Use of the Lu­nar Cal­en­dar

The Miracle - - Faith -

The Is­lamic Cal­en­dar is based on the Lu­nar Cal­en­dar con­sist­ing of 354355 days an­nu­ally and is 10-11 days shorter than the western So­lar Cal­en­dar. The Lu­nar month is based on the time it takes the moon to com­plete a sin­gle or­bit around the earth and it is just over 29? days. There are many ad­van­tages to the Lu­nar cal­en­dar. For ex­am­ple, the var­i­ous dates in the Is­lamic Cal­en­dar such as Ra­madan and Hajj ro­tate ev­ery year and are not fixed like the So­lar Year. Peo­ple, there­fore, will per­form acts of wor­ship in var­i­ous cli­matic con­di­tions and in dif­fer­ent length of hours in sub­mis­sion to the will of Al­lah where hu­man imag­i­na­tion plays no part. The new moon marks the be­gin­ning of each new lu­nar month and it is easy for peo­ple to see the new moon and know that a new month has be­gun. This prob­a­bly ex­plains why most an­cient civ­i­liza­tions such as the Baby­lo­ni­ans, the Jews, the Greeks and the Egyp­tians in the Mid­dle East , the Aztecs and the In­cas of the West, and the Hin­dus and the Chi­nese of the East used this sys­tem. In­ter­est­ingly, the English word ‘month’ is de­rived from the word ‘moon’.

Ori­gin and Sig­nif­i­cance of the Hi­jri Cal­en­dar

The Is­lamic Cal­en­dar was started by the sec­ond Caliph Umar (RA) in 16 AH/ 637 CE [Al-Tabari: Tarikh Al- Rusul 5/22 Ibn Sa‘d: Tabaqat Al- Kubra 3/281]. The event of the Hi­jrah, the mi­gra­tion of the Prophet Muham­mad (SAW) from Makkah to Mad­i­nah in 622 CE, was cho­sen to be­gin the Is­lamic Cal­en­dar be­cause it was the first ma­jor sac­ri­fice made by the whole Ummah for the preser­va­tion of Is­lam in its for­ma­tive pe­riod. Ibn Ha­jar, in his Fath AlBari, records that the Caliph Umar (RA) is re­ported to have re­marked: “The Hi­jrah has sep­a­rated truth from false­hood, there­fore, let it be­come the Epoch of the Era”. The Hi­jrah year re­minds Mus­lims ev­ery year of the sac­ri­fices made by the first Mus­lims and should pre­pare them to do the same. The con­stant use of the Hi­jri Cal­en­dar for acts of wor­ship and as a frame of ref­er­ence to ma­jor his­tor­i­cal events will help Mus­lims keep links with their roots and fur­ther en­hance their knowl­edge of their re­li­gion and his­tory.

Months of the Is­lamic Cal­en­dar

There are twelve months in the Is­lamic Cal­en­dar as the 4ur’an says: “Surely the num­ber of months in the sight of Al­lah is twelve, in ac­cor­dance with His decree from the day He cre­ated the heav­ens and the earth, out of which four are sa­cred” (9:36). Th­ese twelve months are Muhar­ram, Sa­far, Rabi‘ al-Awwal, Rabi‘ alThani, Ju­mada al-Ula, Ju­mada al-Ukhra, Ra­jab, Sha‘ban, Ra­madan, Shawwal, Dhul 4a‘dah and Dhul Hi­j­jah. The four Sa­cred Months (al-Ash­hur al-Hu­rum) are Ra­jab, Dhul 4a‘dah, Dhul Hi­j­jah and Muhar­ram [Bukhari]. The sanc­tity of th­ese months was also ac­cepted in the Pre-Is­lamic era when fight­ing was for­bid­den. Is­lamic dates are de­ter­mined by the ac­tual vis­i­bil­ity of the moon as the Prophet (SAW) said: “Fast by see­ing it (the moon) and end the fast by see­ing it” [Bukhari Mus­lim]. Mus­lim schol­ars have in­ter­preted this Prophetic say­ing in two dif­fer­ent ways. Some schol­ars, such as Al- Shafi’i, have held the view that each lo­ca­tion has its own sight­ing of the moon (Ikhti­laf al-Mu­tali‘) [Sayyid Sabiq: Fiqhus Sun­nah 3/112]. But most schol­ars from the other Schools of Law have taken the words “fast by see­ing it” (sumu li ru’yatihi) as a gen­eral com­mand to all Mus­lims and not in­di­vid­ual sec­tors of the com­mu­nity. Hence they re­gard the sight­ing of the moon in one re­gion as valid for peo­ple of an­other re­gion, pro­vided the news of sight­ing the moon reaches them through au­then­tic means [Ibn Taymiyyah: Ma­jmu‘ah Fatawa 5/111].


This is the first month of the Is­lamic Cal­en­dar and one of the four Sa­cred Months (alAsh­hur al- Hu­rum). It is rec­om­mended to fast dur­ing this month as there is a Ha­dith which says: “The best fast, after Ra­madan, is in the month of Muhar­ram” [Mus­lim]. This may be an in­di­rect ref­er­ence to ‘Ashura and not to Muhar­ram in gen­eral be­cause, ac­cord­ing to Sayyi­dah Aisha R.A, the Prophet (SAW) fasted most in Sha‘ban after Ra­madan [Bukhari Mus­lim]. Sig­nif­i­cance of the Hi­jrah for Mus­lims Muhar­ram her­alds the be­gin­ning of the Is­lamic Cal­en­dar. The Hi­jrah of the Prophet Muham­mad (SAW) and his Com­pan­ions (Sa­habah) from Makkah to Mad­i­nah was much more than a sim­ple mi­gra­tion. It was a turn­ing point in the his­tory of Is­lam. It was a revo­lu­tion and com­plete trans­for­ma­tion of so­ci­ety. The Muha­jirun (em­i­grants) of Makkah gave up their fam­ily, prop­erty and home­land for the sake of re­li­gion and the An­sar (helpers) of Mad­i­nah wel­comed them with great hos­pi­tal­ity. Thus a unique broth­er­hood (mu’akhah) was cre­ated be­tween them, hith­erto un­known in hu­man his­tory. By high­light­ing the Hi­jrah, Mus­lims will re-af­firm their need to be in a state where they can prac­tice their re­li­gion and make the nec­es­sary sac­ri­fices to achieve that aim, in­clud­ing em­i­gra­tion. Hi­jrah also has a deep spir­i­tual sig­nif­i­cance where Mus­lims com­mit them­selves to leave the state of dis­be­lief (kufr) and sin to en­ter that of Is­lam and piety. That is why the Prophet (SAW) said: “The best em­i­grant (Muha­jir) is the one who leaves what Al­lah has for­bid­den” [Bukhari] Al­though the prac­ti­cal us­age of the Is­lamic Cal­en­dar is in­creas­ingly di­min­ish­ing, nev­er­the­less the foun­da­tion of many acts of wor­ship such as Zakah, Sawm and Hajj re­volve around this cal­en­dar and it is one of the hall­marks (shi‘ar) of Is­lam that dif­fer­en­ti­ates Mus­lims from other com­mu­ni­ties. Un­doubt­edly, there is a great need for Mus­lims to reaf­firm their cul­tural her­itage by us­ing the Is­lamic Cal­en­dar on a reg­u­lar ba­sis and not just dur­ing Ra­madan and Eid.

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