According to where you live, either yesterday or today heralded the first of Muharram and with it, the beginning of the new Islamic year!
I don’t know about you, but I am somewhat embarrassed to admit, that for much of my life, I would only begin paying attention to the lunar calendar once it started to approach Ramadan. It’s not that my parents wouldn’t remind me of important Islamic months or dates (they did), or even that, pre-internet, it was difficult to figure the months out (it kind of was) – only that other than Ramadan, it didn’t seem that… relevant to my everyday life.
As a student, the year revolved around academic dates and exam timetables. Then as a creative professional, it was about managing the rush of autumn deadlines, spring campaigns and trying to book time off in between. Where did Safar or Rajab fit in? Most times, nowhere, and so the months passed largely unnoticed.
That is until, some time ago, I became part of a community which, in a very familiar and casual way, seemed always to be aware of where we were in the Islamic calendar. At first I thought this was a nice gesture – a thing that maybe “more” religious people did. And as the months, and then years, moved on, this awareness seeped its way into me. I too began to follow the moon, anticipate the months and could reliably say a little bit about why each was important. But still, deep inside, I wanted to know why this calendar mattered more than any other.
Like almost everything else in life, my answer was found in the Qur’an:
“ God decrees that there are twelve months – ordained in God’s Book on the Day when He created the heavens and the earth – four months of which are sacred: this is the correct calculation.” (Qur’an 9:36)
As simple as it seems, this is it: The lunar calendar, it’s months and timeless rhythm, were fixed by Allah at the very creation of the universe. It is a sacred marker of time. And to follow it precisely is to honour it as the ultimate way to mark the passing of our years. It is the calendar of our soul – the one which connects us to our Creator but also to the rest of creation.
Being conscientious of the lunar calendar is to be conscientious of the physical and metaphysical world around us. At the very least, it means regularly raising our eyes up into the night sky and understanding that we have to look for the sign set by Allah before our month can begin or end. And at it’s best, it allows us to fully participate and benefit from the immeasurable blessings and gifts placed within these Divinely established dates and by them, to be uplifted and illuminated.
So, as the crescent of Muharram hangs in the sky and we welcome this year anew, we ask that it be one of immense blessings and goodness for you and your families. May you grow in peace, shelter in mercy and shine with faith. Ameen.
For more on the sacred month of Muharram, here is a great summary of it’s importance and virtues – may it be a good one.