Dimuat di the Jakarta Post  Tuesday, September 27, 2011 

As a Muslim, I am sad and disappointed to find different views about determining the beginning of the fasting month (1 Ramadhan) and 1 Syawal (Idul Fitri). Every time there are differences, religious leaders or ulema call for calm and ask Muslims to choose the day according to their beliefs.

It seems that the different views are common and unimportant. The leaders think the difference brings a blessing to the people. I think this is the wrong paradigm. From my point of view, this dispute is crucial and has to be ended.

You can imagine that if the government or authorized Islamic organizations commit a mistake in determining Idul Fitri, many Muslims may sin by continuing to fast on Idul Fitri.

Indeed, rukyatul hilal can be viewed scientifically. Astronomers, like our distinguished expert, Thomas Djamaluddin, said the new moon (hilal) that marked the recent end of Ramadhan could not be seen clearly because its posisition was only below 3 degrees. My colleague, an astrophysics lecturer at Brawijaya University in Malang, concurred. According to him, the beginning of the month should follow both the moon sighting, rukyatul hilal (seeing hilal), and calculation of hilal position (hisab). The difference happened because the wrong objects were being observed and calculated.

My friend also told me a true story from a country in Africa about three ulemas who saw hilal while the date was still 27 Syaban. Perhaps, because of such a credible finding, they started fasting. When the picture of hilal was publicized, astronomers said it was a crescent that marked the end of the month rather than the beginning of Ramadhan.

Hopefully, those in authority can sit down together to end the dispute. In this case, religious leaders should be open minded by inviting astronomers. Next time, there should be no dispute in determining the beginning of the Islamic month.

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