The Islamic calendar starts with the month of Muharram, considered as sacred. The word muharram comes from the Arabic word “haraam” which means “Prohibition”. Why such a name, which moreover appears a little severe allotted to the first month of the islamic calendar?

We notice, for example, particularly in the holy koran, that Allah “thus” calls the great mosque of Makkah “Masjid-il-haraam”, “the Mosque of prohibition”. Also the dress worn by the pilgrims in the enclosure of this mosque is also called “Ihraam” which means “the forbidden” and that the one who is in the state of ihraam is thus called the “Muhrim” which means “the one who is under prohibition”…

The reasons of all these similar names which all are derived from the same significance are very simple, reagarding the great mosque of Makkah shareef, before the arrival of Islam on this ground, this place was infested by idols everywhere and the idolaters were in total perdition compared to the unicity of Allah ta’ala. Islam came to cut down the idolatrous thus cleaning this sacred mosque.

As for the dress, those who bear it during the pilgrimage, are under total interdiction of sin, even about actions which in normal time would be allowed to him such as for example making a cajolery with one’s wife or husband, under the state of Ihraam, the muhrim stay under prohibition.

Regarding the month of Muharram, which marks the beginning of a new year of the islamic calendar, the moral reason wants that the best way to begin a new year is to avoid making sins, such a name allotted to this month, which inter alia comprises the famous “Yawm-e-`Aashourah”, the chief of all days (daytimes), celebrated on the 10th day of Muharram.

We wish you all a Happy Hijri New Year with the blessings (barkats) of Allah ta’ala.

“Kullu `aam wa antum bi khaÿr”

“Nayaa saal Mubaarak”

The Islamic Calendar

The Islamic calendar is called the Hijrah. Hijrah means ‘migration’ and in this context, it refers to the migration of the last Messenger of Allah, Muhammad (Sallallahu Alaihi Wa Aalihi Wassallam) from Makkah to Madeenah. Although the Islamic calendar was implemented backdating from the 16th of July 622 CE, during the caliphate of the second caliph, Umar Ibn Al Khattab (Radiyallahu Anhu), it begins from the Hijrah of the Messenger of Allah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wa Aalihi Wassallam) from Makkah to Madeenah.

Islamic calendar follows the cycles of the moon, therefore, is a lunar calendar. It has approximately 355 days in a year (354 days, eight hours and 42 minutes to be exact). Hence, in the Islamic calendar, the days are approximately ten or eleven days shorter than the Gregorian (Solar) calendar which have 365 days.

The companions of the Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wa Aalihi Wassallam) felt a need to establish a permanent system to record the various Islamic events with one common point of reference. This issue was discussed when Umar Ibn Al Khattab (Radiyallahu Anhu) was the Caliph. They wanted to establish a common reference point for all Islamic events.
Before the Islamic calendar was put in use, people of Makkah and Madeenah used to record or refer to the events 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 Yemen, Abraha, marched to destroy the Kabah. He had an elephant with him. His army was destroyed by Allah before they could reach Makkah. That event became memorable because it was the first time an elephant was seen in that part of the world.

The Messenger of Allah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wa Aalihi Wassallam) 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 (Sallallahu Alaihi Wa Aalihi Wassallam) was born 40 or 50 days after this event in the month of Rabi Ul Awwal. Muslims at that time used both of these events:

1. The attack of Abraha’s army with an elephant and
2. The birth of the Messenger of Allah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wa Aalihi Wassallam)

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 (Sallallahu Alaihi Wa Aalihi Wassallam) as His last Messenger.

Abu Musa Ashari (Radiyallahu Anhu), a prominent Sahabah who was appointed Governor of Syria during the Caliphate of Umar (Radiyallahu Anhu), began to face problems in recording the every day events as there was the absence of a permanent point of reference. He thus wrote to Umar (Radiyallahu Anhu) about this problem. Umar (Radiyallahu Anhu) then consulted Usmaan Ibn Al Affan (Radiyallahu Anhu), Ali Ibn Abi Talib (Alaihis Salam) and several other prominent Sahabah (Radiyallahu Anhum). All of them agreed for ending the confusion by providing a single point of reference. They all suggested to start an Islamic calendar.
Umar (Radiyallahu Anhu) got the Islamic calendar prepared after almost eighteen years after the Hijrah (Migration) of the Messenger of Allah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wa Aalihi Wassallam). The Islamic calendar (Hijrah) was thus implemented from the 20th day of Jamadul Aakhir (Sixth month of the Islamic calendar)

The Islamic calendar also has 12 months like the Gregorian one. Each month of the Islamic calendar could be either 29 or 30 days long, depending upon the visibility of the moon. Seven months of the Islamic calendar are of 30 days and the remaining five are of 29. The first day of the month start after the sighting of the moon. Today, the days and months are calculated in advance, based on the lunar movements. This practice began almost 150 years after the Hijrah (Migration) of the Messenger of Allah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wa Aalihi Wassallam). The beginning of Ramadan (9th month of the Islamic calendar), Eid Al Fitr, Hajj (Pilgrimage to the Kabah) and other Islamic events, are always announced only after the sighting of the moon.

The Twelve Months of the Islamic Calendar are as follows:
1. Muharram Ul Haraam
2. Safar Ul Muzaffar
3. Rabi Ul Awwal
4. Rabi Ul Aakhir
5. Jumad Ul Awwal
6. Jumad Ul Aakhir
7. Rajab Ul Murajjab
8. Shaabaan Ul Mu’azzam
9. Ramadan Ul Kareem
10. Shawwaal
11. Zil Qadr
12. Zil Hajj

Allah mentions four sacred months in Quran:

“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 that of them, four are Sanctified (Zil Qadr, Zil Hajj, Muharram, Rajab). (Surah Taubah, Verse 36)

Arabs considered these four months sacred before Islam. 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 instance, 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 Al Maidah, Verse 2)
The four sacred months are not mentioned by name in the Holy Quran, but their names are available from the Ahadith or saying of the Messenger of Allah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wa Aalihi Wassallam). In his farewell Khutbah (Sermon) he declared:

“Time has completed its cycle and is as it was on the Day when Allah created the heavens and the earth. One year consists of twelve months, of which four are sanctified. Three of them are in sequence: Zil Qadr, Zil Hajj, Muharram and the fourth is Rajab of Mudar which comes between Jamadul Aakhir and Shaabaan.” (Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim)

Muslims should live by a code of conduct ordained by Allah (God) that was demonstrated by His last Messenger (Sallallahu Alaihi Wa Aalihi Wassallam) for all the times to come and they should pay special attention to respect the four months. 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.