Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Ramadan Crescent: The Ongoing Battle for Modernity

Blue: "Ramadan Kareem!"
Red: "It's not Ramadan over here yet."

Blue: "But it started yesterday!"

Red: "Not over here it doesn't. We start tomorrow."

I'm pretty sure that we've all had this sort of conversation at one time or another, what with the internet tubes thingie breaking down distances. This year we were lucky, only one or two countries didn't fast with the rest of us, cause they didn't see the right kind of crescent.

To me that's extremely funny. I'm no astronomer but I'm pretty sure we only have one moon. And if it's a new moon in one place, it's still a new moon in another even if (for any number of reasons) you can't see it. And like all celestial objects we can pretty much plot the course of the moon for many centuries to come with astronomical (heh heh) accuracy, bar some catastrophic event like the moon being blown up by a
Uranium PU-36 Explosive Space Modulator.

Yet it happens without fail every year. Muslims all around the globe start fasting in different times, and celebrate Eid al Fitr in different times. All because the highly conservative insist that the phrasing "fast when you see it" is to be taken literally and the crescent has to be seen with the naked eye. Since when do we see with only our eyes? We humans have reached a technological level where we have transcended the classical five senses in perceiving our world. We no longer see only with our eyes and reflected light. We see all sorts of things with electrons, radio waves, accelerated particles and humanity's single greatest achievement; mathematics.

People talk about Muslim solidarity, yet we can't even agree on whether a new moon has been born or not!

Fortunately I'm not alone in my concern. Unfortunately we lacked a voice. Thank god for Ahmad Al Shugairi, host of the highly successful program Khawatir (Thoughts) which promotes public awareness about the values of Islam as opposed to just the rituals. Mr. Al
Shugairi has recently started a campaign called "Our Nation is One, Our Crescent is One" through his show. The campaign aims towards raising awareness of the mathematical inevitability of the next Ramadan being on the 1st of September 2008, hoping that next year we would all begin fasting together. It's a lofty goal, and not unachievable, but requires lots of work and promotion. To help towards this goal Mr. Al Shugairi is selling campaign merchandise (a set including a T-shirt, a cap and a sticker) with the campaign's logo:

Even if you are not willing to buy the stuff, you should at least display the graphic on your blog or website. It's time people stopped associating Islam with ignorance.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Robert Jordan Dies

Robert Jordan has lost his fight with amyloidosis.

For those who have never heard of him (and are too lazy to click the link I provided to his Wikipedia entry), he is the author of the 'Wheel of Time' books. A series of highly popular fantasy novels that are regarded as amongst the most influential on the genre since Tolkien penned 'The Lord of the Rings'. Although gravely ill for some time now, he remained optimistic about finishing the twelfth (and final) book in the series. The actual quality of his books may have been questioned by many, especially the last few books, but none questioned the impact he has had on fantasy literature as a whole. Some even go as far as saying that he made the genre profitable again. One of my favorite authors, George R. R. Martin, surmises that RJ's positive blurb on the cover of 'A Game of Thrones' may have gone a long way in giving Martin's own fantasy series a head start.

I've been following RJ's books for years. Like many fans I salivated at the wonderful adventures of Rand, Mat and Perrin. Like many fans I grumbled as the books descended in quality and spiraled into a mess of repetitive writing, soap opera plots, and too many loose ends. Like many fans I grunted with semi-contentment as I read 'Knife of Dreams' (book 11) which wasn't half-bad and knowing that we only had one book to go. Like many fans I gasped with dismay when I learned that this was not going to be. But like many fans I wallowed in bitter-sweet melancholia upon learning that the great storyteller had left notes (both written and vocal) detailing the final installment making it possible that we may yet see 'A Memory of Light' being published. His love for his tale will live on beyond the grave.

Thanks for everything Robert, and rest in peace.

"The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth comes again. In one Age, called the Third Age by some, an Age yet to come, an Age long past, a wind rose. The wind was not the beginning. There are neither beginnings nor endings to the turning of the Wheel of Time. But it was a beginning." - Robert Jordan


A Belated Ramadan Kareem

Better late than never....

رمضان كريم

May your nights be worshipful and your days cool folks.

And don't over do it on the eating part. Remember, it's supposed to be a month of fasting. Just think of it as an excuse to go on a diet :)