Muslim Calendar

The Islamic era begins on July 16 622 of the Christian era, on the presumed day of the Hegira (Hijra in Arab), i.e. the exile of the prophet Mohammed from Mecca to Medina. Before the introduction of the Islam, different lunar and solar calendars were being used. The Hebraic calendar is both lunar and solar. As for the Islamic calendar, instituted in 637 by the second caliph Omar ibn al-Khattab, it is exclusively lunar and starts at the beginning of the lunar year during which the Hegira took place. The Islamic calendar is used in the Muslim world to religious ends, but is only official in Saudi Arabia. Nowadays (2001) we are in the year 1422 of the Muslim era.

Muslim calendar system

The Muslim calendar, in connection with the phases of the Moon, divides the year in twelve months of alternatively 30 and 29 days. Normally, a Muslim year counts 354 days (whereas a solar year counts 365, which explains the variation in the beginning of the Ramadan).

The lunar months do not entirely match with the days – twelve lunar months represent 354,367 days. Therefore, it has been decided at the beginning of the Muslim era, to add 11 days per 30 year period. Each period of 30 years includes thus 19 years of 354 days, called « common years » and 11 years of 355 days, which are called « abundant years »; the additional day is added at the end of the last month which switches thus from 29 to 30 days.

This correction is not enough to actually fill in the gap in comparison with the normal 30 X 12 lunar months. Therefore, the Muslim year is, in a period of 30 years, more or less 16 minutes late compared with the solar year.

The differences in length between the Gregorian years and the Muslim years complicate the date conversions from one to another.

The 12 months of the Muslim year are:

  • Mouharram (3O days)
  • Safar (29 days)
  • Rabi al-Awwal (30 days)
  • Rabi al-Thani (29 days)
  • Djoumada al-Awwla (30 days)
  • Djoumada at-Thania (29 days)
  • Radjab (30 days)
  • Chaaban (29 days)
  • Ramadan (30 days)
  • Chawwal (29 days)
  • Dou-al-Qada (30 days)
  • Dou-al-Hidja (29 or 30 days)

Most important Muslim celebrations:

  • New Year: The ten first days of the year are sacred, especially the 10th (Achoura).
  • Ashoura: 10th Muharram. The Shiite Muslims commemorate the martyr Hussein, grandson of the Prophet Mohammed and son of Ali.
  • Aid al-Adha or Aid al-Kabir (the great celebration or sacrifice celebration)
  • Dhou al-hijja: the most important Muslim celebration memorializing the sacrifice of Abraham, coinciding with the pilgrimage to Mecca.
  • Aid al-Fitr or Aid al-Saghir (the small celebration): celebration of the end of the Ramadan month
  • Mouloud: birth of the Prophet, the 12th Rabia I

See also:

  • Hegira