Thursday, February 16, 2006

The Unique Nature Of Islamic Calendar Year

The Islamic calendar is also known as the Hijrah calendar, reminding us of the noble Prophet Muhammad s.a.w historic migration from Makkah to Madina in September 622 C.E. The Hijrah calendar is a purely lunar calendar and goes back to the central historic event of early Islam that led to the foundation of the first Muslim city-state, a turning point in Islamic and world history.

It contains 12 months that are based on the motion of the moon, and because 12 months are only 12 x 29.53=354.36 days, the Islamic calendar is consistently shorter than the Gregorian calendar.

The names of the 12 months that comprise the Islamic year are Muharram, Safar, Rabiulawal, Rabialakhir, Jamadilawal, Jamadilakhir, Rejab, Sha’aban, Ramadhan, Syawal, Zulkaedah and Zulhijjah.

The Hijrah year of 1427 is not just a sentimental system of time reckoning and dating important religious events such as the month of fasting and pilgrimage to Makkah. To Muslims, the Islamic calendar has a much deeper religious and historical significance.

Allah says:
"They ask you O Muhammad [peace be upon him] about the new moons. Say: These are signs to mark fixed periods of time for mankind and for the pilgrimage...." [Quran, Al Baqarah 2: 189]

Another verse reads:
"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, [i.e. the 1st, the 7th, the 11th and the 12th months of the Islamic calendar]." [Quran, At Taubah 9:36]

Since the Islamic calendar is purely lunar, as apposed to solar, the Hijrah year is shorter than the Gregorian year by about 11 days, and months in the Islamic year are not related to seasons, which are fundamentally related to the solar cycle. This means that important Muslim festivals, which always fall in the same Hijrah month, may occur in different seasons. For example, the Hajj and Ramadan can take place in the summer as well as the winter. It is only over a 33-year cycle that lunar months take a complete turn and fall during the same season.

The important dates to remember in the Islamic year are:

1. 1st Muharram [Islamic New Year];
2. 27th Rejab [Israk wal Mi’raj];
3. 1st Ramadhan [first day of fasting];
4. Last 10 days of Ramadhan [which include Lailatul Qadar];
5. 1st Shawal [Eidil Fitri];
6. 8-10 Zulhijjah [the Hajj]; and
7. 10 Zulhijjah [Eidil’adha] amongst other days.

With these and many other important dates, the significance of the Islamic calendar in today’s time needs to be highlighted. Muslims today are unaware of their rich historical heritage and pay little heed to their extraordinary past. Many of our children are unable to even name the twelve months let alone state a historical event.

This should not be our attitude towards such a glorious heritage. Preserving Islam through history should be a top priority in our homes and schools. With numerous interactive learning resources available today, our communities should not merely be a reflection of our glorious past but a positive practicing Muslim neighborhood.

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