Islamic Calendar

The Islamic calendar is also referred to as the Hijri calendar and consists of 12 months like the Gregorian calendar but with fewer days (354-355)days each year compared to the Gregorian calendar’s (365-366) days each year; the beginning of each month is marked by the sighting of the new crescent moon immediately after sunset and lasts until the sighting of the next new crescent moon. The Islamic calendar’s origin can be traced back to July 16th 622, the period which marks the migration of Islam’s foremost prophet- Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) from Mecca to Medina, otherwise known as the year of the Hijra.

Prior to proper establishment of the Islam calendar, Muslims used to base their dates and timelines of special events like holidays on Prophet Muhammad’s birth date. But seventeen years following the Hijra (639), during the reign of Khalifa Umar ibn al-Khattab, this issue was raised by ban adherent who claimed there was lack of consistency on dates of important Islamic events.

After consultation with his advisers, Khalifa Umar established that the calendar would be based on Prophet Muhammad’s year of Hijra as its first year, starting with the month of Muharram (first month of the year) and ending with Dhu Al Hijja (the last month of the year).The following is a list of months of the Islamic calendar beginning with first month all through to the last month together with what they signify;

(a) Muharram: This is the first month of the Islamic calendar. The title “Muharram” literally means forbidden in Arabic, it is one of the four holy months within the Islamic calendar when warfare is forbidden. The month of Muharram also marks a significant period in the history of Islam as it is during this period that Prophet Muhammad’s grandson ‘Imam Husssain Ibn Ali’ was killed in the battle of Karbala.

(b) Safar: This is the second month of the Islamic calendar. The title ‘Safar’ has several meanings attached to it; Safar could be used to mean journey, to vacate, empty, void and so on. The month of Safar is so named as it is a period during which people would extensively travel in search of food and other necessities consequently leaving their houses empty. There are sources which indicate that the month of Safar is marked with ill fortunes.

(c) Rabi al-Awwal: Is the third month of the Islamic calendar. The 12th day of this month marks celebrations of the birthday of Prophet Muhammad otherwise known as Mawlid.

(d) Rabi al-Akhir: Is the fourth month of the Islamic calendar and is also known as Rabi al-Thani. Rabi al-Akhir literally means the second month of the spring, the first being Rabbi al-Awwal.

(e) Jumada al-Awwal: Also known as Jumada al-Ula or Jumada is the fifth month of the Hijra calendar. This month is conceptualized by the term ‘Jumada’ which essentially means dry, or arid, or rainless to signify the dry season associated with this month.

(f) Jumada al-Thani: Also known as Jumada al-Akhir, Jumada al-Thani is the sixth month of the Islamic calendar.

(g) Rajab: The month of Rajab is the seventh month of the Islamic calendar. This month is also classified under the four holy months of the Islamic calendar in which warfare is prohibited. ‘Rajab’ is derived from the Arabic verb ‘Rajaba’ which literally means “to be in awe of” or “to respect” or “to fear”. It is also during the month of Rajab that the mystical journey of Prophet Muhammad known as Isra Miraj took place; during this journey Prophet Muhammad mystically travelled from Mecca, to Jerusalem, and then ascended through the seven heavens to meet Allah (God). It is one of the most celebrated events in Islam.

(h) Shaban : This is the eighth month of the Islamic calendar. The month of Shaban comes right before the Holy month of Ramadhan. This month is also significant because it links the two holy months of Rajab and Ramadhan. There are sources which indicate that Prophet Muhammmad fasted the most during the months Shaban.

(i) Ramadan: The holy month of Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. It is one of the most sacred months of the Muslim faith. During this month every Muslim who is physically healthy and mature is obliged to fast consistently for an entire month. Fasting is usually done between sunrise and sunset. In the holy month of Ramadan abstinence from food, drinks, sexual activities, and other vices and obscenities is highly encouraged. The fasting is done as an act of obedience and worship to Allah. Muslim adherents use this month to strengthen their relationship and to draw them nearer to God.

(j) Shawwal: Is the tenth month of the Islamic calendar. ‘Shawal’ is derived from the Arabic term ‘Shala’ which literally means to carry; this month was named Shawal to signify the period of the year when the she- camel would be pregnant with her calf. It signifies a new life literally and symbolically seeing that it comes immediately after the holy month of Ramadan; a period of spiritual cleansing where after an adherent is set to start afresh and make right his shortcomings from a spiritual perspective.

The first day of the month of Shawwal is known as eid-ul fitr; a day which Muslim faithfuls carry out celebrations to mark the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

(k) Dhu al-Qadda: Is the 11th month of the Islamic calendar and is also considered one of the holy months of Islam during which warfare is prohibited. Also called the month of ‘seating’ because in this month, fighting parties laid down arms and postponed their rivalry to some other time regardless of the degree of their rivalry or enmity.

(l) Dhu al-Hijja: Is the 12th and the last month of the Islamic calendar. This is also considered a very sacred month of the Islamic faith. During the month of Dhu al-Hijja is when the Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca) by Muslim adherents takes place.

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