Islamic Calendar

The Muslim calendar follows a lunar cycle of 12 months. Every new moon signifies the beginning of a new month. Each month is from 29 to 30 days long, depending on the moon sighting. An Islamic year then has approximately 354 days. There are no leap years. Each year the Islamic months move backward by about a week and a half through the months of the English calendar. Because of this, Islamic festivals and annual rituals will be in different seasons each year.

The names of the months predate Islam and have ancient roots in the Arabian peninsula. It was during the rule of the Caliph Umar, in 637, that the beginning date for the Islamic calendar was fixed according to the year that the Prophet made his migration from Mecca to Medina. The year 622 is our year zero!

Islamic MonthEnglish MeaningExplanation
MuharramThe Sacred MonthThe Islamic New Year.
SafarThe Month of TravelingTraditionally the month that caravans set out for Syria or Yemen.
Rabiul AwwalThe First SpringProphet Muhammad was born on the twelfth of this month.
Rabiath-ThaniThe second SpringNamed for the last vestiges of spring.
Jumada al AwwalThe First Dry MonthRefers to the hot summer months.
Jumada ath-ThaniThe Second Dry MonthA continuation of the preceding.
RajabThe Month of RespectPre-Islamic Arabs used to hold a general truce in this month to allow for religious pilgrimage.
Sha’banThe Dividing MonthMany Muslims hold a special ceremony in this month to mark the importance of God’s knowledge of the future.
RamadanThe Month of Great HeatMuslims fast from dawn to dusk
this month.
ShawwalThe Month of HuntingThe festival of the fast breaking occupies the first three days of this month.
Dhul Qa’dahThe Month of RestTraditionally a time when business activity slowed in Arabia.
Dhul HijjahThe Month of PilgrimageWhen the hajj to Mecca takes place.

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