The months of the Arabs (Islamic calendar)

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An in-depth study on the months of the Islamic calendar, followed by millions of Muslims around the world for the celebration of their religious holidays

A lunar calendar

The Islamic calendar is the one used by Muslims around the world for their holidays and holy months such as Ramadan. A fundamental peculiarity of this calendar, in addition to starting from the Hegira, is that it is based on the movements of the moon instead of the solar ones. This characteristic is decisive because, unlike Gregorian, in which the seasons correspond more or less to certain months, in the latter each year is different from the first. In practice, this means that every year we tend to anticipate the start of Ramadan by about 10 days, making it start every 4 years in a different season.

Normally you have to wait about 33 years for the cycle to complete, but this can vary depending on the ocular sighting of the Moon, in some countries still a privileged technique to ensure the end of the month. There are 12 months, each consisting of 29 to 30 days.


“It is called muharram because fighting is forbidden in it. The first of the month is revered by the Arab kings, who exchange congratulations as the Persians do on the first day of their year, Nawruz. Al-Muharram 7 is the day in which Jonah came out of the belly of the whale, […]. The 10th is Ashura, a day revered in all religions. ”

“The wonders of creation and the oddities of beings” by Zakariyya ibn Muhammad al Qazwini

Another interesting date of this month is the 17th, the day on which the Ethiopians would have sent the elephants against Mecca, being then annihilated by God; however it is undoubtedly Ashura who characterizes muharram in a decisive way. This festival has completely different meanings in the Sunni and Shiite worlds; in the first, in fact, it is linked to the hadith of Ibn Abbas in which the Prophet urged Muslims to fast on the 10th day of the new year like the Jews with Yom Kippur, while for the second it is linked to the fate of Husayn.


According to tradition, in fact, the fatal massacre of Karbala took place on the day of Ashura, in which the grandson of the Prophet and his family were brutally massacred by the Umayyad troops. Precisely following this tragic clash, the Shiites linked it more and more to a memory of their deceased imam, organizing huge celebrations in memory of him. Large celebrations are not rare, complete with real recitals and self-flagellations in memory of Husayn’s martyrdom.


“It is called safar because all the neighborhoods are emptied of their inhabitants, who, when the holy months are over, leave to resume the fighting. The common people say that staying still in this month is better than moving. It is handed down by the Prophet who said : “Whoever gives me the good news of the end of Safar, I will give him the good news of Paradise”.

“The wonders of creation and the oddities of beings” by Zakariyya ibn Muhammad al Qazwini

According to tradition, this would be the month in which the Prophet Muhammad began the Hegira, with the 24th of the month appearing to be the most likely date when the famous episode of the cave and the spider took place.

Rabīʽ al-Awwal

“It is called rabi ‘because people stop where they are. It is a blessed month, in which God has opened the doors of His graces and bliss for those who recognize the Lord of the Sent.”

“The wonders of creation and the oddities of beings” by Zakariyya ibn Muhammad al Qazwini

The rabi ‘al-awwal is without a shadow of a doubt the month most closely linked to the prophet Muhammad; it seems in fact that on the 8th he finally reached Medina, that on the 10th he married Khadija and that on the 12th he was born. This last date is the one where the Mawlid is celebrated, a commemoration of the Prophet’s birth carried out by some groups, both Sunni, Shiite and Ibadi.

Rabiʽ al-Thani

Rabi ‘al-thani is a less significant month in the Islamic calendar and there are only 3 events to mention: the death of Abdul Qadir Gilani, one of the most famous Sufis ever, which took place on the 11th, the institution of obligation to prayer, which according to al Qazwini would fall on the 14th and the death of Ibn ‘Arabibetween the 28th and the 29th.

Jumada al-Awwal

Another insignificant month in the Islamic calendar, the most important event of which is the conquest of Constantinople by Mehmed II, which would have taken place between 20 and 21 of Jumada al Awwal.


Jumada al-Thani

“It is claimed that most of the wonderful events take place this month, so much so that it is said:” Wonderful! Everything wonderful happens between Jumada and Rajab. ”

“The wonders of creation and the oddities of beings” by Zakariyya ibn Muhammad al Qazwini

In fact, 2 events of particular importance took place this month, none of which is definable as “wonderful”. On the 8th Harun al Rashid would have died and 25 Saladin became the master of Egypt.


“It is called rajab because it is respected, that is, revered. It is also called” the deaf “, since there is no voice asking for help and because one cannot hear the clatter of weapons in battle. It is also called” the one who spreads “, because in it God the Most High has poured out His mercy and His forgiveness on His servants “.

“The wonders of creation and the oddities of beings” by Zakariyya ibn Muhammad al Qazwini

On the 13th, Ali ibn Abi Talib, grandson and son-in-law of the Prophet, a figure of immense importance within the Islamic world and, above all, the Shiite world, would be born.


“It’s called sha’ban because that’s what the tribes split / scattered into.”

“The wonders of creation and the oddities of beings” by Zakariyya ibn Muhammad al Qazwini

The 3rd is the day in which Husayn, grandson of Ali, despite himself protagonist in Karbala, was born; however the most important date is without any doubt the 15th of the month. Between the night of the 14th and the 15th, in fact, the Laylat al Bara’at takes place, or the “Night of the Sentence”; according to tradition, this would be the night in which Allah the Most High forgives many sins of his faithful, effectively directing their fate for the coming year.


“At its beginning the doors of Heaven are opened, those of Hell close and the devils are thrown into chains. On the 3rd the pages of Abraham were revealed. On the 4th the Quran was revealed to the Messenger of God, on the 7th the Torah to Moses, the 8 the Gospel to Jesus. The 21 is said to be the Night of Destiny.

“The wonders of creation and the oddities of beings” by Zakariyya ibn Muhammad al Qazwini

Ramadan is undoubtedly the “prince of the months”, a moment in which every Muslim undertakes to respect abstinence from dawn to dusk and this both from earthly pleasures such as drinking, eating, smoking, etc … and from the bad ones thoughts and words. For some details on this month, we invite you to consult the many articles that we have already dedicated to it on the site.


“It is called shawwāl because the camels lift their tails upwards to be fertilized. The 1st is the feast of the end of the fast”.

“The wonders of creation and the oddities of beings” by Zakariyya ibn Muhammad al Qazwini

The month of shawwal is considered particularly important since it is the moment in which the end of the month of Ramadan actually occurs, a moment more than ever coveted by all Muslims in the world. According to tradition, those who fast for 6 days after breaking the fast will be as if he has fasted all year (provided of course that he has completed Ramadan).

Dhu al-Qa’dah

“It is so called because we refrain from killing. It is the first of the holy months. The 1st God the Most High agreed to meet with Moses for 30 nights. On the 5th Abraham and Ishmael erected the foundations of the Ka’ba.”

“The wonders of creation and the oddities of beings” by Zakariyya ibn Muhammad al Qazwini

This month, as in the case of sha’ban, is more important than anything else for the month that precedes, or Dhu al-Hijjah, the month of the Pilgrimage.

Dhu al-Hijjah

“It is so called because Muslims make the Pilgrimage in it. Ten days of this month are those most dear to God the Most High. The 9 is the day of Arafat. The 10 is the day of the Sacrifice, the day on which Abraham offered the ram instead of his own son “.

“The wonders of creation and the oddities of beings” by Zakariyya ibn Muhammad al Qazwini

The last month of the calendar is also the one with the greatest number of celebrations, having within it both the real Hajj and the Feast of the Sacrifice. The second, in particular, is linked to Abraham’s failure to sacrifice his son Ishmael and to replace him with a ram, which is traditionally slaughtered for the occasion and distributed to the poorest. However, you can find detailed descriptions of both celebrations on the site.

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