Monday, August 21, 2006

Muslim council proposes using calendar -- not weather -- for start of Ramadan

Back in 1582, Pope Gregory XIII decided to cancel eleven days from the calendar because of the drift from celestial time that had happened from the days of the early church to the Renaissance. It was met with some resistance, but over time (i.e. centuries) it was eventually adopted by pretty much the entire world. Even non-Christian countries use the Gregorian calendar for civil purposes, although instead of using A.D. (Anno Domini) they use C.E. (The "Common Era.")

It's been useful if for no other reason than that Good Friday and Easter Sunday (which are official holidays in most Western states, although as primarily secular observances) can be determined years in advance, nifty for calendar makers. It's not so simple, however, in Islam, which insists upon a clear sighting of the new or full moon for the start of some religious festivals, such as Ramadan. This has often led to a situation where the Asia Pacific region starts Ramadan a few days either before or after Africa, while Europe and North America have yet another day.

It's even led to what some might see as silly -- a "hotline" where people call in a sighting of a moon's phase, then "experts" determining whether it's credible or not. Some mosques have had to book banquet halls on consecutive days just to hedge their bets -- then lose one of their deposits.

So in an attempt to settle the issue, a number of US and Canadian imams are proposing to do what Turkey has done for years -- just go by the civil calendar and when it (based on astronomy) says the new moon is.

No doubt that will make hardliners like OBL upset. But who gives a shit what he thinks anymore? Besides, if I were to offer a gift to a Muslim colleague in honour of the occasion, shouldn't I have the right to know when it is rather than just hope the skies stay clear for a month? Hopefully, it won't take as long to settle this one as the Roman Catholic Church, which took until 1992 to finally admit Gallileo was right about the earth revolving around the sun.

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