The Islamic calendar, Muslim calendar or Hijri calendar (Anno Hegirae or AH, Arabic: التقويم الهجري at-taqwīm al-hijrī) is a lunar calendar consisting of 12 months in a year of 354 or 355 days.
It is used to date events in many Muslim countries (concurrently with the Gregorian calendar), and used byMuslims everywhere to determine the proper days on which to observe the annual fasting, to attend Hajj, and to celebrate other Islamic holidays and festivals.
The first year was the Islamic year beginning in AD 622 during which the emigration of Muhammad fromMecca to Medina, known as the Hijra, occurred. Each numbered year is designated either "H" for Hijra or "AH" for the Latin Anno Hegirae ("in the year of the Hijra"); hence, Muslims typically call their calendar the Hijri calendar.
The current Islamic year is 1438 AH. In the Gregorian calendar, 1438 AH runs from approximately 3 October 2016 to 21 September 2017.
Four of the twelve Hijri months are considered sacred: Rajab (7), and the three consecutive months of Dhū al-Qa‘dah (11), Dhu al-Ḥijjah (12) and Muḥarram (1). As the lunar calendar lags behind the solar calendar by about ten days every year, months of the Islamic calendar fall in different parts of the Gregorian calendar each year. The cycle repeats every 33 years.
No. Name Arabic Meaning Note
Forbidden forbidden A sacred month, so called because battle and all kinds of fighting are forbidden (ḥarām) during this month. Muḥarram includes‘Āshūrā’, the tenth day.
zero void Supposedly named thus because pre-Islamic Arab houses were empty this time of year while their occupants gathered food. Another account relates that they used to loot the houses of their enemies after defeating them in battle, leaving nothing behind.
3 Rabī‘ al-awwal
First spring the first spring Also means to graze, because cattle were grazed during this month. Also a very holy month of celebration for many Muslims, as it was the month the Prophet Muhammad was born.
4 Rabi 're-Thani
second spring the second spring
5 Jumada al-Ula
First Jamadi the first of parched land Often considered the pre-Islamic summer. Jumādá may also be related to a verb meaning "to freeze" and another account relates that water would freeze during this time of year.
6 Jumada al-akhirah
Jumada II the last of parched land
Recep respect, honour This is the second sacred month in which fighting is forbidden. Rajab may also be related to a verb meaning "to remove", so called because pre-Islamic Arabs would remove the heads of their spears and refrain from fighting.
Shaban scattered Marked the time of year when Arab tribes dispersed to find water. Sha‘bān may also be related to a verb meaning "to be in between two things". Another account relates that it was called thus because the month lies between Rajab and Ramaḍān.
Ramadan burning heat Burning is related to fasting as in empty stomach one's worldly desire will burn. Supposedly so called because of high temperatures caused by the excessive heat of the sun. Ramaḍān is the most venerated month of the Hijri calendar. During this time, Muslims must fast from pre-dawn till sunset and should give charity to the poor and needy.
Shawwal raised She-camels would normally be in calf at this time of year and raise their tails.
11th Dhū al-Qa'dah
Zul the one of truce/sitting This is a holy month during which war is banned. People are allowed to defend themselves if attacked.
12 Dhu al-Hijjah
It is the argument the one of pilgrimage During this month Muslim pilgrims from all around the world congregate at Mecca to visit the Kaaba. The Hajj is performed on the eighth, ninth and the tenth of this month. Day of Arafah takes place on the ninth of the month. Eid al-Adha, the "Festival of the Sacrifice", begins on the tenth day and ends on sunset of the twelfth, and during which war is banned.
Length of months
Each month of the Islamic calendar commences on the birth of the new lunar cycle. Traditionally this is based on actual observation of the crescent marking the end of the previous lunar cycle and hence the previous month, thereby beginning the new month. Consequently, each month can have 29 or 30 days depending on the visibility of the moon, astronomical positioning of the earth and weather conditions. However, certain sects and groups, most notably Dawoodi Bohra Muslims and Shia Ismaili Muslims, use a tabular Islamic calendar (see section below) in which odd-numbered months have thirty days (and also the twelfth month in a leap year) and even months have 29.
Days of the week
In Arabic, the "first day" of the week corresponds with Sunday of the planetary week. The Islamic weekdays, like those in the Hebrew and Bahá'í calendars, begin at sunset. The Christian liturgical day, kept in monasteries, begins with vespers (see vesper), which is evening, in line with the other Abrahamic traditions. Christian and planetary weekdays begin at the following midnight. Muslims gather for worship at a mosque at noon on "gathering day" (Yawm al-Jum‘ah, yawm يوم meaning "day") which corresponds with Friday.
Thus "gathering day" is often regarded as the weekly day of rest. This is frequently made official, with many Muslim countries adopting Friday and Saturday (e.g., Egypt, Saudi Arabia) or Thursday and Friday as official weekends, during which offices are closed; other countries (e.g., Iran) choose to make Friday alone a day of rest. A few others (e.g.,Turkey, Pakistan, Morocco) have adopted the Saturday-Sunday weekend while making Friday a working day with a long midday break to allow time off for worship.
Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Name (Yawm) al-Aḥad (Yawm) al-Ithnayn (Yawm) ath-Thulāthā’ (Yawm) al-Arba'ā ' (Yawm) al-Khamīs (Great) al-Jum'ah (Yawm) as-Sabt
Arabic Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Meaning First day Second day Third day Fourth day Fifth day Gathering day Day of Rest
Inscriptions of the ancient South Arabian calendars reveal the use of a number of local calendars. At least some of these calendars followed the lunisolar system. For Central Arabia, especially Mecca, there is a lack of epigraphical evidence but details are found in the writings of Muslim authors of the Abbasid era. Both al-Biruni and al-Mas'udi suggest that the Ancient Arabs used the same month names as the Muslims, though they also record other month names used by the pre-Islamic Arabs.
It is well known that Hajj was originally an equinoctial festival and research on the pre-Islamic calendar has been summarized in recent Islamic and secular scholarship which equates the pre-Islamic months from Muharram to Dhu al-Hijjah with the Hebrew religious months of Iyyar to Nisan respectively (Ramadan corresponding to the Fast of Adam in Tevet) rather than Nisan to Adar as might otherwise be presumed. In stark opposition to this opinion however, subsequent Christian then Jewish scholars have both tried to equate the pre-Islamic months from Muharram to Jumādā ath-Thāniya at least with the Hebrew months of Tishrei to Adar I respectively. Nevertheless, the Islamic position equating Nisan with Dhū al-Ḥijja has prevailed. For a comparison between the Islamic and pre-Islamic months, see Islamic and Jahili months.
The Islamic tradition is unanimous in stating that Arabs of Tihamah, Hejaz, and Najd distinguished between two types of months, permitted (ḥalāl) and forbidden (ḥarām) months. The forbidden months were four months during which fighting is forbidden, listed as Rajab and the three months around the pilgrimage season, Dhu al-Qa‘dah, Dhu al-Hijjah, and Muharram. Information about the forbidden months is also found in the writings of Procopius, where he describes an armistice with the Eastern Arabs of the Lakhmid al-Mundhir which happened in the summer of 541 AD. However, Muslim historians do not link these months to a particular season. The Qur'an links the four forbidden months with Nasī’, a word that literally means "postponement". According to Muslim tradition, the decision of postponement was administered by the tribe of Kinanah, by a man known as the al-Qalammas of Kinanah and his descendants (pl. qalāmisa).
Different interpretations of the concept of Nasī’ have been proposed. Some scholars, both Muslim and Western, maintain that the pre-Islamic calendar used in Central Arabia was a purely lunar calendar similar to the modern Islamic calendar. According to this view, Nasī’ is related to the pre-Islamic practices of the Meccan Arabs, where they would alter the distribution of the forbidden months within a given year without implying a calendar manipulation. This interpretation is supported by Arab historians and lexicographers, like Ibn Hisham, Ibn Manzur, and the corpus of Qur'anic exegesis.
This is corroborated by an early Sabaic inscription, where a religious ritual was "postponed" (ns'’w) due to war. According to the context of this inscription, the verb ns'’ has nothing to do with intercalation, but only with moving religious events within the calendar itself. The similarity between the religious concept of this ancient inscription and the Qur'an suggests that non-calendaring postponement is also the Qur'anic meaning of Nasī’. Thus the Encyclopaedia of Islam concludes "The Arabic system of [Nasī’] can only have been intended to move the Hajj and the fairs associated with it in the vicinity of Mecca to a suitable season of the year. It was not intended to establish a fixed calendar to be generally observed."
Others concur that it was originally a lunar calendar, but suggest that about 200 years before the Hijra it was transformed into a lunisolar calendar containing an intercalary monthadded from time to time to keep the pilgrimage within the season of the year when merchandise was most abundant. This interpretation was first proposed by the medieval Muslim astrologer and astronomer Abu Ma'shar al-Balkhi, and later by al-Biruni, al-Mas'udi, and some Western scholars. This interpretation considers Nasī’ to be a synonym to the Arabic word for "intercalation" (kabīsa). The Arabs, according to one explanation mentioned by Abu Ma'shar, learned of this type of intercalation from the Jews. The Jewish Nasi was the official who decided when to intercalate the Jewish calendar. Scholars have suggested that the Arabic system was to intercalate three months in eight years (nine in 24), seven in nineteen or eleven in thirty. All these values are in agreement with the cycle of the seasons which requires on average an addition of one month every 33 or 34 months.
Some writers have suggested that the first intercalation doubled the first month Muharram, then on the next adjustment the second month Safar was doubled, continuing until the intercalation had passed through all twelve months of the year and returned to Muharram, when it was repeated. This is explained by one scholar as the writer simply explaining the intercalated calendar in terms of the fixed calendar, which his readers were familiar with. The Qu'ran makes it clear that in intercalary years the number of months was expanded from its usual twelve (see next section). It is affirmed that the divinely ordained number of the months is twelve.
What dates we can fix confirm this picture. Traditionally Muhammad was born in the spring of the year of the elephant (AD 570) on Monday, 12 Rabi'I. This would equate to 2 June, making Muharram equal to Nisan. In the year of the Hejira (AD 622) Muhammad traditionally left Mecca on Sunday night, the start of 24 Safar. This equates to Sunday, 9 May and points to Muharram starting on 18 March, again equivalent to Nisan. He entered Medina traditionally on Monday, 8 Rabi'I (24 May). There he found the Jews observing an important holy day. From the reference to Moses and the Exodus  this holy day can be identified with the Feast of Weeks, which is observed on the sixth and seventh days of the third Jewish month. Muhammad's son Ibrahim was traditionally born in Dhu al - Hijjah, the twelfth month, which was the month of the pilgrimage, in AD 630. He is believed to have died in AD 632, possibly at the age of one year ten months and six days or one year ten months and eight days. The date of his death coincided with a solar eclipse. This fixes the date, 29 Shawwal AH 10, as 27 January. With no intercalation the following Muharram corresponds to Nisan, and also Muharram in the present calendar, that being the end of intercalation in the Islamic calendar.
Muhammad prohibiting Nasī’. Found in an illustrated copy of Al-Bīrūnī's The Remaining Signs of Past Centuries (17th-century copy of an early 14th-century Ilkhanidmanuscript).
In the tenth year of the Hijra, as documented in the Qur'an (Sura At-Tawba (9):36–37), God revealed the "prohibition of the Nasī’".
The number of the months, with God, is twelve in the Book of God, the day that He created the heavens and the earth; four of them are sacred. That is the right religion. So wrong not each other during them. And fight the unbelievers totally even as they fight you totally and know that God is with the godfearing. Know that intercalation (nasi) is an addition to disbelief. Those who disbelieve are led to error thereby, making it lawful in one year and forbidden in another in order to adjust the number of (the months) made sacred by God and make the sacred ones permissible. The evil of their course appears pleasing to them. But God gives no guidance to those who disbelieve.
— Sura 9 ("At-Tawba"), ayat 36–37
The prohibition of Nasī’ would presumably have been announced when the intercalated month had returned to its position just before the month of Nasi' began. If Nasī’ meant intercalation, then the number and the position of the intercalary months between 1 AH and 10 AH are uncertain; Western calendar dates commonly cited for key events in early Islam such as the Hijra, the Battle of Badr, the Battle of Uhud and the Battle of the Trench, should be viewed with caution as they might be in error by one, two or even three lunar months. This prohibition was mentioned by Muhammad during the farewell sermon which was delivered on 9 Dhu al-Hijjah 10 AH (Julian date Friday 6 March, AD 632) on Mount Arafat during the farewell pilgrimage to Mecca.
Certainly the Nasi’ is an impious addition, which has led the infidels into error. One year they authorise the Nasi’, another year they forbid it. They observe the divine precept with respect to the number of the sacred months, but in fact they profane that which God has declared to be inviolable, and sanctify that which God has declared to be profane. Assuredly time, in its revolution, has returned to such as it was at the creation of the heavens and the earth. In the eyes of God the number of the months is twelve. Among these twelve months four are sacred, namely, Rajab, which stands alone, and three others which are consecutive.
— Translated by Sherrard Beaumont Burnaby
The three successive sacred (forbidden) months mentioned by Prophet Muhammad (months in which battles are forbidden) are Dhu al-Qa‘dah, Dhu al-Hijjah, and Muharram, months 11, 12, and 1. The single forbidden month is Rajab, month 7. These months were considered forbidden both within the new Islamic calendar and within the old pagan Meccan calendar.
In pre-Islamic Arabia, it was customary to identify a year after a major event which took place in it. Thus, according to Islamic tradition, Abraha, governor of Yemen, then a province of the Christian Kingdom of Aksum (Ethiopia), attempted to destroy the Kaaba with an army which included several elephants. The raid was unsuccessful, but that year became known as the Year of the Elephant, during which Muhammad was born (sura al-Fil). Most equate this to the year AD 570, but a minority use AD 571.
The first ten years of the Hijra were not numbered, but were named after events in the life of Muhammad according to Abū Rayḥān al-Bīrūnī:
1. The year of permission.
2. The year of the order of fighting.
3. The year of the trial.
4. The year of congratulation on marriage.
5. The year of the earthquake.
6. The year of enquiring.
7. The year of gaining victory.
8. The year of equality.
9. The year of exemption.
10. The year of farewell.
In AD 638 (17 AH), Abu Musa Ashaari, one of the officials of the Caliph Umar in Basrah, complained about the absence of any years on the correspondence he received from Umar, making it difficult for him to determine which instructions were most recent. This report convinced Umar of the need to introduce an era for Muslims. After debating the issue with his counsellors, he decided that the first year should include the date of Muhammad's arrival at Medina (known as Yathrib, before Muhammad's arrival). Uthman ibn Affan then suggested that the months begin with Muharram, in line with the established custom of the Arabs at that time. The years of the Islamic calendar thus began with the month of Muharram in the year of Muhammad's arrival at the city of Medina, even though the actual emigration took place in Safar and Rabi' I. Because of the Hijra, the calendar was named the Hijra calendar.
The first day of the first month of the Islamic calendar (1 Muharram 1 AH) was set to the first new moon after the day the Prophet moved from Quba' to Medina (originally 26 Rabi' I on the pre-Islamic calendar) i.e., Friday, 16 July AD 622, the equivalent civil tabular date (same daylight period) in the Julian calendar. The Islamic day began at the preceding sunset on the evening of 15 July. This Julian date (16 July) was determined by medieval Muslim astronomers by projecting back in time their own tabular Islamic calendar, which had alternating 30- and 29-day months in each lunar year plus eleven leap days every 30 years. For example, al-Biruni mentioned this Julian date in the year AD 1000. Although not used by either medieval Muslim astronomers or modern scholars to determine the Islamic epoch, the thin crescent moon would have also first become visible (assuming clouds did not obscure it) shortly after the preceding sunset on the evening of 15 July, 1.5 days after the associated dark moon (astronomical new moon) on the morning of 14 July.
Though Cook and Crone in Hagarism: The Making of the Islamic World cite a coin from 17 AH, the first surviving attested use of a Hijri calendar date alongside a date in another calendar (Coptic) is on a papyrus from Egypt in 22 AH, PERF 558.
The Islamic calendar is not to be confused with a lunar calendar that is based on astronomical calculations. The latter is based on a year of 12 months adding up to 354.37 days. Each lunar month begins at the time of the monthly "conjunction", when the Moon is located on a straight line between the Earth and the Sun. The month is defined as the average duration of a revolution of the Moon around the Earth (29.53 days). By convention, months of 30 days and 29 days succeed each other, adding up over two successive months to 59 full days. This leaves only a small monthly variation of 44 minutes to account for, which adds up to a total of 24 hours (i.e., the equivalent of one full day) in 2.73 years. To settle accounts, it is sufficient to add one day every three years to the lunar calendar, in the same way that one adds one day to the Gregorian calendar every four years. The technical details of the adjustment are described in Tabular Islamic calendar.
The Islamic calendar, however, is based on a different set of conventions. Each month has either 29 or 30 days, but usually in no discernible order. Traditionally, the first day of each month is the day (beginning at sunset) of the first sighting of the hilal (crescent moon) shortly after sunset. If the hilal is not observed immediately after the 29th day of a month (either because clouds block its view or because the western sky is still too bright when the moon sets), then the day that begins at that sunset is the 30th. Such a sighting has to be made by one or more trustworthy men testifying before a committee of Muslim leaders. Determining the most likely day that the hilal could be observed was a motivation for Muslim interest in astronomy, which put Islam in the forefront of that science for many centuries.
This traditional practice is still followed in the overwhelming majority of Muslim countries. Each Islamic state proceeds with its own monthly observation of the new moon (or, failing that, awaits the completion of 30 days) before declaring the beginning of a new month on its territory. But, the lunar crescent becomes visible only some 17 hours after the conjunction, and only subject to the existence of a number of favourable conditions relative to weather, time, geographic location, as well as various astronomical parameters.Given the fact that the moon sets progressively later than the sun as one goes west, with a corresponding increase in its "age" since conjunction, Western Muslim countries may, under favorable conditions, observe the new moon one day earlier than eastern Muslim countries. Due to the interplay of all these factors, the beginning of each month differs from one Muslim country to another, during the 48 h period following the conjunction. The information provided by the calendar in any country does not extend beyond the current month.
A number of Muslim countries try to overcome some of these difficulties by applying different astronomy-related rules to determine the beginning of months. Thus, Malaysia,Indonesia, and a few others begin each month at sunset on the first day that the moon sets after the sun (moonset after sunset). In Egypt, the month begins at sunset on the first day that the moon sets at least five minutes after the sun. A detailed analysis of the available data shows, however, that there are major discrepancies between what countries say they do on this subject, and what they actually do. In some instances, what a country says it does is impossible.
If the Islamic calendar were prepared using astronomical calculations, Muslims throughout the Muslim world could use it to meet all their needs, the way they use the Gregorian calendar today. But, there are divergent views on whether it is licit to do so.
A majority of theologians oppose the use of calculations (beyond the constraint that each month must be not less than 29 nor more than 30 days) on the grounds that the latter would not conform with Muhammad's recommendation to observe the new moon of Ramadan and Shawal in order to determine the beginning of these months.
However, some jurists see no contradiction between Muhammad's teachings and the use of calculations to determine the beginnings of lunar months. They consider that Muhammad's recommendation was adapted to the culture of the times, and should not be confused with the acts of worship.
Thus the jurists Ahmad Muhammad Shakir and Yusuf al-Qaradawi both endorsed the use of calculations to determine the beginning of all months of the Islamic calendar, in 1939 and 2004 respectively. So did the Fiqh Council of North America (FCNA) in 2006 and the European Council for Fatwa and Research (ECFR) in 2007.
The major Muslim associations of France also announced in 2012 that they would henceforth use a calendar based on astronomical calculations, taking into account the criteria of the possibility of crescent sighting in any place on Earth. But, shortly after the official adoption of this rule by the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM) in 2013, the new leadership of the association decided, on the eve of Ramadan 2013, to follow the Saudi announcement rather than to apply the rule just adopted. This resulted in a division of the Muslim community of France, with some members following the new rule, and others following the Saudi announcement.
Fatimid Dawoodi Bohra follow the tabular Islamic calendar (see section below) prepared on the basis of astronomical calculations from the days of Fatimid imams.
Astronomical 12-moon calendars
Islamic calendar of Turkey
Turkish Muslims use an Islamic calendar which is calculated several years in advance (currently up to 1444 AH/2022 CE) by the Turkish Presidency of Religious Affairs (Diyanet İşleri Başkanlığı). From 1 Muharrem 1400 AH (21 November 1979) until 29 Zilhicce 1435 (24 October 2014) the computed Turkish lunar calendar was based on the following rule: "The lunar month is assumed to begin on the evening when, within some region of the terrestrial globe, the computed centre of the lunar crescent at local sunset is more than 5° above the local horizon and (geocentrically) more than 8° from the Sun." In the current rule the (computed) lunar crescent has to be above the local horizon of Ankara at sunset.
Saudi Arabia's Umm al-Qura calendar
Saudi Arabia uses the sighting method to determine the beginning of each month of the Hijri calendar. Since AH 1419 (1998/99) several official hilal sighting committees have been set up by the government to determine the first visual sighting of the lunar crescent at the beginning of each lunar month. Nevertheless, the religious authorities also allow the testimony of less experienced observers and thus often announce the sighting of the lunar crescent on a date when none of the official committees could see it.
The country also uses the Umm al-Qura calendar, based on astronomical calculations, but this is restricted to administrative purposes. The parameters used in the establishment of this calendar underwent significant changes over the past decade.
Before AH 1420 (before 18 April 1999), if the moon's age at sunset in Riyadh was at least 12 hours, then the day ending at that sunset was the first day of the month. This often caused the Saudis to celebrate holy days one or even two days before other predominantly Muslim countries, including the dates for the Hajj, which can only be dated using Saudi dates because it is performed in Mecca.
For AH 1420–22, if moonset occurred after sunset at Mecca, then the day beginning at that sunset was the first day of a Saudi month, essentially the same rule used by Malaysia, Indonesia, and others (except for the location from which the hilal was observed).
Since the beginning of AH 1423 (16 March 2002), the rule has been clarified a little by requiring the geocentric conjunction of the sun and moon to occur before sunset, in addition to requiring moonset to occur after sunset at Mecca. This ensures that the moon has moved past the sun by sunset, even though the sky may still be too bright immediately before moonset to actually see the crescent.
In 2007, the Islamic Society of North America, the Fiqh Council of North America and the European Council for Fatwa and Research announced that they will henceforth use a calendar based on calculations using the same parameters as the Umm al-Qura calendar to determine (well in advance) the beginning of all lunar months (and therefore the days associated with all religious observances). This was intended as a first step on the way to unify, at some future time, Muslims' calendars throughout the world.
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