Many people will not be aware that we have entered the new Hijri year 1436. Had this been the first day of the Gregorian calendar every one of us would have known about it and some may have even celebrated it. This reflects the fact that we have become detached from our faith-based heritage. Many Muslims are oblivious to the Hijri calendar, such that most are unaware of what lunar year or month we are currently in. Most of our children are unaware of the names of the Arabic months let alone able to name them in the correct order.
The concern is not with regards to celebrating the new Hijri year, as we do not ‘celebrate’ any day except the two Eids – ʿEid ul-Ad’ha and ʿEid ul-Fitr. Rather, it is a matter of being connected and aware of the Islamic emblems. It is a matter that links this ummah to its root and heritage. Three of the pillars of Islām are carried out according to the Islamic calendar: Zakāh, fasting and the Ḥajj.
A Muslim is obliged to calculate his or her wealth and the zakāt payable at the same time every Islamic year (that is when the person’s hawl comes to an end), and thus, it is highly significant for an individual to know what consists of a complete Hijri year. The new moon being sighted for the ninth month of the Hijri calendar is an indication for Muslims to begin fasting. Consequently, it is regarded important for a Muslim to be aware of the Hijri calendar and the debate on the subject of the new moon. Similarly, Ḥajj occurs during the twelfth Hijri month: Dhu’l-Hijjah. Allāh says in the Qur’ān,
They ask you about the new moons. Say: These are signs to mark fixed periods of time for mankind and for the pilgrimage.
The Ḥajj [pilgrimage] is [in] the well-known months.
In addition to these pillars, there are a number of other Islamic activities and practices that should be implemented in accordance with the Islamic Calendar. Allāh says,
Verily, the number of months with Allāh is twelve months [in a year], so was it ordained by Allāh on the Day when He created the heavens and the earth; of them four are Sacred.
In his exegetical work Al-Qurtubi said about this verse that “on the Day when He created the heavens and the earth” demonstrates that His ordainment was even before the act of creating the heavens and earth, and He calculated these months, named and ordered them on that day. He revealed the knowledge of this ordainment to Prophets in the form of revelation. This is the meaning of “the number of months with Allāh is twelve months (in a year)” – its ordainment is everlasting. Al-Qurtubi went on to say that this verse indicates that the laws of worship and other things pertain to months and years as understood by the Arabs rather than months as understood by non-Arabs, the Romans and the Copts, even if their months do not extend beyond twelve months.
It is narrated from Abū Bakr (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhu) that the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said,
The division of time has turned to its original form which was in existence the day Allāh created the heavens and earth. The year consists of twelve months of which four are sacred: three consecutive months, Dhu’l-Qa’dah, Dhu’l-Hijjah and Muharram, and Rajab of Mudhar which comes between Jumada and Sha’ban.
The first month of the Hijri year, Muharram, is a sacred month which has a number of virtues. It has been narrated from the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) that after Ramaḍān, the most rewarding time to fast is in the month of Muharram. It was narrated that Abū Hurairah (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhu) said, “The Messenger of Allāh (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said: ‘The best fasts after Ramaḍān is the month of Allāh – Muharram, and the best prayer after the obligatory prayer is prayer at night.'
The Prophet called this month the month of Allāh as an indication of its great status. However, it is evident that the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) did not fast any month completely except Ramaḍān. Thus the hadīth encourages fasting regularly in the month of Muharram and not an indication to fast the entire month.
The ʿiddah of a female widow is four lunar months and ten days. The ʿiddah of a woman who does not see a period due to age is three lunar months. Allāh tells us in the Qur’ān,
And those of your women as have passed the age of monthly courses, for them the ʿiddah (prescribed period), if you have doubts [about their periods], is three months, and for those who have no courses their ʿiddah is three months likewise, except in the case of death.
If the signs of bulūgh (puberty) within an individual are absent, the age of the person so as to ascertain the attainment of bulūgh is calculated according to the Hijri calendar and not the Gregorian one. The kaffarah (expiation) for sexual intercourse during Ramaḍān, zihār, and killing by mistake, is fasting two Islamic months consecutively which are between 29 and 30 days. It was narrated from Ibn ʿUmar (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhu) that the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said,
We are an unlettered nation, we do not write or calculate. The month is such-and-such or such-and-such – meaning sometimes it is twenty-nine and sometimes it is thirty.
Some practical steps to propagate the use of the Hijri calendar
Firstly, we have to realise that Islām itself propagates the Hijri calendar. We are able to carry out various practices according to the Sunnah of the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) through the use of the Islamic calendar. Moreover, we have to ensure that we use the Islamic calendar for all of our Islamic activities. Our mosques should have facilities that digitally display both the Hijri and Gregorian calendars. In addition to this, we should also display wall calendars. Families can play an important role by reminding their children of the importance of certain Hijri dates in the life of a Muslim.
Is it permissible to congratulate others on the new Hijri year?
The matter is flexible as there is no textual evidence to prohibit this action nor to allow it. However, it should not become a regular habit as it was not a practice of the Companions of the Prophet.
It is He Who made the sun a shining thing and the moon as a light and measured out their stages that you might know the number of years and the reckoning. Allāh did not create this but in truth. He explains the signs in detail for people who have knowledge.
According to exegetes, the main function of the sun is that it is a source of light whereas the moon is an object that is utilised to determine the Islamic year.
Originally posted on 28 November 2011
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Notes: Al-Qur’ān 2:189  Al-Qur’ān 2:197  Al-Qur’ān 9:36  al-Bukhārī and Muslim  Muslim  Al-Qur’ān 65:4  al-Bukhārī and Muslim  Al-Qur’ān 10:5