Friday, September 22, 2006

The Groundhog Factor

Here we go again...Cut and pasted (plus a brand new addendum) from November 2005.

With the imminent advent of moonfighting committees to diffuse the havoc caused by moonsighting committees, and the launch of the new Conservative manifesto, perhaps it's time to borrow a Tory phrase and get 'back to basics'. The perennial drive to standardise the Islamic calendar may well be blinkering us from the actual ethos behind the act of moonsighting - regaining a sense of perspective.

Hamza Yusuf touches on the issue in his commentary on Sachiko Murata and William Chittick's 'Vision of Islam' by quoting an unnamed Scottish phenomenologist:

There are efforts to standardise the Islamic calendar so that Ramadhan can be started on the same day in different communities. But the relationship of the celestial bodies to the earth is a living thing and every location has its own sky. So why shouldn't religious festivals begin on dates peculiar to different places? The modern mind, however, wishes to generalise and abstract the situation so the phenomena are bypassed. As with the length of the day, the average is calculated and becomes the accepted truth to accommodate the limits of circular wheels in clocks, yet none of the celestial bodies moves in circles.
You can listen to the relevant extract (in mp3 format) from Hamza Yusuf's commentary here.
Addendum

For the more astronomically inclined of you, check out the following powerpoint presentation outlining the fiqh of moonsighting and/or ths brief lecture on the same.

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