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IOS Minaret Vol-1, No.1 (March 2007)
Vol. 11    Issue 07   16-31 August 2016

Professor A. R. MOMIN
Muslim Countries Agree On Common Calendar

Turkey’s Office of the President of Religious Affairs (Diyanet) organised an international conference -- known as International United Hijri Calendar Congress – in Istanbul on May 28-30, 2016. Dozens of scholars, scientists, astronomers, representatives of fatwa and law councils, ministers and journalists from 50 Muslim countries participated in the conference. The participants unanimously approved a resolution calling for the adoption of a common Islamic calendar for fasting in the month of Ramadan and for the feasts of Eid al-fitr and Eid al-adha.


1. The congress has confirmed the decisions of the former congresses and Islamic law academies. Thus the basic principles and criteria adopted by the 1966 Mecmeu’l-Buhusi’l-İlmiyye, by the 1973 Kuwait, 1978 İstanbul Congress as well as the 1986 Mecmeu’l-Fıkhi’l-İslami (Islamic law Academy) of the Islamic Organization for Cooperation, the el-Meclisü’l-Urubbi li’l-ifta in 2009 and the ’l-Buhus (European fatwa and research Assembly) and the Rabıta Islamic Law Academy in 2012 have been confirmed. The most important principles and criteria among these are: The basic rule to determine the start of the lunar month is the sighting of the crescent whether this is done by the naked eye or through modern methods of astronomy. The sighting of the crescent in different places at different times which is called “İhtilaf-ı matalia” will not be valid. If the crescent is sighted in one place it will be accepted as having been seen everywhere.

2. The congress has adopted a single calendar to be used throughout the world. Thus everyone will use the same Hijri Calendar. The sighting of the crescent by the naked eye or by scientific astronomy instruments will be the basis of the calendar. It has been decided not to take into account “İhtilaf-ı matalia” which has been adopted by the experts of Islamic law and Islamic law academies. Besides this this calendar has taken into account the fact that religious texts and rules and accurate rules of astronomy do not contradict each other thus criteria based on astronomy and Islamic rules have been taken up together.

This calendar will offer important solutions to certain problems faced by Muslims and especially by Muslim minorities. One outcome is the fact that Muslims around the world will start fasting and celebrate special occasions like the two Eids at the same time. In fact this has created awkward situations where different Muslim minority groups living in a country have celebrated Eid and have started fasting on two or even three separate days. The differences were so disturbing that at times the citizens of a country who stood for prayers of contemplation at Arafat on the ninth day of Zilhicce whereas back home people were on the seventh or eighth day of Zilhicce. This religion is a religion of Tawhid (unity of the Almighty). It regards unity and togetherness as a must and a factual necessity. A standard calendar that is pre-determined will allow Muslim minorities to observe Eid holidays. Besides it will erase notions that are being created that our religion is closed to science and in fact it is in harmony with science as Islam’s first verse that was revealed starts with “read” which emphasizes science and knowledge.

3. The congress offers Muslim minorities living in Europe, America and similar regions to work to unite their Eids, symbolic occasions as well as their views and feelings. It also offers the religious administrations of Muslim states to study this calendar and have faith in it as this calendar will achieve goodness and keep away evil and has no aim but to create unity of symbols and emotions.

4. The congress recommends the Office of the President of Diyanet of the Republic of Turkey to establish the following organs to carry out the decisions of the congress and thus offers.

a) The creation of a scientific commission to prepare a calendar for ten years, have it printed and distributed throughout the world.

b) To establish a delegation that will take up observatory work and other issues and continue to study observing the moon through astronomy to determine the days of Eid and the start of the holy months.

c) The establishment of a commission to spread the culture of the Hijri Calendar that has been accepted and carry out training and public relations efforts.


1. The congress advices the religious authorities of the Islamic countries and persons and institutions responsible for religious affairs to adopt the calendar and work to create unity to determine the start of the lunar months.

2. The congress invites the calendar makers in the Islamic world to adopt this calendar to unite Muslims around this calendar which is an indicator of the civilization and identity of the Muslims and unites their emotions and thoughts.

3. The congress advices Muslims living in non-Muslim countries to apply the calendar and thus create unity among all Muslims. It is not religiously permissible for Muslims who live in the same country to quarrel about the days of Eid and when to start fasting. On the contrary they should adhere to the rulings of religious authorities like the European Research and Fatwa Council or the Office of the President of Diyanet in Turkey as our Prophet has declared: “The day you fast is the day when you all fast, the day you mark Eid is the day when you all celebrate together and the day you sacrifice (animals) is the day when you perform this ritual all together.”

4. The congress advices the units of the Office of the President of Diyanet of Turkey in Western countries and the European Research and Fatwa Council to be the authorities for the Muslim minorities living in Western countries on scientific and religious issues to create unity and solidarity among Muslims in Europe, protect their interests and avoid discord among them regarding the religious holy days and the start of the lunar months.

5. The congress advices the Office of the President of Diyanet of Turkey to present the calendar to the Presidency of the Islamic Cooperation Organization and thus convey it to the attention of all Islamic countries so that the calendar can be accepted as a single calendar for the whole Islamic world.

(Source: http://www.dailysabah.com/nation/2016/05/31/islamic-scholars-agree-on-a-shared-lunar-calendar-for-muslim-world)

Turkey: Transformation of Public Healthcare

Since 2002, when the AK party came to power, Turkey has achieved impressive economic growth, improvements in infrastructure and public transport and a marked transformation in health care. In 2003 the AK party introduced wide-ranging reforms in the public health care system. A key element in the reforms was the introduction of the Health Transformation Programme (HTP). The programme was designed to address inequality in health care services, poor standards of health care in the public sector and high out-of-pocket spending on health care and to make health care services universal and accessible to all Turkish citizens. Turkey’s health care spending per capita more than tripled from $180 in 2002 to 608 in 2013. Universal access to health care was guaranteed under the Universal Health Insurance System. Under the scheme, all Turkish citizens are entitled to receive free medical treatment in public hospitals. Today Turkey’s public expenditure on health care accounts for 7.6 per cent of its GDP.

The Health Transformation Programme, followed with efficiency and dedication, produced positive and impressive results in a relatively short time. The proportion of the poorest segment of the population receiving health insurance increased from 24 per cent in 2003 to over 85 per cent in 2011. The number of maternal deaths due to pregnancy-related causes has more than halved since 1990. The number of infants dying before their first birthday dropped from 55.7 per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 16.5 in 2012. With increased and better access to health care services, life expectancy in the country increased from 74.7 for females and 67.6 for males in 2002 to respectively 78.7 and 71.8 in 2013. Thanks to the effective and successful implementation of the Health Transformation Programme, Turkey met the United Nations’ health-related Millennium Development Goals earlier than the 2015 deadline.

Rifat Atun, Professor of Global Health Systems at Harvard University’s T. N. Chan School of Public Health, has remarked: “Turkey’s experience shows that with committed leadership, middle-income countries can achieve universal health coverage and simultaneously improve population health, financial risk protection and user satisfaction – health system goals to which all countries should aspire.”

Children Worst Victim of Violence in Afghanistan

Afghanistan continues to be ravaged by reckless violence and destruction. Since 2009, 63,934 civilians have been killed or serious injured by violence perpetrated by the Taliban or as a result of the bloody confrontations between government forces and Afghan fighters. An estimated 1.2 million Afghans are internally displaced. Since January 2016, 157,987 Afghans have been displaced. Since the withdrawal of international troops from Afghanistan in 2011 and the official end of Nato’s combat mission in December 2014, the number of civilian casualties has risen significantly.

Afghan children are the worst victims of the violence. Children often fall victim to leftover explosives they find lying around their homes. According to the figures released by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, in the first half of 2016, more Afghan children were killed or injured than in any six-month period since 2009. Out of a total of 1,601 deaths reported between January and June, 388 were children.

Germany Mulls Over Hijab Ban

Germany, which has taken more than a million Muslim refugees from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries over the past one year, has experienced a spate of terrorist attacks on its citizens in recent weeks. In July an Afghan teenager attacked and injured five people with an axe on a train in Wurzburg before he was shot down by the police. In the same month, a Syrian young man, whose application for asylum was rejected by the German authorities, set off a bomb outside a music festival in Ansbach, injuring 15 people.

Faced with the growing incidence of terrorist attacks on civilians, German authorities are mulling over a package of anti-terror measures, including banning the face-covering veil, outlawing dual citizenship for German citizens, deporting foreign hate preachers and recruiting more police officers in the coming years.

In 2004 some states in Germany banned the wearing of headscarves for state school teachers on the grounds that headscarves could cause disruption in the classroom and also raised questions about a teacher’s neutrality. Curiously, the order exempted the wearing of Christian crucifixes and crosses in classrooms. In a landmark judgment, Germany’s highest court, the Federal Constitutional Court, on March 13, 2015 struck down the ban on headscarves and ruled that the ban was discriminatory and violated religious freedom guaranteed by the constitution.

In a related development, the French resort of Cannes has banned full-body, head-covering swimsuits – called burkini – from its beaches on security grounds. Terrorist attacks in Nice and on a church in northwest France in recent weeks have heightened security apprehensions in the country. The mayor of Cannes, David Lisnard, called the burkini “the uniform of extremist Islamism, not of the Muslim religion.”

In the first week of August, the mayor of a town outside Marseilles banned a swimming day for burkini-clad Muslim women at a local park citing a risk to public order. A ban on face-covering veils in public and headscarves in public schools is already in place in France. The Cannes branch of the Human Rights League has warned that the burkini ban could further alienate French Muslims. The Collective Against Islamophobia in France proposes to file a lawsuit challenging the legality of the ban. The organisation cautioned against overreaction to terrorist attacks and urged tolerance and said out that Muslims are as much victims of terrorism as others. It pointed out that a third of the 85 victims of the Nice attack on July 14 were Muslims.

First Arab Muslim Nobel Laureate Dead

Ahmed Zewail, the first Arab Muslim scientist to win the Nobel Prize, died in the US on August 2, 2016, after a protracted battle with cancer. Zewail won the Nobel Prize in infemtochemistry, a branch of chemistry that deals with the study of chemical reactions in ultra-short time scales, in 1999. He developed a new research field known as four-dimensional electron microscopy, which helps capture fleeting processes and turns them into a kind of digital film.

Professor Zewail taught at the California Institute of Technology and was a science advisor to President Barack Obama.

Muslims, who account for about a quarter of the world’s population, have only 12 Nobel laureates. On the other hand, Jews, who make up just 0.2 per cent of the global population, have 79 Nobel laureates. In all, there have been 12 Muslim Nobel laureates, out of which seven received the Nobel Peace Prize and three received the prize for physics and chemistry. Abdus Salam, a Pakistani theoretical physicist, received the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1979. Ahmad Hasan Zewail, an Egyptian-American scientist, was awarded the 1999 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. It is interesting to note that all the three Muslim Nobel laureates in physics and chemistry have worked in Western countries for the greater part of their lives. Abdus Salam did most of his scientific work at the Imperial College, London and at the institute he founded at Trieste, Italy, while Ahmad Hasan Zewail worked at the California Institute of Technology. Aziz Sancar teaches at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The abysmal representation of Muslims in science and technology is mainly due to the widespread apathy towards science education in particular and education in general in the Muslim world, pitiable spending on science education and on research and development by governments in Muslim-majority countries, the near-absence of world-class universities and research institutions, and the absence of a culture of excellence, institutional support and recognition. The 57 Muslim majority countries spend a miniscule amount – 0.8% of the GDP – on research and development, a third of the world average. The United States spends 2.9% and Israel 4.4% of the GDP on research and development. In 2005 Harvard University produced more scientific papers than the total of all scientific papers published in 17 Arab countries.

Israel Should Stop Settlements: Quartet Report

In an eagerly awaited report, the Middle East Peace Quartet, consisting of the US, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations, said on July 1 that Israel should stop building settlements, denying Palestinian development and designating land for exclusive Israeli use that Palestinians seek for a future state of their own. The report said the Israeli policy “is steadily eroding the viability of the two-state solution.” “This raises legitimate questions about Israel’s long-term intentions, which are compounded by the statements of some Israeli ministers that there should never be a Palestinian state,” the report said.

The Quartet said urgent affirmative steps needed to be taken “to prevent entrenching a one-state reality of perpetual occupation and conflict.” The report points out that Israel has taken for its exclusive use some 70% of Area C, which makes up 60% of the occupied West Bank and includes the majority of agricultural lands, natural resources and land reserves. The report says that at least 570,000 Israelis are living in the occupied settlements, which most countries deem illegal.

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