Scientists, experts and Islamic scholars convened in Istanbul on Sunday for a two-day event that seeks to put an end to a conflict in the Islamic world: divisions over the Islamic calendar.
Jointly organized by the High Board of Religious Affairs of Turkey’s Presidency of Religious Affairs (Diyanet) and the European Council for Fatwa and Research, the congress follows a 2016 attempt, again in Turkey, to ensure a united calendar for prayer times and religious holidays in Islam. The 2016 gathering managed to produce a statement for calendar unity, though its implementation did not take place in some countries.
Speaking at the opening of the event at a hotel in Istanbul, Diyanet chair professor Ali Erbaş said he hoped that the International Prayer Times Congress would reach a conclusion that would minimize differences and disagreements in prayer times. He said they have been working for Islamic calendar unity and unity in prayer times since 2016.
“The issue over prayer and fasting times is not new but it is crucial. It is worrying to see significant differences in practice on times of prayers, which is the clearest expression of religion and the most basic form of worship. Here, scientists from European and Islamic countries will discuss it and reach a conclusion,” he said.
Ali Al-Qaradaghi, a prominent scholar who serves as secretary-general of the International Union of Muslim Scholars, said at the inauguration of the congress that the event was the outcome of four years of work and that a scientific committee will steer the issue.
“We are talking about a matter that shows how wide the scope of Islam is. People see Muslims disagreeing with each other on everything. But we are aware that every disagreement is actually a blessing. For instance, during my visit to a small town in Switzerland, I came across a Muslim family with 16 different Islamic calendars. Each member of the family was adhering to a diffrent calendar,” he said.
Al-Qaradaghi said the congress was tackling the matter both in terms of astronomy and in terms of fiqh or Islamic jurisprudence.