By: Maulana Khursheed Alam Dawood Qasmi*
Muharram, the 1st month of Islamic calendar has just started. Some people may know that Islamic Calendar Year begins with Muharram and ends in the month of Hajj-Dul Hijjah. But most of the people don’t know the “Point of Beginning” of the Islamic Calendar. It doesn’t begin with birth or death, but it began to commemorate an Islamic history.
Whenever in the history of a community, any kind of delight happening takes place or a destructive occurrence occur, the community doesn’t forget it and always tries to remember it in all circumstances. Muslim community, starting the Islamic Year with Hijrah-migration remembers the migration of the Prophet Muhammad Sallallahu Aleihi Wa Sallam, a key event that had a great effect in forming the Islamic empire.
The Prophet Muhammad (saws)’s migration notched its curves on the pages of human history when he asked the Muslim families living in Makkah to slip to find the new homes in Madinah. The Prophet Muhammad (saws) and the first caliph of Islam, Abu Bakr (Raziyallahu Anhu) narrowly escaped assassination, taking refuge in a desert cave, known as Thour before making their way safely to Madinah as commanded by the Al-Mighty Allah. This departure is the Hijrah (Emigration) from which date the Islamic calendar begins.
The second caliph of Islam and one of the greatest companions of the Prophet Muhammad (saws), Umar Farooq (Raziyallahu Anhu) discussed with his contemporaries the beginning of “Islamic Year”. One suggested the Prophet’s birth was a fortunate event to start with. Someone opined the day of the revelation of Wahee from the Al-Mighty Allah. While some others came up with the opinion that the day of the Makkah’s victory would be more appropriate for the purpose. Similarly, the conquest of the Battle of Badar and Hajjatul Widaa (the last Hajj) were also discussed. After several opinions were offered, the companions gave consensus to none of them. The fourth caliph of Islam, Ali bin Abi Talib (Raziyallahu Anhu) suggested the Hijrah as the beginning of the Islamic calendar year. Consequently, Caliph Umar bin Khattab (ra) in 21 AH or 641 CE introduced the Islamic Calendar in its present form.
So, the Islamic Calendar is reckoned from the time of migration of Prophet Muhammad (saws). The Prophet’s decision to migrate from Makkah, his birthplace, came following several years of inhuman treatment of the faithful people by the powerful tribes who were united despite all their feuds to stop the spread of Islam. Prophet Muhammad (saws)’s decision to leave the city coincided with the Makkans plan to assassinate him. In 622 CE, the Quresh tribesmen held a meeting and decided that a band of young men, one from each tribe, should assassinate Prophet Muhammad collectively so the responsibility of the murder could not be placed on any particular tribe.
On the eventful night, the Prophet (saws) asked his cousin Ali bin Abi Taalib (ra) to take his place in the bed to make the Makkans think that he was asleep. The Prophet (saws) himself slipped out unobserved along with his loyal follower Abu Bakr (ra). They secretly made their way to a cave famously known as Thour, not far from Makkah and lay in hiding there for three days until Abu Bakr’s son reported that the search for them had been given up. Then the two set out for Madinah on camel back. They reached Quba, on the edge of the Madinah oasis, on 12th Rabiul Awwal, the third month of Islamic Calendar. With Muhammad (saws)’s arrival in Quba, a new phase of his career and glory of Islam started.
This event seems to be the sign of despair, hopelessness, weakness and unsuccessfulness. There might be encroaching a question in one’s mind over the choice of migration to begin Islamic Year. However, when one looks into the matter deeply, this migration has a special significance in the history of Islam. It ended the Makkan period of humiliation and torture and began the era of success. His own people, to whom he preached Islam for 13 years, neglected the Prophet of Islam. While living in Makkah, the Prophet (saws) and his companion underwent mountains of mental and physical troubles by the disbelievers. They tried their best to stop Muhammad (saws) and the mission – the invitation toward Allah – so as to finish Islam completely form the surface of the earth before its beginning.
On other hand, when the Prophet Muhammad (saws) reached Madinah, he was cordially received there as an honoured chief. In Madinah, his power enhanced day by day. Here he was not only the religious leader, but took the role of a politician and statesman too. Prophet Muhammad (saws) passed away ten years after his migration to Madinah, but only in one decade he changed the course of human history.
The emotion of equality and justice, sacrifice and selflessness overcome. A great and healthy society was founded. The door of victory opened and this important migration became key factor to emerge Islam globally. Islam flourished all over the world, the message of oneness of Allah and prophet-hood reached every corner of the world and the guidance and righteousness became the day-to-day practice of lives. It, therefore, can be claimed that the migration of the Prophet (saws) is the most deserving event in Islamic history to get due importance by starting the Islamic Year without a doubt. The decision, therefore, taken by the second caliph, after mutual consultation with the companions, was a great initiative that implies a great strategy and tells about his high wisdom.
When the companions agreed, the issue of the first month to start the Islamic year was raised. They discussed and decided “Muharram” to be the first month of the year, because when the Prophet Muhammad (saws) intended to migrate, it was the same month. Similarly, it was the first month of the year in the age of Jahiliyah (Pre Islamic Era). It became inconvenient for all to retain the same month as the first to carry forward the previous state of the affairs. After the decision of the Islamic year and the month all happenings were put in order according to the new calendar.
Today’s Muslims, be it in Muslim countries or otherwise, feel pride to follow the western culture and deem it the path of success and regard the Islamic rules and regulations and its culture and civilisation a disturbance in their way to progress. The new Islamic year goes unnoticed by one and all. The Muslims are not aware of what they should practice in the month of Muharram and what they should abstain from. Even most of the Muslims brethren are not aware of the names of the Islamic months. Except some Madaaris and Islamic institutes, most of them don’t use Islamic calendar in many countries.
*The author of the article, Khursheed Alam Dawood Qasmi, is a graduate of Darul Uloom, Deoband and at present teacher of Moon Rays Trust School, Zambia, Southern Africa. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org