Ruet-e-Hilal Committee Needs a bit of Science Jolt

Coin of Abbasid CaliphateHave you ever wondered how are the ancient mosques (over 500 years old and more) pointing in the right direction? That is, towards Makkah. I mean, how did the ancient Islamic scholars figure out the direction of the Kaaba without having access to any modern instruments like GPS, or even advance mathematics like Calculus?

Have you ever wondered, how did a Muzzin called the faithful to prayer five times a day without the use of a clock? Some would argue the stars helped him, but then how was he so precise for Salat time on a cloudy night (or day for that matter)? How were they able to account for changing of the day and night and the length of daylight?

Did you know that the first Scientist to figure out Earth’s circumference to within 1% of accuracy (of what we know today) was no other than Al-Beruni, the muslim mathematician in Baghdad. And he did it in 900AD!

Did you know that, while Europe was going through its dark ages, the Islamic Civilizations were thriving in Spain, North Africa, Middle East, Iran, Central Asia and India. Their scholars were world leaders in Agriculture, Medicine, Mathematics, Chemistry, Astronomy, Geography, History, Philosophy, World Travels (Ibn-e-Batuta) and war machinery. Pretty much everything that could be studied at that time.

While the Black death/plague was ravaging Europe and was considered God’s wrath on mankind, it was being actively studied among Physicians in Islamic world who were looking to find a cure. As it was revealed in Prophet Muhammad’s (Peace be upon him) sunnah as related by Imam Bukhari (194-256/ 810-870) in bab ma anzala Allah da’ illa anzala lahu shifa’ (“There is no disease that Allah has created except that He also has created its treatment”)

islamic scholarsSo science and religion were in total harmony and horrendous plagues were considered a challenge given by God and Muslim scholars spent their time and energy seeking solution scientifically.

One of the arduous problems was figuring out the direction of the Kaaba so that the faithful always prayed in the right direction and at the right time. The mathematics at that time was too rudimentary and totally inadequate for such calculations. But scientists persisted. Learning the latest of Greek, Indian and Chinese mathematics and improving upon the learnings. Hence, the 10 digit numbering system was adopted from India and enhanced with the advent of decimal places, Algebra was invented by Alkhwarzmi making complex mathematical problems simplers (after whom is named the word, Algorithm), and most importantly Trigonometry functions were improved and advanced to a level that we know them today. Islamic scholars actually invented the Cosine, Tangent and other such functions making it possible for us to make complex calculations.

And ofcourse, clocks were invented and placed in city centers for all to see the time and synchronize their schedules for business and religious duties precisely. Yes, one could look at a clock and tell the time for prayers in 1000AD in any major city of the Islamic Empire. What’s most interesting is that these clocks were totally automated. By using the power of water.

And one of the most famous inventors of water clocks is Al-Jazari whose replica elephant clock and others can be seen in Ibn-e-Batuta Mall, Dubai, UAE today.

These monumental works had literally laid the foundation of the modern world. Literally.

Did you know that to be a Muazzin in a Mosque in the Islamic Empire of 1000AD, you had to not only have a diploma in Islamic Studies but also in Mathematics and Astronomy? Yes, without a certified degree in all three, you could not get a job as a Muazzin anywhere in the Caliphate? Try telling that to a Muazzin in your neighborhood today.

The reason was simple, Muazzin had to calculate the time for prayers five times a day, the direction of the Kaaba and ofcourse predict the sighting of the moon for Eid and other Islamic rituals. Only a person well versed in Mathematics and Astronomy could do that. And therefore, it was a requirement for the job.

Today, our Ruet-e-Hilal committee sits in air conditioned high rise sky scrapers waiting for some poor soul to call in and report sighting of the moon. Together, the members contemplate when we will begin our fast, when we will celebrate Eid and how many days will we fast in Ramadan. Incidentally, their calculations always differ from our brothers and sisters around the world and we end up celebrating the same event on different days. As if moon was magically present in one country but absent in another.

astralobeScience, like in 1000AD, today can still predict and point out when and where the moon will rise, for how many minutes and if we are precise, we can catch a glimpse of it with our naked eyes or use modern telescopes or whatever instrument we conjure up to see the moon.

If members of the Ruet-e-Hilal committee, like 1000AD are taught some basic mathematics and the science of Astronomy, we may end up finding the moon on time and not have the embarrassment of celebrating the “Eid ka chand” on the wrong day.

And we might finally celebrate our Eid on the same day world wide with our fellow brothers and sisters.


About Atif Mumtaz
A serial entrepreneur who loves to travel, discuss politics and hikes on weekends.

2 Responses to Ruet-e-Hilal Committee Needs a bit of Science Jolt

  1. Moid Zaidi says:

    Eid in Houston is on Thursday, August 8, announced at the beginning of Ramzan by the majority followed local Islamic society. For us, no more moon sighting or the last minute chaos for past few years. Time to grow up, everybody!

  2. Violet says:

    Totally agree with you! If anything the whole world should be more unified with all the current technology not the opposite! They are all lazy

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