PESHAWAR: The head of a private committee of local clerics, Mufti Shahabuddin Popalzai, who is mostly at the centre of controversies regarding sighting of the Ramazan and Shawwal moon, has left for Saudi Arabia to perform Umra, his family members said.
His departure abroad has given rise to speculation that a controversy related to sighting of the Shawwal crescent may not happen this year.
“He is in Saudi Arabia to perform Umra and will return home after Eidul Fitr,” a close relative of Mufti Popalzai said. He left for the kingdom three days ago. The relative, however, claimed that Mufti Popalzai had in the past as well performed Umra during Ramazan and that during his absence the private committee of clerics had continued its activities at the city’s Qasim Ali Khan Mosque.
He said the committee would hold a meeting at the historical mosque on July 5, in the absence of Mufti Popalzai. The government-sponsored Central Ruet-i-Hilal Committee will also meet the same day.
Unlike the last many years, this year there was no controversy over sighting of the Ramazan crescent as both the local and central moon-sighting committees held their meetings on the same day. Subsequently, the people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the rest of the country both observed June 7 as the first day of the holy month.
A source said that Mufti Popalzai’s absence would not affect the activities of the private committee because there were several other notable religious figures in it.
“The committee members have only been receiving evidence of sighting of moon from witnesses and have to take a decision in accordance with those testimonies,” he added.
However, he said that another senior member of the committee, Haji Abdul Jalil Jan, had also gone to Saudi Arabia to perform Umra. But he insisted that absence of a couple of senior members would not affect the committee’s activities.
As there was no controversy over sighting of the Ramazan moon this year, some analysts have been saying that leaders of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl may have played a role in curbing the activities of the local committee because the party is close to the PML-N government at the Centre. -DN
THE PASHTUN TIMES