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    The Months of the Islamic Calendar: Part 1

    The Islamic calendar is used by Muslims throughout the world to determine the days on which they should observe the annual fast of Ramadan, attend the Hajj pilgrimage and celebrate other holidays and festivals.

    The Islamic calendar is lunar, meaning months begin when the first crescent of a new moon is sighted. The months therefore move position from year to year, unlike the Gregorian calendar.

    Muharram

    The first month of the Islamic calendar is one of four sacred months mentioned by Allah (SWT) in the Quran. Indeed, it's considered the second holiest month after Ramadan, and some devout Muslims choose to fast. The name means 'forbidden', and any kind of warfare or fighting is not permitted.

    The tenth day of Muharram is Ashura, celebrated by Sunni Muslims as the Day of Atonement when the Israelites were freed from the Pharaoh of Egypt and marked by Shia Muslims as a day to mourn the martyrdom of Muhammad's (PBUH) grandson, Husayn ibn Ali, which occurred at the Battle of Karbala.

    Safar

    The traditional meaning of Safar is 'empty'. One interpretation refers to villagers leaving for the battlefield after the ban on warfare during Muharram had come to an end. Another explains the meaning as people leaving their homes to find food after the sacred month preceding.

    Yet another has the name referring to the looted houses of enemies, with nothing left behind. Whichever you prefer, Safar is considered by some to be a month to take care, as misfortune may strike.

    Rabi al-awwal

    In Arabic, rabi means 'spring' and al-awwal means 'the first'. This suggests a sense of blessing and renewal - not least because Rabi al-awwal is the month in which Muhammad was born. Mawlid is the prophet's birthday, usually celebrated on the 12th day.

    In most Muslim-majority countries, Mawlid is a national holiday and a time to give small gifts and decorate your house.

    Rabi ath-thani

    Following 'the first spring', Rabi ath-thani, logically enough, is the second spring. This is a month without any specific worship, though some Muslims mark the anniversary of the Sufi teacher Shaikh Abdulqadir al-Jilani on the 11th day and share food with friends in order to please the soul of the Shaikh.

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