By Heba Salah
The Hijrah (migration of the Prophet Muhammad from Mecca to Medina) marks the beginning of the Islamic calendar. The Hijri calendar attests to the infinite bounties that God bestowed upon His Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) and on the entire Muslim community.
The landmark significance of Hijrah is not confined to Islamic history or to Muslims. The Hijrah not only reshaped—socially and politically—the Arabian Peninsula, but also had an impact worldwide.
Throughout the history of Islam, the Hijrah has been regarded as a transitional phase between the two major eras; the era of Mecca and the era of Medina. In its essence, this signified a transition from a position of weakness, where the non-believers of Mecca—particularly the people of Quraish—humiliated, tortured and killed Muslims, to a position of strength. In Medina, Muslims were allowed to defend themselves and with the help of God were able to defeat their adversaries.
One of the priceless lessons that the Hijrah has engraved into the hearts of Muslims is that every end is actually a new beginning. Every new day carries a new hope only if we believe and trust in God’s plan.
The Islamic calendar is the door that God opened for His servants to lead a happy, balanced, and fruitful life. He the Almighty granted us numerous opportunities throughout our lives to correct our mistakes and to get back on track. Our days in life are a precious gift from God and He loves His servants to remain steadfast, “Say, "O My servants who have transgressed against themselves [by sinning], do not despair of the mercy of God . Indeed, God forgives all sins. Indeed, it is He Who is the Forgiving, the Merciful” (Quran 39:53).
Imam ibn al-Qayyim (may God have mercy on him) beautifully described our lives in his words, “The year is like a tree, months are its branches, days are the branch sticks, hours are its leaves, and the breaths are its fruits. If one’s breaths are in obedience (to God and His Messenger), the fruits of his tree are good. If they are in disobedience, his fruits are bitter. The harvest is on the Last Day, when one’s fruits are found out to be either good or bitter.”
Fruits of Divine Mercy
Muslims are exposed to continuous showers of God’s blessings and mercy throughout the lunar months. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Verily, your Lord has in the days of your lives gifts of His Own mercy, so benefit from them (by doing good deeds to attain His mercy)” and God says, “And remind them of the days of God…” (Quran 14:5).
Muharram (The Day of ‘Ashura)
The first month of the Islamic calendar is one of the four sacred months about which God the Almighty says, “Indeed, the number of months with God is twelve [lunar] months in the register of God [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” (Quran 9:36).
This means that committing sins in these four sacred months is worse than in others and incurs an increased amount of sin.
During the sacred month of Muharram, Muslims are blessed with the first religious occasion, i.e. the day of ‘Ashura (10th of Muharram). The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Fasting the day of ‘Ashura (is of great merits), I hope that God will accept it as an expiation for (the sins committed) in the previous year” (Muslim).
It was God’s wisdom to give His servants expiation for their sins of the previous year so that they are able to start anew and turn a new leaf.
Rabi’ al-Awwal (Commemorating The Noble Birth of The Beloved Prophet)
Most Muslim scholars agree that the 12th day of the blessed month of Rabi’ al-Awwal marks the noble birth of the beloved Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). Some scholars name this blessed month Rabi’ al-Anwwar (month of splendid lights) since the Prophet came with lights that defeated the darkness of ignorance. It is a time to rejoice. Commemorating birthdays is an acknowledgement of the blessing of coming into existence to worship God the Almighty. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) used to fast on Mondays and explained the reason for it as, “That is the day on which I was born” (Muslim).
It is our love for the Prophet that motivates us to follow his teachings and to be good servants. By expressing joy and happiness in this blessed month, we will attain the love of God and His Messenger. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, "I am pleased with whoever is happy with my birth."
Rajab, Sha’ban and Ramadan
It is the second of the four sacred months. The month of Rajab is the key to the opening of the months of goodness and blessings (Sha’ban and Ramadan). The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Rajab is the month of God…” During this blessed month, we celebrate and commemorate the miracle of the night journey and ascension (Al-Israa' wal Mi'raj), the journey that marked the legislation of the five obligatory prayers. Some celebrate the 27th night of this month through reciting Quran, offering night prayers (qiyam) and fasting.
It is the eighth month in the lunar calendar which brings plenty of blessings to Muslims and in which our records of deeds are presented to the Almighty God. The blessed night of mid-Sha’ban is a very important religious occasion and Muslims are encouraged to seek its lights. Mu’adh ibn Jabal (may God be pleased with him) narrated that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “On the night of mid-Sha’ban, God looks at His servants and He forgives all of them except for the polytheists and the quarrelsome.”
Ramadan (the Blessed Month of Fasting)
Muslims all over the globe wait eagerly for the month of Ramadan, the ninth month of the lunar calendar. They view it as the best month of the year. Ramadan is a special time of mercy and the opportunity to refine our souls. It is the month of the Quran. The last ten nights of Ramadan are very special. Among these nights is Laylat al-Qadr (the Night of Power) — a night more blessed than a thousand months. The revelation of the Quran began on this blessed night. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “This is a month, the first part of which brings God’s mercy, the middle of which brings God’s forgiveness, and the last part of which brings emancipation from the Hellfire” (Bukhari).
The end of Ramadan delivers us to the great celebration in the Islamic calendar; a day of festivities (Eid Al-Fitr). The word “fitr” is the root of the word “iftar” (breaking the fast) and denotes the end of the fasting month. It is highly recommended to fast six days of the month of Shawwal, as this is a meritorious act which results in abundant reward. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Whoever fasts Ramadan and follows it with six days of Shawwal, it will be as if he fasted for a lifetime” (Muslim).
It is one of the sacred months. The name Dhul-Qi’dah indicates in Arabic giving up fighting and traveling in preparation for Hajj season.
Dhul-Hijjah is one of the sacred months. The first ten days of this month have been singled out especially for their great merits like no other days in the Islamic calendar. God swears upon these ten days in the Quran, “By the Dawn, and by the ten nights” (Quran 89:1-2) which shows the loftiness of these days. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “There are no days in which righteous deeds are more beloved to God than these ten days.” Dhul-Hijjah is so called because it is the month when Hajj, the great fifth pillar of Islam, takes place. On the day of ‘Arafah, God showers His mercy on the pilgrims and forgives all their sins. Muslims other than the pilgrims, are encouraged to fast on the day of ‘Arafah.
The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said about the reward of fasting on the day of ‘Arafah, “I anticipate that God forgives the sins of the previous and coming year for whoever fasts on the Day of ‘Arafah” (Muslim).
In conclusion, we cannot but be grateful to the Merciful God whose doors of mercy are eternally open before us. Out of His mercy, God granted us the opportunity to start and close the year with repentance, love and endeavor to be better Muslims. God the Almighty says, “Say, "In the bounty of God and in His mercy - in that let them rejoice; it is better than what they accumulate" (Quran 10:58).