Going by its literal Arabic translation, Hijri means ‘migration’. In this case, it refers to the Holy Prophet’s (PBUH) migration, or Hijra, from Mecca to Madinah in the year 622 AD. But, amazingly, the Islamic Calendar didn’t start from that day officially.
The Hijri year refers to the emigration (Hijra) of our Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) from the city of Mecca to the city of Madinah in the year 622 AD. The emigration of the Prophet marked the beginning of new era, though it wasn’t the first time the Muslims would leave Mecca. Persecutions have made few to seek padding in the then Abyssinia, present day Ethiopia.
When And How Did The Calendar Emerge?
Caliph Umar ibn Al-Khattab is considered the creator of the 12-month Hijri calendar, which is determined by the lunar cycle. And that doesn’t mean there were no dates before then.
Before the Hijri calendar began to be used, Muslims used a number of important events in history, for instance, the Year of Elephant, the year of Prophet Muhammad’s birth, to distinguish time. Yet seventeen years after the Prophet’s hijrah and in the third or fourth year of Caliph Umar ibn al-Khattab’s successor, Abu Musa al-Ashari, an official in Basra, Iraq, complained about the absence of consistent dates for correspondence received . Abu Musa al-Ashari sent a letter to Khalifa Umar asking him to develop a new method for calculating date. Yes, as a highly powered emirate, Islam needs a complete system. But this system cannot be on the par with the Kuffar system.
Caliph Umar discussed this matter with his advisors as expected. May Allah forgive the Caliphs and the Sahabahs. Matters of Deen recieved wide consultations from people that mattered. Some suggest that the prophet’s date of birth should mark the beginning of a new calendar, while others suggest the date of his death. However, the majority agreed that the calendar should start on the migration date. Caliph Umar then consulted with the Prophet’s respected companions, Uthman bin Affan and Ali bin Abi Talib, and they agreed.
After all the discussions, Khalifa Umar announced that the year the Prophet Muhammad emigrated would mark the start of the Hijri calendar. The calendar begins on the 1st of Muharram and ends in the month of Dzulhijjah. So the year 622 AD (the year of the Prophet’s migration) became the first year in the Hijri calendar.
How many months has the Hijiri Calendar?
The Hijri year consists of 12 months. As Allah says in the Qur’an in verse (36) of Surah al-Tawba:
إِنَّ عِدَّةَ ٱلشُّهُورِ عِندَ ٱللَّهِ ٱثْنَا عَشَرَ شَهْرًا فِى كِتَٰبِ ٱللَّهِ يَوْمَ خَلَقَ ٱلسَّمَٰوَٰتِ وَٱلْأَرْضَ مِنْهَآ أَرْبَعَةٌ حُرُمٌۚ ذَٰلِكَ ٱلدِّينُ ٱلْقَيِّمُۚ فَلَا تَظْلِمُوا۟ فِيهِنَّ أَنفُسَكُمْۚ وَقَٰتِلُوا۟ ٱلْمُشْرِكِينَ كَآفَّةً كَمَا يُقَٰتِلُونَكُمْ كَآفَّةًۚ وَٱعْلَمُوٓا۟ أَنَّ ٱللَّهَ مَعَ ٱلْمُتَّقِينَ
“Indeed, the number of months with Allah is twelve [lunar] months in the register of Allah [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. And fight against the disbelievers collectively as they fight against you collectively. And know that Allah is with the righteous [who fear Him].”
Each Hijri month begins at the beginning of the new lunar cycle. The number of days in each lunar month depends on the progress of the moon around the earth. The duration of each month is 29 to 30 days. The dates of the annual religious practices that Allah requires for Muslims, such as Hajj and Ramadan, are marked on the Hijri calendar.
The Hijiri Vs the Gregorian Calendar
While both have same 12 months, the Islamic calendar differs from Gregorian calendar with 10-12 days. Consequently, numbers of days differs. The following facts shows the Uniqueness of the calendar:
1. The lunar calendar lags behind the solar calendar by about ten days each year.
2. The months in the Islamic calendar fall into a different part of the Gregorian calendar each year, which is repeated every 33 years.
3. The letters A.H denote Anno Hegirae and correspond to A.D. in the Gregorian calendar.
4. The moon is only a symbol of counting days, Muslims don’t worship it. in fact, the crescent moon became a religious and military symbol of the Ottoman Turks only in the 13th century.
5. To keep the moon in sync with the phases of the moon, the duration of the twelfth month varies: During a thirty year cycle, the last 19 months have 29 days and 11 of them have 30 days.
6. In a 30 year cycle, the 2nd, 5th, 7th, 19th, 13th, 16th, 18th, 21st, 24th, 26th and 29th years are classified as leap years.
7. Umar bin Al Khattab invented the Islamic calendar. In 638 he standardized many calendars in the Arabian Peninsula.
8. There is a 578 year difference between the Gregorian calendar and the Islamic calendar. However, in 20,874 AD it will also be 20,874 thousand.
9. During a leap year, one day is added to the 12th month, making 30 days.
10. The earliest extant use of the Islamic calendar is found on Egyptian papyri written in AD 22.