Astronomer Threatened with Lawsuit for Doubting Eid Moon Sighting

September 8, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Md. Humaidan / Arab News

MoonSighting

JEDDAH: A number of conservative scholars have threatened to sue Saudi astronomer and scientist Khaled Al-Zaaq for doubting the testimony of citizens who reported to the Hilal panel (moon sighting committee) that the Shawwal crescent was visible on Ramadan 29 (Aug. 29).

After confirming the veracity of the sighting by the people who had reported to the panel, the committee declared the end to the fasting month of Ramadan and signaled the advent of Eid Al-Fitr the next day (Tuesday).

The threats of action came amidst an ongoing debate between Muslim scholars and astronomers about the possibility and probability of sighting the moon on Aug. 29. The astronomers claim the moon could not be sighted on that day as it had eclipsed before sunset.

According to the Islamic calendar, the Arabic months can be either 29 or 30 days long. On many occasions, Eid has been celebrated after only 29 days of fasting.

But this year the debate turned heated after Al-Zaaq was widely quoted by local press and electronic sites that there was no way to sight the crescent on the night of Ramadan 29, thus casting doubts on the testimony of those who claimed to have seen it.

The purists said the astronomer should not have cast doubts on the testimonies of the people who sighted the moon because their antecedents are checked before their word is accepted. Those who call in after sighting the moon are known for their integrity and straightforwardness.

A number of Saudi astronomers had issued press statements claiming that the moon could not be sighted while renowned Islamic scholars defended the testimonies of the people who sighted the moon and said Eid came at the right time.

Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah Al-Asheikh in his Friday sermon at Imam Turki bin Abdullah Mosque in Riyadh described those who doubted the moon sighting as “motivated and deviated people with foul mouths.”

“There are unjust pens and foul tongues that cast doubt on our religion which should be silenced. We are strictly following the Sunnah of our Prophet in fasting and marking Eid days,” he said, accusing the doubting astronomers of trying to impose their opinions on the nation.

The mufti said the Shariah was clear in the procedures of moon sighting and added that Muslims would never give up the Sunnah for false opinions.

The moon was very clear the next day and was seen in various areas on Tuesday night. This supported the stand of those who said they had sighted the moon on Monday evening.

A number of citizens in the western Al-Ais area said they were able to sight the moon on the night of Monday for half an hour. Their testimony contradicts the claims of the astronomers who said that the moon could not be sighted.

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Christian Scholar: Was Jesus a Muslim?

November 2, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

By Adil James, MMNS

PA248508 Warren–October 24–Jesus’ being Muslim is a foundational belief of Islam, but not for Christians.  All of the prophets were teachers of the one true religion, although each taught different aspects of it.  But for Christians to think that Jesus (as) is Muslim is a very radical idea.

So true is this that the author and professor Robert F. Shedinger faced, predictably, some opposition when he published his book with the name Was Jesus a Muslim.

The author spoke about his book this past Saturday at the IONA mosque in Warren.

The essence of Mr. Shedinger’s argument is that Islam is not a religion but rather a system of pursuing social justice.  He argued that actually the reason non-Muslims call it a religion is in order to classify it in a way that has no relevance to social justice–in order to exclude religious people from involvement in controversies in the public square.

The underlying purpose of Western attempts to classify Islam as a religion, he argues, is to subvert the religious organizing principle and preempt a religious backlash against attempts to dominate or colonize a culture.

In fact, while it may sound offensive to think that Islam is not a religion, the professor couched this argument in very complimentary terms, arguing that in fact the idea of a religion being just a religion is a particularly Western concept that would have been foreign even to early Christians, let alone to the other peoples of the world and the other religions of the world.

Perhaps another way to state this argument would be to say that Islam is a complete system of life, not just a devotional practice restricted to certain days.
In accordance with his argument that Islam is not a religion, he argues that Christianity is also analogously not a religion, and he argues that Jesus (as) was in a sense a revolutionary and politically dynamic person, therefore not “just” a religious figure.

Shedinger argues that diverse Muslim scholars such as Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini and South Africa’s Fareed Ishaq have argued along similar lines that Islam should not be separated from social justice.  Shedinger quoted Tariq Ramadan also and his frequent calls to political justice of various sorts.

A different view might be that Islam is a religion the practice of which should be divorced from politics, except that it is a complete religion with implications in every avenue of life, including leadership.  Beyond this, Jesus (as) was actually Muslim in submission to God’s will, who will be Muslim when he returns.

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UCLA to Close Islamic Studies?

November 2, 2009 by · 2 Comments 

By Adil James, MMNS

Farmington–October 28–UCLA may not be known for having old and distinguished programs or even library collections, yet its Islamic studies department has one of the largest single collections among all American academic libraries, second only to Princeton’s.

G.E. von Grunbaum, for whom UCLA’s Near Eastern Studies program was named, was a noted orientalist scholar who founded UCLA’s Islamic Studies program in 1957.

The Islamic Studies program at UCLA is one of several interdisciplinary subjects, including Jewish studies, Indian and Southeast Asian studies, Latin American studies, and Medieval studies. 

UCLA currently offers MA and PhD programs in Islamic Studies.  A related department is the von Grunbaum Center for Near Eastern Studies. 

The program garners approximately three million dollars per year in government grants, yet has a budgeted expense of only about $130,000 per year for a minimal staff and to pay the department head, and to pay to bring visiting scholar/lecturers to UCLA to teach.  Students benefit greatly from the government grants, as 15-20 students get full tuition plus living expenses.  UCLA in fact takes back most of this money in the form of tuition payments.

The program is very competitive, with about 50 applications per year to begin graduate studies, and only about 8 students admitted per year.

UCLA’s Islamic Studies program annually grants an award to a distinguished professor, and this award has been balanced between Western and Muslim scholars.

Three years ago UCLA made some effort to build their Islamic Studies program by attempting to recruit two new professors, however contract negotiations with the two targeted professors fell through, and the program failed to expand as planned.

Without the top scholars that UCLA had intended to get interest in the program appears to have flagged.  Other departments this year refused to send representatives to head the Islamic Studies dept.

Apparently UCLA has planned a consolidation which would not touch the other departments, but which would consolidate the von Grunbaum Near Eastern studies center with other departments. 

It seems unfortunate that a major university with a department that is distinguished as UCLA’s would consider actually closing such a department, especially since the need for it is growing, and other major universities are moving in the opposite direction, toward expanding such programs to fill the recognized and growing need.

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