RI needs special body to harmonize Ramadhan, Idul Fitri
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Indonesia needs a special body that has the authority to determine the first day of Ramadhan and Syawal months according to the Islamic calendar so that differences in the first day of fasting and the day to celebrate Idul Fitri will not keep reoccurring, a scholar has said.
Speaking to The Jakarta Post over the weekend, Imam Yahya, the dean of the School of Sharia from the State Islamic Science Institute (IAIN) at Walisongo in Semarang, Central Java, said that other majority Muslim countries, such as in the Middle East, already had such authority bodies.
“The positive impact of such an entity is that, although there are many different groups in the Middle East, the first fasting day of Ramadhan always takes place on the same day,” he said.
He said Indonesia in fact already had the so-called Hisab Rukyat Agency which was tasked with deciding the first day of Ramadhan and Syawal through an itsbat (confirmation) meeting involving representatives from different Muslim organizations.
He added, however, that the agency had not yet been able to bridge the gap between different Islamic organizations because each one had its own belief systems to determine the matter.
Differences in designating the first day of Ramadhan are likely to happen again this year.
Expert staffer at the Hisab Rukyat Agency, Ahmad Izzuddin, said a meeting between Brunei Darussalam, Indonesian, Malaysian and Singaporean ministers of religious affairs, held on June 27-29, had decided that the first day of Ramadhan this year would fall on July 21.
At the same time, however, the central executive body of Indonesia’s second-largest Muslim organization, Muhammadiyah, had earlier decided that this year’s Ramadhan would fall on July 20.
The differences, Ahmad said, were due to discrepancies in the methods used to decide the matter. The government and the country’s largest Muslim organization Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) used rukyat (observation), while Muhammadiyah used hisab (calculations).
The problem was, he added, that rukyat, which relies on physical observations of the new moon that marks the beginning of a month, was very difficult to conduct even with the help of telescopes.
“The new moon can only be seen if it is already two degrees above the horizon,” explained Izzuddin, who is also chairman of the Association of Indonesian Falaq (Astronomy) Lecturers, in Semarang.