The Muslim Calendar

For an Islamic country, surprisingly most Bruneians will have difficulty if we are asked what is the Islamic date today. I am proud to say that I can tell you what it is but then I have to confess, I check the calendar every morning so that I can put the correct dates on all the letters and memos that come my way for signature. A couple of months back I wrote two pieces on the origin of days' names, one based on the Gregorian calendar (today's calendar) and another on the origin of Islamic days' names. Today the post is about the origin of the months' names in the Muslim Calendar.

The Muslim Calendar, of course is based on the Arabic calendar, actually has all the names long before Islam. Most of the names of the months are actually based on the climate at the time or big event which took place. Today's calendar is about 11 days shorter than the Gregorian calendar which is based on the solar cycle, so months usualy shift. In the pre-Islamic days, the Arabic calendar was a lunisolar calendar which used both the lunar months, but was also synchronized with the seasons by the insertion of an additional month known as an intercalary month. This the reason why the names of the months using the seasons come from. Of course now that the calendar is purely lunarcycle, the names do not follow the seasons anymore.

MUHARRAM - is the first month. This month's name is taken from the word "Haram" which means forbidden. There was a custom in Arabia which forbade fighting during this month. It is one of the four sanctified months of the year. Fighting in this month is looked down upon and is often put to the side in respect for Islam. Muslims fast on the tenth day because Adam and Eve, heaven and hell, life and death, fate and the pen were created on this day.

SAFAR - literally means ‘the void month’. The origin of this word has two theories: the first says that when the pagan Arabs went on their looting expeditions they would leave their houses empty or ‘sifr’ meaning void. The second theory says that the word is derived form the Arabic word for yellow called ‘sufr’: as when it was first named it fell in the time of autumn, hence the derivation the word yellow as all the leaves at that time turned yellow. It is held to be the unluckiest month of the calendar, as in this month Adam was turned out of the Garden of Eden. A third meaning is "whistling of the wind". When this name was assigned to this month, it was probably a windy time of the year (hence, Autumn).

RABIUL-AWAL - literally means the first month of spring. It seems it was spring time when the name was given.

RABIUL-AKHIR - literally means the last month of spring. Some Arabs also know this Rabiul Thani which means the second month of spring.

JAMADIL-AWAL - The first month of summer. "Jumada" means dry and the word Jumda, from which the name of the month is derived, is used to denote dry parched land: land devoid of rain, and hence denote the dry months.

JAMADIL-AKHIR or JAMADA ATHANIA - The last or second month of summer.

RAJAB - Another one of the sacred months in which fighting was forbidden prior to Islam. This was one of the most respected months for the Arabs. It is also called Rajab al Fard. Fard means alone; because the other three sacred months come one after another, except this month. The lexical definition of Rajaba is "to respect", which is where the word Rajab has been derived from and so Rajab denotes ‘the honoured month’.

SYA'BAN - This month's name was derived from the word "shu'ba", which means branch. The Arabs used to branch out during this month to look for water. This is the month of ‘separation’ or branching, so called because the pagan Arabs used to disperse in search of water. On the fifteenth night of this month falls the Shab-i-Barat: ‘The Night of Records’; on this night Muhammad told his followers that the Al-Mighty records all the deeds that the humans have to perform for the next year.

RAMADAN - The word Ramadan is derived from the word ramd "to burn" and ramda means hot stones. This tells us that when this name was given, it was a very hot time of the year. The entire month is spent fasting from dawn to dusk. The name came from the time before the Islamic calendar, when the month of Ramadan fell in the summer. Fasting during this month is often thought to figuratively burn away all sins. The Qur'an was sent down to the earth during this month. Furthermore, the gates of Heaven would be open all the month and the gates of Hell would be closed.

SHAWWAL - Shawwal means ‘tail’; so named because of the fact the she camels, after being with their young for seven to eight months, start to raise their tails. Also 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.

ZULQAEDAH - The Arabic word "qa'ada" means to sit and another derivation of the word is ‘Master of Truce’ as the pagan Arabs did not conduct war during this month. This is the third sacred month in which fighting was forbidden. The people also used to stop their business activities during this month and sit and prepare for the Hajj (Pilgrimage).

ZULHIJJAH - literally means ‘Lord of the Pilgrimage’. It is during this month that pilgrims from all around the world congregate at Mecca to visit the Ka’ba.This is the last sacred month in which fighting was forbidden. This is the month in which the Hajj (Pilgrimage to Mecca) was performed.


Zul-Fadly said…
Good morning Mr BR. Nice post today about the Islamic Calender with Ramadhan just around the corner.
Anonymous said…
no wonder it's always hot around the fasting month.
Anonymous said…
i am abit curious.. almost every year we celebrate raya or ramadhan one or two days after people in msia. tapi nda jua drifting our islamic calendar ani.. like logically, after 10 years we should be like at least 10 days apart from each other. macamanakan tu? (excuse my bahasa rojak)
Anonymous said…
can u imagine all the Muslims in countries yang puasa during summer time? masa ani ok pulang tapi boleh jadi 4am to 9pm tu.. i'm sure ada org kitani parnah merasa pulang tu tabah saja
Anonymous said…
Hey what a coincidence. I was just explaining my oz friends about the coming Ramadhan and the rest of the Muslim calendar.

Now, I'll just direct them to this blog. Expect to get more visitors Mr. BR.

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