Muharram The First Month Of Islamic Calendar

Muharram the first month of Islamic Calendar – Brief analysis of the historical overview of the Islamic calendar.

This short article outlines the significance and evolution of the Islamic calendar, highlighting the considerations and decisions made during its establishment on the time of Caliph Umar (RA).

As mentioned in Surah Yunus (10:5)

اللَّهُ الَّذِي جَعَلَ الشَّمْسَ ضِيَاءً وَالْقَمَرَ نُورًا وَقَدَّرَهُ مَنَازِلَ لِتَعْلَمُوا عَدَدَ السِّنِينَ وَالْحِسَابَ ۚ مَا خَلَقَ اللَّهُ ذَٰلِكَ إِلَّا بِالْحَقِّ ۚ يُفَصِّلُ الْآيَاتِ لِقَوْمٍ يَعْلَمُونَ

“It is He who made the sun a shining light and the moon a derived light and determined for it phases – that you may know the number of years and account (of time). Allah has not created this except in truth. He details the signs for a people who know.” Surah Yunus (10:5)

During Pre-Islamic Arab Society:

  • Before Islam, Arabs did not have a system to count years; they only named months, similar to the current Islamic months.
  • Significant events were used to mark years, such as the Year of the Elephant (‘Aam al-Fil), when an army with elephants attacked Mecca from Yemen.

During the Time of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH):

  • The method of counting years was continued from pre-Islamic times.
  • The names of the months, such as Zulhijjah for pilgrimage and Ramadan for fasting, were retained.
  • The sacred months (Rejab, Zulkaedah, Zulhijjah, and Muharram) were observed as per the command in Surah at-Taubah: 36.

إِنَّ عِدَّةَ الشُّهُورِ عِندَ اللَّهِ اثْنَا عَشَرَ شَهْرًا فِي كِتَابِ اللَّهِ يَوْمَ خَلَقَ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضَ مِنْهَا أَرْبَعَةٌ حُرُمٌ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ الدِّينُ الْقَيِّمُ ۚ فَلَا تَظْلِمُوا فِيهِنَّ أَنْفُسَكُمْ وَقَاتِلُوا الْمُشْرِكِينَ كَافَّةً كَمَا يُقَاتِلُونَكُمْ كَافَّةً ۚ وَاعْلَمُوا أَنَّ اللَّهَ مَعَ الْمُتَّقِينَ

“Indeed, the number of months with Allah is twelve [lunar] months in the register of Allah from the day He created the heavens and the earth; of these, four are sacred. That is the correct religion, so do not wrong yourselves during them. And fight against the disbelievers collectively as they fight against you collectively. And know that Allah is with the righteous [who fear Him].” Surah at-Taubah: 36.

Introduction of the Islamic Calendar under Caliph Umar (RA):

  • The Islamic calendar was introduced in 638 AD, 17 years after the Hijrah, during the rule of the second Caliph, Umar ibn al-Khattab.
  • The need for a formal calendar arose due to confusion from undated letters.
  • After discussions, it was decided to start the Islamic calendar from the year of the Hijrah (migration of Prophet Muhammad from Mecca to Medina).
  • There was a debate on which month to begin the calendar with. Ramadan was considered but eventually, Muharram was chosen because it is the month that follows after the Hajj season and is one of the sacred months (as mentioned in the Quran)

Overall Account of the Calendar’s Establishment: According to Imam Ibn Kathir in his book Al-Bidayah wa al-Nihayah, a man suggested to Caliph Umar to establish a dating system(Tarikh) similar to non-Arabs. After consultations, it was agreed to start from the Hijrah year and Muharram as the first month.

Wallahu a’lam. Allah knows best.

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