I have always felt inconvenienced by the discrepancy between the ubiquitous Gregorian calendar (solar) in use worldwide and the Hijri calendar (lunar) implemented to fix Islamic religious events. I have even undertaken some serious research to find out whether the inconsistency can ever be resolved. To my chagrin, I learned that practical solutions had been reached way in the past but that they had been refused on theological grounds. The Hebrew, Hindu, Buddhist, Chinese, Persian and pre-Islamic calendars are all lunisolar and were able to resolve the discrepancies between the cyclical movement of the earth around the sun and that of the moon around the earth with some ingenious adjustment(s). These calendars are based on a combination of solar and lunar mathematics, thus the name “lunisolar”. The Persian calendar for example adds one month every 3 lunar years to compensate for the 11 days amiss. Studying the intricacies of these different calendars is very rewarding and I would leave it to the reader to do a little research on her own.
Since, as it seems, one cannot present a solution without coming in direct confrontation with the established religious institution, I chose to tackle a smaller yet very significant problem facing Muslims everywhere.
Sunday is, for Christians and non-Christians alike, the free day of the week in most parts of the world. Many countries have a two-day weekend (Saturday & Sunday). In most Arab countries, Friday is the day off and business as usual on Saturday and Sunday. In some instances, Sunday is the official day off while a one-hour break is given on Friday to observe the prescribed religious practice. The two-day weekend has been in dispute in the Islamic world due to the added nuisance of having either Thursday or Saturday as the second day off. One can only imagine the dilemma facing a business firm with international suppliers or clients and located in such a country. It might face four non-working days in a week, or at best three. I had nightmares during the execution of a project when a technical glitch popped up late on a Thursday afternoon or even on a Saturday morning. I wouldn’t be able to get support from the designer in Italy until Monday morning. Millions of devoted Muslims who live abroad, especially in the West, feel the tremendous burden of fully practicing their Friday ritual in the middle of an uncompromising working environment.
So here’s my solution, I’ll make it brief and I believe it would work if we approach the issue with an open mind.
Why don’t we simply hit the problem head on semantically. One Sunday morning, we wake up and make up our courageous mind and say it’s Al-Jom’a (الجمعة). Of course we would do it on midnight, but the idea is that starting from this day on, Sunday in English and all other languages means Al-Jom’a (الجمعة) in Arabic, pure and simple. In the process we have dropped two days into oblivion but so what! Al-Sabet (السبت) means Monday (Lundi, Lunedi, Montag and so on). It’s all really a linguistic game. We have simply redefined the translation of the names of the seven days of the week from Arabic to all other languages.
Al-Jom’a is Sunday. Muslims would not be offended at all. Their day off is still Al-Jom’a all over the world. Non-Muslims could care less, their day off is still on Sunday. Christians and Muslims share the same holy day, is that bad? Christians who live in Islamic countries go to church on the same day their compatriots go to the mosque. We all have a unified work week and the same weekend. What is called Thursday is Al-Thalatha' (الثلاثاء) now, Friday is Al-Arba’a (الاربعاء) and so on. Multilingual dictionaries will handle the transformations in their new editions and some day in the future the whole thing would be forgotten and of interest only to history buffs.
The Academy of the Arabic Language and the Organization of the Islamic Conference can make the announcement one happy day.
Case closed, problem solved.