Getting to Know Allah
The Islamic calendar is based on a lunar cycle of twelve months of 29 or 30 days, depending on the visibility of the moon, making the Islamic year 354 or 355 days long. Why Allah chose the primitive ever imprecise lunar calendar over the more accurate solar calendar such as the one introduced by Julius Caesar in 45 B.C. remains a mystery? Unlike the lunar calendar, the Julian calendar neatly divides a 365-day year into 12 months and adds a leap day to February every four years.
The first solar calendar was probably developed by the Egyptians who, as a settled agrarian civilization, needed an accurate way of determining the end of one season and the beginning of another. Being able to accurately determine the best time to plant your crops would not have been an issue for the desert dwellers of the arid Arabian peninsula whose main occupation was trade and the raising of livestock; mainly sheep, goats, camels and some cattle.
But what about the rest of the world who would be forced to adopt the lunar calendar as Islam spread across the globe? Allah had to know better; so why choose such an inaccurate way of measuring the passage of time and saddling humanity with it?
Tradition may have dictated Allah’s choice of the traverse of the moon for measuring the passage of the months and years as was done when the moon was a god worshipped by many of the inhabitants of the Peninsula. Remember, Islam is essentially a synthesis of Jewish beliefs and pagan traditions from which we get the pilgrimages (see Chapter "The Hajj").
2:189 They ask you about the crescents (the new moons), say: “They are times fixed for mankind and for the pilgrimage.” It is not righteousness to enter houses from the back; but the righteous is he who fears Allah. Enter then the houses by their front doors; and fear Allah that you may prosper.
The moon’s brightness is a reflection of the sun’s light, not a light on its own as Allah has made it out to be in Revelation 10:5. Can His fondness for His former illustrious self in the pantheon of gods worshipped by the pre-Islamic Arabs be any more evident?
10:5 It is He Who made the sun a bright radiance and the moon a light, and determined phases for it so that you may know the number of years and the reckoning. Allah did not create that except in truth, expounding the Signs to a people who know.
10:6 Indeed, in the alternation of night and day and in what Allah has created in the heavens and the earth are real signs for people who are God-fearing.
Revelation 17:22 would suggest that God, at one time, had no objections to the sun being used to mark the passage of the years.
17:12 We have made the night and the day two signs; then We blotted out the sign of the night and made the sign of the day luminous, that you may seek bounty from your Lord, and learn the number of years and the reckoning, and everything We have expounded clearly.
The lunar calendar need not have needlessly complicated things by moving through the seasons if Allah had not banned the practice of adding a thirteenth month every now and then. It was the custom of some of the tribes that shared the Peninsula, before the Muslim conquest, to add a thirteenth month when it became obvious that the lunar calendar had lost all connection with the seasons and needed to be resynchronized with the solar calendar. This, Allah claimed, was an attempt by the unbelievers to interfere with his sacred months and He forbade it.
9:36 The number of months, with Allah, is twelve months by Allah’s Ordinance from the day He created the heavens and the earth. Four of these are Sacred. This is the right religion, so do not wrong yourselves during them; but fight the polytheists all together just as they fight you all together; and know that Allah is on the side of the righteous.
9:37 Postponing the [Sacred Month] is an added disbelief by which the unbelievers seek to mislead, allowing it one year and prohibiting it another year, so as to equal the number [of months] Allah has made sacred. Their evil deeds are made attractive to them; and Allah does not guide the unbelieving people.
The Names of the Months
The names of the months of the Islamic calendar are said to predate Islam and many reflect weather conditions on the Arabian Peninsula. Allah’s adoption of the lunar calendar, where each month begins eleven or ten days earlier every year (365 – 354 or 355, not taking into consideration leap years) makes for some interesting juxtapositions. Somewhere in the world people are freezing during The Month of Great Heat or seeking shelter from torrential rains during The First Dry Month and perhaps The Second Dry Month.
1 The Sacred Month
2 The Month of Travelling
3 The First Spring
4 The Second Spring
5 The First Dry Month
6 The Second Dry Month
7 The Month of Respect
8 The Dividing Month
9 The Month of Great Heat
10 The Month of Hunting
11 The Month of Rest
12 The Month of Pilgrimage
In 637, Caliph Umar decided on the year 622, the year Muhammad fled Mecca and settled with his followers in Medina, year zero of the Islamic calendar. The year of this exodus is known as the Hijra or Hegira and is represented as 1 AH or 1 al-Hijra. The Hegira marks the alleged transition from ignorance to enlightenment, the lunar calendar being one of its manifestation.