The Lunar Islamic calendar is of twelve months, four of which are sanctified. It starts with the Hijrah (migration) of Muhammad peace and blessings of Allah be upon him (PBUH) from Makkah to Madinah (two cities in what is now known as Kingdom of Saudi Arabia). This was in the year 622 A.D. God “Allah” has chosen to honor four months over the rest and chose to call them “sacred”. Allah says in Quran,
Indeed, the number of months ordained by Allah is twelve—in Allah’s Record since the day He created the heavens and the earth—of which four are sacred…” [Qur’an 9/36](1)
It is interesting to know that Arabs knew of those months and their honor even before Islam and sanctified them.
Which months are the four sacred?
It is easy to know about those months from the Hadith (authentic saying of Muhammad PBUH),
Time has come back to its original state which it had when Allah created the Heavens and the Earth; the year is twelve months, four of which are sacred. Three of them are in succession; Dhul-Qa’da, Dhul-Hijja and Al-Muharram, and (the fourth being) Rajab Mudar (named after the tribe of Mudar as they used to respect this month) which stands between Jumad (ath-thani) and Sha’ban.” [Sahih al-Bukhari](2)
So, we learn that three are consecutive and one is separate,
The three consecutive months are;
- Dhu al-Qa’dah (the eleventh month of the Islamic lunar calendar)
- Dhu al-Ḥijjah (the twelfth)
- Muḥarram (the first)
The separate month is Rajab (the seventh month of the Islamic lunar calendar).
Where did the names of those months come from?
The Arabs of the Arabian Peninsula named those months for good reasons, which are:
- Rajab means the month of inundation (meaning remove in Arabic). It has this name because Arabs used to remove the heads of their spears and refrain from waging war during Rajab to guarantee safe passage to those traveling to perform Umrah (minor pilgrimage).
- Dhu al-Qi’dah (meaning sitting in Arabic) has this name because it was the month during which Arabs would sit and stop fighting wars to give safe passage to pilgrims travelling to Makkah to perform Hajj (pilgrimage) in Dhu al-Hijjah.
- Dhu al-Hijjah (which refers to Hajj in Arabic) has this name because it was the month during which people performed Hajj to the Sacred House of Allah (Ka’abah) in Makkah.
- Muharram (meaning forbidden or sanctified in Arabic) was called that because Arabs used to forbid waging wars during it to give safe passage to pilgrims travelling back to their homelands from Makkah after performing Hajj.
Arabs honored those months as they knew about Hajj and Umrah from the time of Ibrahim (Abraham) peace be upon him. They used to do good, be kind, give safety to travelers and stop all combat everywhere.
So, how do Islam and Muslims sanctify those months?
Muslims are commanded by Allah to refrain from wronging themselves generally and especially during those months. Wronging oneself is by committing sins, refraining from obedience and wronging others.
Allah says in Qur’an,
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…” [Qur’an 9:36](1)
Islam added even further sanctity to the four sacred months by making them a “Season for Extra Obedience to Allah” by striving to please Allah, refraining from disobedience and doing more good deeds; compulsory and voluntary. Muslim scholars have deduced many deeds that aim to please Allah to earn His rewards during those four sacred months;
- Performing obligations in the best way and form; prayers ‘Salah’, fasting ‘Siyam’, of course performing pilgrimage ‘Hajj’ and Umrah, etc.
- Performing voluntary acts of worship and obedience; Tahjjud (night voluntary prayers), remembrance of Allah ‘Thikr’, charity ‘Sadakah’, fast voluntary days, helping settle people’s debts that cannot do themselves, aiding those in need, seeking and disseminating religious knowledge, speaking kind words and advising for the sake of Allah to others and exhibiting extra best of manners to the example of Muhammad peace and blessing of Allah be upon him.
- Cease fighting willingly unless aggressed upon; then Muslims are allowed to defend themselves and fight back; even during the sacred months.
It is out of His Favor and Mercy that Allah has guided us to those months. Allah also allowed us to earn His rewards and blessings through obedience to Him alone. Those four sacred Months are not sacred in themselves. But only because Allah has made them a “Season for Extra Obedience” to seek His pleasure. Being a Muslim entails being submissive to Allah while yearning for His rewards and blessings. So do not wrong yourselves during those months especially, and always generally.