Why Is the Islamic Hijri Calendar Special?

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For Muslims living in today’s world, the passing of days, months and years are typically calculated using the Western Gregorian calendar, while significant Islamic holidays and months are calculated using the Islamic Hijri calendar. 

Knowing both the Gregorian and Islamic names of months, days and years and when they occur is highly important for Muslims to navigate both their secular and spiritual lives successfully. 

But how does the Islamic Hijri calendar work and how is it related to charity in Islam?

What is the Islamic Hijri Calendar?

Indeed, the number of months with Allah is 12 [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”  (Quran 9:36).

The Islamic Hijri calendar was created during the rule of the third caliph of the Muslim world, Umar ibn al-Khattab, as a means to mark the beginning of the Muslim community’s prominence on the world scene and establish Islamic names for months in a calendar year. The first year in the Hijri calendar corresponds to 622 A.D. in the Gregorian calendar, marking the year when Prophet Muhammad, on him be peace, migrated with the Muslim community from Mecca to start a new life in Medina. 

The Hijri calendar is a lunar calendar containing 12 months, with each month beginning at the start of a new moon cycle. The number of days in each month varies according to the cycles of the moon and, on average, a Hijri calendar year is about 10-12 days shorter than a Gregorian calendar year. 

The Islamic names of months in the Hijri calendar are in Arabic, and four of the 12 months (Dhul Qadah, Dhul Hijjah, Muharram and Safar) are considered sacred and warfare is Islamically prohibited during these months. 

Both the Gregorian and Islamic names of months are used in Muslim countries throughout the world, though Muslims give preference to the Hijri calendar for planning their religious acts and charity in particular.

What does using the Islamic Hijri Calendar have to do with charity?

Within the Islamic Hijri calendar are times considered especially blessed for Muslims to perform good deeds, such as the month of Ramadan, when Muslims fast from dawn until dusk for a full month; and Dhul Hijjah, when Muslims typically undertake the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca.

Because of this, the Islamic names of months hold special importance for Muslims and spark the motivation for religious devotion and charitable giving due to the increased blessings present during these months and on holidays like Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha. 

With the right timing, Muslims can make their charity have the same impact as days, months or even years’ worth of devotion. There are several opportunities many Muslims take advantage of during each Hijri year. 

Being well-versed in how the Gregorian and Islamic Hijri calendars work is crucial for Muslims today to coordinate their charity and worship efforts. Through this knowledge, we can lead smooth daily lives rich with blessings from our well-timed good deeds.