The Islamic calendar, also known as the Hijri calendar, is a lunar-based system that holds immense importance in the lives of Muslims worldwide. It differs from the Gregorian calendar commonly used in the Western world, as it follows the cycles of the moon rather than the solar year.
This calendar holds great religious and cultural significance, marking important events and festivals for Muslims throughout the year.
Let’s look deeper into the Islamic calendar, its key dates, and the significance behind them.
Islamic Hijri Calendar Story
The Islamic calendar begins with the event known as the Hijrah, which marks the migration of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) from Mecca to Medina in 622 CE. This significant event not only marked a historical milestone but also established the Islamic community.
At that time, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and his followers faced persecution and hardship in Mecca. Seeking refuge and the freedom to practice their faith, they decided to migrate to Medina, where they received a warm welcome from the people.
The Hijra marked a turning point in the early Islamic era, as it not only provided a safe haven for the Muslim community but also laid the foundation for the establishment of the first Islamic state.
The event of the Hijra was so significant that it was chosen as the starting point of the Islamic calendar. The first year of the Islamic calendar, known as 1 AH (After Hijra), corresponds to the year when the migration took place. This decision was made under the guidance of the second caliph, Umar ibn al-Khattab, as a way to mark the new era for the Muslim community.
The Islamic year consists of 12 lunar months, amounting to approximately 354 or 355 days, which is shorter than the 365 days of the Gregorian calendar. As a result, the Islamic calendar shifts in relation to the solar year by approximately 11 days each year.
Each month of the Islamic calendar has its own significance and is associated with specific observances and events. The months are based on the sighting of the new moon
Here is the list of the Hijri months with their names written in English and Arabic
- Muharram (مُحَرَّم)
- Safar (صَفَر)
- Rabi’ al-Awwal (رَبِيع الأوَّل)
- Rabi’ al-Thani (رَبِيع الثَّانِي)
- Jumada al-Ula (جُمَادَى الأُولَى)
- Jumada al-Thani (جُمَادَى الثَّانِيَة)
- Rajab (رَجَب)
- Sha’ban (شَعْبَان)
- Ramadan (رَمَضَان)
- Shawwal (شَوَّال)
- Dhu al-Qa’dah (ذُو الْقَعْدَة)
- Dhu al-Hijjah (ذُو الْحِجَّة)
Key Dates in the Islamic Calendar (month-wise)
Muharram (1st Month):
- Day of Ashura (10th of Muharram): Commemorates the victory of Musa (peace be upon him) and the bani-Israel over Pharaoh in Egypt. It also marks the day of fasting for Muslims.
Rabi’ al-Awwal (3rd Month):
- Eid Milad-un-Nabi (12th Rabi’ al-Awwal): Celebrates the birth of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).
Rajab (7th Month):
- Laylat al-Isra’ wal-Mi’raj (27th of Rajab): Marks the night journey of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) from Mecca to Jerusalem and his ascension to the heavens.
Ramadan (9th Month):
- Ramadan: The holiest month for Muslims, during which fasting from dawn till sunset is observed. The revelation of the Quran to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is believed to have occurred during this month.
- Laylat al-Qadr (Night of Decree): The night when the first verses of the Quran were revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).
Shawwal (10th Month):
- Eid al-Fitr (1st Shawwal): Celebrates the end of Ramadan and marks a joyous occasion with prayers, feasting, and giving of gifts.
Dhu al-Hijjah (12th Month):
- Hajj (8th-13th Dhu al-Hijjah): The annual pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca, a fundamental pillar of Islam that every able-bodied Muslim is expected to perform at least once in their lifetime.
- Eid al-Adha (10th Dhu al-Hijjah): Commemorates the willingness of Ibrahim (Abraham) to sacrifice his son, as a test of obedience to God.
These are just a few key dates and events in the Islamic calendar, each carrying deep religious and historical significance. It is important to note that the exact dates of these events may vary based on moon sightings and regional customs.
The adoption of the Hijri calendar served multiple purposes. It provided Muslims with a distinct system for marking time that was independent of other calendars prevalent at the time. It also emphasized the importance of the Hijra as a pivotal event in Islamic history, reminding Muslims of the struggles and sacrifices made by their early predecessors.
While the Hijri lunar calendar has its benefits, it also presents certain challenges. One drawback is its misalignment with the widely used Gregorian calendar, causing practical difficulties in scheduling and coordination. Furthermore, there may be variations in determining the exact dates of Islamic observances due to regional practices and interpretations. This can lead to discrepancies and confusion, particularly when there are differing opinions on the sighting of the moon.
By understanding the Islamic calendar and its key dates, individuals can gain a deeper appreciation of the faith, culture, and traditions of the Muslim community. It also serves as a means of fostering interfaith dialogue and promoting a better understanding of Islam in today’s diverse global society.