ISLAMABAD: The ministry of science and technology on Thursday briefed the Senate and National Assembly’s standing committees on religious affairs on the scientific version of the lunar calendar.
The committee once more shed light on the inability of various parties to come to an agreement on the country’s lunar calendar.
On the occasion, Science and Technology Minister Fawad Chaudhry expressed regret that Mufti Muneeb-ur-Rehman and Maulana Popalzai were not in attendance despite an invitation extended to them.
“We are inviting people on the basis of knowledge and technology. We are a nation state and such groupings and divisions cause ideological damage,” he said.
Chaudhry said the decisions over moon sighting in Saudi Arabia and Iran were always centred on use of science. The Ruet-e-Hilal Committee had provided wrong lunar dates for three months: namely Zilqad, Safar, and Rajab, he added.
The minister said the Council of Islamic Ideology’s (CII) work was not up to the people’s standards. “It’s not as if they are working for free,” he said.
“We have been crippled as a nation without the use of knowledge and wisdom.”
Speaking of his ministry’s activities, Chaudhry said work on a manned mission to the moon for eight months is underway. “We have to think of how those who are sent to the moon will celebrate Eid there.”
In response to Chaudhry’s statements, Pakistan Ulema Council (PUC) Chairperson Maulana Tahir Ashrafi said that the science and technology ministry “has set out to achieve a difficult task”.
Ashrafi said the problem was not that of the moon but of “personalities”.
“Who can say that the moon can be sighted without the use of science? We make use of binoculars to verify the visibility of the moon.”
The chairperson said there was a huge need for unity to be displayed and stressed on inviting Mufti Muneeb-ur-Rehman and Mufti Shahabuddin repeatedly. “Mufti Muneeb-ur-Rehman is the chief of a governmental organisation and must come when he is summoned by state institutions.
“If he does not wish to appear, he must resign from his post,” he added.
Ashrafi said the root of the problem lay in “stubbornness,” which must be let go of.
Seeking to inject reason into the debate, the PUC chairperson said if one party was being adamant, the other must exercise patience and continue to extend the invitation.
He said the CII had always been “used as a political tool”. Giving the example of DNA testing, he pointed out that it had been declared unacceptable during a meeting.
“The whole world accepts DNA testing and we refuse to accept results from the test as admissible.”
Ashrafi extended Mufti Muneeb-ur-Rehman and Popalzai an invitation once more to work together. He said no other committee had been formed in parallel to the Ruet-e-Hilal Committee.
“Mufti Muneeb himself views the moon through the telescope and then refuses to accept scientific methods,” he said regretfully.
Ashraf said the nation had long wished for a singular moon sighting date and stands behind its implementation. “We will take the matter forward in the months of Rajab and Shaban,” he added.
‘Our religion ties us to intellect and reason’
Following the meeting, Chaudhry held a press conference, in which he reiterated his ministry’s aim of uniting the nation for Eid celebrations.
“Our religious festivals are becoming the cause for our differences. As per promises made by the PTI, we have worked for Eid to be celebrated in unison throughout the country.
“We made a website and an app on scientific parametres,” he said, adding that the website continues to receive a lot of visitors. The website provides all necessary information pertaining to the moon, rooted in science, he added.
“Mufti Muneeb, with spectacles on his nose, is refusing to accept scientific methods,” he said. “Our religion ties us to intellect and reason,” Chaudhry pointed out.
Chaudhry said according to the ministry’s calendar, the moon will be sighted on April 24 and the month of Ramadan will begin on April 25. A powerful telescope will soon be installed, he added.
“The Ulema insist that the sighting of the moon is necessary,” he said. “Our app can [also] show the moon’s visibility.”
The minister said nine Islamic countries were making use of science for this tradition.
“This is not a matter of my person but that of the state,” he said, to dispel the notion that egotistical considerations might be at play.
Chaudhry said the lunar calendar of up to 2024 had already been prepared and that differences with the ministry of religious affairs and various ulema “will be resolved”.
The minister assured the nation that the ministry does not want to insert itself into a needless debate and wishes to be a facilitator. Another meeting will be held on April 2, he added.