The History of Hijra Calendar

Since long time ago, before the dawn of Islam, the Arabs have been using the moon as their measure of years (qamariah). But not all of the people of ignorance who inhabited the Arabia agreed upon one calendar, thus their calendar were different one another. However, they have recognized the moon calendar and they used this concept to create a calendar for their own tribe.

The moon calendar, which have been known since the past time, is similar with the present moon calendar. There are 12 months in a year, and the beginning of each month determined based on the rise of hilal (the first of crescent moon during the moon cycle). They established the Muharram month as the beginning month of the year. They also set four haram months (holy months).They respected these holy months, and they make these four holy months as a period where wars were forbidden among tribes and parties.

The Origin of naming of the months on the moon calendar

The table below shows the names of months in moon calendar from various versions


The Thamud Calendar

(narrated by Al-Azdi)

The Calendar before Islam

(narrated by Al-Bairuni)

The Calendar before Islam

(narrated by Al-Mas’udi)

The Calendar since 412 H


Mujab Al-Mu’tamir Natiq Muharram


Mujir Najir Tsaqil Shafar


Murid Khawwan Thaliq Rabi’ul Awal


Mulzim Shuwan/Bushon Najir Rabi’ul Akhir


Mashdar Hantam/Hanin/Runna Simah Jumadil Ula


Hawbar Zuba Amnah Jumadil Akhirah


Hubal Al-Asham Ahlak Rajab


Muha Adil Kusa’ Sya’ban


Dimar Nafiq/Nathil Zahir Ramadhan


Dabir Waghil/Waghl Burth Syawal


Haifal Hawa’/Rannah Harf Dzulqa’dah


Musbil Burk Na’as Dzulhijjah

The present naming of the moon calendar – according to the strongest stance – have been established since the fifth century AD. It is said that the first person to establish it was Ka’ab Ibn Murra, the fifth grandfather in ascending order of prophet Muhammad -may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him-.

There were five months which name were taken from the seasonal condition of that month (month of Rabiul Awwal, Rabiul Akhir, Jumadil Awal, Jumadil Akhir, and Ramadan). Rabiul Awal and Akhir were taken from word “rabi”, which means “sprout”, since it’s establishment coincided the spring time. Jumadil Awal and Akhir were taken from word “jamad”, which means “frozen”, because the time of these months name establishment coincided the winter time, where waters froze. While Ramadan was taken from word “ramdha”, which means “very hot”, due to it’s establishment coincided the summer time.

The other seven months were named according to the condition of the society and social cycle at that time. Muharram, from the word, “haram”, which means “holy”, since this month is one of the four holy months. Shafar was taken from the word “shifr”, means “zero” or “void”. It was named so, because in this month many of the houses were empty, being left by it’s dwellers who went to war. Rajab, etymologically means “to glorify”, because the ignorant highly glorified this month, and during this month war was strictly forbidden, thus they dubbed this month by “Rajab Al A’sham” (The silent Rajab).

Sha’ban also was named after that fashion. The word sha’ban was taken from the word “sha’bun”, which means “a group” or “a party”. It was termed Sha’ban since during this month, the ignorants would scattered, forming groups, ready for wars, after they left wars in Rajab. Shawwal was taken from the word “syalat”, which means “to uplift”, because this was the time when the she camel lifted their tails, refused to be married by their males. While Dzulqa’dah was taken from the word “al qa’du”, which means “to sit”. In this month, the ignorants started to stay at their homes and they did not make any war, since this month is the beginning of the three consecutive holy months. While Dzulhijja was taken from the name of their type of worshipping in this month, that is pilgrimage to the house of Allah (Hajj). (

How did the Arabs record their history?

The Arabs did not have a stabile calendar system. The calendars were different between a tribe and another tribe. This issue caused record inequality of dates of events and historical moments during the time of ignorance. Although they recorded some events, it merely served as a global story, referring to sequence of events. For example: The death of their high chief, Ka’ab Ibn Luai occurred before the Elephant Strikes. The battle of Fijar occurred some years after the Elephant Strikes, and so on.

The Calendar system at the time of Prophet Muhammad -may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him-

After the emerging and spreading of Islam through the efforts of the Prophet -may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him-, the qamaria year was established with the beginning of the year started by the month Muharram and ended with the month Dzulhijja. But the the beginning of the year and the counting of years were not yet set, thus the believers merely dubbed the years of their lives by the most important event in that year. They named the years as follow:

First year: Year of permission, because the permission was granted to move (Hijra) from Mecca to Medina.

Second year: Year of Al Amr (command, order), because at that year, the ordered was set to embattle the unbelievers.

Third year: Year of At Tamhis (cleaning), because Allah cleaned the sins and mistakes of the believers after the battle of Uhud.

Fourth year: Year of Tarfi’ah (agreement), taken from the word “ra-fa-a”, which means “a peace treaty between two groups”.

Fifth year: Year of Zilzal (quake), as a sign of trials endured by the believers at the battle of Khandaq.

Sixth year: Year of Isti’nas (asking for permission), referring to the revealing of the divine decree, which can be translated as, “Then if you find no one in them, do not enter until you have been given permission (to enter). ” (The Light:28)

The seventh year: Year of Istighlab (victory), because in this year the believers managed to defeat the Jews of Khaibar.

The eighth year: Year of Istiwa’ (glorious). This was the year of Fathu Makkah (the conquest of Mecca).

The ninth year: Year of Al Bara’ah (dissociate). This was the year of The Great Hajj, and Allah revealed His verse, mentioned that Allah and His messenger -may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him- have dissociated themselves from the polytheists. Also This year often termed as “year of Wufud” (guest), because in this year, the people of Arab from various regions came to Medina rushing throng to testify their beliefs to Prophet Muhammad -may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him-.

The tenth year: Year of Al Wada’ (separation). In this year, the Prophet -may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him- performed the Hajj Wada’. (Taken from “Archives Multaqa Ahlil Hadits”, dated 14th of March, 2005)

The calendar system at the time of the companions

At the time of Khulafaur Rasyidun (The Guided Leaders), administrative system of Islamic monarch was trimmed little by little., according to the current administrative system around the world., as long as the system did not break the shari’a. The correspondences had been done repeatedly. But the problem was that the muslims did not have a stable counting of the years. Hence, sometimes each of them had different naming of the years. This happened during the time of caliph Abu Bakr -may Allah be pleased with him- , and several years of the reign of Umar -may Allah be pleased with him- . Thus we know the term ‘year of Tha’un’, since in that year, the epidemic of Tha’un occurred and spread to various regions.

Until finally, at the third year of Umar’s reign, there came a letter from Abu Musa Al Ash’ari -may Allah be pleased with him- a companion whom was appointed as the governor of Bashra, which content was: “Indeed, the letters from The Leader of the believers (Umar) often comes to us. But we don’t know, when shall we carry out the instructions inside it. Once we got a letter written in the month Sha’ban, but we did not know whether it was the present Sha’ban or the past year.”

When the letter reached him, Umar Ibn Khattab -may Allah be pleased with him- gathered the senior companions at once to discuss about the issue. This meeting took place in 20th of Jumadil Akhir, year 17 of Hijra. They agreed about the urgency of date establishment process as the reference of Islamic calendar, started from the establishment of the first year. Some suggested the year of birth of the Prophet -may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him- as the first year, the other suggested the year when he was assigned as the messenger of Allah, others suggested to use the Roman or Persian calendar, and some other suggestions being raised.

Finally, a decision was made based on the opinion of Ali Ibn Abi Thalib -may Allah be pleased with him- who suggested the year of the moving (hijra) of the Prophet -may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him- from Mecca to Medina, as the first year. Whereas the decision of establishment of the first month was taken from the opinion of Uthman Ibn Affan -may Allah be pleased with him-, who proposed to make the month Muharram as the first month in Islam, because such month is the beginning of year in the Arabic calendars before Islam.

Beside that, Muharram is one of the four holy months and the muslims would be just finishing their pilgrimage at that time. The establishment of Muharram as the first month of Hijra calendar was also based on the assumption that at such month, the Prophet -may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him- had not accomplished the hijra and he reached Medina before the next year Muharram. He started the hijra at the end of month Shafar, and he reached the gate of Medina on Monday, 8th Of Rabiul Awal, then he entered Medina on Friday, 12th of Rabiul Awal. The establishment of the beginning of Hijra calendar coincided the Friday, 16th of July, 622 AD. (Taken from “Al-Mufasshal fi Raddi ‘ala Syubuhati A’da Al-Islam, 5:238)

From the origin of it’s naming, this calendar is well known by “qamaria/moon calendar”, because the principle or the basis of establishment of this calendar was the rotating cycle of the moon. This calendar is also named as Hijra calendar, due to the history of it’s establishment was related to the hijra of the Prophet -may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him- from Mecca to Medina.


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