The lunar calendar is confusing to some, those who use it on a daily basis are even fewer, and most don’t even know about it.
What is the Lunar Calendar?
The Lunar Calendar follows the cycle of the moon. Every ‘new’ moon is the beginning of a new month. The moon becomes full by mid-month, and slowly fades into a crescent shape by the end of the month. The new moon is searched for on the 29th of every lunar month. If it is sighted, the new month begins. If it is not sighted the month completes thirty days and then the next month automatically commences.
Today, the Gregorian calendar is the most widely used calendar. it uses the earth’s rotation around the sun to map time. It was introduced in 1582 by Pope Gregory XIII. It is approximately 10 days longer than the lunar calendar, though both calendars have 12 months.
The Islamic Months:
The Arabs before Islam used the lunar calendar for it remnant from Ibrahim’s time. However, the names of the month did not assume their current final form until the 5th Century CE.
The names of the Islamic months are as follows:
Rabi-ul-Aakhir or Rabi-uth-Thani
Jumaadal-Ulaa or Jumaadal-Awwal
Jumaadal-Akhira or Jumaadal Aakhir
A Bit of History:
The Islamic Calendar was first officially used in the time of Umar (may Allah be pleased with him). As Umar was Amir-ul-Mu’mineen, he would often send out letters to leaders of other nations. However, his messengers informed him that as his letters were not dated, some leaders refused to read them. Umar faced a dilemma, as ‘dates’ were not used in the time of the Prophet and he feared introducing something new. However, it was soon realised that although dates were not formally written by the Prophet or his scribes, they did exist and were used to mark events. Hence Umar eventually decided to use the Hijrah from Makkah to Madinah as the beginning of the Islamic Calendar as it marked the beginning of the establishment of a Muslim society.
Why Should we use it?
Today, often, we hear the People of Knowledge encouraging us to use the lunar calendar. One may ask why should we use it, when the dates are not certain? Moreover, when muslims do use it, every Ramadaan and Hajj season sparks moonsighting wars?!
- Allah used it in the Quran: “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…” (At-Tawbah 09:36)
- By it the Islamic Events are known: we know the commencement of the four sacred months, the day of Ashura, the month of Ramadaan, the time for Hajj and the Ayyam Al-Bayd. Without the Islamic Calendar none of these important Islamic Dates would be known and hence we would be unable to perform the corresponding acts of worship.
- It is part of the Muslim Identity: hence due to all of the above, the lunar calendar is part of the Muslim identity. it marks out the muslim nation, no matter where they are on the planet
- It gives a sense of unity: Muslims together fast the month Ramadaan, and together shares the Days of Eid. Even if small differences occur in exact dates, we still are one community, searching for the same moon, and doing the same acts of worship.
How to use the lunar calendar:
- We are an ‘ummi’ (illiterate) nation: therefore we do not use tools to sight the new moon, but our own naked eye. And we don’t necessarily follow the rules of science
- If someone makes a mistake: if someone assumes they saw the moon, but later realises it was a mistake, it is not for every lay person to make a big scene. Rather, the ruler/imam will sort things out. If the person was lying, then it is between him and Allah.
- Follow your local community: to keep the peace and prevent chaos, follow your local community’s sightings.