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The Hijri Calendar Explained

The Hijri Calendar Explained

Most Muslims and many non-Muslims know about the month of Ramadan – the fasting month in Islam. But how many among them know what the Hijri calendar (or Islamic calendar) is, and what the Arabic names and meanings of the other 11 months are? Yet, the Hijri calendar plays a great role in Islam as it is according to it that important dates are established: the beginning and end dates of Ramadan, Hajj, and the two Eid festivals to name the most well-known.

Read on to learn about the Hijri calendar!


What Is The Hijri Calendar?

The Hijri calendar, also known as the Lunar Hijri calendar and (in English) as the Islamic, Muslim, or Arabic calendar, is a lunar calendar with 12 lunar months in a year that lasts 354 or 355 days.

It is used to establish the correct dates of Islamic holidays and ceremonies, such as the yearly fasting period (the month of Ramadan) and the right time for the Hajj (the pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia). It is therefore an important part of Islam.

The Gregorian calendar is used in virtually all nations where Islam is a major religion, with Syriac month-names used in the Levant and Mesopotamia (Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and Palestine).

Iran and Afghanistan are notable outliers to this rule, as they follow the Solar Hijri calendar. Rents, salaries, and other comparable recurring obligations are typically paid according to the civil calendar.

The Hijri period, whose era was founded as the Islamic New Year of 622 CE, is used in the Islamic calendar. Prophet Muhammad and his followers (may Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى be pleased with them) moved from Mecca to Medina that year, establishing the first Muslim community (ummah), an event known as the Hijra.

Each month of the Islamic calendar begins with a new lunar cycle. Traditionally, this is based on real observation of the crescent moon (hilal) signifying the end of the preceding lunar cycle and hence the previous month, and thus the beginning of the new month. As a result, depending on the visibility of the moon, the astronomical placement of the earth, and weather conditions, each month might have 29 or 30 days.


List Of The 12 Months Of The Islamic Calendar

1. al-Muḥarram ٱلْمُحَرَّم‎ forbidden

A holy month, so called because battle and all forms of fighting are prohibited (haraam) during this month. The tenth day of Muharram is Ashura.

2. Ṣafar صَفَر‎ void

Pre-Islamic Arab dwellings were supposedly termed this way because they were unoccupied this time of year while their residents gathered food.

3. Rabīʿ al-‘Awwal رَبِيع ٱلْأَوَّل‎ the first spring

Because calves were grazed during this month, it also signifies to graze. It is also a very holy month for many Muslims, as it is the month in which the Prophet Muhammad was born.

4. Rabīʿ aṯ-Ṯānī or Rabīʿ al-ʾĀkhir رَبِيع ٱلثَّانِي‎ or رَبِيع ٱلْآخِر the second spring, the last spring

Since the months of the Islamic calendar were sometimes named after the weather conditions and seasons at the time they were named, it is likely that it was the end of spring when this month was named.

5. Jumādā al-ʾŪlā جُمَادَىٰ ٱلْأُولَىٰ‎ the first of parched land

Often regarded as the pre-Islamic summer. Jumada may possibly be linked to a word that means “to freeze,” and another tale claims that water freezes at this time of year.

6. Jumādā a-Ṯāniyah or Jumādā al-ʾĀkhirah جُمَادَىٰ ٱلثَّانِيَة‎ or جُمَادَىٰ ٱلْآخِرَة the second dehydrated land, the final parched land

In Arabic, جماد‎ refers to a ‘dry, arid, and parched land devoid of rain’, and ٱلْآخِر means ‘the final.’ It denotes the final or last month of dry weather.

7. Rajab رَجَب‎ respect, honor

Fighting is prohibited during the second sacred month. Rajab is also related to a verb that means “to remove,” so named because pre-Islamic Arabs would remove the heads of their spears and abstain from combating.

8. Shaʿbān شَعْبَان‎ scattered

This was the time of year when Arab tribes dispersed in search of water. Sha’ban may also be related to a verb that means “to be in the middle of two things,” namely between the sacred month of Rajab and the blessed month of Ramadan.

9. Ramaḍān رَمَضَان‎ burning heat

Fasting is associated with burning because one’s worldly desires will burn on an empty stomach. The name is said to be derived from the high temperatures caused by the sun’s excessive heat. Ramadan is the holiest month in the Hijri calendar. Muslims must fast from pre-dawn until sunset and support charities to the poor and needy during this time.

10. Shawwāl شَوَّال‎ raised

At this time of year, female camels would ordinarily be in calf and start raising their tails. The Eid al-Fitr, or “Festival of Breaking the Fast,” marks the first day of this month, signaling the end of fasting and Ramadan.

11. Ḏū al-Qa’dah ذُو ٱلْقَعْدَة‎ the possessor of truce/sitting

This is a holy month in which war is prohibited. People have the right to defend themselves if they are attacked.

12. Ḏū al-Hijjah ذُو ٱلْحِجَّة‎ the possessor of pilgrimage

During this month, Muslims from all over the world gather in Mecca to visit the Kaaba (the House of Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى). This is Hajj and it falls on the eighth, ninth, and tenth of the month. The Day of Arafah is celebrated on the ninth of the month. Eid al-Adha, or the “Festival of Sacrifice,” begins on the tenth day and lasts three days. This month is also the fourth holy month in which war is prohibited.

Learn more about the 12 months of the Hijri calendar here!

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What Are the Sacred Months of Islam?

The holy months or inviolable months in Islam are four: Dhu al-Qadah, Dhu’l-Hijjah, Muharram, and Rajab. Fighting is prohibited during these months, with the exception of in response to aggression.

The goal was to allow pilgrims, merchants, and others to safely travel to marketplaces or houses of worship and return back home.

“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; of them four are sacred. That is the right religion, so wrong not yourselves therein, and fight against the Mushrikin (idolaters) collectively as they fight against you collectively. But know that Allah is with those who have Taqwa.” (Surah at-Tawbah, 9:36)

The sacred months were significant in Prophet Abraham’s عليه السلام legislation, and the Arabs forbade fighting during them. This continued until the Arabs adopted the Nasee calendar, which resulted in the lack of mention of sacred months in some years.

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