ASHUR AL HARAM (SACRED MONTHS)

Sacred months, months deserving respect (Dhul-Qa’dah, Dhul-Hijjah, Muharram and Rajab). They are called sacred months since war was forbidden during these months.

During the time of ignorance, the Arabs were always in combat and trouble with each other except for the sacred months. At that time, fairs where set up, poetry competitions were held; Jews, Christians and idolaters tried to spread their beliefs. If - during these months of peace - a war broke out, it would be called “Fijar war” because the rules were broken. It is narrated that when our Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was around twenty years old, he joined the Fijar war between the Quraysh and the Hawazin tribes. Our Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) did not spill any blood. Instead, he gathered fallen arrows for his uncles.

Sacred months are part of lunar months used by the Arabs since time of Abraham (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). In other words, the months belong to the calendar based on the movement of the moon. Since the Hijrah (Migration) was a turning point in Islamic history, the month of Muharram - when the Hijrah was made - became the first month of the calendar during the time of Umar Ibn al-Khattab (may Allah be pleased with him). Thus, the Islamic calendar (Hijri calendar) was made, where the year of Hijrah was accepted as year one. With Muharram as its first month and Dhul-Hijjah as its last month, the Islamic calendar has the following months: Muharram, Safar, Rabi’ al-Awwal, Rabi’ ath-Thani, Jumada al-Ula, Jumada al-Akhirah, Rajab, Sha’ban, Ramadan, Shawwal, Dhul-Qa’dah, Dhul-Hijjah.

The sacred months are mentioned in Surah At-Tawbah in the Qur’an:

“Indeed, the number of months with Allah is twelve [lunar] months in the register of Allah [from] the day He created the heavens and the earth; of these, four are sacred. That is the correct religion, so do not wrong yourselves during them. And fight against the disbelievers collectively as they fight against you collectively. And know that Allah is with the righteous [who fear Him]. Indeed, the postponing [of restriction within sacred months] is an increase in disbelief by which those who have disbelieved are led [further] astray. They make it lawful one year and unlawful another year to correspond to the number made unlawful by Allah and [thus] make lawful what Allah has made unlawful. Made pleasing to them is the evil of their deeds; and Allah does not guide the disbelieving people.” (At-Tawbah [9:36-37]).

As for the word “nasee” (the postponing) in the verse (ayah) and how the Arabs made the sacred months lawful, since the difference in day count between lunar year (354 days) and solar year (365 year) is eleven days, lunar years start eleven days earlier each year. Considering this, the pilgrimage (hajj) season would sometimes start in middle of the winter and other times during hottest periods of the summer. The polytheists did not like this because the Bedouins did not visit the Kaaba during the hottest periods of the summer and the coldest ones in the winter; business would decrease. For this reason, a council gathered every third year to add an additional month to the year, increasing the number of months from twelve to thirteen. Therefore, the pilgrimage season was arranged to be in one of the four seasons that they desired the most (e.g. when their crops were ready). In this way, the pilgrimage season did not change, instead the months switched places. Starting from Safar and ending with Dhul-Hijjah, Muharram would take the place of every other eleven month. Thus, the sacred months took the places of halal (lawful) months. Sine the month of pilgrimage (Dhul-Hijjah) was postponed eleven months each year, the real pilgrimage month Dhul-Hijjah’s ninth day would only occur correctly every 33rd year. As a matter of fact, Dhul-Hijjah in the 10th year of the Hijrah returned to its correct time.

The Prophet (pbuh) states the following related to haram months in the Farewell Sermon: “O people! Changing the places of haram months in order to continue war is going too far in unbelief. It is something by which unbelievers are led astray. They make a month halal one year and halal in the next year in order to match the number of the months Allah rendered haram and halal. They render halal what Allah renders haram and vice versa. Time has verily come full turn, to how it was the day Allah created the heavens and the earth. There are twelve months in a year. Four months are haram months; three of them are in a row: Dhul Qa‘da, Dhul-Hijja, and Muharram; and the other one is Rajab of Mudarr tribe (Mudarr tribe respected the month of Rajab very much), which is between Sha‘ban and Jumada al-Ula. (at-Taj, II, 149)

The prohibition of war in those months was abrogated. The verb to wrong in the verse “do not wrong your souls” is interpreted as committing sins. Therefore, the penalty for committing sins in those months is more severe than that in other months.

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