For religious purposes, Muslims record time according to an Islamic calendar called the Hijrah calendar (abbreviated as A.H. or simply H.). This calendar came into use during the caliphate of Omar in 638 C.E., as an alternative to Christian-based or other calendar systems. In the Islamic calendar, time is counted from the migration (hijrah) of the early Muslim community from Mecca to Madinah in 622 C.E. This event was considered so momentous in Islamic history that Muslims mark it on the calendar as “year zero.” The subsequent passing of time is then related to that event. For example, the year 2008 C.E. corresponds to the year 1429 h.
The Islamic calendar makes use of the lunar cycles to track time. The beginning of each month is marked by the first sighting of the waxing crescent moon and ends with the sighting of the next month’s crescent moon. The 12-month lunar year, then, is approximately 11 days shorter than the solar calendar year. Thus, the Islamic months fall in different seasons over time. The Islamic year and the solar calendar year do not necessarily correspond to each other, and there has been no interest among Muslims to “fix” the calendar to any other system.
The Muslim calendar is based on lunar period because in ancient times people use to consider and estimate time with the help of moon cycle. Not for prayers timings, but to measure days and nights the lunar period was considered. This was the reason the Islamic calendar prepared on the basis of lunar period.
Establishment of the Islamic calendar:
The Islamic calendar was first prepared in the caliphate period of Caliph Hazrat Omar R.A in 638 C.E. it is also called as the Hijri Calendar due to its preparation after the Hijrat (emigration) of Hazrat Muhammad towards Madina. The history of Islamic or Hijri calendar is as older as the history of Azaan (call to prayer). The first day of this calendar was started on the first day of Hijra towards Madina.
Importance of Islamic calendar
As mentioned above, the Islamic calendar is based on the lunar period rather than the solar one; there is no bound of seasons and weather conditions in Islamic calendar cycle. The prayer timings however followed through the solar cycle but the days and nights are followed by lunar cycle. According to Islamic calendar, the next date starts or alters from the Maghreb or sunset time of each day while in solar calendar it starts from the 12 am each night. This is a major difference between both of the calendars. Muslims celebrate their festivals according to Islamic calendar and each festival date starts right after the Maghreb (sunset) time.
Following the Islamic calendar is necessary for Muslims because Hazrat Muhammad PBUH recommended this for Muslims. According to lunar cycle we can estimate and consider the days and nights in a better way. However, as we see today the Islamic calendar is only used for Islamic festivals while we should follow it properly like china do not follow the other calendars than their own animal one. We can keep our Islamic culture alive by following our trends and ways of life.
Muslims consider it a blessing that the Islamic months fall in various seasons of the year. The fasting month of Ramadan; therefore, sometimes falls during long summer days and sometimes during shorter winter days. Since Muslims are located in both the northern and southern hemispheres, this assures that everyone participates evenly in the fast throughout their lifetimes.
In the Islamic year, there are 12 months of either 29 or 30 days each. They are:
- Rabia Awal
- Rabia Thani
- Jumaada Awal
- Jumaada Thani
Within the months, each day begins with the setting of the sun. What we call “Monday” would actually be counted from sunset on Sunday evening to sunset on Monday evening.
The Qur’an describes the calendar system as follows: “The number of months in the sight of Allah is twelve (in a year); so ordained by Him the day He created the heavens and the earth. Of them, four are sacred. That is the straight usage.” (Qur’an 9:36).
The “Forbidden Months”
In ancient Arab culture, there were traditionally four months during which the tribes agreed to an amnesty on any ongoing fighting. During the months of Muharram, Rajab, Dhul-Qi’dah, and Dhul-Hijjah, any battles were to be automatically suspended to allow for trade and travel in the area. This tradition was upheld in Islam, and these four months are called the “forbidden months.” However, if only one side observes the automatic truce, and the other side continues fighting, the party observing the truce is obliged to defend itself.
While the Islamic calendar seems quite straightforward, Muslims disagree on aspects of its use in the modern world. Virtually all Muslims would argue for keeping the basic structure of the Islamic calendar, as it is mentioned in the Qur’an and plays an important role in scheduling religious practice. However, there are differences in opinion in how one may go about determining the beginning and end of each Islamic month.
Reference: netplaces.com Muslim sections