My brother sent me this link this morning:
Eid is meant to mark the end of the month-long fast of Ramzan, but if the Ruyat-e-Hilal Committee (Chand Committee) has its way, several Muslims will have to observe a day of fasting after celebrating Eid.
The cause of this confusion is the fact that the moon was sighted in Mumbai only July 21, because of which the Ramzan fast started on July 22 for many city Muslims. In other parts of the country, it started a day earlier.
You have to admire the misguided creativity that leads to such a ruling.
Put aside that this is theologically absurd. Put aside that this contradicts 1400 years of established Islamic practice. Put aside the obvious logical counterpoint that if Eid-ul-Fitr is the celebration that marks the end of Ramadan, fasting a day afterwards for a day that you say is part of Ramadan must be entirely nonsensical. Put aside, if you can, that mankind has been observing the lunar cycle for hundreds if not thousands of years and we know that, in fact, the new moon will rise a day earlier than even the date currently chosen by the moon spotters, so that they’re not one but two days behind.
Put that all aside, because I think the deeper point observable in all of this is much more troubling. First of all, it is clear that the moon spotters made an initial mistake. Even compared to the moon spotters elsewhere in India, they were one day behind the curve. Given that they knew that moon spotters elsewhere had seen the new moon, this must have meant that the new moon was hanging over Mumbai on that night. They must have deliberately turned a blind eye to this knowledge when informing the Muslims of Mumbai not to fast on 21 July itself. Deliberate ignorance in the wise is hardly commendable.
Secondly, their reaction to this mistake was not to acknowledge that they had made a mistake, and that this had led to people missing a fast. They chose not to regard this as a mistake. They chose to not even acknowledge that there had been error. Presumably, to do so would be a severe blow to their legitimacy, authority and power since the only reason that diverse Muslim sects have agreed on using the Chand Committee is because they can provide this crucial information in an accurate and neutral manner. If they fail in that simple task, there isn’t much role left for them. An inability to recognise or admit clear mistakes is hardly commendable.
Thirdly, when coming up with their creative ‘solution’ they have tried to find something that is quick and efficient (fast one more day) rather than something that is accurate and in conformity with the practice and history of Islam. They’ve decided to solve their legitimacy crisis rather than solve the theological crisis of people having missed one day of fasting. And that is absurd because there is no theological crisis concerning what to do when you’ve missed a fast. The rules have provided how to correct that common oversight for as long as Muslims have been fasting. And there are more ways to do it than doing a fast afterwards. An inability to apply simple and clear rules is hardly commendable.
Situations like this speak to me about the absurdity of the idea of the self-governing Ummah. The idea that the collective decisions of scholars and learned men can somehow correctly guide people through their spiritual lives has never been better illustrated as flawed than by moments like this. Here are the ‘leaders’ ignoring practice, precedent, logic and knowledge to ensure that their primacy is not threatened. Here is one of the most sacred times in the calendar, something that by definition cannot be changed, altered to cover human error.
Given this is the pathetic governance of the Ummah even on established spiritual matters, it’s hardly surprising that Islam struggles in the modern world.