CII consults faith-based scholars over the moonsighting debate

The Council of Islamic Ideology ( CII ) has achieved out to religious scholars for their viewpoint on whether it is accepted to follow the Islamic calendar without a physical sighting of the moon, officials of CII said to DawnNewsTV on Tuesday. Letters have been sent to Wafaqul Madaris al Arabia, Wafaqul Madaris al-Sunnah, Wafaqul Madaris Al-Shia, and Wafaqul Madaris Al-Salvia. Members of the CII will also be consulted on the issue.

The CII will call a conference after Eidul Fitr to give it’s taking over on this problem that has sparked a discussion between the Ruet-i-Hilal Committee and Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry. The ministry had requested a ruling within 5 days but the CII deemed it impossible, declaring that many people had gone for Umrah and would not be included in Ramazan. Eidul Fitr’s date will be publicized by the Ruet-i-Hilal committee this season.

The moonsighting ‘controversy’ reared its head previously this month when Chaudhry formed a committee of 5 experts from the ministry of science and technology, Meteorological Division and the Pakistan Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission ( Suparco ) to determine to the sight of the moon for key Islamic dates and months scientifically. The minister took the initiative after the National Assembly was informed that Rs3 .06 million has been spent a year ago on the sighting of the crescent for Muharram, Ramazan, Eidul Fitr, and Eidul Azha. He had previously been critical of the committee, saying that up to Rs4m was spent on the moon-sighting procedures each year and that it was time science and technology were used to end the controversy.

Chaudhry had questioned the wisdom of investing a large amount of money on moon-sighting each year, saying the Ruet-i-Hilal Committee should do this task on a voluntary basis. The previous week, a letter from the ministry to the CII, a copy of which was acquired by DawnNewsTV, confirmed that the lunar calendar has been sent to the council to review. “You are asked for to accord your viewpoint in Islamic perspectives,” read the letter, dated May 21. “If a few clarifications are required, a conference of religious scholars and scientists may be convened, preferably within five days .”

The notification and feedback of the minister had drawn a prompt reaction from Ruet-i-Hilal Committee chairman Mufti Muneebur Rehman, who cautioned the former against commenting on religious matters and declared the committee consulted experts while sighting the crescent. Nevertheless, on Sunday, the science and technology ministry released the “first official” moonsighting website and a calendar displaying primary Islamic dates and months for the upcoming 5 years depending on scientific evidence. A mobile app is also being developed by the scientific committee.

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