Moon Sighting to Moon Fighting

Aslam Abdullah

Sometime ago when the Sultan of Turkey decided to introduce electricity in the Mosque of the Prophet, the religious scholars and leaders opposed it on the ground that something created artificially cannot occupy a sacred place. It was no different than the opposition the scholars raised to the printing press when it was first introduced. They in fact banned the printing of the Qur’an and declared it haram. Then the loudspeaker was introduced and the religious scholars opposed its use in the masajid saying that the voice radiating from it is artificial. Then the television was introduced and Muslim scholars called it the daughter of Satan, and then the Internet also met the same fate.

At every turn of human progress, the so called Muslim religious scholars have always created major obstacles, causing immense loss to the people who followed them. The irony is that when progress bulldozes them and makes them irrelevant, they succumb to the changes and shamelessly accept what they vehemently denied in their earlier stance. For instance, the traditional religious scholars of Islam in India were opposed to learning the English language and they even called it an act of disobedience to Allah, yet their descendants are not only living in English speaking countries but also making appeals for funds in the English language. In fact their sustenance is dependent upon their knowledge of English.

There is only one word that describes their attitude: hypocritical. Our community is led in religious matters, by and large, by those who are hypocritical in their attitudes. A hypocrite is one who acts on the basis of self-interest in matters involving people and changes his or her position accordingly. As long as the leadership of the community is in their hands, Islam would remain a stranger for Muslims and an irrelevant faith to people in general. They and people like them are the ones responsible for the current sorry state of affairs of Muslims in the world. They are the ones who get the podium week after week and they are the ones who run our Islamic centers and masajid. In the words of the Qur’an: "Deaf, dumb, and blind, they will not return (to the path).(Q2:18)

Their attitude to change is best described in the Quran in the following verse when it says: "When it is said to them: "Follow what Allah has revealed:" They say: "Nay! We shall follow the ways of our fathers." What! Even though their fathers were void of wisdom and guidance?(Q2:170)

Their attitude is based on their defiance of the Qur’an and the uswa (example) of the Prophet. They are still adamant in their refusal to acknowledge the supremacy of the Qur’an and the way the Prophet implemented it. Moon sighting is one such issue that has become a moon fighting issue. A few years ago, a scholar of Islam refused to lead the taraweeh prayer on the first night of Ramadan saying that according to his school of thought, the moon has not been sighted and the method of calculation to determine the new month is haram (prohibited).

A simple act of determining the birth of the new moon has been presented in such a complicated manner by these scholars, that the entire Muslim world has been living under its curse for ages. The purpose of moon sighting as explained by the Prophet was not moon sighting itself but it was to determine the birth of the new moon to begin the new month in a scientific and calculated manner according to the tools available at the time of the Prophet. The Prophet knew the Qur’anic verse that says clearly: “It is He Who made the sun to be a shining glory and the moon to be a reflecting light, and measured out stages for it (moon); that you might know the number of years and the calculations.(Q10:5) The Prophet’s main objective was to ensure that unlike his tribe’s practices, Muslims would not fall into the trap of arbitrarily deciding the number of months or days of the months.  In order to make his point clearer about the purpose of moon sighting, the Prophet further elaborated that if you don't see the new moon on the 30th of the month, start the new month the following day. This is so simple and pragmatic. In other words, determine the beginning and end of the month with accuracy.

In our time, Allah has given us tools in astronomical science to determine the birth and sighting of the new moon. If we do not use them, we are not only denying the laws of Allah but also defying Him. And this is what has been precisely happening in the Muslim world for centuries. No one is willing to take a stand on this issue because of the culture of intimidation these leaders have created. Any challenge to their position is easily turned into a challenge to God and anyone who challenges God is either excommunicated or killed. The profanity of these so called scholars has contaminated the mind of our youth who have been given a false understanding of our faith.

Yet the so called protectors of Islam (i.e., scholars) have turned this simple act into a major conflict over moon sighting. Now every year, thousands of hours are wasted in deciding something that can easily be calculated according to the laws of Allah in a disciplined manner. Nothing that is happening in the physical universe does so without His laws and knowledge. We human beings are discovering God’s laws according to our level of understanding. For almost 8,000 years we believed that the earth was flat but we no longer now, because we have acquired the knowledge that was already in existence in the universe.

But our religious scholars say no to this knowledge and defy Allah and His laws by saying one does not need to understand these laws and use them for the purpose of improving one's life. Unfortunately, we have given these so called scholars the responsibility of guiding our younger generations. Our youth have been handed over to them like sheep and the future of Islam has become tied to their status and position. Their magical spell on people is as such that despite being rational in all matters of life, people refuse to see the absurdity of these scholars in their arguments.

In our world today, the so called religious scholars are the biggest impediment in developing a simple and accurate understanding of the Qur’an. They are defying God by reciting His words and they claim that they are the protectors of religion. The Qur’an describes them aptly when it says: "The similitude of those who were charged with the (obligations of the) Mosaic Law, but who subsequently failed in those (obligations), is that of a donkey which carries huge tomes (but understands them not). Evil is the similitude of people who falsify the Signs of Allah. And Allah guides not people who do wrong."(Q62:5)

Posted May 29, 2013 with the author's permission.