The Story Behind the Islamic Calendar

Quran and scientific miracle
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There are so many kinds of calendars across the globe but the Islamic calendar is very unique. This is the story of the calendar of the Muslims. Also called the Arabic calendar, Hijri calendar, Muslim calendar, or Lunar Hijri calendar, the Islamic calendar is a lunar-based calendar with 12 lunar (moon-based) months making up a year. As a result, it has a total of 354 or 355 days in one year so it is not the same as the Gregorian calendar.

The importance of the Islamic calendar is visible in different aspects of religion. For example, all the correct days for the Ramadan fasting, Islamic holidays, and even the period for the holy pilgrimage are all determined using the Islamic calendar. Today, in virtually all the countries that are Muslim, the Islamic calendar is used. Even salaries of workers and other government financial obligations are all based on the Islamic calendar.

The nature of the Islamic calendar is that it makes use of the Hijri era which started as the Islamic New Year in 622 CE. It was in this year that the Noble Prophet of Islam Muhammad (SAW) and those who believed him left Mecca after facing relentless persecution. He would later settle in Medina where he formed the very first community of Muslims (known as the ummah). The event of leaving Mecca for Medina is called the hijra (meaning flight or departure) and it marked the beginning of the Islamic calendar.

Just like the calendar of Judaism, the days of the week in the Islamic calendar start when sunsets start. Interestingly, Fridays (Al-Jumah) and Saturdays (As-Sabt) are the weekends in Islamic countries. The days of the week in the Islamic calendar are Al-Ahad, Al-Ithnayn, Ath-Thulatha, Al-Arbiya, Al-Khamis, Al-Jumah, and As-Sabit.

As for the months, there are twelve in total and they are as follows: Muharram, Safar, Rabi al-Awwal, Rabi ath-Thani, Jumada al-Awwal, Jumada ath-Thaniyah, Rajab, Shaban, Ramadan, Shawwal, Zu al-Qadah and Dhul Hijjah. Of all these 12 months, a total of four of them are considered to be very holy. These include Muharram, Rajab, Zu al-Qadah, and Dhul Hijjah. Also, the period of the holy fasting (sawm) is done in the entire month of Ramadan.

Before the advent of Islam in Arabia, the people used to do identification of year by remembering the most memorable event for that time. Hence, the first ten years of the Hijri calendar did not have numbers. Instead, they were described using the important events in the life of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW).

Later on, after the time of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW), the caliphs decided to do something about the proper numbering of the years. Hence, they redesigned it properly and it has remained in place till today.

Muslim scientists especially the astronomers played a very big role in the numbering and calculations for the year. Today, Muslim scientists and clerics used the best of technology to do all the calculations for the Islamic calendar. May Allah (SWT) keep giving them success in all they do for Islam, aameen.