The Hijra Calendar: Part 5 – 12 Months & 4 Sacred Months

In previous parts, we have examined how the abstract and inferential text of the Quran had been turned from its profound meanings into literal and ritual forms. Al-Siyam had been reduced from an effort to stop transgressions and injustice to the stopping of eating and drinking. Yaumi Al-Jumu’ati being identified as Day of Friday, instead of the of the elite class having their Day.

In this chapter, in the context of the Hijra Lunar Calendar, we will study the case of the four sacred months as mentioned in verse 9:36 along with the context of twelve months. This verse has been quoted for the validation of the lunar month format, while the four sacred months have been largely ignored by Muslims observing the Hijra calendar. 

Four Sacred Months

The Four Sacred Months were mentioned in the last khutba of the Prophet, but the identification of the four months was left to interpretations and sources from the Hadith.  As explained earlier, with any manmade calendar, no particular month can proof itself as being holy or sacred. God did not issue or endorse any calendar at any point in time. Not even the Hijra calendar that originated from the pagan Arabs, which was previously in the format of lunisolar.

What was clear, Muhammad was definitely observing the prevailing calendar during his time and it was the practical format of the Arabic lunisolar calendar. Not the current format of purely lunar that started during the rule of Caliphate Umar.

Presently, no Muslim in the world is observing this four sacred months.  Not even the Arab themselves.  Why is that?  What are we supposed to perform during these three consecutive sacred months while one of the month is between Jumaida and Shaaban, which means Rajab. 

Until today, Muslims are still not clear why these sacred months are of any relevance or fit into the universal values of the Quran.
Narrated Abu Bakrah: 
The Prophet (ﷺ) gave a sermon during his hajj and said: Time has completed a cycle and assumed the form of the day when Allah created the heavens and the earth. The year contains twelve months of which four are sacred, three of them consecutive, viz. Dhul-Qa'dah, Dhul-Hijjah and Muharram and also Rajab of Mudar which comes between Jumadah and Sha'ban.
Sunan Abi Dawud 1947
In book reference: Book 11, Hadith 227
English Translation: Book 10, Hadith 1942

According to scholars, the sacred months were Dhu Al-Qaidah, Dhu Al-Hijjah and Muharram, although there were disputes on these months as to why Ramadhan was not considered as sacred.  Whatever the answer, it has become irrelevant today as no Muslims appear to be observing these months as sacred.  

If no one is observing the four sacred months, does it mean the verse serves no purpose in the context of the Quranic universal values for whole of mankind.  What does four sacred months means to non-Arabs?  Absolutely nothing.

Universal Months for Mankind?

If the Quran is universal and for mankind, why would pagan Arab’s sacred months matters to the rest of the world?  And for that matter, why would pre-Islamic month of pilgrimage matters to the rest of the world too?  Why would a religion that claimed to be universal, is actually Arab-centric?

It is certainly ironic that the current International Calendar that originated from the Christian’s Gregorian Calendar had been accepted by the global community to be practical and universal. While the Muslim’s Hijra calendar is still considered beleaguered with uncertainties, discrepancies and inconsistencies.

This is exactly why the Hijra calendar came into question in the context of Quranic universal values.  How do these four Arabic months are to be considered sacred? There was no indication or evidence of such months being sacred.  There was no such sacredness that can be observed at all.  If the months were previously sacred to the pagans, why would they be for then Muslims?  Why would Muslims in Indonesia or South Africa be conscious of Saudi Arabian seasons or desert culture?

So whatever months we choose to label them as sacred, the question still remains of what should be observed during the other two months other than Ramadhan or Dhulhijjah.  What do we do during Rajab?  What sacredness are we looking at?  The Quran traditional translations say there are four sacred months but no such explanation was given of such months.  We can only guess. And guessing is not part of the Quranic narrative.  Guessings are for the Kafireen.

Lunar vs Lunisolar

While some may argue that the mentioning of 12 months as endorsement of the lunar calendar, verse 10:5 appears to validate the lunisolar model as practical system to ascertain and to calculate the year.

10:5  He it is Who made the sun a shining brightness and the moon a light, and ordained for it mansions that you might know the computation of years and the reckoning. Allah did not create it but with truth; He makes the signs manifest for a people who know.

We all know that the year is defined by earth complete orbit around the Sun, which is clearly marked by the seasonal cycle of the solar calendar.  On the other hand, the 12 lunar months cycle does not define the year.  So from the verse above, The brightness of sun is mentioned alongside the moon for the computation of the year.  We have already explain in part 1, on how the term Al-Nasee in verse 9:37 had been a misinterpretation for intercalation, instead of the clear meaning explained in the same verse.

A year is defined by the earth full rotation around the sun. Not 12 lunation of the moon.

Verse 10:15 is a clear refutation of the current purely lunar system as the correct way to compute the year.  The 12 lunar months cycle cannot be defined as a complete year. We cannot differentiate any particular lunar months from another as they are not representing any distinct physical conditions that we can observe. It does not have a clear reference point to mark the year, like the solar calendar. 

The solar year can be observed by the solstice and equinox that marks the transitions of the annual seasons and each full cycle marks a complete year.  The lunar months are just timing units split in 4 weeks generally and the weeks in days.  This was the reason why lunisolar had been the practical calendar from ancient cultures.  Eventually, civilizations evolved the calendar system into a more practical system, shifting from lunisolar into purely solar. The Solar calendar also evolved and perfected, from the Julian, Gregorian and presently, the current ISO International Calendar.

Traditional Translation of 9:36

There is an obvious flaw to the concept of the traditional understanding of the 4 sacred months.  The lack of any explanation or practical application of the four months is proof of a failed attempt to incorporate the pagan Arabic belief into the religion of Islam.  Let us read the traditional translation of verse 9:36 (Yusuf Ali)

9:36  The number of months in the sight of Allah is twelve (in a year)- so ordained by Him the day He created the heavens and the earth; of them four are sacred: that is the straight usage(?). So wrong not yourselves therein, and fight the Pagans all together as they fight you all together. But know that Allah is with those who restrain themselves.

We have to ask ourselves why would the Lord of the Universe had to tell us that the number of months in a year is 12, while we know the 12 lunar months cycle is 11 days shorter than the year cycle.  All other calendars from various civilizations and cultures knew this.  In a purely lunar Hijra calendar, the 12 lunar cycle and the year cycle do not mix.  And how would a calendar has anything to do with fighting the Pagans / polytheists?  Does the Quran ordain that we fight them during other months that are not sacred?  Are these supposed to be of universal value?

Rational exposition of verse 9:36

Let’s review the verse word by word especially those in bold.

9:36  inna ʿiddata l-shuhūri ʿinda l-lahi ith'nā ʿashara shahran fī kitābi l-lahi yawma khalaqa l-samāwāti wal-arḍa min'hā arbaʿatun ḥurumun dhālika l-dīnu l-qayimu falā taẓlimū fīhinna anfusakum waqātilū l-mush'rikīna kāffatan kamā yuqātilūnakum kāffatan wa-iʿ'lamū anna l-laha maʿa l-mutaqīn.

The key to the understanding of the verse is this phrase:

dhālika l-dīnu    l-qayimu

that is   The Deen, The Uprightness

By these, we should ask, what does the number of months has anything to do with the Deen and the Uprightness?  It goes without saying that, Deen and Uprightness can never in any relation with the number of months or the calendar.

So here is a rationalized translation based on meanings obtained from the Arabic Classical Lexicon. Please refer to the list at the end of this article, of the meanings of the root words in bold.

inna ʿiddata l-shuhūri – Indeed, to consider, the prominence

ʿinda l-lahi – with Allah

ith’nā  ʿashara –  a commendable condition,

shahran fī kitābi l-lahi – manifested in the scripture of Allah,

yawma khalaqa – eventual creations

l-samāwāti wal-arḍa – of the heavens and the earth

min’hā arbaʿatun ḥurumun – from it, sanctioned habitation,

dhālika l-dīnu l-qayimu – that is the Deen, the Uprightness.

falā taẓlimū – so do not wrong

fīhinna anfusakum – therein yourselves

waqātilū l-mush’rikīna kāffatan – and repulse the Mushrikeen completely,

kamā yuqātilūnakum kāffatan – as they repulse you completely,

wa-iʿ’lamū anna l-laha maʿa l-mutaqīn – and know that Allah is with the mindful

9:36 Indeed, to consider the prominence near Allah, a commendable condition manifested in the scripture of Allah, eventual creations of the heavens and the earth, from it, sanctioned abode, that is the Deen, the Principle, so do not wrong therein yourselves, and repulse the Mushrikeen completely, as they repulse you completely, and know that Allah is with the mindful.

In other words, to be close to Allah, one has to manifest a commendable living conditions according to the scriptures of Allah, that created the heavens and the earth. This is from where the basis of our manner of living should be taken. That is The Deen, The Uprightness.

So in the following verse 9:37 as discussed earlier, the verse explains Al-Nasee-u, describing those who had wronged themselves and others by making their laws according to their wishes and against the Deen.

We can therefore conclude that there were no four sacred months for us to observe and we live our lives according to the Deen prescribed in the Quran

Root word meanings:

(from Lane’s Lexicon)

ʿiddataroot word:  Ayn-Dal-Dal  

عدّدهُ(TA;) or this latter has an intensive signification; (Mṣb;) He numbered, counted, reckoned, or computed, it: (Ṣ, A, O, Mṣb, Ḳ:)

l-shuhūri  /  shahranroot word:  Shiin-ha-Ra  

اشتهرهُ(Ṣ, Ḳ;) He made it apparent, conspicuous, manifest, notorious, notable, commonly known, or public: (Ṣ, O, MF:) or [it generally means] he made it apparent, &c., as bad, evil, abominable, foul, or unseemly; he exposed it as such; or rendered it notorious in a bad sense, or infamous. (A, Ḳ.)

مَشْهُورٌOf known place or station; (Ḳ;) well known; well spoken of; celebrated; held in repute; reputable; notable; eminent; (O, Ḳ, TA;) applied to a man; (O, TA;) as also شَهِيرٌ↓(O, Ḳ, TA,) and [in an intensive sense] مُشَهَّرٌ↓(TA.)[And Anything apparent, conspicuous, manifest, notorious, notable, commonly known, or public: lit. rendered apparent, &c. Applied to a word or phrase or meaning, Commonly known or obtaining or received; well known; or held in repute. Hence  عَلَى المَشْهُورِ  According to common, or well-known, usage; or according to common repute.]

ith’nāroot word:  Tha-Nun-Ya  

ثَنْىٌ(Ṣ, M, Mṣb, &c.,) He doubled it, or folded it; (T;) he turned one part of it upon another; (M, Ḳ;) he bent it; (T, Ṣ, Mgh, Mṣb, TA;) he drew, or contracted, one of its two extremities to [or towards] the other; or joined, or adjoined, one of them to the other; thus bending it; (Mgh;) namely, a stick, or branch, or twig, (Mgh,) or a thing, (T, Ṣ, M, Mṣb, Ḳ,) of any kind.

And a poet says; [And if glory, or any old ground of pretension to honour, be reckoned as belonging to a body of men, it is my people, with the mention of them, in that case, the fingers are bent]; meaning that they are reckoned as the best; (IAạr, M;) for the best are not many. (M.)

(T, Ṣ, M, Mṣb, Ḳ, &c.,) inf. n. إِثْنَآءٌ(T;) and ثنّى↓, inf. n. تَثْنِيَةٌaccord. to the Ḳ, but this is a mistake for ثبّى↓, inf. n. تَثْبِيَةٌ(TA;) He praised, eulogized, commended, or spoke well of, him: and he dispraised, censured, discommended, or spoke ill of, him: (T,* M, Mṣb, Ḳ:) the object is either God or a man: (T:) or it has the former meaning only: (M, Ḳ;) or the former meaning is the more common: (Mṣb:)

 ʿashara Ayn-Shiin-Ra  

عَشَرَهُمْHe took one from among them, they being ten. (Mṣb.)

عشّرت(Ṣ, Mṣb, Ḳ, [in the CK عَشَرَت, ]) inf. n.  تَعْشِيرٌ(Ṣ;) and  اعشرت↓; (Ḳ;) She (a camel) became what is termed عُشَرَآء(Ṣ, Ḳ;) she completed the tenth month of her pregnancy. (Mṣb.)AndعشّرواTheir camels became such as are termedعِشَار[pl. ofعُشَرَآءُ ]. (O.)

arbaʿatunroot word:  Ra-Ba-Ayn ( ع ب ر) 

رَبْعٌ(TA,) He took the fourth part of their property, or possessions. (Mṣb, Ḳ.)

رَبَعَهُ ٱللّٰهُGod restored him from a state of poverty to wealth or competence or sufficiency; recovered him from his embarrassment or difficulty, or from a state of perdition or destruction. (TA.)

رَبَعَ بِالمَكَانِ(Ḳ, TA,) aor. {يَرْبَعُ}, inf. nرَبْعٌ(TA,) in its primary acceptation, signifies He remained, abode, or dwelt, in the place in the[season called] رَبِيع(TA;) as also ارتبع بِهِ(Ṣ, Ḳ.)And hence, (TA,) ‡ He remained, abode, or dwell, in the place, (Ḳ, TA,) in any circumstances, and at any time; (TA;) he took it as his home. (Ḳ.)

Previous: Part 4 – Friday / Al-Jumu’aNext: Part 6 – Laylatul-Qadr

4 Comments

  1. In The Name of Allah, The Wise, The Knowing! It is Allah, who guides and grants Understanding, not man. The prophet Muhammad, was a simple uneducated man for a reason. The Quran was for those of Faith in The Creator / Allah! If you debate one ayat/ verse, then you must debate the Whole Book! Allah guides the sincere. There are four scared moons / months, twelve new Moons / months completes a full year. The understanding of this is So simple that it over reaches your intelligence. Allah, The Wise says in The Book, that this Path would be simple for the Believers. He, Allah, gives Us clear understanding of His Word. Sura 10:4, js the Hidden clue which most overlook. There are so many ayats in The Book about the Sun and the Moon, you have not been gifted to understand! Do not try to change Allah’s Word for your reasoning, it will never work. peace!

    • Clearly you have not read the points, explanation and argument. Your argument from the traditional understanding had been addressed and refuted. But you are welcomed to present your point here, if you have any.

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