Another Ramadan and another Eidul-Fitr gone by and the Muslim community worldwide again celebrated both the events on separate days. In India alone, as most of the readers will be aware, most of the north celebrated Ramadan a day after the south but somehow agreed upon celebrating Eid the same day which was still a day after the Middle-East did, which funnily enough includes our most sacred cities. We in London followed Saudi Arabia and celebrated both the events on the same day.
I could have perhaps been less thoughtful if the whole of South Asia did the same thing which would mean that nobody was able to sight the moon anywhere in the region. But what I find hilarious and regretful at the same time is that its not even about a region or continent, even in the same country someone spotted the moon in one part but the people in another part of the same country somehow found it impossible to accept this fact and start the same day.
I questioned a few people back home about the entire affair and was even more concerned with what I heard. I was told that the same question was put to the "alims" or the knowledgeable ones, the scholars and they said that they could not possibly accept the moon sighting from someone from as far away as the south for the fear of someone playing a prank! What?! I asked myself with surprise and amusement and a bit of anger. So they have no access to the media some of which would have surely broadcast this news, especially the ones from the Middle East. Even before that, what they meant to tell the people that the Moon Sighting Committees that have been set up in almost each city across the length and breadth of the country do not have access to the telephone system and they do not know of other committees' telephone numbers so that they can call them and re-confirm if someone from a far off place tells them of a moon sighting and that all these bodies are disparate entities, aloof, oblivious even to the existence of each other. If that is the case then I deeply regret to think that this entire system is in a state of shocking mess and the whole purpose of having these committees stands absolutely defeated and if indeed that is the case then I have to say that all of them are really living in their own little worlds and it is about time that they came out of it!
So the people in-charge of drawing up the Ummah's calendar are so backward that they do not have access to any modern means of communications which can be trusted and I am sure they must not have even heard of the Internet or Email either?! Which begs another point - the Muslim community doesnít even have a proper common calendar! But wait a minute! The whole point of the Prophet SAW giving his Ummah a calendar was to bring unity wasnít it? So that we can all celebrate our festivals together and start our months on the same day? Surely thatíís the purpose of the calendar! And then if it is a different calendar for everyone what happens to the "Lailatul Qadr"? Surely when a night was designated to be so, it must hold great significance, massive importance. But with a different calendar for different people, where does that leave us?
It is amazing, really, that how can we, in this day and age, still let such a thing happen! We have only one moon don't we? And if there is only one moon then logic dictates that obviously there will always be only one new moon and it will happen only on one particular day irrespective of whether or not someone has seen it. It can be predicted. Phases of the moon are not a spontaneous phenomenon. It is a natural repetitive cycle which will keep on happening until the day of the Qiyamah.
But all that is reason and logic which has perhaps, in view of the current scenario, become completely alien to us! Why are we so hesitant to embrace new technology or embrace technology at all? Why are we scared to link science and Islam whereas in fact science only tells us in more detail what Islam told us 1400 years ago? Why can we not shun our archaic practices and methods and step into the new world. Islam is a religion for all ages isnít it or at least thatís what my idea is. How can we forget that? All this again makes me repeat the same thing - why cant we take our ancestors' legacy of knowledge forward? It was us who mastered Astronomy. It was us who mastered Mathematics and gave to the world the Logarithms and Algebra. It was us who conquered Chemistry and Medicine as well. And all that simply because they embraced knowledge.
But now, it seems, we have almost resigned ourselves to a very conformist approach where we feel asking questions will be frowned upon and in many cases it is. My last article (Is December 6 still the issue?) invited a lot of criticism from Mr Shahabuddin, but unfortunately he could not tell me what is he or his team doing for the upliftment and advancement of the community apart from fighting court cases for a demolished structure that once used to be a mosque and one that was not under our control for a very long time, holding the community in a time warp. Would he or the organisation he is heading which apparently is representative of the Indian Muslim Community like to take an initiative for networking the committees all over India so that they have better communications? Deal with one of the many "real" issues for once? So that we can have a common Muslim calendar?
Arshad Khalid, London