Shawwal moon sighting controversy?
Predominantly Muslim area of Kinniya is located in the north east coast of the island. Around 98 percent of the population there are Muslims.
They belong to all walks of life from religious scholars, educationists, traders, farmers and fishermen to number of other professions.
The entire atmosphere changes during the Holy Month of Ramadan with people getting deeply involved in fasting and night prayers.This is one area where the moon was sighted frequently on the basis of which the Muslims island wide began and ended their Ramadan fast.
This year was no exception. Muslims there were keen to see the Shawwal Moon on Wednesday 6 August 2013 and the moon sighting committee of All Ceylon Jamiyathul Ulama Kinniya Branch, ACJUKB, had made arrangements for it.
The ACJUKB is a large body of Muslim theologians involved in various community activities besides being responsible for the sighting of Shawwal moon under a committee headed by Ash Sheikh A.S.Jabir (Naleemi) for kinniya.
The All Ceylon Jammmiyathul Ulema in Colombo (ACJU) had also dispatched a two member team of Memons from the Memon Association to coordinate with the moon sighting committee in Kinniya on 6 August after Magrib prayer. The ACJU has also requested people in the area to watch out for the Shawwal moon.
One after the other around 25 people had sighted the Shawwal Moon in three different areas such as Periyaattumunai, Periya Kinniya Jamiul Azhar Masjid area and Kakamunai on Wednesday between 6.32 PM and 6.35 PM.
They took six of the people who had sighted the moon and met As-sheikh A.S.Jabir (Naleemi) who is the President of Jawa Mosque built during the Portuguese period. He verified all details and informed immediately the ACJUKB which further studied the details.
They ACJUKB in turn contacted promptly the ACJU moon sighting committee in Colombo at the Colombo Grand Mosque. They tried to speak to ACJU national chairman Moulavi Rizvi, but he was not accessible.
However the response of ACJU in the Grand Mosque was not very receptive. Although the moon sighting committee in Kinniya was comprised of ulemas and religious scholars, social and Islamic organizations known for their integrity, the ACJU in Colombo started asking odd questions making them feel as if they were telling lies.
Later they were shocked to hear that their version was dismissed, the views of Memon team and the meteorological department were accepted and Thursday 8 August, was declared a day of fasting.
The ACJUKB summoned an urgent meeting of religious scholars, social activists, prominent people, politicians, those who sighted the moon and others at 9 PM at its office and once again discussed, reconfirmed and informed the ACJU Colombo only to be told that the moon sighting committee at Grand Mosque had completed its meeting and the members have already left. They were also told that the ACJU Colombo moonACJU Logo Color sighting team had decided to fast on following day, Thursday, and celebrate Eid on Friday.
This shocked the ACJUKB moon sighting team which felt insulted as ACJU decision was contrary to the Islamic teachings.
Disgusted at this irresponsibility, the ACJUKB issued a statement asking people there to celebrate Eid on Thursday. This statement was to explain to people of Kinniya and Muthur the contradictory statement made by ACJU national president Moulavi Rizvi in his speech over the radio on moon sighting in Kinniya and the celebration of Eid on Thursday 8 August 2013.
Following is the statement of ACJUKB;
We wanted to inform the people of the decision taken by the ACJUKB, Dawa organizations, politicians, prominent people and others who met on 8 Thursday August 2013 on Shawwal moon sighting.
It is incorrect to state that, after people in Kinniya and Muthur had sighted the moon on Wednesday 7 August 2013, that it was not possible to sight the moon according to the meteorological department. There was clear contradiction as the very same ACJU which summoned the meeting on Wednesday 6 asking people to watch out for Shawwal Moon stating that the moon cannot be sighted on the same evening.
Moulavi Rizvi has told that the ACJUJKB branch president had not signed the document confirming the decision to celebrate the festival. He said the signature was bogus. However it was confirmed that the letter was signed by ACJUKB president As Shaikh A.M Hidayathulla (Naleemi) who was appointed as President of ACJUKB with the consent of As Shaikh A.R. Nassar ( Falahi) who left two years ago to Sudan to do his Master degree.
This appointment was unanimously approved by the ACJUKB and Colombo ACJU was informed. This is very well known to people in Kinniya and it is shocking to hear that the ACJU in Colombo was not aware of this.
The Memon team sent by the ACJU in Colombo did not make any inquiry from Moulavi Riyas, Imam of Masjid Jamiul Azahr located in the area where the moon was sighted. Instead they met some people who had sighted the moon, spoke in Tamil but spoke to ACJU in Colombo Moon sighting committee in Memon language. Thus the people there did not know what the team had told the ACJU in Colombo.
It was stated that former president of ACJUKB left the country for his higher education. This is the reason why the present President As-Sheikh A.M.Hidayathullah and secretary M.S.M.Safaath signed the document confirming the sighting of the moon.
Under the circumstance without seeking any clarification from ACJUKB, the statement issued by the ACJU Chairman Moulavi Rizvi through radio on moon sighting has not only hurt the feelings of ACJUKB president and secretary but also insults the people of kinniya and Muthur.
Commenting on the unanimous decision taken by the ACJUKB on moon sighting Moulavi Rizvi pointed out that he had helped the people of kinniya and Mutur during the tsunami disaster and other difficult times.
The question is what is the relevance for the national leader of ACJU to speak about help rendered to people during times of difficulties. This was not something that the People of Kinniya expected from ACJU leadership. This is regrettable.
Issuing his verdict, Fatwa, on Kinniya people’s decision to celebrate the Eid on Thursday 8 August 2013, Moulavi Rizvi stated that those who failed to fast on Thursday should compensate ( Kala).He added that those who fasted on that day were the blessed ones.The question is how come it is wrong for the people, who had sighted the moon with their own eyes in their own soil to celebrate the festival on Thursday? Islamic tradition has been to start and end fasting on sighting the moon and here in Kinniya one after the other around 25 people had sighted the moon.
The question is on what basis Moulavi Rizvi had made this fatwa misleading the entire community?
If Moulavi Rizvi can make this fatwa on the basis of second hand information how come the people who had sighted the moon, decided on the basis of Ijtihad, and celebrated the festival could be wrong? We leave it to Almighty Allah
Moulavi Rizvi also stated that no one from Kinniya had officially informed him about the sighting of the moon. This blatant and calculated lie, not worthy of a man claiming to be a moulavi, need to be condemned because the officer in charge of ACJUKB’s moon sighting committee As Sheikh A.S.Jabir ( Naleemi) had promptly informed the ACJU Colombo of all details with regard to sighting of moon.
Therefore this statement is not worthy of a president of ACJU.
On hearing this misleading statement the ACJUKB summoned a meeting of representatives of Dawa organizations, social activists, those who sighted the moon, politicians at 9 PM, discussed and reconfirmed the sighting of the moon and informed the ACJU in Colombo at 9.30 PM.
However to their shock they were told that the ACJU moon sighting team in Colombo has ended its meeting and all members left. This was absolutely irresponsible especially in view of the great religious importance of the issue affecting the entire community.
Meanwhile the ACJUKB had contacted Justice Minister Rauf Hakeem and explained the situation. Minister Hakeem in turn tried to get at Moulavi Rizvi to see whether he would change the decision to fast on Thursday in view of the details provided to him by the ACJUKB.
Moulavi Rizvi who cannot be contacted till late in the evening had stated that the decision taken by ACJU in Colombo cannot be changed under any circumstance by any one-Perhaps it was divine decision?
It was after this that the ACJUKB unanimously decided to celebrate the Eid on the following day Thursday 8 August 20123 and informed the people.
Under this circumstance how could Moulavi Rizvi justify his claim that the opinion of the two member Memon team was reliable dismissing the information of the people who had sighted the moon?
The question is what is the secret agenda of Moulavi Rizvi in dismissing the views of the people who had sighted the moon?
Moulavi Rivi had stated that it was possible to sight the moon at 6.23 in the east coast. He had also stated that the moon may remain for about 14 to 15 minutes. The people in the area had confirmed that they had sighted the moon at 06.35. The ACJUKB moon sighting committee discussed these details, satisfied and confirmed and informed the ACJU Colombo officially at 06.58.
Under the circumstance it is shameful and disgusting for Moulavi Rizvi to state that ACJU in Colombo got the information late. This is a serious eid slreligious issue concerning the whole community and how could the ACJU national president behave in this irresponsible manner
Signed: All Ceylon Jammiyathul Ulama, Kinniya branch, Sri Lanka
Fed up and disgusted with the arrogant and irresponsible attitude of Colombo ACJU, ulemas in the east began discussing plan to set up their own moon sighting committee instead of depending on ACJU moon sighting committee in Colombo.
Meanwhile Muslims in the rest of the country respected the views of the ACJU and fasted on Thursday. In view of the emerging controversy I spoke with people in Kinniya and was convinced that the Eid was on Thursday. This is the opinion almost everyone in the country.
According to knowledgeable circles the Colombo ACJU had taken the decision weeks ahead, in violation of Islamic teachings, to declare the Eid on Friday 9 and many leading members of ACJU did not fast on Thursday 8 as they were aware of it. This is the sad state of affairs in the ACU which is fast losing its credibility under its present leadership.
The ACJU summoned ACJUKB for a meeting what many people believe as a move to placate them not to make this an issue though this a very serious issue. The ACJUKB had informed the ACJU that they will only attend a meeting if Muthur people who had also sighted the moon are invited and the ACJU provides a clear agenda.
However at a meeting in Colombo on 16 Saturday August between the ACJU and a 35 member ACJUKB team the ACJU Colombo had admitted of committing an error by not accepting the ACJUKB decision .A joint statement by ACJU and ACJUKB signed by ACJU General Secretary M.M.A Mubarak stated that;
The Colombo ACJU has confirmed, following discussion with ACJUKB ulemas, on Saturday that the ACJUKB moon sighting committee had sighted the moon on Wednesday evening and they were right in celebrating the Eid festival on Thursday. This was correct. The others who fasted on Thursday in keeping with the announcement of ACJU and celebrated the festival on Friday too were right.
This is absolute nonsense and calculated farce to hoodwink the people and save the face of ACJU president. The question is how can fright and wrong be the same and whether those who committed this unprecedented blunder, in violation of Islamic teachings, are fit to be in the ACJU at all.
ACJU Colombo regrets that Moulvai Rizvi’s speech over the radio at 1 pm on 8 August had hurt the feelings of ACJUKB and asking people to fast on Thursday.
The two sides also decided to work out a formula on taking proper decision on moon sighting in transparent manner with qualified people from all over the country to avoid unwanted controversies which create chaos among people. In this regard they also plan to organize a workshop attended by all involved on 8 September and As Sheikh Yusuf Mufti to be in charge of the project.
The island’s Muslim community is passing through one of it most difficult periods in its history .Thus it cannot afford to have an ACJU with a leadership shrouded in too many controversies.
The mood among Muslims is one of anger and disrespect for the ACJU which is fast losing the confidence of the community which cannot allow this unfortunate situation to continue.
Under the circumstance the need of the hour is for overhauling the ACJU to suit the needs of the beleaguered Muslim community.
What the community requires in this critical hour is an ACJU elected in a free and fair election, an ACJU which is not a one man show, an ACJU having the interest of the community at heart with taqwa in words and deeds and commands respect and confidence of the community.
The community needs a religious leadership which is not tainted with any allegation, does not involve in politics and go behind politicians, defend rights of Muslims as religious leaders of other community do without any fear, treat rich and poor alike, do not hob knob with shady businessmen, not jet setting but remain in the country with the community and function as the ears and eyes of the community.