History & Civilization

Islamic Calendar – The Basics

Islamic Calendar

Description: The Islamic calendar forms the heartbeat of the yearly Muslim life-cycle. This short article will cover the basic information appropriate to be shared with weekend Islamic school students and new Muslims.

Muslims use a lunar calendar of twelve months. The start of each month is determined by sighting the thin crescent of the new moon, called ‘Hilal’ in Arabic. Don’t confuse it with ‘halal.’

هلال‎  Hilal  = crescent
حلال‎  Halal = permissible, allowed

The calendar is called ‘Hijri calendar’ from the Arabic word ‘Hijrah’ which means emigration. The reason it is called ‘Hijri calendar’ is because it began with the year the Prophet Muhammad migrated from Macca to Madina, corresponding to 622 CE.

Each Islamic month is either 29 or 30 days.

How is it determined if it will be 29 or 30 days?

At sunset of 29th day of any given month, the new month starts if the crescent is sighted. If it happens to be cloudy then we simply wait an extra day before starting the new month, making the month 30 days. There is no need to sight the moon next day.

Because the calendar is lunar, it moves backwards by about 10 days each solar year. That is why sometimes Ramadan or Hajj are in winters, sometimes in summer.

Visibility of the crescent moon depends on a number of factors which make it impossible to exactly predict when a new month will begin. It has to be sighted with the eye around sunset on the 29th day of any given month.

The names of the Hijri months in order are as follows:

  1. *Muharram
  2. Safar
  3. Rabi ul-Awwal
  4. Rabi ut-Thani
  5. Jumadi ul-Awwal
  6. Jumadi ut-Thani
  7. *Rajab
  8. Sha’ban
  9. Ramadan
  10. Shawwal
  11. *Dhil-Q’ada
  12. *Dhil-Hijja

The Sacred Months are marked by an asterisk (*).

Below is a brief on their significance:

  1. Muharram*:
  • The 10 day of this month is called ‘Ashura, recommended to fast it, Moses saved by Allah from Pharaoh on this day
  • It is recommended to fast a lot during Muharram
  1. Safar
  1. Rabi ul-Awwal
  • Prophet was born and passed away in this month
  1. Rabi ut-Thani
  1. Jumadi ul-Awwal
  1. Jumadi ut-Thani
  1. Rajab*
  • Even though not confirmed, commonly thought the Prophet went on a Night Journey and Heavenly Ascent (‘Isra and Miraaj) on the 27th of this month, so they fast it.
  1. Sha’ban
  • Deeds of the children of Adam are raised to Allah in it
  • It is highly recommended to fast a lot in it, Prophet fasted a lot in it
  • 15th of this month is called Shab-e-Baraat, Layla Nisf min as-Sha’baan, or Layla tul-Bar’a. Scholars differ on its significance
  • Not confirmed to fast on the 15th and spend the night in prayer
  1. Ramadan
  • It is obligatory to fast whole month
  • The Quran revealed in it
  • Especially the last 10 nights are the best nights of the entire year
  • Special actions: perform ‘Umrah, spend on charity, recite Quran, pray Taraweeh, stay up last ten nights, especially ‘Layla tul-Qadr’
  1. Shawwal
  • First day of this month marks end of Ramadan and is called Eed al-Fitr
  • Recommended to fast any 6 days in it, but prohibited to fast on the 1st Shawwal, i.e. the day of Eid
  1. Dhil-Q’ada*
  1. Dhil-Hijja*
  • It is the month of Hajj (pilgrimage)
  • 1-9th: fasting recommended, especially the 9th; best days of year
  • 9th: day of ‘Arafah on which Hajj is performed; considered one of the best days of the year
  • 10th of this month is Eed al-‘Adha; considered the best day of the year
  • 11-13th are called days of Tashreeq
  • Camel, cow, or sheep to be slaughtered anytime from 10-13th
  • prohibited to fast 10-13th of Dhil-Hijja

Islamic Calendar – The Basics Feature Image: Stephen Rahn