Tuesday, July 16, 2013

This Day in History: Jul 16, 622: The beginning of the Islamic calendar.


The Islamic calendar, Muslim calendar or Hijri calendar (AH)[1][2] is a lunar calendar consisting of 12 months in a year of 354 or 355 days.

File:Inscription of years by A.H.&A.D. eras.jpg

It is used to date events in many Muslim countries (concurrently with the Gregorian calendar), and used by Muslims everywhere to determine the proper days on which to observe the annual fast (see Ramadan), 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 the Islamic Prophet Muhammad from Mecca 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),[3] hence, Muslims typically call their calendar the Hijri calendar.


The current Islamic year is 1434 AH. In the Gregorian calendar 1434 AH runs from approximately 14 November 2012 (evening) to 4 November 2013 (evening).


 File:Scenes in the procession at the Mohurrum festival.jpg

Four of the twelve Hijri months are considered sacred, although there is disagreement over the designated months, such as between proponents for the sequences {7,11,12,1} vs. {12,1,2,3}.[4] The twelve Hijri months are named as follows in Arabic:[5]
  1. Muḥarramالمحرّم, "forbidden" — so called because battle was set aside (haram) during this month. Muharram includes the Day of Ashura.
  2. Ṣafarصفر, "void" — supposedly named because pagan Arabs looted during this month and left the houses empty.
  3. Rabīʿ I (Rabīʿ al-Awwal) — ربيع الأوّل, "the first spring".
  4. Rabīʿ II (Rabīʿ ath-Thānī or Rabīʿ al-Ākhir) — ربيع الثاني or ربيع الآخر, "the second (or last) spring".
  5. Jumādā I (Jumādā al-Ūlā) — جمادى الأولى, "the first month of parched land". Often considered the pre-Islamic "summer".
  6. Jumādā II (Jumādā ath-Thāniya or Jumādā al-Ākhira) — جمادى الثانية or جمادى الآخرة, "the second (or last) month of parched land".
  7. Rajabرجب, "respect" or "honor". This is another sacred month in which fighting was traditionally forbidden.
  8. Shaʿbānشعبان, "scattered", marking the time of year when Arab tribes dispersed to find water.
  9. Ramaḍānرمضان, "scorched". Ramadan is the most venerated month of the Hijri calendar during which Muslims have to fast from dawn till sunset and honoring the poor people with something a brother or a sister needs within his or her society.
  10. Shawwālشوّال, "raised", as she-camels normally would be in calf at this time of year.
  11. Dhū al-Qaʿdaذو القعدة, "the one of truce". Dhu al-Qa'da was another month during which war was banned.
  12. Dhū al-Ḥijjaذو الحجّة, "the one of pilgrimage", referring to the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, the Hajj.

Days of the week

In Arabic, as in Hebrew, the "first day" of the week corresponds with Sunday of the planetary week. The Islamic and Jewish weekdays begin at sunset, whereas the medieval Christian and planetary weekdays begin at the following midnight.[6] The Christian liturgical day, however, kept in monasteries, begins with vespers (see vesper), which is evening, in line with the other Abrahamic traditions. Muslims gather for worship at a mosque at noon on "gathering day" (Yaum al-Jumu‘ah, yawm يوم means ‘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) or Thursday and Friday (e.g. Saudi Arabia) as official weekends, during which offices are closed; other countries (e.g. Iran) choose to make Friday alone a day of rest, and few others (e.g. Turkey) adopted the Western Saturday-Sunday weekend while making Friday a working day with a long midday break to allow time off for worship.

File:Al Azhar, Egypt.jpg

Pre-Islamic calendar

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 pagan Arabs.[7]


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, Dhū al-Qiʿda, Dhū al-Ḥijja, and Muḥarram. 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 Nasīʾ, a word that literally means "postponement".[7] According to Muslim tradition, the decision of postponement was administered by the tribe of Kinanah,[8] by a man known as the al-Qalammas of Kinanah and his descendants (pl. qalāmisa).[9]

File:Qur'anic Manuscript - 3 - Hijazi script.jpg

Different interpretations of the concept of Nasīʾ have been proposed.[10] Some scholars, both Muslim[11][12] and Western,[7][8] 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, Nasīʾ is related to the Pagan 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.[13] It is also corroborated by an early Sabaic inscription, where a religious ritual was "postponed" (ns'ʾw) due to war. According to the context of this inscription, the verb ns'ʾ 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-calendering postponement is also the Qur'anic meaning of Nasīʾ.[7] Thus the Encyclopaedia of Islam concludes that the "The Arabic system of [Nasīʾ] 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."[14]

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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 month added 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,[9][15] al-Mas'udi, and some Western scholars.[16] This interpretation considers Nasīʾ to be a synonym to the Arabic word for "intercalation" (kabīsa). It also suggests that every second or third year the beginning of the year was postponed by one month. The intercalation doubled the month of the pilgrimage, that is, the month of the pilgrimage and the following month were given the same name, postponing the names and the sanctity of all subsequent months in the year by one. The first intercalation doubled the first month Muharram, then three years later 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. The Arabs, according to one explanation mentioned by Abu Ma'shar, learned of this type of intercalation from the Jews.[8][9][15]


Prohibiting Nasīʾ

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