Religious leaders must use common sense: Pak minister chides clerics ahead of Eid-ul-Fitr

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry has hit out at clerics for trying to detach science from religion, saying the religious leaders must use “common sense” when it comes to sighting the moon to determine Eid-ul-Fitr.

Chaudhry, a close aide of Prime Minister Imran Khan, has angered the clerics by discontinuing the traditional moon sighting methods used by the Ruet-e-Hilal Committee to end the moon sighting controversy during all important Islamic festivals.

Till now, the Ruet-e-Hilal Committee, the department which announces the sighting of the new moon, used to determine when Eid-ul-Fitr is celebrated in Pakistan.

Chaudhry last month announced that the Government of Pakistan will observe Eid on June 5 unlike in Saudi Arabia where Eid-ul-Fitr is being celebrated on Tuesday.

The National Assembly, the lower house of Parliament, was informed last month that Pakistan spent Rs 3.06 million on the sighting of the moon for Muharram, Ramazan, Eid-ul-Fitr and Eid-ul-Azha in 2018.

“It is sad to see how our religious scholars have come out deeming science to have nothing to do with moon sighting,” he said in a press briefing in Islamabad on Monday.

He said Muslims were pioneers in scientific research in various fields, adding that “the Islamic faith compels us to seek knowledge and apply it where ever possible”.

He said the moon for Eid-ul-Fitr had been sighted at 3:02pm, adding that the altitude of today’s (Monday’s moon was one per cent with its luminosity recorded at 0.1 per cent.

“You see the sun and moon are both moving in their own cycles and it is imperative to documents their movements,” he said.

“What about countries where the sun and moon don’t come out for days…. should we just say that there’s no Eid or Ramazan in these situations,” Chaudhry added.

The clerics must use “common sense when it comes to sighting the moon” to determine Eid-ul-Fitr, the Express Tribune quoted Chaudhry as saying.

The minister said Islam was for the entire world not just Pakistan or a certain region.

“We are recording all of this but does that mean we can see the moon, because the time the sun and moon set happens to coincide, so the moon can’t clearly be seen,” he said.

Chaudhry said that the moon will be visible to all on Tuesday with those at the coastal regions of Karachi and Gwadar being even able to see it with the naked eye.

The minister noted that the meteorological department had opened all of its observatories for the general public so they could catch a glimpse of the moon.

The details, he added, had been shared on social media with addresses of closest observatories given.

On May 31, the federal minister rolled out the Muslim majority country’s first moonsighting website as well as a mobile application to help understand the different cycles of the moon.

However, the ministry’s efforts to modernise the moon-sighting process have not been well received by all clerics and a last-minute change in the date for Eid-ul-Fitr cannot be ruled out.

Meanwhile, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government on Monday officially declared Tuesday as the first day of Eid-ul-Fitr across the province.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Information Minister Shaukat Yousufzai said provincial Chief Minister Mahmood Khan took the decision after an unofficial Ruet committee based at Peshawar’s Qasim Khan mosque claimed that it had received over 100 calls from different districts about sighting of the Shawwal moon.

A senior government official told Dawn newspaper that the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government declared Eid on Tuesday after getting approval from Prime Minister Khan.

Reacting to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government’s decision, Chaudhry termed it as an “inappropriate decision”.

The minister said that people can celebrate Eid whenever they want but it should not be based on lies.

It was not possible for the moon to be sighted last night, he claimed.

“You can’t celebrate a religious festival on the basis of a lie,” he was quoted as saying by Samaa TV.

He said it was shameful that lies have been endorsed by a government and advised the provincial governments to refrain from becoming part of local fights.

Chaudhry recently released a five-year calendar that has set the dates for Eid-ul-Fitr in Pakistan.

According to it, this year’s Eid will be on June 5.

The next five Eids are on May 24, 2020, May 14, 2021, May 3, 2022, April 22, 2023 and April 10, 2024.