Jack Of All Trades
The moon of Rajab and the Shab-e-Barat
The Ministry of Religious Affairs has upheld its earlier decision according to which Bangladesh is scheduled to observe the Holy Shab-e-Barat on the night of April 21.
Concerned quarters appreciated that the ministry to have retained the scheduled date for the Shab-e-Barat rejecting the claim of a little known religious group that the moon was sighted on April 6th last. By upholding the earlier date , the ministry successfully managed to avoid all types of confusion and misunderstanding regarding the topic.
State Minister for Religious Affairs Sheikh Md Abdullah earlier formed a ten-member panel to re-examine the evidences and fix a new date to observe Shab-e-Barat, the sacred night for Sunni Muslims who believe that the Almighty Allah on the night allocates fortunes for his pious subjects for the next one year and removes their sins committed and recorded in the past year. With this believe Sunni Muslims throng mosques and pass most of the night in prayers. However, according to Islamic scholars the prayers on the night of Shab-e-Barat is optional and not mandatory as widely believed. But the scholar say prayer is always better than fleeting time purposeless.
According to learned observers the Ministry has shouldered an unnecessary challenge by conceding an unfounded claim from the regional religious group that the moon of the Arabic lunar month of Rajab was sighted in a remote corner of Khagracchari district in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. They said that the ministry should have ignored the claim while major religious groups and religious political parties accepted the government schedule to observe the Shab-e-Barat on the night of April 21 or Rajab 14.
They say that the religion of Islam has empowered the government to announce the programmes for celebrating Eid-ul-Fitr and Eid-ul-Azha, when the moon is not cited across the country due to inclement weather. In such condition the government is authorised to give any decision and the subjects are ordered to follow the government directives.
Generally the moon is often sighted on the 29th evening of the Arabic lunar months. But generally the moon appears on the 30th of the months. So the fasting month of Ramadan often lasts 29 days and also 30 days, based on the sighting of the moon, and the Eid-ul-Fitr is celebrated on the first three days of the month of Shawwal. There are instances that Eid-ul-Fitr and Eid-ul-Azha were delayed for a day or observed a day earlier in the near past and in the medieval ages following instructions of the governments which often did so to maintain peace among factions of Muslims within the states.
The opponents of the planned review of the decision allege that by heeding the claim of the Islamic groups the ministry has belittled the ministry itself, the Bangladesh Islamic Foundation, the Bangladesh Meteorological Department, the Space Research and Remote Sensing Organisation and the country's district administrations.
They say, the ministry has blundered by conceding the claim which was raised on April 11 five days after the ministry fixed the time for Shab-e-Barat that the moon for the Arabic lunar month of Shaban was sighted in Khagrachhari district on, April 6.
Earlier on April 6, the ministry in the meeting of the National Moon Sighting Committee (NMSC) fixed the night of April 21 to observe Shab-e-Barat as the crescent was not sighted anywhere in Bangladesh on the day - the 29th Rajab, the 7th month of the Arabic calendar. Shab-e-Barat is observed on the 14th night of Shaban. The April 6 decision was based on information available from the district administrations, Islamic Foundation, offices of the Meteorological Department, and Space Research and Remote Sensing Organisation.
After the claim of the sighting of the moon by the group the ministry announced on April 13 that the date for Shab-e-Barat will be re-fixed on April 17, after examining all the scientific evidences on the appearance of the moon on Bangladesh sky. Leaders of Mojlisu Ruiyatul Hilal (MRH), a platform hitherto unknown Islamist groups, claimed at a press conference in Dhaka on April 11 that the moon for Shaban was sighted at Khagrachhari and different other places on April 6, but the authorities ignored the information.
Now question is that which authorities ignored such vital information had the moon was really sighted when all the district administration in their respective messages to the NMSC acknowledged that no moon was sighted in their respective districts. The MRH itself could call the moon sighting committee about the appearance of moon had they been so interested.
According to the religious experts such a delayed claim of the sighting of the moon has no ground when the NMSC - a wing of the government has fixed a date after evaluating the available evidences.
They say the religious ministry should strongly implement government decisions and should not bend when pressed by religious pressure groups. In Bangladesh there are vested religious pressure groups and factions who illogically want to keep fast and celebrate Eid-ul-Fitr and Eid-ul-Azha with the people of Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam. But the religion of Islam professed by Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) asked the followers to start fasting in Ramadan and celebrate the festivals when the moon is sighted. But, those who want to keep fast and celebrate days with the people of Saudi Arabia must know that moon is not sighted at all places at the same time.
The author is Business Editor,
The Daily Observer