Jack Of All Trades
The midnight crescent and the Eid-ul-Fitr
The National Moon Sighting Committee (NMSC) with its latest decision to celebrate Eid-ul-Fitr on Wednesday, June 5, 2019, bewildered the teeming millions who according to the previous decision of the committee, had taken all preparation for the Muslim religious festival on Thursday, June 6.
The NMSC abruptly changed its previous decision after some Olema-e-Ekram (Islamic religious scholars) claimed to have sighted the crescent for the Arabic month of Shawwal in the remote western corners of the country.
The committee hours earlier on June 4 had announced that no crescent or the new moon was sighted across the country and as such the Eid-ul-Fitr would be celebrated on Thursday.
Though Eid is a matter of joy for every people of Bangladesh irrespective of cast, creed and religion, the latest announcement of the committee failed to cheer a major section of Muslims mostly the pious men and women, who constitute the largest religious community in the country.
Generally the final decision for the celebration comes from the NMSC within an hour after the sun set as by the time it becomes clear whether the moon was really sighted or not. The NMSC which includes representative of the Bangladesh Islamic Foundation, Bangladesh Meteorological Department, Space Research and Remote Sensing Organisation and maintains direct digital communications with the all district administrations across the country, is largely capable to confirm itself whether the moon was sighted or not.
It was confirmed on the basis of scientific and conventional evidences that no more was sighted on June 4 evening and accordingly NMSC rightly announced that Eid would be celebrated on Thursday June 6. Immediately after the announcement Muslims who constitute 90 per cent of the country's 170 million people returned to their normal Ramadan life at least for another one day saying Tarawi (after fasting) prayer. Most of them went to bed to wake up again to take Sheri-the pre dawn meal and fast for another day for the completion of the 30-day fasting month of Ramadan. Pious Muslims were happy thinking that the Almighty Allah has given them a chance to have another day of fasting.
Tens and thousands of pious male Muslims who took refuge (Ehteqaf) in the innumerable mosques across the country, to pass the last 10 nights of Ramadan commemorating the revelation of the Holy Quran to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), also stayed back and engaged themselves either in prayers or in sleeping ahead of the Sherri.
On the other side of the Ramadan life, markets remained open with streams of shoppers thronging for a last minute shopping as the Eid was due on Thursday, June 6 as per the first announcement of the NMSC. Those who were prepared to stop their marketing and shopping on June 4 night hours ahead of the expected Eid Day on following morning changed their schedule to rush for home. Many private companies, business houses and transport operators who usually close their activities just after the sighting of the moon also were on their toes as the Eid was away for another day.
But the whole nation plunged into a sort of commotion as the NMSC in its second announcement said that the moon was sighted by some people at some remote corners of the country and the sighting was reported by some Olema-e-Ekram to certain members of the NMSC.
Pious Muslims who were in Ehteqaf at mosques were compelled to hurriedly leave the prayer houses for their respective homes. Markets had to be closed abruptly and shoppers had to run for homes whatever they could fetch at the eleventh hour.
Companies, factories, business houses were closed quickly and thousands of employees rushed for homes in transports whatever they could avail instantly. All the roads and streets in cities, towns and urban centres suddenly witnessed huge tail backs with honking vehicles.
At homes women were in great trouble as they had to quickly ready their homes to celebrate Eid-ul-Fitr on a shortest possible time. Preparations include cleanliness and also cooking delicious foods.
With the late night announcement of the sighting of moon by the NMSC people had to suffer a lot to manage the show. And the announcement sparked a lot of jokes and criticism in social media. The situation was so serious that many started saying that the NMSC should stop such jokes with the moon in future.
The committee which cannot uphold its decision should not stay in office. When no official body sighted the moon how come some people claimed to have sighted it and convinced the NMCS to change the decision. By changing the decision based on hearsay the committee has itself put in the dock.
Had the earlier announcement of not sighting of the moon and fixing the Eid celebration was wrong the criticism would not have been so serious as the government and any committee entrusted by government to take such decision has all the rights and authority to fix the time tables for religious celebrations like Eid.
Wrong or right the government is religiously authorised to fix days for religious festivals. For instance during Pakistan days people in Bangladesh (then East Pakistan) used to celebrate Eid on the same day though no moon was sighted in this region. Sometimes the moon was sighted in Pakistan's northwestern Peshawar only and people in Dhaka, some 2,160 away celebrated Eid. Because it was the responsibility of the government to fix day for the celebrations and the people are obliged to follow the government decision as an Islamic practice.
Though Islamic edict says that the Eid should be celebrated after sighting of the moon, the moon was not sighted at all parts under an Islamic umpire simultaneously, but the people celebrated occasions as per the decision of the central government.
But the second announcement which was clearly a fumbling by the NMSC, sparked not only criticism but also a great problems for the people mainly practicing Muslims of the country.
According to concerned people the NMSC should have retained its earlier decision as no moon was really sighted anywhere in Bangladesh on June 4 evening.
People do not understand what warranted the NMSC to change its earlier decision. Many say that the committee changed its decision as Saudi Arabia celebrated Eid on June 4. Eid is generally celebrated in Bangladesh on the following day of Eid in Saudi Arabia. But it is not mandatory as Bangladesh is free to celebrate Eid-ul-Fitr after sighting the moon.
Under the circumstances, concerned people think that the present NMSC should be recast and the procedures for the sighting of the moon should be reformed with inclusion of more scientific know-how to locate position of moon on the 29th of the lunar month.
The author is Business Editor, The Daily Observer