Sky is probably not the limit for us Pakistanis. Every year the nation sets its eyes on their television screens instead of sky for sighting the Shawal moon in order to celebrate Eid-ul-Fitr. On 29th Ramazan, meeting of Central Ruet-e-Hilal Committee holds at Pakistan Meteorological Department building in Karachi to collect testimonies for Eid moon. Other zonal and district Ruet-e-Hilal committees sit at their respective offices after Asr prayers. Children, parents, friends and colleagues, beauty parlors, bazaars, shopping centres all keep their sights on the screens hoping and wishing for the announcement of Eid. The phenomenon of relying on television does not depict our acceptance of technological advancements; contrarily Pakistanis are not at all excited to use modern ways of finding out about their Eid. They brace themselves in suspense to watch a series of news and tickers by different moon sighting committees all set to announce their decision right after dusk.
Eid or another fast, ambiguity is deeply rooted in our culture, which at one side is totally against the true spirit of celebrating this holy day harmoniously but also reveals the disunity engraved among our communities. Adding a layer of complexity to the whole issue is the forging of new ties across sectarian divides and the burning of old ones. One prism of understanding the issue used to be in the pro-Saudi Arabian versus pro-local terms. How, then, would that explain the functionally anti-Saudi Arabian influence government of KP, celebrating Eid a day earlier and the Saudi Arabia-fixated Punjab government celebrating it a day later?
A time, when people are expecting another fast, a cleric from Qasim Masjid in Peshawar has been able to collect about twenty men- having remarkable good eyesight- claiming to saw the moon, and hence announcing Eid. Right after the announcement, a rebuttal from central ruet-e-Hilal committee comes urging the nation to steadfast for another fast as no testimonies been received on Eid moon. With this, the debate mutates from the theological into a my-word-against-yours, spawning off arguments about light pollution in cities, the visibility of the moon and whether the faith is sullied by using telescopes to begin with.
These clerics simply can’t accept the fact that the sighting of the moon can be predicted accurately (just like solar and lunar eclipses). A lunar calendar (known as the Egyptian calendar) has been in use for 1400 years, and it usually coincides with the actual moon sighting in Makkah every month.
According to a school, calculations are still not exact or even if they were, the order is to observe Eid if you see the moon, otherwise after 30 days. Some are seen arguing that the ruet-e-hilal committee must be resolved and Mufti Muneeb ur Rehman who has been the chairman of the committee for 14 years must resign. They say the sighting of the new moon by the naked eye should be the gold standard providing the new moon crescent is there to be seen.
We must understand the wisdom of moon sighting. Most people can agree on moon sighting, whether it was sighted or not. The same cannot be said for calculations, which most cannot understand. The idea is to have unity, and for everyone to observe Eid together. Hence, a committee to decide this is a good idea. However, if some people want to go their own way, then who can stop them (except the State)? This disunity in Eid is a sad indication of the disunity within Pakistan fueled by politics and personal gains.
Pakistan is located at the east time zone of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) and there is only single time zone implemented across the country. Ambiguities in Eid commemoration should usually be a problem for countries having multiple time zones. Even India and China that are geographically larger than Pakistan every year reach consensus on commemoration of Eid one day for the sake of national unity. The heavens won’t fall if we have two Eids. And national unity wouldn’t have been cemented even if we did. There are other, bigger monsters to slay for that.n