The Origin of the Islamic Calendar

The Origin of the Islamic Calendar
Questions & Answers, The Islamic Calendar

The Origin of the Islamic Calendar

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  • masjidmuhammad
  • Aug 17, 2021

The most common opinion is that the beginning of the Islamic Calendar was decided during the time of ʿUmar .1
Shāʿ’bi and Muḥammad ibn Sirīn mention, on one occasion Abū Mūsā’ al-Ashʿarī wrote a letter to ʿUmar, during the time when he was the Amīr al-Mu’minīn – ‘The Commander of the Faithful’. In the letter, he mentioned that ʿUmar’s letters reach him, but there are no dates on the letters.
In the 17th year of Hijrah, ʿUmar gathered the Companions to discuss how to set a date, in other words, how to fix the Islamic Calendar.

The First Year

The first point of discussion was when should the Islamic Calendar start, i.e., what should be the first year. Some of the opinions were as follows:
• From the birth of Rasūlullāh
• From the time Rasūlullāh received Prophethood

• From the time of the Hijrah – Migration to Madīnah.
• From the demise of Rasūlullāh

Regarding setting the date from Rasūlullāh’s birth, ʿUmar didn’t like this opinion as this would resemble the way of the Naṣārah, the Christians, as their calendar starts from when they believe ʿĪsā was born.
Regarding setting the date from Rasūlullāh’s demise,

ʿUmar did not prefer this opinion either, as the demise of Rasūlullāh was a blow to the Ummah. Therefore, it would not be appropriate to mark the start of the calendar with this event.

After the discussion, ʿUmar came to the decision that the start of the Islamic Calendar should be from the Hijrah – when Rasūlullāh migrated from Makkah to Madīnah. The reason behind this choice was that the Hijrah marked the time when the difference between falsehood and truth, Ḥaqq and Bāṭil became established and it was the beginning of the rise and honour of Islām. All of the Companions agreed with his opinion.

The First month

Now that the first year had been determined, how will they decide which month should be the first in the Islamic Calendar?

If analogical reasoning was used, the first month should be Rabīʿ al-Awwal, as this was the month in which Rasūlullāh (S.A.W) migrated to the blessed city of Madīnah. However, the actual intention for migration was made by Rasūlullāh in the month of Muḥarram.

In the 13th year of Prophethood, the Anṣār (Muslims from Madīnah) had taken the pledge of allegiance with Rasūlullāh on the 10th of Dhul Ḥijjah, which is the day of Eid. At the end of the month of Dhul Ḥijjah, the Anṣār returned to Madīnah after completing the rituals of Ḥajj.

A few days later, in the month of Muḥarram, Rasūlullāhmade the intention to migrate to Madīnah and gave permission to the Companions to also migrate. Therefore, it was decided that the first month of the Islamic Calendar should be Muḥarram.

This was the opinion which both ʿUthmān and ʿAlī gave to ʿUmar. Other Companions suggested that the year should start with the month of Ramaḍān, however, ʿUmar said it should be the month of Muḥarram, as this is the month in which the pilgrims return from Ḥajj. All the Companions agreed to this decision.

reference:

1 Sīrate Muṣtafā p228

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