Pakistan finalizes first scientific lunar calendar ending debate over moon-sighting

Pakistan finalizes first scientific lunar calendar ending debate over moon-sighting
In this file photo, clerics of Pakistan’s Moon Sighting Committee search the sky with a telescope for the new moon that signals the start of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, in Karachi, May 5, 2019. (AP)
Updated 22 May 2019

Pakistan finalizes first scientific lunar calendar ending debate over moon-sighting

Pakistan finalizes first scientific lunar calendar ending debate over moon-sighting
  • Minister of science and tech drew ire of conservative clerics this month by setting up committee to make lunar calendar
  • The document will scientifically calculate start of holy month of Ramadan in Pakistan and exact dates of other religious holidays

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Ministry for Science and Technology finalized the country’s first science-based lunar calendar and sent it for review on Wednesday to the Council of Islamic Ideology, a powerful religious body that advises the Pakistani government on the compatibility of laws with Islam.

Pakistan’s Minister for Science and Technology, Chaudhry Fawad Hussain, drew the ire of conservative clerics this month by setting up a committee to make the new calendar which will calculate the start of the holy fasting month of Ramadan in Pakistan, which faces an annual controversy over the date, as well as the exact dates of other religious festivals and occasions.

“Yes we have received the proposed calendar for review,” the office of the chairman of the Council confirmed to Arab News on Wednesday.

Islamic scholars disagree on whether the moon must be physically seen for the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan and other religious holidays to begin.

For the last many years on the eve of Ramadan, the country has found itself split on whether or not a new moon had been sighted. As a result, the country’s northwest regions often start the fasting month a day earlier than Punjab, Balochistan and Sindh provinces, as they did this year also.

In a notification issued earlier this month, the Science Ministry said a committee comprising scientists from Pakistan's space agency and its meteorological department “would finalize the [new lunar] calendar to indicate the exact dates of Ramadan, Eid-ul-Fitr & Eid-ul-Azha and Moharram for the next five years with 100% accuracy.”

Earlier this month, Chaudhry took on Mufti Muneeb-ur-Rehman, the powerful cleric who heads the Central Ruet-e-Hilal Committee of Pakistan, the department which announces the sighting of the new moon, saying he would set up a committee that would use “modern methods” to produce a lunar calendar based on the objective position of the moon in the sky rather than on actual moon sightings.

“In Pakistan we have seen every time, on Eid, on Ramadan, during Muharram, a controversy arises on the moon,” Chaudhry said in a video posted on Twitter. “When modern methods are available, and we can decide on a definite date, then the question is, why do we not use the modern technology?”