Sun. Nov 17th, 2019

Islamic Web Library

An Islamic Resource Center

Islamic Calendar (Lunar Calendar)

12 min read

Quran 2:189:

They ask you, [O Muhammad], about the new moons. Say, “They are measurements of time for the people and for Hajj.”

The following commentary is taken from ‘Maariful Quran’ by Mufti Taqi Usmani vol 1 pg. 479-482

Commentary

Reported in the first Verse (189) there is a question asked by the noble Companions and its answer given by Allah Almighty. Sayyidna ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Abbas says that the Companions of the Holy Prophet (saw) had a distinct mannerliness of their own. On account of the great respect they had for him, they asked very few questions from their Prophet (saw) . This is contrary to the practice of the communities of the past prophets who asked many questions and thus failed to observe the etiquette due before a prophet. Sayyidna ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Abbas adds that the total number of questions asked by the noble Companions as mentioned in the Holy Qur’an is fourteen, one of which , ,*’ has just appeared above: ‘And when My servants ask you …’ (186). The other question is right here. Other than these, there are six more questions appearing in Surah al-Baqarah itself. The rest of the six questions come up in various other Surahs.
It is mentioned in the present verse that the noble Companions asked the Messenger of Allah about the new moon as it appears in the early part of the month, having a shape different from the sun. The new moon begins as a thin crescent slowly growing into full circle, then, it starts reducing itself in the same manner. So, they asked either about its cause or about the wisdom underlying its gradual growth. Both possibilities exist. But the answer given states the wisdom and benefit behind it. Now, if the question itself was concerned with the wisdom and benefit behind the waning and waxing of the new moon, then the answer obviously synchronizes with the question. But, if the question aimed at finding out the cause of the waning and waxing of the new moon, which is far away from the mannerliness of the noble Companions, then the answer, by electing to state its wisdom and benefit rather than its reality, simply hints that finding out the reality of the heavenly bodies is not an area under man’s control anyway, and then, for that matter, the knowledge of its reality is not necessary for any practical purpose, neither in this world nor in the Hereafter. Therefore, the question of reality is absurd. What could be asked and what could be explained is that there are certain benefits that accrue to us through the waning and waxing, the setting and the rising of the moon in this manner. Therefore, in response to this, the Holy Prophet & was told that he should tell them that their benefits tied to the moon are that they will find it easy to determine the time factor in their transactions and contracts, and to know about the days of the Hajj. The Lunar Calendar is the Islamic choice This verse tells us no more than that the moon will help identify the count of months and days on which rest transactions and acts of worship, such as, the Hajj. The same subject has been dealt with in Surah Yunus in the following manner:

And determined it (the moon) by stations, that you might know the number of the years and the reckoning. (10:5)


This tells us that the benefit of having the moan pass through dif- ferent stages and conditions is that people may find out through it the count of years, months and days. But, in a verse of Surah Bani Isra’il, this count has been connected to the sun as well in the following words:

Then We erased the sign of the night and brought out the sign of the day to see, so that you seek the blessing from your Lord and get to know the number of years and the reckoning. (17:12)


Although this third verse proves that years and months can be counted with the help of a solar calendar also, yet the words used by the Holy Qur’an with regard to the moon very clearly indicate that the lunar calendar is a fixed choice in the shari’ah of Islam, specially in prescribed acts of worship which relate to a particular month and its dates; for instance, the months of Ramadan and Hajj, as well as injunctions related to the days of Hajj, Muharram and Lailatul-Qadr are all tied to the sighting of the new moon, all this because in this verse, by saying (They are indicative of time for the people and of the Hajjj, it has been established that the lunar calendar is the one to be trusted upon in the sight of Allah, although, the count of months can come out of a solar calendar as well.
The shari’ah of Islam has opted for the lunar calendar because it is based on something which every sighted person can see on the horizon and be informed accordingly; the knowledge of it is equaily easy for the scholars, the ignorant, the villagers, the islanders and the dwellers of the mountains. This stands in contrast with the solar calendar which depends on meteorological equipment and mathematical computations which cannot become the common personal experience of everybody so easily. Then comes the matter of religious observances, the ‘ibiidat, where the lunar calendar has been fixed as an obligation. This has also been favoured in social and business transactions because it serves as a basis for the acts of Islamic worship, and a symbol of Islamic identity, notwithstanding the position of the solar calendar which has not been prohibited juristically, the only condition being that the use of the solar calendar should not become so widespread that people forget all about the lunar calendar. If this happens, it would necessarily affect the obligatory ‘ibtidat like Fasting and Hajj adversely, a sampling of which is visible in our time, in offices and businesses, government and private, where the solar calendar is being used with such frequency that many people do not seem to even remember all Islamic months by name. Apart from the juristic position of the lunar system, this situation is a deplorable demonstration of our lack of will to approach and uphold such a matter of national and religious identity with a sense of self-respect. It is not difficult to use the solar calendar only in office situations where one has to deal with non-Muslims as well, but for the rest of office correspondence, private dealings and dailv requirements the lunar calendar may be used with advantage, that is, if this is done, the user will earn the thawiib of performing a fard ‘alE al-kifEyah (an obligation which, if performed by some, suffices for others), and of course, national identity will be preserved. This tells us that the benefit of having the moan pass through dif- ferent stages and conditions is that people may find out through it the count of years, months and days. But, in a verse of Surah Bani Isra’il, this count has been connected to the sun as well in the following words:


Then We erased the sign of the night and brought out the sign of the day to see, so that you seek the blessing from your Lord and get to know the number of years and the reckoning. (17:12)

Although this third verse proves that years and months can be counted with the help of a solar calendar also, yet the words used by the Holy Qur’an with regard to the moon very clearly indicate that the lunar calendar is a fixed choice in the shari’ah of Islam, specially in prescribed acts of worship which relate to a particular month and its dates; for instance, the months of Ramadan and Hajj, as well as injunctions related to the days of Hajj, Muharram and Lailatul-Qadr are all tied to the sighting of the new moon, all this because in this verse, by saying (They are indicative of time for the people and of the Hajjj, it has been established that the lunar calendar is the one to be trusted upon in the sight of Allah, although, the count of months can come out of a solar calendar as well.
The shari’ah of Islam has opted for the lunar calendar because it is based on something which every sighted person can see on the horizon and be informed accordingly; the knowledge of it is equaily easy for the scholars, the ignorant, the villagers, the islanders and the dwellers of the mountains. This stands in contrast with the solar calendar which depends on meteorological equipment and mathematical computations which cannot become the common personal experience of everybody so easily. Then comes the matter of religious observances, the ‘ibiidat, where the lunar calendar has been fixed as an obligation. This has also been favoured in social and business transactions because it serves as a basis for the acts of Islamic worship, and a symbol of Islamic identity, notwithstanding the position of the solar calendar which has not been prohibited juristically, the only condition being that the use of the solar calendar should not become so widespread that people forget all about the lunar calendar. If this happens, it would necessarily affect the obligatory ‘ibtidat like Fasting and Hajj adversely, a sampling of which is visible in our time, in offices and businesses, government and private, where the solar calendar is being used with such frequency that many people do not seem to even remember all Islamic months by name. Apart from the juristic position of the lunar system, this situation is a deplorable demonstration of our lack of will to approach and uphold such a matter of national and religious identity with a sense of self-respect. It is not difficult to use the solar calendar only in office situations where one has to deal with non-Muslims as well, but for the rest of office correspondence, private dealings and dailv requirements the lunar calendar may be used with advantage, that is, if this is done, the user will earn the thawiib of performing a fard ‘alE al-kifEyah (an obligation which, if performed by some, suffices for others), and of course, national identity will be preserved.