Friday, September 30, 2005
Ramadan is a month of the lunar calendar generally used by Muslims across the world. I say “generally used” because I wouldn’t have a clue how to use it. But then, I am not the only one.
The lunar calendar is determined by the fluctuations of the crescent. The moon itself stays the same (well, I hope it does!). What changes is how we see it in the sky.
Now you can always see it using the naked eye. Or, if you like, you can take advantage of astronomical calculations. So which one should we choose?
I don’t know the answer to that. I leave it upto the great imams and scholars of Australia and across the world to determine the question. I just want some certainty and clarity. And thanks to those same imams, I get no clarity at all.
What I do get is a situation where different mosques start and finish Ramadan on different days. Some imams insist you have to see the moon with the naked eye. Some imams say that you have to see the moon in your country using the naked eye. Some say you have to see it in your region of the world. Some imams say you can use astronomical calculations. Some imams say you can use a combination.
Now imagine you were a non-Muslim employer. You employ 10 Muslims in your office. One says to you: “El-Bosso! Ya’ni I need to take tomorrow off for za Eid day. It iz za end of Ramadawn.”
Being a nice sensitive new-age employer that you are, you let him off. “Mate, Mohammed, you take the day off. No problems. But don’t bring in a WorkCover medical certificate like you did last year!”
But then, 10 minutes later, your secretary comes in. She is from Malaysia. She says: “Mr Boss, insya’Allah I wanth tho thake day afther thumorro off. Is Hari Raya, andh I needh whole dhay to cook 5 billion sathays for all my sthupid in-laws!”
Naturally, you would presume that Hari Raya is some kind of Hindu festival. After all, the “Moslems” are having their festival tomorrow. Wierder things have happened, but you doubt Hindus and Muslims would celebrate the same festival on the same day.
So you say to your secretary: “Sure, Siti Yasmin! But make sure you bring in a few satays for the office!”
“Insya’Allah, I will. I wouldh have broughth you some thoday buth I am fasthing insy’Allah.”
Now you are really confused. What the hell is Siti Yasmin fasting for? Why of course! She wears that funny hat on her head … what do they call it? … toodong or something? Maybe she is one of them Moslems also. But why is she celebrating one day after Mohammed?
Finally, that overweight Indian dude from the legal department comes in. He’s a bit of a smart-ass and generally likes to take as many days off as he can.
“Mate, I need 3 days off. You know how it is. Christmas and $h!t like that”.
“Irfan, you sleazy b@st@rd! Why do you need three days off for Christmas? And since when was Christmas in November??” you ask him.
“Mate, you see, Mohammed is having me over for a big Lebbo barbecue tomorrow. Then the day after, I’m off to Siti Yasmin’s for a few hundred Satay sticks. Then the day after that, I reckon our imam will have finally seen the moon in the sky so we can celebrate our Christmas!”
“But Irfan, you lazy piece of Indian ghee! Who will attend that hearing in the Industrial Commission tomorrow?”
“Mate, I’ll send my Barrister friend Bilal.”
“No worries, Irfan. But I want you to take care of it.”
So there you have it. Three staff, including your PA, out of the office. But what makes it worse is that at 6pm, just as you are about to leave the office, you get a call transferred to your office. It’s the Barrister, Bilal.
“Mate, Bilal here. Listen, I can’t do that hearing tomorrow. My wife’s Lebanese and we have to visit her parents tomorrow for Eid. Then the day after, we have to visit her sister’s in-laws who are Malay. And the day after that, I’m going to cousin Irfan’s for some ghee-filled biryani. Any chance I can flick the brief to another Barrister? We’ve got this really cool girl who has just started. Her name’s Aneesa and she’s … woops … she won’t be able to make it either. Or maybe she can. Depends on what particular school of jurisprudence her imam follows!”
Seriously, our imams have no idea how hard it is to run a business when everyone seems to be having religious festivals on different days of the week. This whole moon-sighting debate has just gone too far, and is making the rest of us non-imams look like a bunch of lunar-tics.
Had many of our imams had real jobs, they would understand how damned-hard it is to just get a day off. The months leading upto Christmas are often flat out. Everyone wants everything done before the holidays. There is pressure from bosses, creditors, suppliers, debtors, clients, customers and everyone else in the supply and demand chain.
But don’t expect imams or community leaders to understand this. When they are not hosting Mr Ruddock for lunch, they are too busy arranging for Aussie kids to attend some radical university in Saudi Arabia where they can get a pilot’s license. Or they are too occupied sorting out which accounting standards they will breach in preparing the halal meat certification section of their mosque society’s annual report.
© Irfan Yusuf 2005