Accepting unity in diversity (I)

A weak economy, growing poverty, educational crises and many more has never stopped us from creating additional problems. The recurring one recently being when the month of Ramadan would start and accordingly when Eid would bring an end to that holy month of fasting. What if the moon is not sighted everywhere at the same time or if the community of one area cannot agree if the moon has been seen? This has been made a problem Pakistan because successive governments have believed that Ramadan should begin on the same day everywhere in the country and there should be one Eid for all. To achieve this science and technology have been utilized, accordingly on 5 June Federal Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry launched Pakistan’s first moon sighting website containing a newly-formulated five-year lunar calendar.
Shaikh (Dr) Haitham Al-Haddad explains on a webpage that interestingly is called ‘Islam in the 21st century”, “that we have two types of months; the first is the legal month, which is known as Ramaḍān and the second is the astronomical (scientific) one, which is the 9th month of the lunar calendar. All Islamic rulings are based upon the first month which may or may not coincide with the astronomical month. The latter has no significance in the eyes of the Sharῑ’ah and hence no Islamic rulings are based on it. And that in the 21st century! The learned Sheikh does not give any significance to the scientific method and it seems that he is sharing this view with most of our Islamic scholars. It is also a fact that there was a time in the history of Islam between the 9th to the 13th centuries when the Islamic world was a leading in scientific research and its application made it the leading power in the world. Students from all over Christian Europe came to Cordoba and Baghdad, to Al Kahira and Isfahan to study medicine, astronomy, physics and other scientific subjects. When those doubting the usefulness of science started getting the upper hand, Islamic world started to sink and Europe, after ridding itself from the shackles of the Christian church took over the lead in science. By insisting in the 21st century that science has no significance for the way Islam has to be practiced, the Mullahs are intent on perpetuating this state of affairs.
There is another argument as well. What exactly is science? Science is the study of the laws of nature. Who has created the world and the laws according to which nature is functioning? It is the same Allah who has revealed the Qur’an to the Prophet of Islam. Even the Qur’an tells us to watch the moon and the stars, study His creation and learn its purpose. So could there be an unbridgeable difference between what science tells and the word of God? The answer is no; both are coming from the same source and are, therefore, complementary and not mutually exclusive. Our Prophet (PbuH) knew that and practiced it; He used to count the days in Sha’baan more carefully than at any other time, then he would fast when he sighted (the new moon) of Ramadan. When the moon would not be visible because of clouds he would complete the thirty days and then start the new month.
With the spread of Islam throughout the world the different communities would have to rely on their own experience. The idea of Ummah uniting the Muslims all over the world Islam does not ordain that it has to be practiced uniformly all over the world. Only some basic principles are laid down but within the limits of those principles the Muslims are free to adjust practice to their needs and conditions. One central principle of Islam is that there should be no coercion in Islam. So why Muslims would be coerced into a uniformity of having one Eid only within a country of two hundred thousand especially given the fact that the difference between the scientific and the ‘Islamic’ method can’t be more than one day only? Peshawar had two Eids again – one in the Pashtun areas and one in the cantonment areas. And all went peacefully without harm.

To Be Continued


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