The Muslim calendar is a very unique instrument. Unlike the Gregorian (Western) calendar most of us are used to, the Hijri calendar runs according to the moon.
Let me try to explain that.
With the Gregorian calendar, the one we’re all pretty much used where the current year is 2009 and a leap year every four years, runs according to the sun. It is heavily based on mathematical calculations, and for all intents and purposes is quite useful.
The Gregorian calendar generally has 365 days. This is the amount of time that the instrument says it takes for the earth to revolve around the sun.
There are 12 months, with varying days of no particular order. The months are named after Roman emperors and false deities. Even though the calculation of this calendar is meticulous, it is not quite perfect.
To make up for the fact the earth actually takes 365.25 days to revolve around the sun, there is a leap year with an extra day (February 29) every four years.
The Gregorian calendar supposedly begins after the birth of Christ (peace be upon him), though that is impossible to determine. This period is termed Anno domini (year of our lord). The period before this is B.C. (before Christ).
The Islamic calendar is very different. The Muslim calendar is lunar, meaning it is based on the phases of the moon. A new month begins and end with the sighting of the new moon.
Like the Gregorian, there are also 12 months in the Muslim calendar. They are:
- Rabi al-Awwal
- Rabi ath-Thani
- Jumada al-Awwal
- Jumada ath-Thani
- Dhul Qiddah
- Dhul Hijjah
History of the Islamic Calendar
The Islamic calendar was started by Caliph Umar, the third Caliph of Islam. The beginning of the calendar starts with the Hijrah (migration) of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and his followers from Mecca to Medina.
This date is important as it marks the start of the Islamic state and the beginning of Islam as a complete way of life.
Before Islam, the Arabs used to name years based on major events that took place during that year. So the year that the Abyssinians used elephants to attack the Kaaba in Mecca, was called the Year of the Elephant.
When Umar instituted the Muslim calendar, the year the Muslims migrated to Medina is called 1 A.H. (After the Hijrah).
Currently, it is the year 1430 AH of the Islamic calendar.