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18 July 2012

Fasting Dates Confusion: Moon Sighting Problems in India

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By P.A.Mohamed Ameen

The system of Hilal Committees, the work of Muftis and Imams of Grand or village Masjids, all sound on paper, scientifically well organised and superbly efficient, but unfortunately the ground realities are different. There is total chaos and confusion every year, in every part of India about the commencing and ending of fasting.

Let me narrate what happened in the year 2000. I was in my native village ( Ilayangudi) 500 Km from Chennai during Ramadan. We had completed the 29th day of fasting and our Tarawih prayers and it was ten at night. In Tamil Nadu, then, there were seven private cable TV networks and three Government channels and not a single station reported any announcement made by any of the Hilal committees, offices of the State Kadzi or Mufti.

Now to continue my frustrating story, at 10.30 p.m. that night I made a telephone call to the Chennai office of a leading Muslim monthly Samarasam and I was told that the Chennai Kadzi had not made any official announcement so far. It was 11.00 p.m. Then I made another call to a Grand Masjid at Angappa Naik Street, Chennai and received the same "Not sure" message.

Now my question is: Who is responsible for this chaos, confusion and uncertainty? Who is responsible for this incommunicado? What is the point of having Govt appointed Kadzis, the so-called Hilal Committees at the State and the Central levels and the umpteen Muslim organizations( NGOs) and Muslim based political parties if there is no constant communication between the leadership deciding these vital dates and the millions of their followers?

Elders say that, the situation was exactly the same in the year 1953 and I see absolutely no change after 50 years of massive advancement in information technology and scientific inventions.

There is no change in our leaders' attitude towards their efforts in trying to reduce the hardships of 180 million people. There is something seriously lacking in us. It is such a shame that we celebrate the Eid one day in one town and another day in a different town even within the same District.

It is a simple scientific fact that the crescent is sighted after about 30-60 hours of Amavas.

Hence it is easy for Hilal committees, Muftis, Imams and Muslim organizations to monitor the situation and keep informing every 10 minutes after the Magrib prayers at the end of 29th day of fasting and keep up the communication flowing through private cable networks until the decision is made on the sighting of the moon.

I appeal to knowledgeable Muslim Brothers to take up the above matter with leaders at all levels influential Muslim individuals, Muslim political parties, organizations, associations, mass media, minority cells of political parties and even at the Prime Minister's Level.
For decades, the Muslims of India never had a well managed and well organised centralized authority in deciding the start of the Fasting month (Ramadan) and deciding the last day of the fasting and the actual celebration of Idd’l Fitr. Hence I appeal to you to explore the possibility of instituting a good system, to start with for the whole India.

A National Committee should be appointed (by an ad hoc committee of Muslim Organisations or other suggestions??) The Committee should make arrangements with the help of the Survey Dept (or a group of Muslims scientists) to sight the new moon at several vantage- points through out the State. For this purpose, the Central Committee should have sub-committees at other cities in the States. In Tamil Nadu for instance, the Wakaf Board can undertake this job by forming a Committee.

The work of sighting the moon should be well coordinated and monitored and all Television stations should start giving the messages at the bottom of the screen indicating, for instance:

"No Report So Far On The Sighting Of The New Moon".

Flashing of this message can commence, say from 8.00 p.m. the day succeeding Amavasai because the new moon is usually sighted about 30 hours after the point of time of Amavasai.
Supposing that the new moon is not sighted anywhere in India by the Central Committee or the sub-Committees, then TV Stations can immediately flash this on their screens and the same way if the new moon has been sighted.

In Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei and in very many Muslim countries the above system has been beautifully followed. We can do this in India, in spite of our minority status ( In terms of numbers we are huge).

The most unfortunate thing is that in spite of our financial potential, Muslims have not established a Private TV network. Still the Muslim businesses such as LKS Jewellers and others can make use of the existing TV services as they generate huge advt. incomes.
The present situation is extremely confusing as Muslims through out the country wait in great suspense whether they should commence the fast on a particular day and celebrate the Iddl Fitr on a particular day. In every village the Masjid administration tries to sight the moon or expect telephone calls from cities.

It is common that Iddl Fitr is celebrated one day in one district and another day in another district. This is a very ludicrous situation in the age of advanced information technology, Internet facilities and scientific progress.

I am very positive we can achieve this if many of us take interest in the matter and start discussing, exchanging ideas and start knocking at the right doors with petitions and appeals. It is such a big shame that even Muslim Bodies like Muslim league, Muslim Mashuwarat, Jamate Islami Hind, Jamiate Ulamae Hind and Personal Law Board, have all failed to achieve this at Govt. level for the past 5 decades in spite of their political clouts with the ruling parties.

We can do this with or without the co-operation of the Govt.,. What we need is a small group of religiously spirited experts and a bit of funds to make TV stations agree to make continuous announcements.

I do understand that some odd groups in our Ummah may not accept the findings of such a Central Committee that I have proposed. This is immaterial because it is up to the groups concerned to fall in line or not as there is no compulsion. But I am positive 90% of the rural Muslims will accept the decision and welcome a measure of this nature.

[P.A.Mohamed Ameen can be contacted at kodimirpal@hotmail.com]

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