5.1 Tomorrow Today
Bob: No, it isn’t. It’s Thursday.
Uzza: You don’t understand, the sun has gone down so it’s a new day.
Archie: Are you telling us that in Islam the next day starts when the sun goes down.
Archie: That means, for everyone to the north and south us one day ends and the next day starts at different times. That is ridiculous.
Gerry: And, if you go far enough north or far enough south where the sun doesn’t set or doesn’t rise depending on the time of year making the hours in an Islamic day from less than 1 to more than 4,000, the whole concept of a day as a measurement of the passage of time falls apart. What was Allah thinking?
Uzza: Don't blame Allah, blame the Jews. In imposing the god of the Jews on the Arabs, Muhammad adopted many of the eccentricities of Jewish beliefs, such as their dietary rules. That is why both Jews and Muslims don’t eat pork; the same goes for how each defines a day and even the name given a day?
Bob: They both have the same name for the days of the week?
Uzza: Except for Friday which is Gathering Day for Muslims and Saturday which is Shabbat for the Jews.
Bob: What are the other days called?
Uzza: The first day of the week what in the West is Sunday for Jews and Muslims it is the First Day, then the Second Day and so on and so forth.
Gerry: Simplistic in the extreme.
Archie: Not unlike Islamic art with its geometric figures repeated over and over so as to amaze while confining the viewer’s imagination to the straight and narrow.
Gerry: Now you talk like an art critic.
Archie: What can I say, Uzza brings out the intellectual in me, deal with it.
Uzza: But the straight and narrow is the Path that Allah has traced for the believers, He says so in His Koran.
Archie: What about the names of the months, which, unlike the name for the days of the week, for example Ramadan, evoke visions of, I don’t know what, dread mostly?
Uzza: What goes on during Ramadan may be cause for concern, but the names of the months of the Islamic calendar exhibit the same lack of imagination in naming or in not giving evocative names to six of the seven days of the week although it is not obvious to those unfamiliar with Arabic. Do you know what Ramadan means in Arabic? ?
Uzza: It means The Month of Great Heat. Like many of the months in the Islamic calendar, the name reflects the climatic conditions of that area of the world that Muhammad called home, the Arabian desert; just like Paradise is very much a description of a desert oasis.
Bob: So, when people in the great white north celebrate Ramadan in the middle of winter it should be called the Month of the Great Cold.
Uzza: And there lies the problem of naming months after climate conditions where you live because you can't imagine a place that is different than yours.
Gerry: Are you saying that Allah is not responsible for the names of the months of the Islamic calendar? That would make sense, from His perch in Paradise He had a broader appreciation of weather patterns below.
Uzza: Allah is responsible for everything, even when He allows us to do as we please. Allah only set the number of months and the calendar type, and from what Muhammad tells us about what creates the summer heat and the winter cold - information he could only have gotten from Allah’s intermediary Gabriel, or God himself - that it is Hell breathing in and breathing out once a year, the view from both perspectives is eerily familiar.
Archie: Both were obviously oblivious to what goes on in the southern hemisphere where the seasons are reversed.
Gerry: Can we get back to Allah’s choice of calendar.
Uzza: Allah's calendar is based on a lunar cycle of twelve months of 29 and 30 days making the Islamic year 354 days long. Islam is a product of the Dark Ages when most of the science of the Greeks and Romans was temporality lost which may explain the choice of calendars.
Gerry: Lost to humanity perhaps, but surely not to God?
Uzza: Why Allah chose the primitive inaccurate lunar calendar over the more accurate scientific solar calendar such as the Julian calendar introduced by Julius Caesar in 45 BC remains a mystery?
Bob: The Roman invented the solar calendar?
Uzza: The first solar calendar was probably developed by the Egyptians who, as a settled agrarian civilization, needed an accurate way of determining the end of one season and the beginning of another. Being able to accurately determine the best time to plant your crops would not have been an issue for the desert dwellers of the arid Arab peninsula whose main occupation was trade and the raising of livestock, mainly sheep, goats and camels.
Gerry: What about the rest of the world who would be forced to adopt the lunar calendar as Islam spreads across the globe. What are Muslims who live above the Arctic circle to do when the fast of Ramadan coincides with a period when the sun does not set?
Uzza: Allah is unequivocal about fasting during the month of Ramadan, granting only an exception for the believers who are too ill or those fighting in His cause during the holiest month in His calendar. Muhammad may not have been aware of the sun not setting above the Arctic Circle and below the Antarctic Circle during their respective summers, had nothing to say on the matter, leaving Islamic scholars to sort it out for themselves.
Archie: But Allah had to know?
Uzza: Yes, yes, Allah had to know, but He may have left it to scholars and imams to make other arrangements where necessary while not contravening His decree.
Bob: And have they?
Uzza: Some scholars have suggested "fasting by the clock instead of by the sun, using the sunrise and sunset times of the holy city of Mecca as opposed to local time.” Still others have suggested that “those who live close to the Arctic Circle, where they have continual night or continual day for several months, should look to the closest city to them where night and day are distinct.”
Gerry: That last suggestion, in Canada, would still make for more than twenty-three hours without food, and perhaps no time for sex, if the closest city is Inuvik, Yellowknife or Whitehorse. All this confusion could have been avoided if Allah had not chosen such an inaccurate way of measuring the macro passage of time, and saddling humanity with it till the end-of-times. Why did He do it?
Uzza: As a merchant who led caravans as far north as modern-day Syria, Muhammad would have travelled these long distances mainly at night because of the desert heat. On these night journeys the moon was more of a friend than the blistering desert sun, and therefore a natural candidate for measuring the passage of time.
Gerry: Are you saying the Prophet chose the calendar?
Uzza: For the believers there is only one reason why Muhammad adopted the lunar calendar and that is because Allah told him so. And if Allah chose it, then the traverse of the moon must be a better way of measuring the passage of the days, the months and the years than the sun as was done when the Moon was a god worshipped by most of the inhabitants of the Peninsula.
Gerry: I remember from my reading of the Koran that Allah said he made the moon a light. Is it possible He was not aware that the moon simply reflects the sun’s light and therefore gave it more importance then it deserved including choosing it to measure the passage of time.
Uzza: I will leave that one for the scholars as well.
Archie: I’m sorry, but I’m stumped.
Uzza: Allah’s variation of the lunar calendar also needlessly complicated things by moving through the seasons.
Archie: Why do you say needlessly?
Uzza: Allah modelled His lunar calendar on that of the pre-Islamic Arabs. If he had left well-enough alone, it would have been better. The pre-Islamic Arabs valued common sense and so did the gods they worshipped. It was the custom of some of the tribes that shared the Peninsula, before the Muslim conquest, to add a thirteenth month when it became obvious that the lunar calendar had lost all connection with the seasons and needed to be re-synchronized with the solar year. This, Allah claimed, was an attempt by the unbelievers to interfere with his sacred months and He forbade it, declaring an evil thing to do.
Gerry: It will be difficult to get use to a lunar calendar.
Uzza: You will use the calendar mostly for your religious observances for even the most Islamic of governments have come to accept that Allah may have, what do you say, missed the boat on this one, and use a modern-day solar calendar to conduct the business of government and day to day operations. What may be more difficult to get used to is how Islam dates history. How it separates its history into two periods, before and after Muhammad, or more specifically before and after his flight from Mecca to Medina with his followers in 622. The year of this exodus is known as the Hijra or Hegira. The Hegira begins the Muslim calendar and is represented as 1 AH or 1 al-Hijra.
Bob: Just like we do, before and after JC.
Uzza: Your BC and AD as era markers will soon be remembered, if remembered at all, along with your so-called Judaeo-Christian heritage as relics of the age of ignorance.
Bob: We are the ignorant ones? I don't think so.
Uzza: The period before Islam is generally referred to by believers as Jahiliya, the time of ignorance when world views as numerous and as varied as the colours of the rainbow flourished.
Archie: And that is being ignorant?
Uzza: From Allah’s perspective, yes! This is why He sent the self-proclaimed prophet Muhammad and this multi-coloured view of the universe changed to black and white and humankind’s relationship with its Creator was demoted to that of mere supplicants of a vain and vengeful God.
Archie: Then Allah is the ignorant one.
Uzza: Your opinion is irrelevant, as is mine, as is the opinions of all those who would hold contrary opinions. Our differing opinions, which we now express at our risk and peril, mattered once, but not anymore and you know why.
Bob: What did you mean when you said that “what goes on during Ramadan may be cause for concern?”.
Uzza: When people think of Ramadan they think of people fasting during the day and feasting at night.
Bob: And we should be concerned about people fasting?
Uzza: Of course not. Fasting, if done in moderation is good for both body and soul; but Ramadan is much more than fasting. It is about using the time spent avoiding food and drink to immerse yourself in the Koran. It is more about the Koran than anything else.
Archie: I could see where that would be a problem. Wasn’t it during Ramadan that Allah revealed the Koran to Muhammad?
Uzza: In one revelation, Allah said He did just that, the famous and elusive Night of Power revelation and Gabriel is said to have spent every night of Ramadan with Muhammad going over the Koran. That being said, the book itself is all over the place as to when it was sent down. There is the aforementioned Night of Power, in another series of revelations it was sent down piecemeal, and still in another series Allah admits that the people asked it to be sent all at once like He did for Moses.
Archie: Book know thyself.
Uzza: With his followers more convinced than ever of the need to rid the world of unbelievers after a period of intense immersion in the Koran, Muhammad would use the feast Eid al-Fitr that marks the end of Ramadan, as he did the feast that marks the end of the Hajj, the two most important religious holidays in Islam, to give his army its marching orders.
Archie: What a surprise! If the topic is the Koran violence is sure to follow.
Uzza: Not always.
Gerry: I will never look at Ramadan the same way, or at a Muslim the same way.
Uzza: I will take that as a compliment, but now, I really must go.
Gerry: Will I see you again, next Thursday maybe?
Archie: Will that be Thursday the day before or Thursday the day after.
Uzza: You make me angry you make me laugh, Mr. Bartender. You can’t be all bad.
Archie: I like you to.
Uzza: [places a hand on Bob’s shoulder as she gets ready to leave] It means God willing, Bob.
Bob: I knew that.