Islamic calendar is the lunar calendar as it works according to the moon cycles. The sight of new moon determines the beginning of a new Islamic month unlike the other calendar. It is also known as Hijri calendar. Each month of the Islamic calendar lasts from one new moon to the next. In this way Hijri calendar provides you with a tentative indication of the future dates as the start of each month relies on the sighting of new moon.
Origin of Islamic Calendar:
For your understanding here is a brief background of the origin of Islamic calendar. Islamic calendar or Hijri calendar has taken its name from ‘Hijrah’ an Arabic word for migration. It refers to the Holy Prophet’s migration from Makka to Madinah in 622 AD. Caliph Umar ibn Al-Khattab is considered as the pioneer of Hijri calendar. Full and crescent moon are used to confirm the start and end of each month. Sighting of moon occupies immense importance for all the muslims at the eve of Ramadan i.e; the holy month of fasting, at Eid-al-fitr, Eid-al-adha and of Muharram, on the beginning of new Islamic year.
Before the beginning of Hijri Calendar, Muslims used different events to mark time. But after seventeen years of the Prophet’s migration and during the reign of Caliph Umar bin Al Khattab (R.A.), a strong need was felt to devise a calendar. Caliph Umar (R.A.) received a complaint from Abu Musa al Ashari; governor of Basrah (Iraq) about the inconsistent dates on the correspondence received by him and he was the first one to draw the attention of Caliph Umar (R.A.) on this important issue. Caliph Umar (R.A.) made deliberations and discussed it with his advisers.
Some of the advisers urged him to mark the birth of the Prophet as the beginning of the new Islamic year while others suggested the date of Prophet’s death. However consensus was reached on to mark the date of migration as the beginning of new Islamic year. It was decided that the calendar would begin with Muharram and end with Dhul-Hijjah.
12 Months of the Islamic Calendar:
Similar to the Georgian calendar, Islamic calendar too has 12 months.
“Indeed, the number of months with Allah is twelve (lunar) months in the register of Allah (from) the day He created the heavens and the earth; of these, four are sacred. That is the correct religion, so do not wrong yourselves during them.”(Surah Al-Tawba; Verse 36)
However the number of days in the entire year is less than the Georgian calendar. Islamic New Year starts with Muharram. It is followed by Safar, Rabi-al-Awal, Rabi-as-Sani, Jamadi-al-Awal, Jamadi-as-Sani, Rajjab, Shaban, Ramadan, Shawwal, Dhul qadah, and Dhul Hijjah.
An informative thing about Islamic calendar for you is the fact that there are four months in the Hijri Calendar that are considered as sacred months. You can also confirm it from the Hadith of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) as well.
It is mentioned in Bukhari; an authentic collection of Ahadith that the Holy Prophet (pbuh) said:
“The year is of twelve months, and among these months; four are sacred”.Hazrat Muhammad (PBUH)
In this way you can see that Hijri calendar is divided into two types of months, sacred months and non sacred months.
Dhul Qidah, Dhul-hijja, Muharram and Rajab are the sacred months. These months are called sacred because war is forbidden in these months. In the Holy Quran there is a clear mention of these four sacred months in Surah Al tawwbah as already described above.
Non sacred months:
The remaining eight months are non sacred ones. About these eight months there is a clear message in Holy Quran:
“Then when the sacred months are drawn away, slay the polytheists wherever you find them, and seize them and besiege them and lie in wait for them in every ambush. But if they repent and perform the prayer and pay poor-rate, (zakāt) then leave their way free to them; verily Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.”
Islamic Months and Important Events:
It would be quite interesting for you to read all the information about the Islamic months, and different festivals and activities during these months that are mentioned below:
Muharram, First month of the Hijri Calendar:
Muharram is the first month of Hijri Calendar. It is also one of the sacred months. The verbal meaning of this month is Forbidden or prohibited because war is banned or forbidden in this sacred month. Ashura comes on the 10th of Muharram. On this day, Muslims used to commemorate the migration of Mosa(AS) from Egypt and also observed by keeping fast. It was a practice of Holy Prophet to keep fast on this day. It also reminds us of the tragic death of the grandson of Holy Prophet by Ummayad ruler: Yazid.
Safar is the second Islamic month. In Arabic language, Safar means empty or void. It has its origin in pre-islamic Arab era when people’s houses were empty and they were on their quest for food. So you can clearly see that the names of these Islamic months are related to some sort of background.
This is the third month of lunar calendar. Rabi-ul-Awal means the beginning of spring. In this month muslims around the world celebrate the birth of their beloved Prophet (PBUH). On 12th of Rabi-ul-Awal Eid, Milad-un-Nabi is celebrated to mark the birth of Prophet (PBUH). It is an important celebration for Muslims.
Rabi-ul-thani is the fourth month of the Hijri Calendar and its literal meaning is second month of spring.
Jamadi-ul-Awal and Jamadi-ul-Thani:
These months have got their names from freezing water during the month of winter.
Rajab is one of the four sacred months. The literal meaning of Rajab is respect and honor. On the 27th of Rajab, Shab-e-Miraj is observed. This event is about the night when God took Holy Prophet on a journey to heaven. It is an important night of prayer for Muslims.
Shaban is the eighth month and it means separation. It has got its origin from the ancient Arabs as they used to disperse in search of water. Shab-e-Barra’t is observed on the 15th night of Shaban. At the end of this month muslims determine the beginning of Ramadan; the holy month of fasting. It means the night of forgiveness. This night is considered very important because muslims believe that their sins will be forgive. Moreover, on this day Holy Prophet entered in the city of Mecca. In this way it is a very blessed month from historical point of view as well.
Ramadan is the ninth month in the Islamic calendar. In his holy month, Muslims around the world observe fast. About this holy month of Ramadan , you can find verses in the Holy Quran.
Here is one of the verses that explains Ramadan.
“During the month of Ramadan the Qur’an was sent down as guidance to the people with Clear Signs of the true guidance and as the Criterion (between right and wrong). So those of you who live to see that month should fast it, and whoever is sick or on a journey should fast the same number of other days instead. Allah wants ease and not hardship for you so that you may complete the number of days required, magnify Allah for what He has guided you to, and give thanks to Him.”Surah Al-Baqrah; Verse No 85
Layalat ul qadar or the night of decree is a blessed night that comes in the last ten days of Ramadan. In chapter 97th of Quran this night has been mentioned in the most obvious way:
“Indeed We sent the Qur’an down during the Night of Decree. And what can make you know what is the Night of Decree? The Night of Decree is better than a thousand months. The angels and the Spirit descend therein by permission of their Lord for every matter. Peace it is until the emergence of dawn.”(Chapter 97)
Prophet’s wife Aisha describes that:
“When the last ten nights of Ramadan started, Holy Prophet [PBUH] kept awake at night and also wakenend his family and use to observe prayer.”Holy Prophet (PBUH)
The companion of Holy Prophet Anas ibn e Malik reported that Prophet said:
“This month has come to you and in this month there is a night that is better than a thousand nights.”Holy Prophet (PBUH)
Prophet also said:
“Search for Laylatul qadar in the odd nights of the last ten nights of Ramadan.”Holy Prophet (PBUH)
Shawwal is the tenth month of the Hijri calendar. In this month Muslims celebrate Eid-ul-fitr. Eid-ul-fitr is celebrated to mark the end of fasting month. It is celebrated on the first of Shawwal.
Hadith about Eid ul fitr and eid ul adha has been narrated by companion of Holy Prophet Anas in Sunan abi dawood:
“When Holy Prophet came to Madina, People used to entertain themselves on two specific days. When Prophet asked them what were these two days, they replied that they were celebrating these days since the days of ignorance (Jahiliya). Prophet (pbuh) told them that Allah has replaced these two days for them with Eid-ul-fitr and Eid-al-Adha.
Dhu-al-qaddah is the eleventh month in the Hijri Calendar. Its literal meaning is seating or resting place. It is one of the sacred months and as it is evident from the name as well, muslims abstain from all kind of fighting during this month.
Dhu-al-hijjah is the twelveth month in the Islamic calendar. It is the last month in the Islamic calendar. During this month two important events are celebrated. Muslims around the globe offer pilgrimage (Hajj) and Eid-ul-adha is also celebrated during this month.
It is one of the five pillars of islam. During Hajj several rituals are performed by muslims. Moreover, these activities have symbolic significance as they depict devotion to God, brotherhood and promote unity among the muslims. The different practices performed during Hajj are also a tribute to the trials of the Prophet Ibrahim (A.S) and his family. Eid ul Adha comes on the final day of hajj.
Eid-ul-adha, or Eid e Qurban is observed on the 10th of Dhul-Hijja. Moreover, this eid commemorates the sacrifice of Abraham. During three days of this Eid, Muslims slaughter livestock and distribute meat among the needy and poor.
So these are the Islamic months and important events that are observed during these months.
Islamic calendar in the US is followed by muslim communities in order to perform their religious rites and duties in a regular and punctual manner. All the festivals and prayers of muslims are closely linked with this calendar. According to Hijri calendar it is 24 Dhul-qidah 1441 in the USA. You will observe that muslims around the USA celebrate important festivals according to the Islamic calendar. Moon sighting has an immense importance for muslims in the US as well. All the important events like Ashura, Eid Milad-un-Nabi, Ramadan, Eid-ul-fitr, and Eid-ul-Adha are observed according to the Hijri calendar.
Islamic Calendar is a basic guide for the 1.7 billion muslims around the world because their religious activities are closely tied to it. It is used as an official calendar in many Islamic countries such as some gulf countries especially in Saudi Arabia. But in many Islamic countries it is used for the purpose of following and observing different events and festivals.