Islamic Calendar

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:

  1. Muharram
  2. Safar
  3. Rabi al-Awwal
  4. Rabi ath-Thani
  5. Jumada al-Awwal
  6. Jumada ath-Thani
  7. Rajab
  8. Sha’aban
  9. Ramadan
  10. Shawwal
  11. Dhul Qiddah
  12. Dhul Hijjah

The Muslim calendar and its months are important for keeping track of Muslim holidays and important Islamic events, like the Hajj.

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.

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      • I’m really pleased to know you’ve enjoyed these articles Safa. I’m always looking for more ideas, so if there’s anything you’d like me to write about, just let me know.


  1. […] Umar’s influence upon Islam cannot be underestimated. He participated in several battles alongside Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) including the Battle of Badr, the Battle of Uhud, the Battle of Khandaq, and the Battle of Mecca. The Prophet would confer with Umar to get his opinion on important decisions. For example, after the Battle of Badr, the Muslim had captured several of the Quraish as prisoners of war. Prophet Muhammad asked both Umar and Abu Bakr their opinions on whether the prisoners should be killed or ransomed. Umar suggested they be killed, but the Prophet decided to take Abu Bakr’s advice and ransom them instead. Later verses of the Quran were revealed showing that Umar’s opinion was the better one. Umar was also very loyal to the Prophet. An example of his loyalty is exemplified in the Treaty of Hudaybiyah. This was a treaty between the Muslims of Medina and the pagan Quraish. The details of the treaty seemed to lean in favor of the Quraish. Being upset about the terms of the treaty, Umar approached the Prophet and asked him: “Are you not the Messenger of Allah?” The Prophet replied: “I am.” Umar then asked: “Are not our enemies polytheists?” The Prophet replied: “They are.” Then Umar asked: “Then why do we disgrace our faith (with this treaty)?” The Prophet replied: “I am the Prophet of Allah and I will not violate His order.” After that, Umar felt better about the treaty. And he admitted the Prophet was right later when the both sides saw how the treaty actually hastened the spread of Islam. When he became the Caliph, Umar was known to walk the streets of Medina to see how his subjects were living. There are many stories of him learning of individuals who were suffering from poverty or injustice and then taking immediate action to rectify it. And as an administrator, Umar implemented many improvements including canals for irrigation, a record keeping system, a police force, a national treasury, and most importantly, the Islamic calendar. […]

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