Islamic Calendar

The purpose of this article is to make people of other religions conversant with Islamic calendar (lunar calendar) with reference to Astrology. The author is not an expert on Islamic matters. The information is gathered from sources whose authenticity is not verified. Readers’ discretion is advised. Suggestions and comments are welcomed.

Prophet Muhammad united the Arabian tribes into a single religion, Islam. He died in AD 632.  None of his sons survived into adulthood. Muhammad’s father-in-law (father of wife, ‘Aisha’), Abu Bakr, was named the khalifa or “Successor” forming new political formation: the caliphate. The choice of Abu Bakr disputed by others who held that Ali (Ali ibn Abi Talib), his cousin and son-in-law (married to Fatimah Zahra) had been designated the successor by Prophet Muhammad himself. This contentious issue caused Muslims to later split into two groups, Shi’a and Sunnis. Shi’a Muslims regard Ali as the first Imam. Hasan, the son born in 625 AD, was the second Shia Imam and Husayn (Hussain), born in 626 AD, was the third Shia Imam. Hussain was killed in the Battle of Karbala on 10 October 680 (Muharram 10, 61 AH).

Abu Bakr desired ‘Umar to be his successor. ‘Umar continued the war of conquests begun by Abu Bakr. He pressed into the Persian Empire itself, but he also headed north into Syriaand Byzantine territory and west into Egypt. By 640, Islamic military campaigns had brought all of Mesopotamia and most of Syria and Palestine under the control of Abu Bakr. Egypt was conquered by 642 and the Persian Empire by 643. These were some of the richest regions in the world. Within three centuries after the death of the Prophet Muhammad, the Arab Caliphates extended from the Atlantic Ocean in the west to Central Asia in the east.

The subsequent empires of the Umayyads (capital Damascus, Syria), Abbasids (capital Baghdad, Iraq), Fatimids (capital Cairo, Egypt) Ghaznavids capital Ghazni, Afghanistan), Seljuqs (capital Nishapur, Persia), Safavids (capital Tabiz, Persia), Mughals (capital Delhi, India), and Ottomans (capital Istanbul), were the great powers in the world.

At present 30% of the world’s population are Muslim (a person who follows Islam). 50 countries in the world have more than 50% Muslims in their population.

Islamic calendar started in the year 622 when Prophet Mohammad along with his followers migrated from Meccato Medina. The event is known as Hijra and the years after that as Hijri. The first day of each month starts at sun set if the Hilal (crescent moon) is sighted. A month can have maximum 30 days. Twelve months constitute a year which usually has 354 or 355 days. The year 2011 AD corresponds to the Islamic Year 1432 AH (After Hijra/ anno hegirae / Hijri).

The seven days of the week of Islamic calendar in Indian subcontinent are known as: Sanichar (Saturday), Itwaar (Sunday), Pîr (Monday), Mangal (Tuesday), Budh (Wednesday), Jumey’raat / Beefay (Thursday), Juma’h (Friday).

Some months are named after seasons. However, as the years are shorter than a tropical year of about 365 days, the seasons vary over the years. The 12 months are:

1          Muharram ul Haram, the First month means “Forbidden.” Even before Islam, this month was always known as a sacred month in which all unlawful acts were forbidden. It is one of the four months during which it is forbidden to wage war or fight.

The 10th day of Muharram commemorates the martyrdom of the Prophet Mohammed’s grandson- Hazrat Imam Hussein (Hussein Ibn Ali). During this month, while on a journey, Hazrat Imam Hussain, his family members and a number of his followers were surrounded by the forces of Yazid, the Muslim ruler of the time. During the siege, they were deprived of food and water and put to death. The incident happened at a place called Karbala in Iraq in 61st year after Hijra. This dispute was result of a disagreement among Muslims on the question of succession after the demise of Hazrat Ali, the fourth caliph. The Shia community in particular celebrates this festival with great earnest. They fast, offer prayers and recite the Quran in homage to the martyrs.

2          Safar the second month means “Empty” or “Yellow”. This time of the year was considered to be cursed, which was a misconception.

3          Rabi-Al-Awwal the third month means “First month of spring, whistling of the wind”.

The Holy Prophet was born in this month on 12th day which is celebrated as Milad-un-Nabi/Mawllid an Nabi.  The same day marks His death anniversary. ‘Barawafat’, the word ‘barah’ stands for the twelve days of the Prophet’s sickness.

4          Rabi-Al-Thani the fourth month means “Second month of spring”.

5        Jumādá-Al-Ulá or Jamādil Awwal the fifth month means “First month of summer, Rabi means dry”.

6          Jumādá Al-Ukhrá (Jamādil Ākhir) the Sixth month means “Second month of summer”.

7          Rajab the Seventh month means “to respect”. One of the sacred months in which fighting was forbidden prior to Islam. It is also called Rajab al Fard. Fard means alone; not like the other 3 consecutive sacred months.

8        Shaban the eighth month means “branch” or to spread and distribute” The Arabs used to branch out during this month to look for water.

SHAB-I-BARAT (Mid-Sha’ban) is fourteenth day of Shaban. God registers the actions of all men and dispenses their fates according to their deeds. It is celebrated with illuminations, fireworks and crackers. People distribute food and sweets in the name of their ancestors and offer flowers for their graves. The Shi’a associate this night with the birth of their last Imam Muhammad al-Mahdi.

9          Ramadan (Ramzan) the ninth month means “intense heat”. (“Parched thirst” – this is the month of daytime fasting. All through the month of Ramzan the devout Muslims keep strict fast. Food is taken before sunrise and after sunset. Ramzan does not affect the daily routine.

10        Shawwal the tenth month means “Uplift/breakage”. “To be light and vigorous” Arabs believed that any marriage held in Shawwal would always turn out to be unsuccessful. Taken from the word “shala” which means “when the female camel gets pregnant”. When this name was given, the female camels used to get pregnant during this time of the year.

Eid-ul-Fitr, popularly known as the “Festival of Breaking of the Fast”, occurs as soon as the new moon of Shawwal is sighted at the end of the month of fasting, Ramadan or Ramzan. It is an occasion of feasting and rejoicing. Fitr is derived from the word ‘fatar’ meaning breaking. Fitr has another meaning derived from another word fitrah meaning ‘alms’. Special foods and delicacies are prepared for the day and are distributed among neighbors and friends. Celebration and prayers continues the next day.

11        Zul-Qa’dah or Dhul-Qi’dah the eleventh month means “to sit” or to “rest” and prepare for Hajj. This is also a sacred month when no warfare or fighting is allowed.

12        Zul-hijjah Dhul-Hijjah the twelfth month means “Hajj”. This is the last sacred month in which fighting is forbidden. Hajj is performed amongst first ten days.

On the 10th day falls EID-UL-ZUHA or Eid al Adha also called Bakrid.  It is one of the grandest festivals of the Muslims. Hazrat Ibrahim was ordered by Allah in a dream to sacrifice his dearest thing. So, he decided to offer his son and with the permission of his family blindfolded his son and struck him with his sword. To his amazement when he opened his eyes he saw that he had sacrificed a ram (dumba). So on this day a ram or a goat or a camel is sacrificed and distributed.