Hijri Lunar Calendar and Haram (Forbidden) Months
Lunar calendar depends on the movement of the moon and consists of 12 lunar months. Name of the months are Muharram, Safar, Rabiʿ al-Awwal, Rabiʿ al-Thana, Jumada al-Awwal, Jumada al-Thana, Rajab, Shaʿban, Ramadan, Shawwal, Dhu al-Qa’da and Dhu al-Hijjah.
4 of these months are called haram months: Dhu al-Qa’da, Dhu al-Hijjah, Muharram and Rajab. In these months, the reward for good deeds and the punishment for bad deeds are multiplied and Muslims are encouraged to refrain from sins and increase their good deeds. War is also forbidden during these months except in response to aggression.
Arabs have been using the lunar calendar since the time of Ibrahim alaihi salam. During these months they stopped fighting out of respect. Provisions regarding the haram months were placed by Allah (سُبحانهُ و تعاليٰ) but over time, their main purpose was forgotten. With the advent of Islam, the importance given to these months was restored. During the caliphate of Umar ( رضي الله عنه) the Hijri lunar calendar emerged. The starting month was taken as Muharram, which was the month that the Hijrah took place.
The haram months are mentioned in the Qur’an as follows:
“The number of the months with Allah (سُبحانهُ و تعاليٰ) has been twelve since the time He created the heavens and the earth, four of them are sacred. That is the right religion. So do not wrong yourselves during them. And fight the polytheists altogether just as they themselves fight against you altogether. Know that Allah (سُبحانهُ و تعاليٰ) is the righteous.” [At-Tawba,36]
Our Prophet (صَلَّى اللّٰهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ), states the following about haram months:
The Prophet (صَلَّى اللّٰهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ) gave a sermon during his hajj and said: “Time has completed a cycle and assumed the form of the day when Allah (سُبحانهُ و تعاليٰ) created the heavens and the earth. The year contains twelve months of which four are sacred, three of them consecutive, Dhu al-Qa’dah, Dhu al-Hijjah and Muharram and also Rajab of Mudar which comes between Jumadah and Sha’ban.” [Sunan Abi Dawud 1947]
The Month of Rajab
Rajab derives from the word rajb, which means to fear and respect. Our Prophet (صَلَّى اللّٰهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ) called this month Rajab of Mudar because the tribes from the Mudar branch of the Arabs showed great respect to this month. Three of the forbidden months, Dhu al-Qadah, Dhu al-Hijjah and Muharram, are called sard (meaning consecutive) because they come one after the other, and Rajab is called fard (meaning individual) because it remains alone.
Prophet (صَلَّى اللّٰهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ) stated the following in a hadith: “Rajab is the month of Allah; Shaban is my month; Ramadan is the month of my ummah.” [Kanzu’l-Ummal, XII/310]
The Reward of Fasting in the Month of Rajab
Fasting is the first of the good deeds to be done in the month of Rajab. One should try to fast as many days as possible, but it is not recommended to fast the whole month.
It is narrated that Rasulullah (صَلَّى اللّٰهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ) gave some advice to a person who continuously fasted without break.
Bahili narrates: The Messenger of Allah (صَلَّى اللّٰهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ) stated the following:
“Hold some of the haram months and release some of them; hold and release in haram months, hold and release in haram months.”
Bahili says: “as the Messenger of Allah (صَلَّى اللّٰهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ) said ‘Hold’, he clenched three of his fingers; when he said ‘Release’, he released his three fingers.” [Abu Dawud, Sawm: 54]
The reason why it is not recommended to fast the entire month continuously is to distinguish Ramadan from the other months. Fasting for an uninterrupted month is only for the month of Ramadan.
The coming of this month means that we are approaching Ramadan. This is the reason why Rajab, Shaban and Ramadan are collectively referred to as “the 3 holy months”.
The first Thursday night of the month of Rajab is referred to as Laylat al-Raghaib (Night of Raghaib). Raghaib is an Arabic word derived from the word “ra-gha-ba” meaning “to desire” or “to tend toward”. The night of Raghaib is the harbinger of the three holy months and is also the first step in preparing for Ramadan. Allah endows upon people His mercy, offers and aids on that night.
Ibn Umar (ra) said, ’There are five nights in which a du’a is not rejected: Thursday night, the first night of Rajab, the night of mid-Sha’ban (15th night), the night of Eid al-Fitr and the night of Eid al-Adha’. [Shu’b al-Iman]
Another important night of the month of Rajab is the Laylat al-Miraj, which is the 27th night.
This blessed night hosted two great events: Rasulullah (صَلَّى اللّٰهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ) was taken from Masjid al-Haram in Mecca to Bayt al-Maqdis in al-Quds. This first step is called Isra, which means night walk. The second miraculous event that took place on this night is the Prophet’s (صَلَّى اللّٰهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ) ascent to Allah (سُبحانهُ و تعاليٰ) after passing the seven-fold heavens from Bayt al-Maqdis. No human being was given such an honor in his lifetime. This second step is referred to as Miraj.
The gift that our Prophet (صَلَّى اللّٰهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ) brought to his ummah from this journey was the five daily prayers. In addition to that, the last two verses of the Surah al-Baqara, which the Prophet (صَلَّى اللّٰهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ) said “Whoever reads the last two verses of the Surah al-Baqara at night, will be enough for him,”[Bukhari] were revealed on this night.
The gifts given on the Laylat al-Miraj were expressed as follows in another hadith:
“Prophet (صَلَّى اللّٰهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ) were given three things in Miraj: He was given five daily prayers, the last part of the chapter of al-Baqara (Amanarrasulu) and the promise that the sins of the people from the ummah of Muhammad would be forgiven except those who died associating partners with Allah.” [Muslim, Iman, 279]
May Allah (سُبحانهُ و تعاليٰ) accept your prayers on these blessed days and give the reward for your good deeds. Amen!
Jan 2023/ Rajab 1444
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