Saturday, December 06, 2008

UPDATE: Why Muslims across Australia are performing Eid prayers on the wrong day ...

The vast majority of Muslims will be performing their Eid al-Adha prayers and celebrating the biggest Islamic religious festival on the wrong day. The vast majority of mosques will be holding their Eid prayers on Monday 8 December 2008. These include mosques whose imams sit on various imams' boards and councils. All these imams are nowhere near as qualified as one alleged scholar of Islamic sciences from Sydney who has issued a fatwa (ruling) to the effect that the prayers for Eid al-Adha can only be held on Tuesday 9 December 2008.

This date will be the only legitimate and valid date available to Muslims. Those Muslims who choose to perform their Eid prayers on Monday 8 December 2008 will be engaging in grossly sinful behaviour. You can find out more about this issue by visiting this website here.

I wish to reproduce a chain of e-mails between myself and this self-proclaimed imam and one of his Adelaide students. On Sunday August 3 2008, I received this e-mail from a student of this esteemed scholar to this effect:

Assalaamu ‘alaykum,

Please find attached letter confirming the commencement of the lunar month of Sha’ban on 3rd August, 2008. The observation for the next lunar month, Ramadhan will be on 31st August, 2008, insha Allah.

We encourage people to return to physical observation of the crescent, as the correct method to establish the lunar months, hence the month of fasting- Ramadhan.

The student was promoting a newly established body called the "Australian National Crescent Sighting Coordination Centre" which allegedly included a range of imams including Dr Shabbir Ahmad, Imam of the Rooty Hill Mosque managed by the Islamic Society Western Suburbs Sydney. I thereupon wrote back to the student on Monday August 4 2008 as follows:

Have you contacted Dr Shabbir Ahmad to see if any such entity as "Australian National Crescent Sighting Coordination Centre" exists? And how do you expect ordinary Muslims with real jobs and real lives to rely on your insistence on physically sighting the moon before announcing the beginning and end of lunar months?

Just a thought.

The student of this "imam" provided this response on same date:

Wa ‘alaykumu salam br. Irfan,

‘Ayn Academy is part of the Australian National Crescent Sighting Coordination Centre, as are many other organisations throughout Australia. If you have a need to check, contact Dr. Shabbit [sic.] Ahmad yourself and clarify the issue for yourself– you are the one with these thoughts.

The Fiqh of crescent sighting is very clear and our insistence on it is sourced from the Islamic insistence on it. And in fact, not everybody has to leave work to physically sight the crescent . The matter is a Fardhu-ul-Kifaya matter, that is, it is a Communal Obligation and if one part of the community fulfils the obligation, the rest of the community is freed from it, so this is exactly the public service that the Coordination Centre offers.

On same date, I wrote back to the student of this "imam" as follows:

Thank you for your response. Please advise as to which organisations belong to this coordination centre.

I am not suggesting that each and every Muslim is required to leave work to physically site the moon. What I am suggesting is that the insistence on physical sighting of the moon causes great inconvenience to a large number of Muslims.

Personally, I understand that there are good solid arguments supporting the proposition that lunar months are to be determined using physical sighting. In fact, it is a proposition I find most compelling. However, there are other scholarly opinions which support other methods of determining the commencement of lunar months.

I do not claim to be qualified in deciding between these conflicting positions. And I doubt anyone at the Ayn Academy or the al-Ghazali Centre is qualified to decide either. If they are, they should produce their qualifications for all to see (I certainly won't be holding my breath ...).

It really is a shame if our religious scholars (both actual and self-proclaimed) cannot come up with a solution that makes life easy for Muslim employers and employees.

On same date, I received this reply from the "imam" himself as follows:

Wa Alaikum Assalaam,

The Australian National Crescent Sighting Coordination Centre is a network of organisations and individuals, and soon insha Allah the details of all people participating in the coordinating of crescent sighting will be released more widely. We are unable to work on your timetable, Irfan, my apologies but we will try to fit in your request.

The insistence of crescent sighting is Shar’i and scientific. The notion that Muslim employees are inconvenienced, apparently greatly by your measure, is a matter those Muslims will need to resolve about the employment, and not about crescent sighting, and what they can do to remove such “inconvenience” due to their employment. Fiqh rules already cover what ought to be done by individuals based on levels of “inconvenience”.

Your suggestion that there are “scholarly” opinion to determine the lunar months by “other methods” is simply not true. Indeed, there are assertions, but not such methodology actually exists, hence much of the confusion and inaccuracy.

I do hold appropriate qualification about crescent sighting, and your continued slander of me in this regard is something you need to deal with, not me or anyone else.

The real shame is that people keep blaming the ‘Ulama about this matter. Whilst they all take a significant responsibility in the chaos and confusion on the matter, the larger responsibility is upon the individuals to know what needs to be done given that knowledge about establishing lunar months is Fardh al-‘Ayn. But then, it has been the trend of many to point fingers at everyone else rather than sort themselves out first.

The issue of inconvenience on employers is much exaggerated by you, but it does
exist. But that is a different problem, and many of us assist employers understand the matter and everyone of them we have spoken to understands and accepts. It is when they are left in the dark about the matter that frustration has been the result. And, that is the unfortunate problem mostly created by the Muslim employees, and has nothing to do with the fact that the crescent has to be sighted.

Was Salaam
Afroz Ali
Founder & President-
Al-Ghazzali Centre
for Islamic Sciences & Human Development
The self-proclaimed "imam" did not specify which employees he has spoken to. Nor did he specify how he was qualified to issue rulings on such matters contrary to the rulings of the vast majority of Australian imams. On same date, I wrote to His Shaykhdom in these terms:

Thank you for your response, "imam" Afroz ...

Thank you also for declaring that scores of Turkish Imams and a large number of Imams of Arab descent (including Sheik Tajeddine Hilaly) are not expressing opinions which have any basis in sharia.

It is now open to you to prove that your qualifications are superior to theirs. Please post full details of your academic qualifications so that we can see why you have more right than the majority of Australian imams to pontificate on these issues.

Go on, "imam" Afroz. You have avoided this issue since 2005. You claim your views are more authoritative than those of qualified Imams. Prove it.
On Saturday 6 December 2008, I sent the following e-mail to the "imam" in question:

Dear "imam" Afroz Ali,

I was hoping you might provide a response to my e-mail, sent to you on 4 August 2008. I would have thought three months is sufficient time for you to provide some kind of response.

Ma salameh.

Readers are free to draw their own conclusions.

Words © 2008 Irfan Yusuf

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