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Food for Thought: Hijri New Year Edition

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“2020 is draining me out!”

We know that 2020 has already strained you. Deep in your heart, you just want to take a break from the current conflicts and catastrophes.

Heads up, for it is never too late to straighten things up. In the spirit of ar-Rasul’s Hijrah, let’s plan for a better tomorrow.

Hijrah is about change and transformation. It is about repentance and restarts. It is about renaissance and revival, even revolution.

Today, we recall ar-Rasul’s migration from Makkah to Madinah. One thing to remember, the event wasn’t only about switching places. It was a revolutionary step for a bigger future.

Now, we want to share with you two trivial information regarding the Hijri New Year.

1. Selecting Events of Significance

The event of Hijra didn’t take place in the month of Muharram, as the Hijri calendar suggests. Instead, it was during the month of Rabiul Awwal.

The decision to come out with a unified Hijri calendar was during the rule of Caliph Umar al-Khattab r.a. 

The month of Muharram was picked by Umar al-Khattab to start the year because “people are just finished with Hajj, and it is still the month of Haram.” (Ibn Kathir)

Before that time, the Arabs calculated the years based on significant events such as the erection of Kaaba by Ibrahim alayhissalam, the destruction of the dam of Ma’arib and the year of Elephant when Abraha tried to conquer Mecca.

Upon receiving three letters with a confusing dating system during his administration, Umar called the Sahabas to discuss this issue. 

They established a unified Islamic calendar with its beginning being marked by the event of Hijrah of ar-Rasul SAW to Yathrib (Madinah). 

However, the event of Hijrah took place more than ten years beforehand, and it wasn’t even during the month of Muharram. Also, there were closer, massive events such as the Hujjatul Wada’ and Fathu Makkah

So, WHY was the event of Hijrah picked? How significant was the event of Hijrah to them? How will it become significant to the ummah today?

2. Naming the Months

The name of the months in the Hijri calendar wasn’t first introduced by Prophet Muhammad SAW.Instead, the names were already there during the Prophet’s time. His ancestor, Kilab bin Murrah led the effort to name the months.

When ar-Rasul SAW was sent to the Arabs, they already observed a 12-month calendar system. Where did the name originate from? 

Just like the yearly system, the names marked significant annual seasons among the Arabs. 

For instance, Rabiul Awwal and Rabiul Akhir marked the beginning and end of spring, respectively, and the name Shawwal indicated the time when camels became pregnant.

Why didn’t ar-Rasul rename the months to at least sound, let’s say, more divine? 

What conduct of the Shari’ah do you think this issue indicates when viewed in terms of the local cultural context then and today?

What do you think? 

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