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Islamic Calendar (Hijrah Calendar)

 

Islamic Calendar
by Suhel Farooq Khan

The Islamic calendar is called the Hijrah calendar. Hijrah means migration. It refers to the migration of the Messenger of Allah, Muhammad S to Madinah from Makkah.

Although the Islamic calendar was implemented backdating from July 16, 622CE, during the Khilafah (Term of a Caliph) of the second Khalifah (Caliph) of Muslims, ‘Umar bin Khattab R; it begins from the Hijrah of the Messenger of Allah, Muhammad S from Makkah to Madinah.

Islamic calendar follows the cycles of moon (Lunar cycles) therefore it is a lunar calendar. Islamic calendar has approximately 355 days in a year (354 days, eight hours and 42 minutes to be exact), therefore years of the Islamic calendar are approximately ten days shorter than the Gregorian calendar year of 365 days, we normally use.

Sahabah (Companions of Muhammad S) felt a need to establish a permanent system to record the events with one common point of reference. It was debated when ‘Umar bin Khattab R was the Khalifah (Caliph) of Muslims. They wanted to establish a common reference point for all Islamic events.

Before the Islamic calendar was put in use, people of Makkah and Madinah used to record or refer to the events of with reference to the year of the elephant. This year is known in the history after a very unusual event. That year, the Governor of Yaman, Arbrahah al Asharm, marched to destroy the Ka‘bah. He had an elephant with him. The army of Abrahah al Asharm was destroyed by Allah (God). before it could reach Makkah.
This event is also described in the 105th Surah (Chapter) of the Qur-an, named al-Fil (The Elephant). That event became memorable because tat was the first time an elephant was seen in that part of the world.

The Messenger of Allah, Muhammad S was also born in the year of the elephant. According to most historians, the event of the Elephant took place on the 17th day of the first month of the lunar calendar called Muharram.
The Messenger of Allah, Muhammad S was born 50 days after this event in the month of Rabi’ ul-Awwal.
Muslims used both of these events i.e. Attack of Abraha al Asharm’s army with an elephant and the birth of the Messenger of Allah, Muhammad S, as their points of reference, while recording or referring to various events.
Muslims also used a third point of reference. It was the day and the year when Allah chose Muhammad S as His last Messenger.

‘Umar bin Khattab R became the second Khalifah (Caliph) of Muslims after Abu Bakr R. He appointed Abu Musa Ash’ari R, a prominent Sahabi (Companion of Muhammad S) as the ‘Amil (Governor) of Sham (Syria).
He began to face problems in recording the every day events, because of the absence of a permanent point of reference. He wrote to ‘Umar bin Khattab R about his problem.

Khalifah (Caliph) ‘Umar bin Khattab R consulted ‘Uthman bin ‘Affan R, 'Ali bin Abu Talib R and several other prominent Sahabah (Companions of Muhammad S). All of them agreed for ending the confusion by providing a single point of reference. They all suggested to start an Islamic calendar.

‘Umar bin Khattab R got the Islamic calendar prepared, almost eighteen years after the Hijrah (Migration) of the Messenger of Allah, Muhammad S to Madinah from Makkah. The Islamic (Hijrah) calendar was implemented from the 20th day of Jumadal Ukhra (Sixth month of the Islamic calendar), 17H (Hijrah) (July 9, 638CE), six years after the demise of the Messenger of Allah, Muhammad S.

The Islamic calendar also has 12 months like the Gregorian calendar. Each month of the Islamic calendar could be either 29 or 30 days long, depending upon the moon cycle. Seven months of the Islamic calendar are of 30 days and the remaining five are of 29 days. The first day of the month start after the sighting and visibility of the moon.


Now a days, the calendar days and months are calculated in advance, based on the lunar movements. This practice began almost one hundred fifty years after the Hijrah (Migration) of the Messenger of Allah, Muhammad S to Madinah from Makkah.

The beginning of Ramadan (Ninth month of the Islamic calendar), Id al-Fitr at the end of Ramadan and Hajj (Pilgrimage to the Ka’bah) is always announced only after sighting the moon.

Twelve months of the Islamic Calendar are:

  1. Muharram

  2. Safar

  3. Rabi’ ul Awwal

  4. Rabi’ uth-thani

  5. Jumadal ula

  6. Jumadal Ukhra

  7. Rajab

  8. Sha'ban

  9. Ramadan

  10. Shawwal

  11. Dhul Qa'dah

  12. Dhul Hijjah

Allah (God) has mentioned four sacred months in Qur-an.


Verily, the number of months with Allah is twelve months (in a year), so was it ordained by Allah on the Day when He created the heavens and the earth; of them four are Sacred (i.e. the 1st, the 7th, the 11th and the 12th months of the Islamic calendar).
Surah (Chapter) at-Tawbah (Repentance) Qur-an 9:36

Arabs considered these four months sacred before Islam also. They did not fight and avoided traveling during these four sacred months. But in the pre-Islamic era different tribes used to change the sequence of the months to suit their needs. For example if they were on a business trip and one of the sacred months approached, they used to swap the sacred month with some other month so that they can continue their trip. They used to do the same while fighting.

Islam changed that and the sequencing of the months of the Islamic calendar became non-swappable.

Allah (God) has also mentioned about maintaining the sanctity of the sacred months:


O you who believe! Violate not the sanctity of the Symbols of Allah, nor of the Sacred Month,...
Surah (Chapter) al-Ma”idah (Table Spread with Food) Qur-an 5:2

The four sacred months are not named in the Holy Qur-an, but their names are available from Ahadith (Sayings of Muhammad S).

Messenger of Allah S in his farewell Khutbah (Sermon) and said: “Time has completed its cycle and is as it was on the Day when Allah created the heavens and the earth. The year is twelve months, of which four are sacred, three consecutive months Dhul Qa’dah, Dhul Hijjah and Muharram – and the Rajab of Mudar which comes between Jumad al Ukhrah and Sha’ban.”
Sahih Bukhari, Sahih Muslim

Ahadith (Sayings of Muhammad S) have clearly established that the following four months as the sacred months:

1. Muharram (1st month of the Islamic Calendar)

2. Rajab (7th month of the Islamic Calendar)

3. Dhul Qa'dah (11th month of the Islamic Calendar)

4. Dhul Hijjah (12th month of the Islamic Calendar)

Muslims should live by a code of conduct ordained by Allah (God) that was demonstrated by His last Rasul (Messenger) all the time. But they should pay special attention to respect the four months, because Allah (God) has given them a special status.


Verily, the number of months with Allah is twelve months (in a year), so was it ordained by Allah on the Day when He created the heavens and the earth; of them four are Sacred (i.e. the 1st, the 7th, the 11th and the 12th months of the Islamic calendar).
Surah (Chapter) at-Tawbah (Repentance) Qur-an 9:36

Allah (God) has Commanded Muslims not to commit sins during these sacred months. Committing sins any time is bad, but committing sins during these sacred months is even worse.


Introduction

Jamadal Ula
Jamadal Ukhra
Sha'ban
Ramadan
Shawwal
Dhul Qa'dah
Dhul Hijjah
Dhul Hijjah
 

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