The Islamic calendar is of great significance in the Muslim world and is considerably different from the Christian calendars used throughout the western world. The Islamic calendar begins with one of the most iconic events in Islamic history; Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) ‘Hijra’- the day he emigrated" from Makkah to Madina to set up his new social order. To this day, Muslims date everything starting from that migration nearly 1435 years ago.
The month of Muharram marks the commencement of the new Islamic year. The Islamic calendar was introduced by Hazrat Umar bin Al Khattab, the second Caliph of Islam and one of the closest companions of our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), in 638 Christian Era (CE). The introduction of the calendar was rooted in the endeavour of rationalising multiple, at times conflicting, dating systems being used during that time period.
It is usually abbreviated as ‘AH’ in Western languages and Muharram 1, 1 AH, is representative of the date July 15, 622CE, corresponding to the date of the Hijra. The migration eventually led to the foundation of the first Muslim city, which itself became a turning point in not only Islamic history but world history.
For Muslims, the Islamic calendar doesn’t just hold sentimental significance of time computation and marking of important religious events, e.g. fasting and Hajj, but it holds a much deeper religious and historical meaning. All the historical events in Islamic history that are dated in the Islamic calendar, serve as a reminder of the sacrifices made in the way of Islam, especially during the time of the Prophet (PBUH). The lessons and meaning of these events are somewhat lost in the Gregorian calculations, hence Muslims use the Hijra calendar.
An Islamic year has twelve months in total which are as follows:
As opposed to the Christian calendar which is based on solar cycles, the Islamic Calendar is purely lunar and is shorter than the Gregorian calendar by 11 days. This is because the Islamic year is not dependent on seasons or weather conditions.
According to our Islamic calendar, the next day commences from the time of Maghrib or sunset of each day, whereas for solar calendars, a new day starts at 12:00 am each night. This is one of the major differences between the calendars. The start of each Hijra month is marked by the physical sighting of the crescent moon at a given point on the globe.
Moreover, Muharram, Rajab, Dhul-Qadah, and Dhul-Hijjah are considered sacred months. In traditional Arab culture, these four months were known as the “forbidden months: where fighting was prohibited and battles were suspended in order to allow trade and peace.
Islamic calendar is considered the official calendar in various Muslim countries around the world, especially countries like Saudi Arabia. Other Muslim countries make use of the Gregorian calendar for civic purposes and turn to the Islamic calendar for matters pertaining to religion. All in all, the Islamic calendar holds immense importance in every Muslim’s life and we will do well to understand its significance.