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Islamic Voice Logo
MONTHLY    *    Vol 13-02 No:146    *   FEBRUARY 1999/ RAMADAN 1419H
email: editor@islamicvoice.com

FEATURES


National Sovereignty and Minorities
Christians Under Attack
Hazratbal in the Mirror of History
Meeqatul Qibla and Islamic Calendar
Astronomical Calculations in Moon-sighting
Leaves From Life : Eidul-Fitr -1999


National Sovereignty and Minorities

By Hasan Mansur

The Sangh Parivar is fusing the anti-Western rhetoric with a regressive national chauvinism and religious exclusivism. The sordid deeds of its partners, whatever name they may go under, be it the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Bajrang Dal or Hindu Jagaran Manch as seen in Gujarat, do not hide the hand of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). It has raised the cry of “conversions” as the major charge against Christians and has found support in the brazen espousal of its cause in the infamous proposal of Vajpayee calling for a national debate on conversions. On the issue of religious conversions, Article 25 (1) of the Indian Constitution is clear; “Subject to public order, morality and health and to other provisions of this part, all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right to freely profess, practise and propagate religion”. A constitution Bench of the Supreme Court in a group of related cases (1997) ruled that, “What Article 25 (1) of the constitution grants is not the right to convert another person to one’s own religion but to transmit or spread one’s religion by an exposition of its tenets”. So any attempt to convert from one religion to another by use of force, or allurement or by fraudulent means amounts to blatant violation of public order and morality. The same Bench observed that forcible conversions could create ‘public disorder’ in the states. In view of Article 25 (1) and the judgement of the Apex Court in 1997, Vajpayee’s call for a national debate is a diversionary exercise meant to distract attention from crying issues like literacy, jobs, shelter and health, comprising the fundamental right to life with dignity, which his government has failed to address.

Writing in the media sponsored by the Sangh Parivar, in journals like the Hindi Panchajanya and the Organiser has turned into a vicious campaign against the Christians. Some of its columnists like N.S. Rajaram, an NRI commuting between Bangalore and the USA are most virulent irreverent and downright sacrilegious in their writings against Christianity. There are unabashed prophets announcing the coming demise of Islam and Christianity and that Hindutva would rule the world in the 21st century. This is religious chauvinism run riot and has all the characteristics of a theology, fascist in character. It is not only the people in India, particularly the majority who are from the backward communities, Dalits, Tribals and minorities who have to wake up to the racist, casteist and class-oriented nature of this assertion of the Manvadis and combat it with all the strength they can muster. The message should also go across the world that this neo- fascist theology, if left unchecked, could threaten world peace.

That Vajpayee and Advani could kowtow to the infamous ally of the Sangh Parivar, the Shiva Sena (SS) and its fuehrer, Bal Thackeray, is in keeping with the theology of RSS’s Golwalkar who declared that minorities shall not be entitled to citizenship rights in his Bharat. People need to remember that it is the Congress that nurtured this Frankenstein SS and let it grow into the monster that it is now. S.R. Naik, Chief Minister, Maharashtra during 1992 and 1993 refused to arrest Bal Thackeray fearing, “Bombay would burn” if he did so (as though the city was not burning!). Then there was S.G. Powar, then Defence Minister who let the troops march the streets of Bombay without firing a shot to control the all-pervasive violence. It is history now how the Congress used the SS to smash the communist trade unions and finally the birds came home to roost with the unholy alliance of the SS and the BJP taking over the state.

The persecution of Christians and the hysteria against the visit of the Pakistani cricket team and the shameless compromise arrived at between the unholy partners (V.P. Singh rightly taunted Advani to proceed to Dubai and strike a deal with Dawood Ibrahim to buy peace), establish beyond doubt that the BJP which promised to provide a government with a difference and a stable government with an able leader, has turned out to be no better than the disgraceful performance of the Congress (I).

The Sangh Parivar brags that India is a sovereign state and no power on earth can question what happens within the country. This truly goes to show how its myopic is leadership with its medieval mindset, that national sovereignty empowers it to be venal at home and use it as a political tool to explain away domestic oppression. It has not woken up to the harsh reality that no nation can claim sovereignty as an absolute right and that it cannot be a tool of political expedience to explain away racial, linguistic and religious intolerance within the state. This indefensible emphasis on natural sovereignty will be seen as an empty rhetoric both at home and abroad. The Hindutva fascists are fusing the familiar anti-Western slogan of the left with a regressive national chauvinism and religious exclusivism. It has been pointed out rightly how all anti-western campaigns have ended up ignobly hunting minorities inside. For the forces of Hindutva, it is easy to find ‘foreigners’ in a multi-ethnic and multi-religious society. First, it was the turn of the Muslims, now it is the turn of the Christians.

A word of caution is necessary for those who still nourish illusions or delusions about ‘liberal’ elements among the Sangh Parivar, naming Vajpayee, Jaswant Singh and Shekavat among them. It is beyond doubt that all members of this Parivar are dyed-in-the-wool saffronite. To delude oneself about liberals among them is suicidal. This is a fascist outfit that needs to be combated relentlessly by all the poor and exploited, whatever be their class or caste, and this will be a long-drawn struggle wherein the people will have to defeat decisively the conspiracy to reinstall Manuvada. This battle for a democratic society must be fought and won.

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Christians Under Attack

By Yoginder Sikand

02chris1.jpg

A Man with a cross on his back was among
the thousands of Christians protesting against the
attack on Christian community in New Delhi.
Below : Armed Policeman guard a 165-year-old church in
Surat following threats of attack on churches.

Recent months have witnessed a sharp escalation of violent attacks on Christian priests and nuns, and the destruction of churches, particularly in Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, but also in several other sates as well. Christian leaders have strongly protested against these attacks to the authorities, who, however, seem little concerned about the growing terrorization of the community. With the BJP having come to power at the centre and having emerged as a formidable force all over north India, Christians are now fast joining the ranks of the Muslims and the Dalits as one of the principal victims of Hindutva terror.

Christians account for a mere three percent of the Indian population. Their contribution to the development of the country, in the field of social service, education and health care, is, however, far disproportionate to their numerical strength. Traditionally, Indian Christians have generally kept a low profile, preferring constructive social engagement to agitational politics. Their relations with other religious communities, too, have, by and large, been peaceful and relatively free from controversy. What, then, accounts for the growing Hindutva fury against the Christians? While it is true that Hindu communalists have always been stiffly opposed to the Christians, seeing them as ‘anti-nationals’ and agents of western power, how does one account for the rapid spread of anti-Christian violence only from the mid-90s onwards? Although many factors are at work, one of the most significant is the changing orientation of the Church in India in recent years, as a result of which vested interests are feeling increasingly threatened.

Barring the Syrian Christians of Kerala, who trace their conversion to the first century A.D. to St. Thomas, one of the apostles of Jesus, almost all Indian Christians owe their conversion to European missionaries first the Portuguese and the Dutch and then the English who arrived in India in the wake of the establishment of European colonial rule in the region. Till 1947, the Church in India was modelled completely on the European pattern, and missionaries saw the dissemination of European culture as inseparable from their task of spreading the Christian gospel.

After 1947, demands by Indian Christian leaders to make the Church in India more authentically ‘Indian’ began being heard. Not only were European missionaries and clergymen replaced by Indians, the Indian Church also embarked, although for some rather too hesitatingly, on what it called the process of ‘inculturation’. This meant making a clear distinction between the message of Christ, on the one hand, and its European expression on the other. Consequently, the Indian Church increasingly turned its attention to addressing and responding to the Indian social context within which it was placed. This shift in the orientation of the Indian Church, manifested itself in two principal ways. Firstly, in what was termed as the ‘Indianisation’ of the Church, represented essentially by the use of art forms, architectural styles and ritual practices generally associated with the Brahminic Hindu tradition. Secondly, in a growing concern for assisting in the process of the economic development of the country, by setting up a vast network of schools, hospitals and charitable institutions.

From the late ’80s, with the dramatic upsurge of the Dalit, Backward caste and tribal struggles all over India, the rapidly growing strength of Hindutva or Brahminism in a new garb, and the failure of the developmentalist ideology to effectively tackle the problems of mass poverty, unemployment and widening inequalities, important sections within the Indian Church increasingly began questioning the Church’s role in promoting, whether inadvertently or otherwise, the twin structures of Brahminism and capitalism. Christian Dalit ideologues, inspired by the Ambedkarite movement, seriously called into question the continued discrimination against the Dalits within the Church, although they form almost 80% of the total Indian Christian population. Radical Dalit theologians, such as the late Reverend Arvind Nirmal of Aurangabad, Reverend M. Azariah of Madras, and Reverend James Massey of Delhi, even accused the largely, ‘high’ caste Indian Church leadership of ‘Brahminising’ Christianity in the name of ‘Indianising’ the Church. On the other hand, influenced by Latin American ‘liberation theology’, many Indian Christian theologians began sharply critiquing the Church’s conservatism and its connivance with the ruling elites-manifested most strikingly in its chain of English-medium schools that cater largely to the children of wealthy families, most of whom happen to be ‘high’ caste Hindus.

The fast emerging Dalit and liberation theologies are today propelling significant sections within the Indian Church to take to the path of radical social activism for building a more just and humane society by challenging structures of oppression, religious, cultural, economic as well as political. Contemporary Dalit and liberation theologians see Jesus as himself a revolutionary, a central concern of whose mission was to oppose the hegemony of the ruling establishment and to crusade for a radically new social order based on love, equality and fraternity.

This new commitment to a socially engaged, radical Christianity is today inspiring many Christian priests, more so among the Catholics than the Protestants, to immerse themselves in the struggles of the poor, particularly the Dalits and the tribal, in various parts of the country. This has earned for them the wrath of vested interests and dominant elites-landlords, money-lenders, merchants and others-who see the growing assertion on the part of the marginalised as increasingly threatening their well-entrenched hegemony. As Father Cedric Prakash, co-ordinator of the Gujarat chapter United Christian Forum for Human Rights explained in a recent interview to the press, the continuing attacks on Christians in Gujarat owes directly to the fact that the Christian priests had helped ‘empower the Dalits and Adivasis (so that) they can stand for their rights and fight back’. This is seen as an affront and challenge to the ‘high’ castes, who have for centuries sought to legitimise their cruel oppression of the ‘low’ castes in the name of Hinduism. It is in fact these sections of society that also provide the backbone of the support for groups such as the RSS, VHP, BJP and the Bajrang Dal. Attacks by Hindutva activists and supporters against Christian priests and nuns working in remote parts of the country, that are sought to be legitimized in the name of ‘protecting Hinduism’ and ‘preventing conversions’, are thus nothing less than a declaration of war by vested interests parading in the garb of ‘saviours of Hinduism’ on the struggling masses off the oppressed.

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Hazratbal in the Mirror of History

By Pirzada Mohammad Amin

02hazra1.jpg

Hazratbal Mosque
Below : Gulam Hassan Bandy, chief Imam of the
world famous Hazratbal Shrine, displays the Holy Relic
of Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) on Shabe-Meraj in Srinagar.

Of the numerous Muslim shrines in the Kashmir valley, Hazratbal is undoubtedly the most revered and sacred, being the repository of the hair of the Prophet (Pbuh), the Mo-i-Muqaddas. This shrine has for long been a spiritual and religious centre for the Muslims of Kashmir and a holy place for their co-religionists elsewhere in the world.

The exact historical sources reveal that the holy relic enshrined at Hazratbal was brought to Kashmir towards the end of the seventeenth century A.D. The eighteenth century historians, Mirza Qalandar Baig, in his Hujjat-i-Qasira, and Muhammad Azam Didamari, in his Waqiat-i-Kashmir, write that the holy relic was in the possession of one Hazrat Sayyed Abdullah, a descendant of the Prophet (Pbuh), a trustee of the holy shrine of Medina. The holy relic was originally in the custody of Hazrat Imam Hussain (AS), and has been in herited through successive generations of the Prophet’s family by him. In 1044 AH, corresponding to 1635 A.D., Sayyed Abdullah lost his trusteeship of the holy shrine in Medina due to a conflict over the custodianship with his paternal cousin, Hazrat Sayyed Hashim. The feud took an ugly turn, as a result of which the matter was brought to the notice of the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, who ordered the governor of Medina to bring Sayyed Abdullah before the royal court. On not complying with the orders of the Sultan, Sayyed Abdullah’s property was confiscated and he was forced to leave Medina.

Following this, Sayyed Abdullah left for India via Basra, and after travelling for over two years, arrived in Bijapur in the Deccan in 1046 A.H., corresponding to 1637 A.D. Sayyed Abdullah was in possession of three holy relics-the sacred hair of the Prophet (Pbuh), the turban sharif of the Prophet (Pbuh) and the saddle of Hazrat Imam Ali’s horse. Sayyed Abdullah’s erstwhile position of having been a trustee of the holy shrine at Medina and the custodian of the holy relics impressed the ruler of Bijapur, who granted a fief in his favour. After having spent twenty three years in exile in Bijapur, Sayyed Abdullah died, and his son, Sayyed Hamid became the custodian of the holy relics.

In 1658, the Mughal Emperor Shah Jehan was taken ill, which led to a power struggle among his sons Dara Shikoh, Murad Baksh and Arurangzeb. Finally, Aurangzeb took the reigns of the Empire in his hands. Since during the power struggle Sayyed Abdullah was found sympathetic towards Dara Shikoh, Aurangzeb confiscated his estate and also deprived him of the other facilities provided by the previous regime to him. In order to recover his estate, sayyed Hamid went to Shajehanabad, as Delhi was called in those days, but it took a long time for him to get his estate restored. Consequently, he faced a great financial hardship. History has it that at this time a Kashmiri trader by the name of khwaja Nuruddin Ashawari had come to know that a descendant of the Prophet (Pbuh) was in Delhi, and out of reverence he went there to meet him. Ashawari learnt that Sayyed Hamid was in acute financial distress, and extended a large sum of money to him.

It is said that once Ashawari went to meet Sayyed Hamid. Coincidentally, that day was being commemorated as Miraj-un-Nabi, and Sayyed Hamid was displaying the holy relics to his family. Ashawari, too, got to have a glimpse of them. Some days later, Ashawari requested Sayyed Hamid that one of the holy relics be given to him so that it could be taken to Kashmir for the spiritual benefit of his countrymen. Sayyed Hamid replied that Ashawari was not fit for this ‘crown’, because he was a trader and so could not possibly maintain its sanctity. On the same night, however, it is said that the holy Prophet (Pbuh) appeared in a dream to Sayyed Hamid, directing him to accede to Ashawari’s request. The next morning Sayyed Hamid informed Ashawari about the dream, and asked him to choose one of the three relics in his possession so that the orders of the Prophet (Pbuh) were carried out. It is said that the sacred hair was given to Ashawari along with its khadim, Maidanish, who had been in charge of the relics right from Medina. In return for this, Ashawari offered precious gifts and a large some of money to the Sayyed.

On acquiring the sacred hair, Ashawari left along with the holy relic for Kashmir via Lahore. In the meantime, news reached Aurangzeb that Ashawari was in the possession of the holy relic. Aurangzeb ordered that the holy relic be brought to the royal court along with Ashawari. The emperor took the holy relic from Ashawari, and sought the confirmation of its authenticity from his spiritual guide, Hazrat Abu Saleh. After having tested the authenticity of the holy relic, Abu Saleh declared that the sacred hair was indeed that of the Prophet (Pbuh). Apart from this, Aurangzeb made other tests to confirm its authenticity. He exposed the sacred hair to sunlight but it did not cast a shadow on the earth. He then exposed it to fire, but there was no effect on it. Finally, the sacred hair was placed on a sheet of paper laced with honey, but not a single insect touched it. Satisfied with its genuineness, Aurangzeb ordered that the holy relic be enshrined in Ajmer Sharif, at the dargah of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti.

In the meantime, it said, Aurangzeb had a dream in which the Prophet (Pbuh) appeared and ordered him to return the holy relic to Ashawari. There upon, a royal edict was issued to produce Ashawari before the court. However, in the meantime, Ashawari had passed away, dying out of grief and shock at being dispossessed of the relic. In his place, Maidanish, the Khadim of the relic, went to the royal court informing Aurangzeb that before Ashawari died he had expressed his wish that he be buried wherever the holy relic was enshrined. Aurangzeb then decreed that the holy relic be taken to Kashmir under state arrangements and enshrined there and that Ashwari’s body be also taken along and buried in the vicinity of the shrine containing the holy relic. This is how the holy relic made its arrival in Kashmir.

Mirza Qalandar Baig, while expressing his joy on the arrival of the holy relic in Kashmir, writes that ‘Kashmir Medina bashud as Mo-i-Nabi’ (Kashmir has become the second Medina by the arrival of the sacred hair of the Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh). To begin with, the Mo-i-Muqaddas was kept in the Khanqah of Khwaja Moinuddin Naqshbandi (t) in Srinagar. However, owing to the huge rush of pilgrims which caused the death of several in a stampede, the then Mughal governor, Fazil Khan, convened a meeting of leading ulama and other citizens of Srinagar in which a decision was taken to shift the holy relic to the Bagh-i-Sadiq Khan, situated on the western banks of the Dal lake, as Hazratbal was known in those days. It was enshrined here in a pavilion built by the Mughal noble, Sadiq Khan.

From then to this day Hazratbal has seen many vicissitudes of fortune. At one time, the shrine was an important centre of Islamic learning. It had a large madrasa attached to it as well as a library which boasted one of the richest collections of Islamic texts and manuscripts in Kashmir. These, however, were destroyed in a devastating fire in 1993. Today, the Medinat-ul-Ulum madrasa of Hazratbal is a pale shadow of its former self. It has less than twenty students on its rolls, and the standard of education imparted therein is pitiable. One wishes that the Auqaf Trust, with the vast funds at its disposal, would turn its attention to addressing this pathetic situation and thereby help to make Hazratbal a leading centre of Islamic learning in Kashmir.

(* Pirzada is a Doctoral student in the Dept. of Sociology Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi, Presently teaching in the Dept of the Sociology University of Kashmir.)

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Meeqatul Qibla and Islamic Calendar

By Ali Manikfan

All of you may be familiar with the word “Meeqat” in connection with the Hajj pilgrimage. As you know the Meeqat is a fixed place or a station at which the pilgrims don the ‘Ihram’, - that is the pilgrim’s garment.

Now I am going to tell you about another Meeqat which is very important for the Muslims that is “Meeqatul Qibla”. The former Meeqat which you already know is connected with place and this ‘Meeqat’ is connected with place as well as time, where and when a traveller on the earth has to change his Qibla, day and date.

We must have a universal date line, for the Islamic world to calculate the dates of the Islamic calendar, which is based on the movement of the Moon. (Qur’an 2:189). The date line of the Islamic calendar should be marked in the light of the holy Qur’an and the Sunnah with reference to Ka’abah, which is situated in the Ummal Qura, the mother of towns - that is Makkah al Mukarramah. Ka’abah is the Qibla of the Muslim prayer - the direction to which a Muslim must turn during his prayer.

I like to name this date line, which would be established as ‘Meeqatul Qibla’.

What is the use of such a date line?

We calculate time in relation to the rotation of the earth with reference to the sun which is the largest and brightest object that we see in the sky. The Qur’an says that all the celestial bodies are floating in their orbits in space (36:40) under calculation. So the sun too is moving. We know time only in relation to the sun.

Perhaps the most important thing in our life is time. The time that is lost can never be regained. So time has to be spent with utmost care. For this we must pre- plan our affairs and carry out the programmes chalked out using a reliable calendar with defined and assigned dates. Islam gives certain rules to guide us in this venture.

Islam teaches us how to manage time by 5 prayers which must be performed in a day, punctually at the fixed timings. The prayer timings are measured using the shadow of an object cast by the Sun.

The Zuhr prayer is performed when the shadow disappears and the Sun is overhead, after the first declination of the Sun - that is when the sun has passed 90", the Asar prayer, after the shadow equals the object - that is when the Sun has passed 135 Deg., the Magrib prayer, after sun-set, - that is when the Sun has passed 180 deg., the Isha prayer when the flare of the setting Sun has disappeared - that is when the Sun has passed 202 1/2 deg., and the Subah prayer, when the first rays of the rising Sun appear - that is when the sun has passed 337 1/2 deg. if the Sun rise is taken as 0 deg. The Qur’an explains this in the verse 17:78 (see the diagram No: 1)

Time is dependent upon the angles of the Sun. We have converted all these angles to our watches. We can tell the Sun’s angle in hours minutes and seconds without looking at the sun or its shadow. There is no difficulty even when the Sun is not visible for days together. The Qur’an says: “The Sun and the moon are with calculation” (55:5)

We cannot record the count of time in minutes or hours because the figures will be too long. Pages will be required to write them down. So we use Date, - that is days, months and years to make the recording easy. A date stands in place of a particular day to the week. A day has 24 hrs and a week 7 days. They are Ist, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, Jumua and 7th in the Islamic calendar and in English, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday and this should be respected by all. The most important day of Muslims is the Jumua or Friday on which all Muslims in a town must perform the Jumua prayer at noon. Where on the Earth will the first Jumua be performed? How can this be found out according to Qur’an and Sunnah?

The verses of the Holy Qur’an “He merges night into day and He merges day into night” (35:13) make it clear that the Earth is a globe rotating on its axis causing the alternation of day and night. The hemisphere on which the sun light falls experiences day while the opposite hemisphere experiences night. As the globe rotates, night passes into day and day passes into night. First hemisphere in which Ka’abah is situated containing Australia, Asia, Europe and Africa has day while second hemisphere containing Americas has night. As time proceeds from east to west, 5 prayers must be observed at the stipulated time according to the angles of the Sun without violating the order.

In the second year of the Hijra, the order to turn towards the Ka’abah in the prayer was revealed in the Holy Qur’an (2:144). Supposing the Earth is a vast area with the Ka’abah at a particular place, imagine what will happen to the people in prayer on both the sides of Ka’abah. A diagram will explain the matter. (Diagram No. 2)

One day (day and night) is equal to 24 hrs. Time proceeds from east to west. The prayers will be
performed according to the time. It can be seen that the backs of A and B facing the
Qibla will meet when the ends are brought together. Those in the west cannot
advance the East. There will be a difference of one hour of every 150
Diagram No.2.

When all turn towards the Ka’abah what will happen to those at the ends, if the ends are joined as it is upon the globe? The people at the ends will face towards the opposite direction and their backs will meet. This condition is not contradictory to the Qur’an which says: “Righteousness is not that you face East or West” (2:177). So there is a place on the Earth where Muslims face opposite directions in the prayer. Where on the Earth could this happen?

The Qibla of a town cannot be different. All in a town must face to one direction in the prayer. But as the Earth is a globe, a place where Muslims turn towards the opposite directions in the prayer, where two days of Jumua are experienced and where a man crossing from one place to the other loses 5 prayers of the day, is inevitable. This cannot be on any land.

The Imams of the past have written down rules for such a place. It should be separated by sea or a mountain which makes the two sides approachable only by travel. Here the traveller changes his Qibla, day and date. This is the ‘Meeqatul Qibla’ of which we have mentioned in the beginning. Meeqatul Qibla is among the Signs of Allah which must be recognised and respected (22:32).

Since the traveller is allowed to lessen his prayers (4:101) this peculiarity is not a problem.

The diagram explains how the lines of Qibla radiating from Ka’abah join and make a line passing from north to south, through the Bering Strait which is the only gap separating Asia and America. It has to be zigzag to allow one Qibla, one day and date for those living in the islands on the line. People on the eastern side observe the East Qibla and Thursday, while the people on the West observe the West Qibla and Friday. There is one day’s difference here alone on the Earth. Change of day, date and Qibla will be forbidden at any other place on the Earth.

Meeqatul Qibla is exactly 9 hrs ahead of Makkah and day and date of the Islamic calendar begin here at the Zero hour, at noon. Corresponding time at the Ummual Qura, the centre of Islam is “Sahar” (the last part of the night) and at London it is midnight. The order of the Qibla was given to the Prophet 1400 years ago and the Muslims began to change their day at ‘Sahar’, since the Ramadan of the second year of Hijra when the orders of ‘sahar’ (Supper) for the fasting was revealed in the Qur’an (2:187). The Islamic date line was thus defined at that time. This date line was found out by the science in 1885 A.D. Those who established it did not know the Islamic rules.

Science does not contradict Islam

Our knowledge of time is in relation to the rotation of the Earth with reference to the Sun. To count the number of rotations of a wheel two marks are necessary - one in the wheel and one stationary, outside. When the two marks meet one rotation is counted. In the same way to count the rotation of the Earth, a mark on the Earth and a mark outside are needed. The mark on the Earth is the Meeqatul Qibla and the external mark is the Sun. When both meet one rotation or one day is counted. To get the correct count we need a stationary mark outside. But one mark, the Sun itself is moving. So we will not be able to count our days exactly with the help of the celestial objects which are in motion. We record days in dates. So, if we calculate with the average length of the day measured in relation to the Sun which is moving, we will make mistakes in recording time. So the creator has asked us to use the Moon for the purpose so that we may not make mistakes and be confused in our calculation of time.

The day dawns for those who live near the ‘Meeqatul Qibla’ 9 hrs before Makkah. They must observe all religious rites 9 hrs before Makkah. In fasting and feasting also they will be 9 hrs ahead. They cannot postpone any rite saying that the Centre has not yet done it. The time order must be strictly followed. Violation of time sequence is forbidden. A date cannot be postponed. (2:189, 17:78, 9:37)

Meeqatul Qibla is the date line of the Islamic calendar. Day begins depending upon the Sun (25:45). So the date which stands in place of the day, should also begin with the day. A date line cannot be shifted from place to place. The Lunar date lines suggested by some astronomers are not scientific and not Islamic.

After having defined the beginning of the day under the light of the Holy Qur’an and Sunnah, let us try to define the beginning of the months of the Islamic calendar. The Qur’an has already explained that dates and months depend on the Moon. The Moon cannot be caught by the Sun. (36:40) It is a satellite of the Earth. One rotation of the Moon around the Earth is calculated as one month with reference to the Sun. Every day the Moon changes the phase showing us the date. A solar eclipse (New Moon) can occur at the end of the month and next day is the first day of ensuing month. Sometimes a solar eclipse could occur at the time of Eid prayer (Imam Shafi). The dates must tally with the phases or the Manzils of the Moon. (2:189, 10:5, 36:38-40) The full moon (lunar eclipse) occurs only in the mid of the month. So it is clear that the dates depend on the angles of the Moon in relation to the Sun and could be calculated exactly. Why should there be confusion regarding the dates depending on the Moon angles while there is no confusion regarding the time which depends upon the Sun’s angles?

The Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh)ý who taught the Qur’an to the illiterate Arabs of his time, taught them the easy methods of counting time by observing the Sun. He also taught them how to find out the dates of the months by simple methods of observing the Moon. They were not able to write, calculate or record. The Prophet asked them to learn wisdom, the art of reading and writing. He did not forbid them to learn but on the other hand he urged the Muslims to acquire knowledge in every faculty.

He said that the months have 29 or 30 days. The calendar in vogue in Arabia at this time was the Jewish lunar calendar which had a fixed number of days for every month, 30, 29 alternating with a leap year system. He gave instructions to correct the dates according to the moon’s Manzils (36:36). He abolished the leap year and made it fully natural. The deviation of dates from the Manzil was not allowed because if a day of Shaaban entered into Ramadan, Allah’s Halal and Haraam will be violated. Shabaan according to the Jewish calendar always had 29 days whereas it could have 30 days also. It had 30 days in all Ramadans, but Ramadan too could have 29 days according to the Moon. That is why the Prophet ordered to observe the Moon and correct the dates accordingly. There are 12 months in a year (9:36). We know what will happen if a day is skipped over. Qur’an forbids postponing of dates (9:37).

The observation of the Moon for long periods gives us the average of 354. 3671 days for a year and 29.53059 days for a month. (354.3671 x 12 = 29.53059). The science has proved this statement of the Prophet that the lunar months have 29 or 30 days only.

The months of the Islamic calendar also begin with the day at the Zero hour in the world. Now the Muslims do not practise this calendar, but rely on the Christian calendar. Pope Gregory 13. in 1582 reformed the Julian calendar which was instituted by Julius Caesar in 46 B.C, by removing the error of 10 days which had accumulated in the calendar by that time. The exact measure of the solar year was not known then. It was regarded as 365.25 days. Earth takes 365 days 5 hrs 48 minutes 49 sec to make a rotation around the Sun. This gives 365.2422 days. The difference of 0.0078 day in a year becomes 15.6 days in 2000 years,

This means that 15.6 days have passed without Sun rise! In the solar date system days will have to be eliminated from the calendar at intervals and this is meddling with the calendar. This will create confusion. Such a system cannot be good for recording time.

Had the people used the lunar date system to record the events in the past we would not have any problem in finding out the actual day on which the incidents had occurred. But now we are in utter confusion. We do not get the recorded day and date by calculation. The Qur’an says “The Sun and the Moon are with calculation” (55:5). Many renowned mathematicians and astronomers have caculated the date of birth of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW). But all have gone wrong. They give different dates of birth for the Prophet! A person cannot be born on two days. There is some thing wrong in their calculations. Their dates do not tally with the historical records too. This is because the calendar had been meddled with and the omissions are not taken into account. We have a record of two events of the past. If we calculated the number of days that elapsed between the two incidents according to two calendar systems we can see what happens when a wrong calendar is used to record time. The equivalent dates and days of two solar eclipses of the past are given below as recorded in two calendars.
Solar eclipse according to C.E and M.E
1. C.E. 22.7.1990 Sunday = M.E. 30.12.1410 Sunday
2. C.E. 14.7. 622 Wednesday = M.E. 30.12.0000 Wednesday
Time elasped 8.0.1368 = 00.00.1410 Wednesday
Total No. of days according to C.E and 1368 x 365.25+8= 499670.00 days
Total No. of days according to M.E and 1410 x 354.3671= 499657.61 days
Difference = 12.39 days

The error accumulated in C.E for 1368 years is 12.39 days. There is no error in M.E. If the Moon is left out, we cannot find out this error. Our calculation of time will go wrong and we will be in confusion. It is high time that we adopted the scientific date system and used it in our daily affairs so that our records will not cause confusion for the next generation.

If we have consensus to prepare the scientific lunar calendar for the entire world, we can have the first of Ramadan on the same day for each and every Muslim on the Earth. Likewise we can celebrate Eid also on the same day in every country. Let me remind that the Holy Prophet has forbidden to observe fasting on the Day of Eid. How is it justifiable to have fasting and feasting on the same day? If we agree to this, we are admitting that there can be mistakes in the calculation of Allah the Almighty.

Observing Ramadan and Eid on the correct day which will be same for all the Muslims on the Earth as commanded by Allah, will lead to the unity, harmony and peace of the Muslim communities in various parts of the world.

Kindly think over the problem and the relevance of the Meequatul Qibla which is very important to define the beginning of the dates of the Islamic calendar,

May Allah bless us with open mind and intelligence to find out His orders and Systems which are hidden in Nature and to live accordingly.

(The author is the Chairman of Hijra Committee of India, 19/1706 East Kallai, Calicut- 673003, Kerala, Tel: 0091495-301996/304226, Fax:302352)

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Astronomical Calculations in Moon-sighting

By Moulana Mohammed Shihabuddin Nadvi

02moon.jpg

The picture shows how the moon looks from the
time we first see it until it becomes full and round.

Eid al-Fitr is a day of rejoicing bestowed upon the Ummah by the Almighty as a reward for its labour of the month-long fasting. But in India these celebrations have been reduced to dispute and distress every now and then. The genesis of the problem is obviously the non-existence of central moon committee. And even if does exist, the state committees do not accept its findings and decisions. In fact the different state committees do not have any co-ordination either between themselves or with the central one. As a result each state has its own setup of moon-sighting and the resultant celebration of Eid. Consequently, in India it is celebrated on two days and some times even three days leading to considerable confusion and chaos in the general public. 1987 is the moot point when different parts of India celebrated it on three successive days. If Delhi and Meerut celebrated it on 28th May 1987, it was observed in Bombay, Calcutta, Kashmir, Lucknow, Punjab, Rajastan and Kerala on the 29th. And at the end of it, Karnataka, Hyderabad and Tamil Nadu solemnized it on the 30th. The year 1999 was no different either. Parts of Kerala were the first to celebrate it on 18th January followed by North India on the 19th and South India on the 20th. The present mess could have easily been averted had there been a central authority or at least some co-ordination between the state committees. All the more, it is the creation of the Islamic scholars and officials who have completely disregarded the consensus arrived at earlier by a collegium of distinguished theologist and jurists holding the entire Indian sub-continent (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh etc.), to be one single lunar unit wherein the difference of time in sighting the crescent shall be discounted with. Accordingly, the moon sighted in any part of the sub-continent shall be valid to all the remaining parts as well, as these countries fall under the category of “nearby states”. This is the unanimous decision arrived at by ten most eminent scholars of the time including Moulana Syed Abdul Hasan Ali Nadvi and Moulana Mohammed Manzoor Nomani at the Majlis Tahqeeqat-e-Shariah at Nadwatul Ulama, Lucknow in 1967. Even under the British administration before 1947 the Id continued to be celebrated the same day in the entire sub-continent. There existed no such difference then among the Ulama on this score.

Sadly, we have disregarded this earlier consensus to engage in whimsical and sometimes even comical exercises by establishing a plethora of inharmonious committees on state and city bases thereby sowing the seeds of permanent discord in the general public. 1999 is an unprecedented year in the annals of Karnataka. Here the Central Moon Committee of moon-sighting in the region, declared 20th January to be the day of Eid al-Fitr with the 19th January to be the 30th day of Ramazan. But the news of the declaration of the Delhi Moon Committee of the sighting of moon in Lucknow and Delhi on Doordarshan in its 8-30 P.M. news bulletin and the subsequent late-night public pressure on the Karnataka Moon Committee, landed the latter between the horns of the dilemma. With great hesitation the Committee in its second sitting in the early hours of 19 January nullified its earlier decision to replace it with an innovative one to come out of the mess it was already into only to end up inviting more trouble. It announced 20th January to be the day of Eid al-Fitr and forbade fasting on the 19th terming it Haram! Some pertinent questions arise here; If 19th January is not the day of fasting, why not celebrate Eid then? If no Eid, how is the fasting Haram? Should the 19th January be counted in Ramazan or Shawwal? How can the date be suspended? Under which clause of the Shariah can it be so done?

The more pertinent question here is: does the sighting of moon in Delhi and Lucknow have any relevance in south India? If not, have not the south Indians and particularly those from Karnataka relied upon it in the past? Or have not they contacted Delhi to confirm the sighting earlier? If the answer is in the affirmative, why did we overlook its decision this time around? Indeed, the Central Moon Committee, Karnataka, has gravely erred and hurt the religious sentiments of the masses who were made to celebrate the Eid dejectedly.

To sum up, it is an unsavoury incident which should not be allowed to be repeated in future. At the moment this humble writer feels the necessity to convene an immediate joint meeting of the learned Ulama and astronomists on an all-India basis to chalk out the future plan of action based on consensus in this regard. The agenda of the meeting should also include, among other issues, a comprehensive discussion on the reliability and authenticity of the astronomical time-tables on moon-sighting. And whether scientific time-tables could be relied upon in calculating the moon-sight from the Shariah point of view. This writer had way back in 1987, when faced with a similar situation, authored a research paper based on the arguments from the glorious Qur’an and the holy Sunnah. Very shortly this paper shall be presented to the readers after a thorough revision. I particularly appeal to the learned Islamic scholars to ponder deep on the issues and contentions raised in the paper with an open mind and convey their written viewpoints, harmonious or dissenting, supported by arguments so as to enable us to arrive at a consensus on this contentious issue. Allah willing, Dar Al-Shariah proposes to convene a broad-based seminar on the topic in the near future in Bangalore. (Dar-Al-Shariah, 82 10th Main, BTM Layout, Bangalore -560029, Tel:0091-80-6684161/6682101 Fax:6682101)

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Leaves From Life : Eidul-Fitr -1999

By D.A.Sait

So another Eid-ul-Fitr has gone by. But the memory of this year's Eid lingers on, enlivened by the memory of a powerful 'Qutba' (sermon) at the Basavangudi Mosque. The 'Qatib' was saying, "Lakhs and lakhs of Muslims fasted the whole month of Ramadan, attended the 'Taraweeh' along with the regular prayers, all the thirty days of the sacred month of Ramadan, read the Qur'an from beginning to end over and over again, paid 'zakat', Sadaqa and so on. They reaped all the benefits and blessings promised by Allah. For them this Eid is a day of real celebration and enjoyment. In fact only such Muslims are eligible to celebrate Eid.

"On the other hand there are the so-called Muslims who never fasted a single day of the sacred month of Ramadan, never opened the Qur'an once (in fact it would not be surprising if some of them even did not possess a copy of the Qur'an), never attended the Mosque except on the day of Eid, spent the whole of Ramadan like any other day, worshipping bacchus and Mammon. But on the day of Eid, they are right there with the other Muslims, being seen and greeted by the others. Whom are they trying to fool? Allah? Do not they know that Allah knows only too well what kind of Muslims they are? Do not they ever understand that Allah will deal with them according to their desserts?"

In the Mosque on that day of Eid-ul-Fitr was an acquaintance, a businessman, who never entered a Mosque except on a day of Eid. His plea is that there is no Mosque near his place of work, and praying in the place of work was not practicable. He never fasts either. The same plea. Not practicable, not convenient. Does he believe that Islam is not a practicable religion? Then he is not a Muslim, and why appear in the Mosque on Eid day? There are also Muslims in the central and state governments' services who never pray or fast, nor read the Qur'an, for they have not the time for such frivolous pursuits. A few of them have promised that they will attend to all the above after they retire. They never seem to believe that they might retire from life itself before they retire from service as the lifespan of a man is not determined by him, but by Allah.

Since these part-time Muslims do not really believe in Allah they do not believe in the day of reckoning either. For them this life is one hell of a round of pleasure and fun, God or no God. Since they do not care a hang whether Allah exists or not why trouble to show their faces in a Mosque on Eid day? It is quite clear that it is only to keep up appearances. In fact for them keeping up appearances is the only thing that matters in life. No harm in passing for a Muslim, if that can ensure a place in society. Will Allah ever forgive such hypocrites? For all the blessings Allah has showered on them, for all the success in life they have attained through Allah's mercy, isntamodicum of gratitude to Him in order? Gratitude to Allah? Why, how can a man who does not believe in gratitude to his fellowman for help received show any gratitude to Allah? There are the so-called Muslims who would not know gratitude if it was brought to them on a platter with watercress around it. To express gratitude to Allah they must first acknowledge that they enjoy all the comforts of life only by the grace of Allah. If they believe that all they possess they earned only by virtue of their own efforts where is the question of showing any gratitude to Allah? One only hopes that wisdom dawns on them before the day of reckoning catches up with them. A man is bound to err for no man is an angel. But the ones that realize their mistakes, make amends, beg forgiveness of Allah and come back into the fold of the true Islam before it is too late are liked best by Allah. May we sinners have the good fortune to belong to that group! Amen!

Finally, coming down to this year's Eidul-Fitr, look at all the confusion and hullabaloo let loose by those in charge of the sighting of the moon, first declaring even after the sighting of the moon in Delhi, that we could not celebrate Eid on the 19th of January, that is Tuesday, as the moon had not been sighted in Karnataka. So far so good. Newspapers also carried the rider that the 19th, accordingly, became a day of 'roza' (fast). Then came the information , well after 3 a.m. that 'roza' on the 19th was 'haram' (forbidden) as Eid was being celebrated in some other part of the country, namely, Delhi. Then, if you concede the Delhi-wallah's right to celebrate Eid on the 19th, why is not the same moon that was sighted in Delhi considered good enough for Karnataka? After all moons are not made to order to suit the whims and fancies of all and sundry, like material goods. If, owing to weather conditions, the moon was not visible in Bangalore, though it was sighted in Delhi, why should the Bangaloreans be deprived of the right to celebrate Eid on the 19th? Owing to the failure of those in authority to recognize this truth so much needless controversy and consequent acrimony had been generated, with many Muslims fasting on the 19th, others breaking their fast in the middle or not fasting at all. So for many there was neither 'roza' on the 19th, nor Eid. Can you beat that?

One hopes common sense will prevail among my Muslim brethren and bring home to them the need for all Muslims to follow a central authority in the country, so that Eid hereafter becomes a day for rejoicing and not for acrimony and discord.

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