Last week Thursday, June 30, the Federal Government of Nigeria declared July 5th and 6th as the holidays for the Id-el-Fitri celebrations. This was to enable the Nigerian Muslims to have a wonderful celebration of the end of the Ramadan, a lunar month-long fasting period. It’s a Nigerian tradition. Being an essentially bi-religious nation (Nigeria’s population is almost equally divided between two religions), public holidays are declared for both Christian and Muslim festivals. This makes Nigeria one of the nations with the highest number of holidays in the world. But what happened this week is unprecedented in the memorable history of the country. An extra sallah holiday (July 7th) was declared by the federal government. Having two sallah days has always been interesting but having an extra sallah holiday takes it further: it is comical.
This particular week, the whole nation and the economy will officially be shut down for 3 freaking days just because Muslims were breaking their fast. The day Nigeria lands on Pluto, I hope 7 days will be declared as holidays. I hope we’ll be ready to shut down the economy for 7 days too! The extra sallah holiday is a joke that’s not very funny.
But why did we have an extra sallah holiday? Because archaic religious systems, and Islam in particular, keep reminding us of the primordial eras of humanity. There was a time we looked at the signs of the heavens to reckon time. No watches. No screens. There was a time we looked at the night sky to get information from the deities. That was the time we thought the stars were tiny little shiny objects in the sky. That was long before the era of telecommunications, microscopes and powerful telescopes. But because Islam still wants us to keep looking at the sky despite the sky now being inhabited by humans, we can’t be sure of when the fasting should start and end.
That’s why some people will start one day while others will start the next day. And thus some people will end the fasting one day and others will end theirs the next. It depends on when the folks in that particular geographical location sight the moon. Note that the religion, just like all religions, started as something a small group of people at a small geographical location practised. They would all sight the moon at the same time. But in Nigeria, we traditionally have 2 days for this festival because of the differential sighting of the moon across the vast landscape of the country. Let that sink in: we shut down the economy for two days in the 21st century because all our technological advancement needs to the laid aside for the archaic behaviour of beholding the sky for time! Meanwhile, are you aware that one of the tiny little spots you see in a night sky is actually the International Space Station that is being inhabited by humans and lots of equipment?
Looking at the sky is why we traditionally have 2 days. But that’s also why we’re having an unprecedented third day for this same holiday. The government calculated based on the initial lunar cycle. The number of days was to be complete and the government gave two days. Little did the government know that the moon would be delayed a little this time around. The government is now like a woman who doesn’t know precisely when her menses would start and end! The Islamic authorities declared that based on the latest sighting of the moon, the whole cycle had to be pushed forward one more day. It was too late to withdraw the holidays declared earlier. This government must pander to the religious sensibilities of its citizens and thus they would need to add one more day. (Click here to read my article on how the non-secularity of the Nigerian government affects us negatively). Essentially this week is done!
One Muslim suggested that the government should’ve waited till the 29th day of Ramadan before declaring the public holidays. Once again, we’re stuck to the Mohammedan era where you can’t plan anything ahead. You’re limited technologically and thus every little aspect of your life must depend on the weather and the sky. Since we’re back to that era, government offices and agencies, schools, banks, businesses, and private citizens can’t plan ahead. Even a day to the coming week, they should just leave the week blank until the proverbial 11th hour when the government will declare the sighting of the moon. Shame on your Google Weather app! Shame on the to-do and calendar apps! They’re powerful and sophisticated but they still need to wait for the 1st century Moon!
No matter the technological advancement, Islam can’t abandon the Moon. Even when we finally start living on the Moon and we have a shuttle to ride from the Earth to the Moon to and fro, Islam (if it still exists) will still rely on the Moon. Don’t Laugh. It’s real. If folks can sow a garment for Adam, yes, they can look at the moon they’re living on. The moon is on the logo of Islam. They can’t do without it.
The moon is nothing but a satellite of this planet called Earth. It’s just about 384,400 km from the Earth. The distance varies due to its rotation but that’s the average. It’s million times smaller than those stars we see in a night sky but because it’s very close to our planet, it appears bigger. The distance of some of those stars from us is billion times more than the distance of the Moon from us. But God that created the whole universe wants a group of bipedals on this small planet to look at the Moon of all things to know when to start fasting and when to end it. Once again, don’t laugh at our monumental mumurism!
Has it occurred to folks why the lunar calendars were dropped for the fixed calendars? In the era of globalization, you can no longer be looking at the Moon that has local confounding factors. The world can not be a global village if we have to rely on what each local group sees in the sky. That was useful in the era of tribal wars and barbarism. That was useful in the era in which night fell on the whole humanity every day. In the era of industrialization where electrical lights are everywhere at night and you can hardly see the sky unaided except you move into a far away forest, the whole world can no longer rely on night signs to collectively plan their time.
But hey, religion needs to preserve these things. We still need to believe the moon comes out when it does because the deity wants us to start fasting that day. And when he wants us to end the fast, he keeps the moon away from us. Just like they opined of the gods millenia ago, we must continue to bask in this superstition. Of course, once you remove such things and demystify them, the religion ceases to exist. And we don’t want the religion to vanish into thin air. That’s why we won’t let go. We’ll keep nurturing barbarism alongside modernism. That’s why we’ll be having sallah holidays and even an extra sallah holiday for the sake of the Moon.
The mumurism (silliness) of the Nigerian government this time around goes without saying here. I don’t need to belabour it further. Declaring an extra sallah holiday in this country shows that the government is not serious. Since they’re going to pander to religious sentiments, they had better do it professionally and with all sense of responsibility. This is totally irresponsible! Imagine if someone had fixed an exam or interview for Thursday. What kind of holiday is this one now, ehn?
That’s why we shouldn’t keep quiet. From the government to the citizens, Nigeria needs not just a political reformation but also and more importantly, an ideological reformation.