The lunar calendar used by Muslims is known as Hijri, Islamic, or Muslim calendar. It is based on the phases and position of the moon. Each month begins with the new moon’s sighting and alternately has 30 and 29 days. However, the last month of Dhu al-Ḥijjah has 30 days in the 1st year, then 29 days in the next 19 years. Thus, there are either 354 or 355 days in the Islamic calendar. Years of the calendar are calculated from the Hijrah, the date when Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) migrated from Makkah to Yathrib (Madinah) to escape the persecution in 622 CE. Each month has its significance and represents a particular meaning. The 12 Islamic months names, their meaning, and significance are discussed below:
Also known as al-Muḥarram in Arabic, Muharram means forbidden. During this month, battles, fights, or any warfare is forbidden. It is the first month of the Muslim calendar and is also one of the four sacred months in Islam. The 10th day known as Ashura is of utmost importance as Ḥusayn ibn Ali, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and his companions were martyred on this day during the battle of Karbala.
It is the second month of the Muslim calendar. The Arabic word Safar means to vacate or void as during this month Arabs in the pre-Islamic period used to vacate their houses in search of food. Safar also means ‘hiss’ or whistling of the wind as it is windy during this time of the year.
3) Rabi al-Awwal
The name is derived from an Arabic word meaning the first spring. It is the third month of the Islamic calendar and is of great importance to Muslims as Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was born in this month. Thus, the day of the Prophet’s birth that is the 12th day of the month, is considered sacred.
4) Rabi ul-Akhir or Rabi al-Thani
The fourth month of the calendar is Rabi ul-Akhir, an Arabic word meaning the last spring. Giving donations in the name of deceased family members is recommended during this month. The 11th day of the month is remembered as the death anniversary of ‘Saint of Saints’ the Sufi sheikh, Abdul-Qadir Gilani.
5) Jumada al-Awwal
The word Jumad is believed to have originated from the Arabic word Jamad, meaning dry, denoting the first dry and parched land. Thus, the month indicates pre-Islamic summers. Also known as Jumada al-Ula, it is the fifth month of the Islamic calendar. The name Jumada al-Ula means to entrust or care during the arid or cold month.
6) Jumada al-Thani or Jumada al-Akhirah
The sixth month of the lunar calendar symbolizes arid land or dry months. The 3rd and 20th days of the month mark the birth and death of Propeht Muhammad’s (PBUH) daughter Fatimah.
Rajab is one of the four sacred months in the Muslim calendar. The name Rajab has been derived from the Arabic word Rajaba, which means respect. The pre-Islamic Arabs used to refrain from fights or battles during this period. The 27th day of the month is important as on this day; Prophet Muhammad ascended to the heavens.
Shaaban is the month of separation as it is believed that during this month, pagan Arabs used to scatter in search of water. The word Shaaban is also related to an Arabic verb meaning to be between two things. The month can be related to this month as it lies between Rajab and Ramadan.
The word Ramadan means burning heat which is related to the burning of worldly desires by fasting during this month. It is in this month that Allah revealed the holy Quran to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). It is believed that praying on the ‘Night of Power’ falling in the last ten days of this month results in unbounded rewards.
The word Shawwal is derived from the verb shala, meaning to carry, implying female camels carrying foetuses. The first day of the month marks Eid-ul Fitr, which marks an end to the fasting of Ramadan.
11) Dhu al-Qi’dah
One of the four sacred months, Dhu al-Qi’dah, is the eleventh month in the Islamic calendar. The literal meaning of the world is one of the truce or sittings. It is the month when people prepare for Hajj Pilgrimage. Prophet Ibrahim (PBUH) was born on the 25th of this month only.
12) Dhu al-Hijjah
It is the month when people dedicate themselves to carrying out the Hajj pilgrimage. The month is sacred, but the first ten days are highly virtuous. The 9th of Dhul Hijjah, known as the Day of Arafah, is considered very auspicious. On the 10th day, people celebrate Eid or the festival of sacrifice.
Each month in the Islamic calendar have their own significance. Therefore, to utilize each month fully, one should remain observant for the special occasion and days in the months.