A mosque in Peshawar has held up its odd tradition of sighting the Shawwal moon before the rest of the country with its chief cleric announcing the end of the fasting month of Ramazan late Monday night.
Officially, the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government did not endorse the decision of Mufti Shahabuddin Popolzai, the chief cleric at Peshawar’s historic Masjid Qasim Ali Khan, to celebrate Eidul Fitr on Tuesday (today).
The long-running controversy between Masjid Qasim Ali Khan and the official moon-sighting panel – the Central Ruet-e-Hilal Committee – will again lead the Pakistani nation to celebrate Eidul Fitr on two different days.
Mufti Popolzai’s ‘decree’ coincided with an official announcement from the Saudi religious authorities that the Shawwal moon has been sighted and Eidul Fitr will be celebrated in the kingdom on Tuesday.
Other Middle Eastern and Gulf states – including Egypt, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Iran and Iraq – also announced the end of Ramazan. Muslims in Europe and the United States will also celebrate Eidul Fitr on Tuesday.
In Peshawar, Mufti Popolzai told the media after a meeting of his own unofficial moon-sighting committee that they have received ‘testimonies’ about moon-sighting from 10 persons from different parts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
“The ulema heard the testimonies and examined the evidence in the light of shariah,” he said, referring to the members of his committee. “We are convinced that the Shawwal moon has been sighted and Eidul Fitr will be on Tuesday,” he added.
Interestingly, Popalzai’s committee did not entertain the ‘testimonies’ until the Saudi authorities announced the sighting of the moon at around 9.15pm.
Asked about the moon-sighting row, the mufti put the blame squarely on the federal government, implying that the Central Ruet-e-Hilal Committee ignored shariah laws. “I’ve asked the religious panel of the Senate standing committee to hear our viewpoint,” he added.
Meanwhile, a local committee in Mohib Banda mosque in Mardan also announced that it has received 20 ‘testimonies’ about moon-sighting. Jamiat Ulema-i-Afghan in Charsadda also announced sighting moon.
Eidul Fitr will also be celebrated in the tribal regions, including Khyber, Bajaur, Orakzai and North Waziristan agencies, on Tuesday. However, people in Hazara and Malakand divisions will follow the Central Ruet-i-Hilal Committee decision which will be convening today to decide the sighting of Shawwal moon.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 30th, 2011.