Can PTI Government Really Change The Ruet-e-Hilal Culture?

According to unconfirmed media reports, the PTI led Federal government is mulling over disbanding the Ruet-e-Hilal (moon sighting) Committee at all levels in the country.

If the news circulating in the local media are to be believed, this is going to be another controversial decision soon after the Basant celebrations announcement. Only that this time the government shall not have to face the backlash for initiating an event the right wing opposed, but for discontinuing the committee which has been led by Mufti Muneeb-ur-Rehman since 2001, and is widely supported by the right wing of the country.

According to the reports, under the new arrangement the responsibility of the moon sighting and its declaration, in order to facilitate following the Islamic calendar, are being transferred to the Pakistan Meteorological Department (MET). The Meteorological Department is another government body which employs scientific methods and equipment to predict  in advance the precise time of moon birth, among performing other functions.

It has been noted that the reason behind the probable disbanding of the Ruet-e-Hilal Committee is the continued stream of ‘controversial’ moon sighting decisions by the committee, which resulted not only in social unrest but also cost millions of rupees to the national exchequer. In addition, the methods employed by the committee are widely seen as redundant and obsolete. However, the religious tradition is the backbone that has kept the committee alive over the decades. It is widely supported notion that in any Islamic state, the right and responsibility of announcement for the moon sighting for Eid, Ramazan, and all the other days of religious significance in Islam, is the authority of the state. Given the age old conflict between science and religion, the major chunk of religious leaders insist upon a religious body keeping the charge of the matter instead of a scientific institute like MET. However, with the long standing tradition of discrepancies visible in the committee’s decisions, it has become an increasingly criticized government body.

It may be interesting to point out that as the news of dissolving the committee at all levels across the country surfaced, the Central Ruet-e-Hilal Committee chairman Mufti Muneeb ur Rehman announced on Sunday night that the crescent of Jamadi-ul-Awal has not been sighted and the 1st Jamadi-ul-Awal 1440 Hijri will be on Tuesday. The announcement followed the meeting of Central Ruet-e-Hilal Committee in Karachi the same day.


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