The Luna(cy) of the Moon Sighting

It’s 2012, the age of enlightenment, education and science.

Yet once again we have 3 different days of the Moon-sighting (17, 18, 19 August) in just one country (Pakistan).

And as always, Pakistan media joins in the frenzy, throwing more fuel to the fire and continues its trend of irresponsible and immature coverage of this non-issue that’s always plagued us and gets the best of us as a nation.

I consider myself a student of Quran. And like all Muslims I believe in what it says. Quran encourages us to keep an open mind, to explore an to seek out the truth:

“Behold! In the creation of heavens and the earth, and the alternation of night and day, there are indeed Signs for men of understanding.” [Aale Imran 3:190]

And I am also an avid enthusiast of astronomy, science and mathematics. Being an independent “astronomer” by my own I have learned a good deal about astronomy, often seeking out opportunities to capture the new crescent Moon myself all around the year [1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8] and in this process learning a whole lot about the visibility opportunities of the Moon.

Yet year after year I see the “learned men” (muftis) of our country fighting it out like schoolchildren over the Moon-sighting issue, calling each other names and degrading insults (all on public TV, mind you!)

So here I offer a few simple solutions for them to consider.

1) A simple 2 minute cross-examination of these witnesses with a religious mufti with open mind and educational background of math/astronomy and reasoning can easily decide if they are right or wrong. Questions can be like:

– What place in the sky was the Moon observed? What direction?
– What was the observed elevation of the Moon?
– How was the weather? Was it cloudy? Were there any isolated patches of clouds that might be mistaken for a Moon?
– What was the tilt of the crescent? The new crescent “limbs” always face a different portion of the sky during different times of the year
[1 2 3]
– Could you see the Sun at the same time as the crescent Moon?

I do believe the central Ruet-e-Hilal committee has such persons and they have thus ruled out the shahadaat which did not conform to these conditions.

2) Do follow up observations. Get the media and people of KPK with Ruet-e-Hilal members together the NEXT day and observe the Moon and then see if the shoe fits. Funny thing is, tomorrow (19 Aug) the “southern” cities of like Karachi and Quetta have a broad window of opportunity of spotting the Moon after sunset (about 40 minutes) while Peshawar will still have only a thin time-span (about 15 minutes) of spotting the new crescent. Such an observation should remove all doubts once and for all (Again, why aren’t our news channels playing a more active and positive role with all the tools at their disposal?)

3) Consult lunar calenders. We have computers advanced enough to predict lunar dates of the next 1000 years, believe it or not (yea, welcome to 21st century) :p Actually, some of these calenders were even published by Muslim astronomers and thousands of observatories around the world today can predict to the accuracy of a millionth of a degree. Sadly the sorry state of this country’s education prevents access to these simple educational tools.

4) KPK says they are being victimized and abused racially. Halke hojao yaron! Agar hum racial abuse kar rahe hain to aapne khud Waziristan walon ke sath Eid kyun nahi manayi. Aakhir un ke paas bhi to 13 Shahadaten theen. Why did they ignore it then? RACISM?

Spot the ones playing the “racism” card, they’re the trouble makers! By diverting it to a non-issue, defamation and not focusing on the actual problem they may get satisfied. What about the general innocent population of Pakistan?

The solution is to think open mindedly. And jo “molvi” hazraat yeh kehte hen ke “science” kahan se agayi, yeh to religious kaam hai” With respect sirs, but count the number of times you’d have used “science” to get your daily errands done. From a simple alarm clock waking you up to using a car for transport, to going to Hajj by the convenience of a plane (before there were planes, Hajis struggled, literally, to travel. And their families would worry if their loved ones would return on not). Admit that science it has made your life a million times better and you do have to listen to the power of reasoning which science offers.

Think about it my fellow brethren.