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An Uncertain Start to Ramadan

The holy month of Ramadan has once again commenced with confusion, claim and counter claims in the border regions and the rest of the province. In the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, many chose to follow the announcement in Saudi Arabia to begin fasting on Friday the 20th of July, while those in the remainder of the province were divided on when to begin their fasts.

Islamuddin, who lives in Takh-Bhai says, “I observed the fast because of the announcement in Saudi Arabia, I have followed them for the last few years. In the tribal belt, almost everyone has started fasting today after it was announced in Saudi Arabia, but in the more settled areas of the province only a small number of people are fasting.” The call to fast was given in Saudi Arabia by a team of Ulama and scientists who announce the sighting of the moon. Many Muslim countries, including Afghanistan have chosen to follow this.

Javed Khan, from Mardan says “In our province people mostly fast with Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan, but this year unfortunately they did not.”

A Hadith from the Holy Prophet states “Fast when you see the moon and break the fast when you see the moon.” However, working out exactly what constitutes observation of the moon, whether that means seeing it with the naked eye, in the locality where one resides or for it to be seen in any part of the world has been central to causing the division in when to begin fasting.

Islamuddin says, “One should fast if he see’s the moon, but these days not many people go out looking for the Ramadan moon themselves, so instead they observe the fast with Saudi Arabia. According to my knowledge, if the moon of Ramadan has been seen in the East and the news comes to the West, so the people living in the West should fast.”

In the previous week, it had been announced that the provincial government had set up a high-level committee, as part of an effort to ensure that Ramadan would commence on the same day throughout the country. “In the four districts, Mardan, Sawabi, Nowshera and Peshawar, people try to see the moon themselves, so they usually start fasting before the call is given by the federal government,” says Javed Khan. “When a person see’s the moon for themselves, it is much better rather than following other countries. This is what happens in many parts of the region.”

Salahuddin, a teacher from Mardan was waiting for an announcement from the official moon sighting committee in Pakistan, Ruet-e-Hilal. “I did not observe the fast today, because they did not witness the moon sighting in any part of the province. It is better to observe the fast on local witnesses than the witnesses from other countries.”

However, others believe that uniting Muslims to begin fasting on one single day is the way forward. Islamuddin says, “Islam is a complete code of life and as Muslims we have to observe our fasts according to the teachings in Islam. The Muslim countries should fast and celebrate Eid on the same day, so that we may be united in all fields of life.”

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