Islam is under massive assault both from within and from the outside. Islamophobia is spreading in the West and hatred against Islam is on the rise. Amid all this, however, we observe with sadness that Islamic countries cannot come together even on basic issues and form a joint front.
However, a development in Istanbul on Monday has become a ray of hope for all Muslims as Islamic scholars and scientists from all over the world agreed at a congress to put aside their differences and abide by a common calendar based on the lunar model.
Until now the scene was extremely sad. Muslims followed different applications of the Islamic calendar and thus while some Muslims started fasting on a certain date another community of Muslims started to fast the next day and some others the day after. So Ramadan started for Muslims on three separate dates. Thus, Eid al Fitr festivities, which start at the end of Ramadan, were also observed on three separate dates, which only showed the divisions in the Islamic world rather than the factors that unite Muslims.
There have been instances in the Balkans where members of the same Muslim congregation started fasting on different days because of their sectarian affiliations.
The disputes arose from the interpretations of the Islamic laws and rules. Some scholars said they have to view the crescent with their own eyes to be able to say the lunar month has started while others said this can be done through scientific methods and thus insistence on actually seeing the new crescent with the naked eye is archaic and redundant.
After three years of hard work bringing together scholars, scientists and other experts at the Presidency of Religious Affairs of Turkey (DİB) managed to convene a congress in Istanbul to create unity among world Muslims to observe religious days and special occasions on the same day. The congress decided that Muslims should observe a single calendar and observe the holy days on the same date.
This is a breakthrough in the Islamic world, which has been infested with discord, sectarianism and divergent religious views. It is a show of unity rarely seen in the Muslim world. Thus, it is more than valuable. It is the success of the Muslim scholars and scientists to get together and reach a consensus. It is also the success of the office of the president of the DİB led by Prof. Dr. Mehmet Görmez, who has been serving the Islamic cause with success over the past decade as a leader.
The fact that Muslims have managed to forge an agreement based on scientific findings also creates a positive image that Islam is not only science-friendly but is also open to innovation and progress.
Now it is up to the Islamic countries to approve the outcome of the congress in Istanbul and move swiftly to follow its recommendations. The DİB will be presenting the decisions taken at the Istanbul congress to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), which has to bring the innovative move to the attention of member countries. Now all Muslim countries have to put aside their prejudices and act with common sense to allow this united calendar to function.
We have seen such positive initiatives in the past fail not only due to negligence but because of rivalries and misunderstandings between Muslim countries. We should not allow that to happen with the concept of a united calendar.