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03 October, 2005

Awaiting the sickle moon

A sense of excitement is in the air, as Muslims await the new moon heralding the start of Ramadan, the holy month of fasting. Colourful iftar tents have been set up all over Dubai, with the focus on charity, family and peace.

According to Qu'ranic tradition, Ramadan begins from the first human sighting of the crescent moon, or hilal. Saudi religious scholar, Sheik Abdul Muhsen Al-Obaikan, adviser at the Saudi Justice Ministry, has suggested that a more modern method of detection might be appropriate: he points out that Islam has always embraced science:

The ancient tradition of sending two witnesses to the desert to report the sighting of the hilal - taking upon themselves responsibility for the fasting of millions of Muslims - was no longer logical when telescopes and satellites could easily determine the moon's presence without any error, he said. "How can we take into account the testimony of an old man, 80 years old, who comes to the court and says that he has seen the crescent in the desert? The guy can barely see his sandals!" Al-Obaikan remarked.

Speaking as a non-Muslim, it would be sad to see this tradition change. Ramadan is a time that realigns the present and the past, based on universals that transcend the change of technology, scientific advances and the pace of modern life. It is a gentle time and a resting time. What does starting a day early or late really matter?

That the testimony of an old man is as respected and useful today as in ancestral times, is far more significant.

Labels:

44 Comments:

Blogger gluphus said...

I agree with you 100%. Too many people get lost in the details and destroy the essence of what this is about.

BTW, perhaps the Arab state could work to promote Ramadan here in the US? From what little I read/know, it sounds very positive for all involved.

03 October, 2005 19:09  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a Dawoodi Bohra Shia, we refuse to accept the notion of starting the months based on the sighting of the new moon.

As tradition says (i.e., as we believe), the Islamic Calendar was assigned fixed says by the Prophet Mohamemd (P.B.U.H), meaning any event (e.g, Ramadan, Eid, etc.) is celebrated worldwide by all muslims together showing the unity and oneness of the Muslim community at large.

Doing away with such "traditions", which we believe to be incorrect, and bringing in a unified calendar will atleast bring a sense of "unity" when all muslims celebrate events together.

it's about time the concerned authorities look to this task seriously.

03 October, 2005 20:31  
Anonymous Mohamed Elzubeir said...

I am a bit disappointed to see that you may consider such an incredibly stupid determination to stick with this absurd so-called tradition as a 'good' thing.

First of all, it is NOT a Quranic tradition. Quran is simply a book and has no 'tradition' attached to it.

As the 'scholar' (I have very little faith on those folks) says, back then, the science was not available to accurately know when the next month is upon us (Ramdan or not, it doesn't matter). It is only interesting now because the month of Ramdan is a it of a special month.

Reminds me of those lunatics in Egypt who decided that 1400 years ago, the Muslims used to go take a dump in the desert and so shall they. They got onto their camels and off they went. Unfortunately they came back.

The Arab culture is a great culture and with it come a lot of super traditions. However, this is certainly not one that I would call a tradition. It is pure idiocy.

03 October, 2005 20:58  
Anonymous No name said...

No Name!

Ok I have finally made my Blog Secy!

check it out! Am i doing it right?

http://balushi.blogspot.com/

03 October, 2005 21:03  
Blogger secretdubai said...

Super balushi - I am so glad you have done that. I'll add it to the UAE blogroll in due course.

Now you have your own place to say exactly what you like! Though do remember the cultural laws that prevail here.

03 October, 2005 21:05  
Blogger secretdubai said...

Mohamed - I totally agree with you when it comes to things such as medical and legal issues.

But with something that is really traditional, it doesn't seem to cause any harm. There's no point to candles and open fires at Christmas - in fact they're arguably dangerous, when combined with over-joyous people not always paying enough attention - but they are rather lovely.

After all, the start of Ramadan is always predicted fairly accurately (never more than a day out) so it doesn't cause the "modern world" too much inconvenience.

03 October, 2005 21:14  
Anonymous balushi said...

Hi secy, I am not aware about anything, Since now we have a bond between us which stronger than marriage bond!

So what are the rules?

03 October, 2005 21:21  
Anonymous balushi said...

secy you are a French isnt it?

How did i know? Ah i will tell that story about my french girlfriend.

03 October, 2005 21:22  
Blogger Balushi said...

Secy, you are my new friend.

03 October, 2005 21:32  
Blogger secretdubai said...

balushi: the only rules are not to post:

1. Anything obviously illegal/offensive under UAE law

2. Anything deliberately inflammatory or rude to a whole group of people, be they muslims, Arabs, hindus, Europeans, whatever

This doesn't just apply to you, it applies to everyone here.

03 October, 2005 21:36  
Blogger Balushi said...

But what if people dont like what i say? which is usually the case secy! isn't it?

03 October, 2005 21:43  
Blogger secretdubai said...

Well, on your blog that's your business. If they don't like it, bad luck. If you don't like someone's opinion, or they're rude to you, you can delete them.

On someone else's blog you just have to be a little more considerate, that's all.

03 October, 2005 21:54  
Anonymous lodesconocido said...

from balushi's blog:
" I will make one post about secy tomorrow.
Can she get it delete it from here?
Is there a Council or a federation for us Bloggers???
This is so cool. "

And now balushi: "Secy, you are my new friend. "

Balushi is quite a character.
And it seems SD and balushi have signed a ceasefire, too bad ;). SD sounds relieved as well.

03 October, 2005 22:31  
Anonymous mohamed Elzubeir said...

SD,

This is hardly a tradition. It was simply the only way they could figure out the start of the month. Traditions of Ramdan are staying out all night smoking sheesha (or like the Brits for some reason call it hubbly-bubbly).. overeating and continuing to eat till you fall asleep, camping out in tents, playing cards, etc.

These are traditions. They are not healthy, but they are what you can call 'lovely'. However, moon sightings by the naked eye is hardly anywhere near lovely. It's just a bunch of bearded guys who can't figure out what year they're in.

03 October, 2005 23:29  
Blogger secretdubai said...

Mohamed - for me I suppose it just conjures up images of sailors navigating by the stars in times past, and wise old bedouin tracking their lonely way across the sands with only the heavens for a map.

Yes, yes, I know ;)

04 October, 2005 00:16  
Blogger redstar said...

The moon sighting thing is incredibly inconvenient for everyone and has no basis in Islam according to many scholars - it's simply a tradition.

For anyone involved in business in the UAE, any event that relies on the sighting of the moon inevitably means nothing is done for the whole week in which that event falls. People can't plan their work or their holidays.

Mysteriously the moon is also usually sighted on a day which is most convenient for the public sector.

Time to get rid of this nonsense.

04 October, 2005 00:40  
Blogger secretdubai said...

I am not Muslim, so I might be over-romanticising the tradition.

But the fact that something ancient and spiritual is able to supercede business and modern timetables and so on is, IMO, an important reminder that there is more to life than commerce and industry.

Are our lives really so rigid, so stuck to tight schedules that we cannot cope with the uncertainty and need for flexiblity over just a couple of days a year?

It is also a reminder how dependent we are on the seasons and daily cycle of the sun, regardless of electric lighting, air conditioning, heating, and so forth. If nature decides to wield its force - witness Hurricane Katrina - we are literally helpless, all civilisation dissolves, albeit temporarily.

So this respect for the moon and ancient timekeeping is not just sentimentally nice, but also significant.

04 October, 2005 00:47  
Anonymous dubai girl said...

i thought i'd make a comment on your blog even though it isnt relevant to your post.

i was deeply disturbed last week when i read about the family in sharjah who were murdered, im sure u remember the story...

well even more disturbing- is the fact that i have seen video footage of the bodies of the family in their home. blood..bodies..even the baby with its throat slit open!?? im not sure how it got out... and to every mobile phone in dubai..but it is being sent by bluetooth around dubai. i am really disgusted/disturbed/upset and wish i could do something about it.

04 October, 2005 04:07  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ramadhan Mubarak to everyone...with an additional 'bah-hum-bug' to Mr 'Eluz' ;-)

04 October, 2005 04:26  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey, how I can I buy cheap Abayas from Dubai online? I'm from United States.

04 October, 2005 06:43  
Blogger moryarti said...

Ramadan Kareem to all - make sure you stay holy in this holy month ;)

04 October, 2005 08:31  
Blogger secretdubai said...

dubai girl - that was a very tragic story and it is horrifying to hear people are circulating photos of it. For what it's worth (though thankfully I have never received any - MMS doesn't even work on my phone) I have heard of similar crime footage being circulated in the region before, of assaults on women and so on. It is horrible behaviour that hopefully the police will be able to prosecute eventually.

04 October, 2005 11:18  
Anonymous Ozzy said...

When we were kids (not to long ago) moonsighting was always a great event....be it for Ramadan or for Eid. Although Im not an Arab I guess it still mus tbe exciting for kids here these days. So my obvious vote would be towards keeping the tradition. It might be a verification too you know....astronomy too is prone to human errors, like all other sciences.

04 October, 2005 11:36  
Anonymous Mahmood Al-Yousif said...

I've got one of those "excellent idea moments TM" happening right NOW:

Let's have TWO Ramadhans, one for locals and another for tourists! Let the tourists bicker on traditional moon sightings and the locals can go on an fixed calendar or at least use scientific methods to determine when a new month starts.

All those in favour?

04 October, 2005 13:09  
Blogger pixelsonic said...

Even as a non muslim I think that Ramadan is a wonderful time of the year and I enjoy it very much...don't care how they sight the moon really, IMO the whole point is the spiritual/cultural aspects.

In fact I think that the idea of a month of relaxation, moderation and socializing with friends and family would be something western culture could really use.

The only thing bad about ramadan IMHO has to be its gradual commercialization by businesses into a shopping festival a la "xmas factor". I hope against hope that the trend doesn't grow worse!

Ramadan Kareem to everybody, remember to chill and to drive safely!

04 October, 2005 13:23  
Anonymous Another rakster said...

This is not a recommendation, just a link I happened to find for buying abayas online - they're in Abu Dhabi, don't know any from Dubai...



Tourist Ramadan timings sounds great. And the rest of us can plan our Eid holiday in advance by using the Resident Ramadan Timings :).

Love your blog secretdubai but... I've lived here for many years with the frustration of wondering whether or not I'll be able to take advantage of a holiday due to the randomness of moon sightings. When duty calls, you gotta be there. And flight bookings are not that flexible.

04 October, 2005 13:28  
Anonymous Another Rakster said...

Oh *&^%$, I mucked up the HTML on that previous post. Sorry. Well the link to the Abaya shop works anyway. Maybe secretdubai will fix it. I don't have edit access. Here it is again...

http://www.arabesque-hc.com/

04 October, 2005 13:32  
Blogger secretdubai said...

Hi Rakster2! - I can't edit comments, but here's your link linkified:

http://www.arabesque-hc.com

Thanks so much for finding t by the way.

04 October, 2005 15:21  
Anonymous mohamed Elzubeir said...

mahmood al-yousif,

Shame on you for making me laugh so hard, almost falling off my chair! Hey, can I be lumped with the 'locals' there? Perhaps it should be expanded to "those born muslims", or something ;)

04 October, 2005 15:57  
Blogger desertblog said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

04 October, 2005 19:59  
Blogger BrainSyke said...

Mo Elzubeir,

I would like to correct you, but then here is no place to slice arguments...

04 October, 2005 20:20  
Anonymous mohamed Elzubeir said...

brainsyke,

Eh? Correct what? I have simply stated opinions -- you can't correct those, you can only agree or disagree.

04 October, 2005 20:24  
Anonymous Noor said...

Hi,

Following the lunar calendar is an important aspect of Islam. I don't think you should be talking about romanticising it in whatever context. I especially don't think you can comment on it without atleast doing some research on its history thereby understanding its significance.
And really, the argument about finding out if we are perfectly on target in terms of the date is moot as Allah (SWT) is most forgiving and merciful.

Oh and this, by whoever! is offensive:

"Traditions of Ramdan are staying out all night smoking sheesha (or like the Brits for some reason call it hubbly-bubbly).. overeating and continuing to eat till you fall asleep, camping out in tents, playing cards, etc.
However, moon sightings by the naked eye is hardly anywhere near lovely. It's just a bunch of bearded guys who can't figure out what year they're in."

Ramadan for most muslims is more than the crap mentioned above! Its about getting close to Allah (SWT), making your faith stronger, and iA becoming a better person.

I am sorry to say but I think the person who said this obviously has no respect for religion (of any kind), no understanding of Islam in particular (join the club of many other ignorant idiots like yourself!) and is terribly immature and retarded. And I am being polite here.

04 October, 2005 21:33  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Quran is simply a book and has no 'tradition' attached to it."

Your argument has merit, your style..none.

Ostensibly, it would seem, you are a Muslim. The Holy Quran is the word of the Almighty. It is not 'simply a book'.

04 October, 2005 22:51  
Anonymous mohamed Elzubeir said...

I guess I have to reply here as I have been misunderstood.

noor,

"And really, the argument about finding out if we are perfectly on target in terms of the date is moot as Allah (SWT) is most forgiving and merciful."

What does that have to do with anything? God being the most forgiving and merciful has nothing to do with calendar systems.

The traditions I mentioned are not meant to sum up the meaning of Ramadan. Obviously Ramadan is not about tradition, it is a Muslim duty. We are simply talking about the 'traditions' -- which are things that people do that have little to do with religion itself (although vaguely related).

Anon 04 October, 2005 22:51

I apologize for my style of writing, it is insensitive. I did realize that after reading it. By no means did I mean to belittle or degrade the Quran. I simply wanted to make it clear that the Quran != Traditions.

04 October, 2005 23:18  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Noor, please take your religious fanaticism someplace else. This blog has nothing to do with religion.

05 October, 2005 11:55  
Blogger secretdubai said...

This blog isn't about religion, but in a religious time - Ramadan - there is a need to be extra sensitive and accommodating to people's religious beliefs.

Also I don't see Noor's faith as fanaticism whatsoever.

By the way Noor - I should probably know this, but what does SWT stand for? I know of course that PBUH is "peace be upon him" but not what SWT is.

05 October, 2005 12:38  
Blogger Tim Newman said...

By the way Noor - I should probably know this, but what does SWT stand for? I know of course that PBUH is "peace be upon him" but not what SWT is.

South-Western Trains? Praying for divine intervention is common on the service, I believe.

05 October, 2005 13:25  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon1

Mohamed Elzubeir said:

...Quran is simply a book and has no 'tradition' attached to it.

I strongly suggest for you to re-read what you wrote and take a deep breath.

05 October, 2005 16:49  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just like the Bible is just a book with some stories about an interesting person, the Koran is just a book with lessons on good living.

05 October, 2005 18:05  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I strongly suggest for you to re-read what you wrote and take a deep breath. "

05 October, 2005 16:49

Spare me your advice. It is evident that you are not a Muslim. With regards to what Mr. Al Zubeir wrote he as acknowledged the unfortunate phrase.



"Just like the Bible is just a book with some stories about an interesting person, the Koran is just a book with lessons on good living."

05 October, 2005 18:05

Once again. It is evident that you are not a Muslim. Do not equate other 'books' to the glorious words of the Almighty as sent down to us in the form of the Holy Quran.

Further adverse commentary on this subject will be deemed insulting to all genuine Muslims.

05 October, 2005 18:46  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Go to a religious blog. No one wants to hear this stuff here and no one wants to be threatened about their personal beliefs. It's called extremism...

05 October, 2005 18:51  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Go to a religious blog. No one wants to hear this stuff here and no one wants to be threatened about their personal beliefs. It's called extremism... "

Provided the content here is not disrespectful to Muslims, there is no need to turn this into a religious dialogue. Equally, no Muslim wants to read 'stuff' that treads on the respect we have for the Holy Quran. It is not 'extremism' ignorant one. It's called manners. Take note. :)

05 October, 2005 19:33  
Blogger secretdubai said...

I don't want this discussion to escalate into something that Muslim - rightly or mistakenly - find offensive, given we are in Ramadan.

Because of this I will close the discussion off for now.

I would suggest people visit a discussion on the same topic at The Religious Policeman. His view is that the essence of the Qu'ran is the important thing, not the physical ink and paper it is written on:

"The important thing about the Quran is its message from God, its message of love and peace. The pages aren't important, thy are just the medium; indeed, for generations, we used to memorize and recite the Quran, pass it down the generations that way, we still have those competitions."

A very happy and peaceful Ramadan to all Muslims, and I hope everyone understands the decision to close commenting on this particular entry.

05 October, 2005 20:26  

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