Moon sightings

!! Every now and then, come Ramadan, there are scores of people staring up at the sky, “trying to see”: if the moon has arrived, and thus decide when the month of Ramadan should start.

In this day and age, it’s really something that a whole country still goes by a pair of human eyes to determine the “position of the moon”:, and completely ignores the “large mass right behind the eyes”: At the least, the Pakistan govt. could get a better telescope, and perhaps hire an astronomer to help them “find” the moon.

Way back in July 1687 “Newton”: published the Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica in which he _”deduced that the forces which keep the planets in their orbs must be reciprocally as the squares of their distances from the centers about which they revolve.”_ Newton’s “law of universal gravitation”: fixed the position of the moon pretty accurately for the next many million years, and as astronomical observations grew ever better and man figured out the weights of the surrounding planets and the sun, this grew ever more accurate.

“Albert Einstein”: in 1915 came up with the “theory of general relativity”:, which besides revolutionizing the scientific world, also spilled over into the Islamic world by calculating the position of the moon for the next billion odd years, or till aliens blow it up, whichever comes first.

Considering that it’s really not rocket science anymore to figure out where the moon is at any given time, it’s strange that here in Pakistan we still rely solely on human eyes to figure out where it is. It’s not just a few people with their superstitious beliefs, it’s the official stated position of the whole damn country that you gotta see it to believe it. Considering their obvious contempt for science, they probabaly look all around the horizon just in case the moon has decided to rise from a new position. The lack of distrust of scientists really shows from the fact that the federal government-appointed Central Ruet-i-Hilal doesn’t contain a single astronomer .

In a weird way, it makes sense though. This is exactly how much of Pakistan works. For example. much of Musharraf’s cabinent is corrupt, but until he actually sees it he won’t belieive it. Evidence and reasoning is for those infidel states, and they can keep their Einsteins and Newtons with their nasty calculations to themselves[1].

h4. links

* “U.S. Naval Observatory”:

* “Simple C program to calculate the phase of the moon”:

* “A post on eid”:

fn1. Except, of course, for the important stuff like making nukes.

9 thoughts on “Moon sightings”

  1. i think eye witness is a must according to what i remember from the ahadis books its not just like k you go on with a fixed calendar, were there any science involved at the time of Hazrat Muhammad sallallah-o-alaih-e-wassalam, and even there are invocations as well for moon sighting. Although I do agree with KO that pakistani govt. should take some steps to streamline the proces of moon sightings or atleast give our Ruet-i-Hilal committee an astronomer who can better guide them, (but do our committee is going to believe an astronomer LOL)

  2. This is still one of the very funniest blog posts I have ever read, bar none. I hope there will be a follow-up post at the end of Ramadan; I am looking forward to one, if appropriate. Somehow, this story sums up many religions which have difficulty reconciling religion and science. I am beginning to think that there are enormous numbers of learned, holy men throughout the world, good men who are joined together by their school experiences, where they uniformly received poor marks in science.

  3. Hi Publia, glad you liked the post. This year, Eid was spread out over 3 days in Pakistan – which is kinda a rare thing even here. It’d be funny if it didn’t reflect so badly on the pathetic state of Pakistani society and it’s religious leaders.

  4. 23rd Oct.2006 has been decleared as Eid-ul-fiter by our Nazim Alla and other Ulma in Mardan Distt. But I was astonished to see that the moon was not sighted on 23rd ,being 2nd day of the Moon.Now again I fasten for the next day i.e; on 24th.And again on 25th I join the official Eid decleared by the Hilal Commiti.Now the Question arise what we shall do? On 25th the Moon was seen like two days.Mufti Muneeb could not see the Moon in Time.On the actual Eid day I was on fasten in other world like SHITAN . WHAT IS MY PUNISHMENT FOR THE SAID ACT.

  5. Back in the days of the prophet, there wasn’t enough science to calculate the exact moon phase. Now there is. Just because the new moon is hidden by clouds does not mean it does not exist. It is funny that the billion plus muslims around the world could not agree on the first of ramzaan, or the first of the following month of shawaal. But the joke is on us.

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