Zeeshan Haider

Pakistan is battling Taliban militants, trying to patch up relations with old rival India and struggling to revive a limping economy but another issue has preoccupied the country over recent days: the sighting of the moon that markes the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

A row erupted when the Eid al Fitr holiday that follows Ramadan was celebrated in several parts of North West Frontier Province (NWFP) on Sunday, a day ahead of the rest of the country. Many Pakistanis say that violated a spirit of harmony and unity that should mark one of the
most important events of the Islamic calender.

Some clerics in NWFP announced on Saturday evening that the crescent moon, which marks the end of a month in Islam’s lunar calender, had been sighted, meaning Ramadan was over and Eid would be celebrated the next day. But a government-appointed body of clerics responsible for
moon-sighting rejected the announcement, citing reports from the Meteorological Department that said the moon could not be seen on Saturday.

Clerics in  NWFP, a religiously conservative region on the Afghan border dominated by ethnic Pashtuns, have called Eid early before but this time the politicians jumped into the fray. The Awami National Party (ANP), a secular party ruling NWFP which is also part of the federal coalition, backed the clerics from its province who called Eid early.

Analysts say the ANP’s stand could be a aimed at winning the support of conservative Pashtuns.

Some ANP ministers exchanged barbs with Mufti Muneeb-ur-Rehman, the head of the federal government’s moon-sighting committee, and called for his removal.

Minister for Railways and senior ANP leader Bashir Ahmed Bilour described Rehman as a “remnant” of Pervez Musharraf, the former military ruler who stepped down as president last year after ruling the country for nine years, and said he should be replaced by Mufti Shahbuddin Popalzai, a hardline cleric from NWFP who called Eid early.

Rehman responded by saying Bilour was trying to stoke religious tension by promoting the conservative Popalzai.

“By demanding that Popalzai be made chairman of the Reut-e-Hilal (moon-sighting) Committee, Bilour is paving the way for Talibanisation in other parts of the country,” the News newspaper
quoted Rehman as saying.

Both Bilour and Rehman later toned down their rhetoric.

Bilour apologised for some of his remarks while Rehman said he would not oppose Popalzai’s appointment as a member of the central moon-sighting committee.

But debate is still raging in the media, amid calls for the federal government to take steps to ensure unity on religious questions.

“I have a simple suggestion to permanently end the annual moon-sighting controversy: a compulsory course in astronomy for all members of the Reut-e-Hilal Committee as well as those clerics who think that the moon should appear in Pakistan on the same day as in Saudi Arabia,”
Shakir Laskhani said in a letter published in the News newspaper on Thursday.

The daily said in an editorial headlined “Moon madness” scientific methods should be employed when sighting the moon.

“The time has come to find rationality”.

[Reuters pictures of Lahore’s Badshahi mosque and sighting of the moon in Malaysia]


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“Moon madness” VS Chandrayaan

If you remember some time back you had hinted at reunion of the two countries and scared the daylights out of me. I hope this contrast helps you understand how we have gone in completely opposite directions.

We have muslims in India too, do you remember any controversy about moon in India??? maybe they were too busy pushing ISRO to reach for MARS next.

Posted by indian1127 | Report as abusive

The controversy has apparentlly nothing to do with sighting of the moon. The new moon was born on 19 sep 01:44 PST. On 19 Sep it was only visible in parts of South Ameirca. The fact that the new moon was visible in South America was good enough for most of the Islamaic world to celebrate Eid on 20 Sep. Pakistan on the other hand celebrated only after the sighting on 20 Sept inside Pakistan. The information on moon sighting was sent to daily DAWN for publicationwell in advance but this did not happen.

Posted by Khalid Rashid | Report as abusive

”The time has come to find rationality”.

–>The world hopes that rationality starts with scientific moon sightings and then Ijtihad(or some modern day thought process, involving rationality, reason and thinking) branches off to re-examine thousands of other older matters in a modern day context as well.

Posted by moon gazer | Report as abusive

Can they see Indian flag in the moon?

Wait 10 years! India will set up a moon base and they see Indians .. lots of Indians on the moon!

Then Pakistanis will stop looking at the moon and this problem will be solved.

Posted by Ramin | Report as abusive

@Indian 1127. I had alluded to a scenario where a certain many things and the right conditions had to be in place to facilitate some sort of reconciliation or reunion.

I respect peoples and their rights to worship in the manner they want, regardless of their religion. But what are human beings expected to achieve in the future, in 100, 1000 or 5000 years, if we never change the way that we look at the world around us and never question anything.

But if we live by blind faith exclusively, our eyes will never be open to the universe’s creativity around us, and we will always be blind and static and see things in only one way and trapped by our blind belief and incapable of ascending into higher levels of understanding and potential of the human mind and spirit. This is one of the reasons why religion reject science, because time and time again, it has proven man-made laws to be wrong. (ie Leonardo Davinci Jailed by Catholic Church).

The only true laws in this universe are unwritten are newtonian, quantum, physical laws and the laws of nature around us, the true domain of God. All other laws are merely man-made constructs, from the minds of humans, so that we can put into context, the way that we perceive ourselves in this world.

I am not saying that we should not observe man made laws as Godly laws, what I am saying is that we need to look beyond blind faith and view the world through a more comprehensive point of view, other than man-made laws as our first way of looking at everything. Just to be clear, I do not believe that God is a man made construct.

Let’s all leave the moon phase time and dates to the scientists, it is 2009, we have amazing technology to allow this.

Posted by Global Watcher | Report as abusive

Now that Ramzan is over, pakistanis should appoint a bin Laden-sighting committee and do some good to the world!

Posted by pcs | Report as abusive

Now that Ramzan is over, pakistanis should appoint a bin Laden-sighting committee and do some good to the world!
– Posted by pcs

Bin Laden is Pakistan’s insurance. If they handover bin laden, then war over. Who would give Pakistan 1.5 bil/yr for 5 yrs?

Posted by Robin | Report as abusive


Since you talk laws of nature/universe, it probably right time revisit Darwins law of “Survival of the most adaptable”. Nature always chooses and creates condition for the adaptable and purges the regressive.

How do you mix the adaptable society with those who have regressive mentality?

Why carry dead weight when you are shooting for the moon?

Posted by indian1127 | Report as abusive

China sells a white elephant to Nigeria 1.stm

And the Story repeats again in Pakistan …

Pakistan, China agree to develop new satellite 09/18/content_8710746.htm

Posted by Soman | Report as abusive

If pakistan will improve or try to think themselves…belive me world’s economy will start improving like amazing, but when they will start ?
that is trillion $ Question ???

Jai Ho Bhagwan, Give some Rain of Sense in Pakistan.

Posted by nilesh | Report as abusive

Recession simplified ..:)

Every country contributes millions or billions to world economy!

Pakistan sucks hundreds of billions out of world economy!

So we got a balance of payment crisis in the world ..:)

Posted by Soman | Report as abusive