The Man Who Fancied He Saw The New Moon
Once, in 'Umar's time, when the Month of Fast came round, some people ran to the top of a hill, In order to have the luck of seeing the new moon; 1 and one of them said, "Look, there is the new moon, O 'Umar!"
As 'Umar did not see the moon in the sky, he said, "This moon has risen from thy imagination. Otherwise, since I am a better observer of the heavens than you are; why do I not see the pure crescent? Wet thy hand and rub it on your eyebrow, and then try looking for the new moon."
When the man wetted his eyebrow, he could not see the moon. "O King," said he, "there is no moon; it has disappeared."
"Yes," said 'Umar, "the hair of your eyebrow became a bow and shot at thee an arrow of false opinion."
One crooked hair had misled him, so that he vainly boasted to have seen the moon. In as much as a crooked hair veils the sky, how will it be if all your members are crooked ? Straighten your members by the help of the righteous. O you who would go straight, turn not aside from the door where the righteous dwell.
From the "From Tales of Mystic Meaning" by Reynold A. Nicholson. Professor Nicholson was Sir Thomas Adams Professor of Arabic at the University of Cambridge, and a distinguished editor and translator.
1 The night on which Ramadan the month of abstinence, the ninth month of the year- is expected to commence and is called 'Laylat ar-Rooyeh' or the Night of the Observation [of the new moon]. In the afternoon, or earlier, during the preceding day, several persons are sent a few miles into the desert, where the sky is particularly clear, in order to obtain a sight of the new moon: for the fast commences on the next day after the new moon has been seen... The evidence of one Muslim, that he has seen the new moon, is sufficient for the proclaiming of the fast." Lane, The Modern Egyptians, ch. xxv.
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