Federal Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry has stated that he intends to disband the Central Ruet-e-Hilal Committee that is tasked with the sighting of the moon for Islamic months.
He plans on sending a summary to the federal cabinet to abolish the committee and the final decision will be taken by Prime Minister Imran Khan.
The minister said he had constituted a scientific panel to replace the committee working under Mufti Muneeb-ur-Rehman.
He said the panel would consist of three scientists, and a member each from the Pakistan Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (Suparco) and Pakistan Meteorological Department.
They would prepare a ten-year Islamic calendar that will not require the physical sighting of the moon.
“This will end the yearly controversy surrounding moonsighting, especially on Eids. However, the government will not bind anyone to follow the calendar,” he said.
Fawad said he had utter respect for Mufti Muneeb but didn’t agree with his way of moon sighting. However, he is expecting a strong reaction from religious groups but said the decision to be taken by Prime Minister Imran Khan would prevail.
The minister argued that the way of moon sighting in various Islamic schools of thought was different.
“Imam Hambal supports physical sighting of the moon while Imam Shafi recommends scientific ways for it,” he added.
Chaudhary said the Ruet-e-Hilal Committee uses a telescope for physical sighting besides seeking help from Suparco.
He argued that Maulana (Mufti Muneeb) could also use a satellite instead of an old-fashioned telescope for this purpose.
Note that according to the stats presented before the National Assembly, an amount of Rs. 3.06 million was spent on moon sighting for Muharram, Ramadan, Eid ul Fitr, and Eidul Adha last year. The Ruet-e-Hilal committee members also receive heavy pay cheques throughout the year for the very same purpose.
‘Rein In Ministers’
Fawad’s announcement of abolishing Ruet-e-Hilal Committee attracted a strong reaction from Chairman Mufti Muneeb ur Rehman who asked the Prime Minister to ‘rein in’ his ministers.
Mufti Muneeb said Fawad’s comments were his personal matter but he should refrain from making such comments against religious scholars and misquoting history.
“Who knows … one of them might also have a role in your [Fawad] appointment.”
He said Mr. Chaudhary lacked the knowledge of how the system worked and asked the premier to control his passionate ministers.