by Najmul Hoda (via Facebook)
“And I Swear By the Moon…” و القمر (Quran, 91 : 2)
Very heartening that this time almost all regions of India, in fact, most parts of the world, have begun their Ramzan on the same day today.
The ancient Arab calendar, later adopted as the Muslim religious calendar, known as Hijri, had been devised to keep a reckoning of days and months, primarily, in order to determine the time of Hajj (Quran, 2 : 189) which was a matter of life and death for the Arabs, for if they didn’t observe peace around the month of pilgrimage, they would perish in poverty because of the collapse of the commerce they lived off. (Quran, 9:36).
This being a lunar calendar – and the beginning of the month linked to actual sighting of the moon if the passing month has to be counted as one of 29 as against the inevitable 30 days otherwise – is beset with a chaos of uncertainty resulting in such ludicrous situations as there being two dates of the beginning of Ramzan and of celebration of Eid not only in the same country but, sometimes, also in the same town.
There has been another anomaly. Say, the moon has been sighted in Saudi Arabia, but nowhere in India on the same evening, the beginning of the month is deferred by one day in the latter even though the time difference between two countries is only of 3 hours. Had the Hijri lunar calendar not become confined to the religious matters and had not the Muslims become oblivious of it, except for bothering when to begin and when to stop fasting, and had they not switched to what is now known as the Common Era (CE) calendar for every other matter, this would have led to a major chaos.
Now, why allow this holy mess? The Quran says that both the sun and the moon are, amongst other things, for enabling the count of years and calculation of time (10 : 5). So, what calculation are we doing? Isn’t the knowledge of astronomy so advanced today as to tell us the precise position of moon in relation to a place on earth?
If so, why not improve the Hijri calendar by incorporating the accurate movements of heavenly bodies in order to remove the primitive confusion we countenance year after year? Isn’t it a matter of shame that such maulvis decide on the sighting of the moon and the beginning of months as think that the earth is flat and that there is an old woman on the moon, working on a charkha, sitting in the same posture eternally? That they decide on the matters of time, which is the subject of astronomy, is far worse than barbers performing surgery and illiterate politicians speaking about history.