Ramzan 2009By Guest Blogger • Aug 22nd, 2009 • Category: Misc • 3 Comments
More than one-fourth of all human beings now living on earth are about to enter a new phase of their yearly calendar: Ramazan. Coming fourteen hundred and thirty years after the momentous event of Hijra of the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings of Allah, Ramazan will bring with it a night better than one thousand months, and 28 or 29 other days and nights during which a good non-obligatory deed is like performing an obligatory act of worship and, in turn, performance of an obligatory act of worship is rewarded seventy times more than during any other month. “It is the month of patience,” the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings of Allah, told his Companions, “and the reward for patience is Paradise. It is the month of comforting others, and the month during which believers receive abundance. Make sure you frequently do four things, two of which please your Lord and the other two are indispensable for your salvation in the Hereafter. As for the two things that would please your Lord, they are: testifying to the oneness of Allah, the Most High, and seeking forgiveness from Him. And the other two are: asking Allah the favour of entering Jannah and seeking refuge in Him from the Hell Fire.”
Yet, fasting is not merely about not eating or drinking from sunrise to sunset; it is also about the purification: purification of one’s whole being, from the physical to the moral and from the psychic to the emotional levels of existence: Abu Hurayra, may Allah be pleased with him, said that the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings of Allah, said: “Whoever does not give up [telling] lies, and evil deeds, and speaking foul words about others, Allah—the Most High—has no need of his leaving his food and drink.”
One of the recurrent issues about Ramazan is the confusion about its beginning and ending. Every year, the Muslim community around the world goes through the same cycle of disenchantment because several different beginnings and endings are observed. The confusion is astounding, because in this age of so-called information revolution, the most simple and basic facts about the principles to be used for the beginning and ending of a lunar month remain obscure to millions of people. The simple criterion for the beginning of a lunar month is that that new moon has to be seen by the naked eye and if, because of cloudy skies or other reasons, the new moon is not sighted by the naked eye, then that locality must complete the maximum duration of a lunar month, that is 30 days.
This criterion is based on the Glorious Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Noble Messenger of Allah, may His peace and blessings be upon him. It must be kept in mind that the beginning and ending of the Islamic lunar month is not a small matter: any tampering amounts to intercalation, which is condemned in the Qur’an. Furthermore, the principle of naked-eye sighting is based on numerous sayings of the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, that achieve the status of infallible (mutawatir) and thus are on par with the legislative authority of any verse in the Qur’an. The Prophet commanded Muslims to base their month on the physical sighting of the new moon and if not seen on the twenty-ninth completed day of the previous month on a clear evening, or if clouds or other atmospheric barriers hindered visibility, then to complete thirty days of the previous month and begin the new month the following sunset.
To base the Islamic lunar month on calculations is, therefore, untenable from a strictly legal point of view, legal in the sense of Shariah, the code of law established by Allah. Due to the extreme inferiority complex Muslims have about science these days, it is often stated that in this day and age of science, why can’t Muslims rely on technology to determine the beginning and ending of their lunar month? The answer is simple: this is not the criterion established by the two primary sources of law in Islam: the Qur’an and the Sunnah. The new moon has to be sighted by naked eye.
A further misunderstanding and confusion about the beginning and ending of Ramazan is the artificial link of this beginning (or ending) with the unity of the Ummah. The argument goes like this: if Muslims cannot begin or end their fast at the same time, then their unity suffers. This is an utterly artificial linkage; what has Muslim unity to do with the beginning or ending of Ramazan? Recall, what the Prophet, upon him be peace, told the Bedouin who came to him from a nearby village and said people have not been able to see the moon due to clouds? He was told to go back and complete the 30 days of fasting. There was no question of the unity of Ummah: the people in Madinah could celebrate their Eid on a day different from the nearby village. So, how does the unity of the Ummah suffer if people in Afghanistan begin and end their fasting on a day different from that on which people in Iran or Pakistan do? There is absolutely no connection between the two.
So, what is important is to understand that a Muslim by definition is the one who submits to the commands of Allah and His Messenger and therefore, instead of creating confusion through unsound personal opinions, it would be far better to reflect on the matter at hand with an attitude of submission to the commands of the One who has created, fashioned in proportion and perfected the man and the woman who argues and creates confusion and intellectual anarchy, as well as the moon about which they argue.
Dr Muzaffar Iqbal