By Shaykh Muhammad Saalih al-’Uthaimeen
The Islamic year was initiated after the Hijrah, or emigration, of the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, and marked the formation of the first Muslim nation within an independent Islamic territory under the rule of Muslims.
The Muslims had no formal annual calendar until the caliphate of ‘Umar bin al-Khattab, may Allah be pleased with him. In the third or fourth year of his caliphate, ‘Umar received a message from Abu Moosaa al-Ash’ari, may Allah be pleased with him, who suggested that their future correspondence be confirmed with the appropriate date.
Therefore, ‘Umar gathered some of the surviving companions of the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, and consulted them on this matter. Some of them suggested adopting the Persian Calendar; others proposed adopting the Roman Calendar; others still proposed that the Muslims should form their own calendar and that it should start from the birth of the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam; another group agreed but thought that the new Islamic Calendar should start from the day on which the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, embarked upon his mission; another group believed that this new Islamic Calendar should begin from the emigration of the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, while a final group believed that should start from his death.
After a discussion they agreed unanimously to adopt the position of those who held that the Islamic Calendar should start from when the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, emigrated from Makkah to Madina and that the first month of this new Calendar be that of Al-Muharram. This is because Al-Muharram is a sacred month and because it follows Dhu’l-Hijjah which is the month in which the Muslims perform the Haj, or the pilgrimage, which is the last of the five pillars of Islam that was enjoined upon the Muslims. Al-Muharram also follows the month in which the Ansaar (the Madinan supporters of the Prophet) pledged allegiance to the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, which was prior to his migration to Madina. This pledge of allegiance was one of the introductory acts of the emigration itself and therefore Al-Muharram was deemed the most suitable month to start the Islamic Calendar by the Companions of the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam.
It is truly saddening that some Muslims have chosen to use the Gregorian Calendar instead of the Hijri Calendar. The Gregorian Calendar has no relation with Islam and although it has been in existence for longer than that of the Hijri Calendar, that is no excuse for the Muslims to adopt it. It is well known that the Companions of the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, would hate that any Muslim would use the Roman or Persian Calendar.
We are about to usher in the new Hijri year. Allah said that which translates as: “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 [i.e. way], so do not wrong yourselves during them...” (At-Tawbah: 36).
These are the months that Allah has appointed for the whole of mankind. He has said that which translates as: “They ask you [O Muhammad], about the new moons. Say ‘They are measurements of time for the people and for Haj (pilgrimage].” (Al-Baqarah: 189).
Therefore, we know that these months, based on the lunar calendar, were appointed for all of mankind and not just for the Arabs. This is due to the fact that the lunar months can very easily be detected and calculated by the sighting of the crescent-moon, which marks the end of the month and the beginning of a new one.
This is not the case with the Gregorian Calendar, which does not rely on any logical or visible signs as regards its calculation of months; rather, each month in this calendar ranges between 28 and 31 days without a single logical reason for such variation.
O Muslims! It is not from the Sunnah to celebrate the new Hijri year or to congratulate one another on its advent. For the Muslims, the passage of years does not constitute a real cause of happiness; rather, what counts is the amount of time spent in obedience to Allah during these years. The years that have passed will be considered as successful if they were spent in obedience to Allah and miserable if they were spent in disobedience of Allah. Therefore, the most evil person is he who has lived a long life and has committed evil deeds throughout. It is a must that we receive our days, months and years while in obedience to Allah. We must bring ourselves to account, redeem ourselves from our bad deeds and duly perform our responsibilities towards our wives, children and relatives.
Servants of Allah! Fear Him and perform the responsibilities about which you will be questioned on the Day of Resurrection. Allah the Almighty says that which translates as: “O you who have believed, protect yourselves and your families from a Fire whose fuel is people and stones, over which are (appointed) angels, harsh and severe, they do not disobey Allah in what He commands them but do what they are commanded.” (At-Tahreem: 6).
Discharge responsibilities properly and know that your limbs will testify against you on the Day of Resurrection. Allah says that which translates as: “Until, when they reach it, their hearing and their eyes and their skins will testify against them of what they used to do. And they will say to their skins, ‘Why have you testified against us?’ They will say, ‘We were made to speak by Allah, who has made everything speak; and He created you the first time, and to Him you are returned. And you were not covering [i.e. protecting] yourselves [By fearing Allah] lest your hearing testify against you or your sight or your skins, but you assumed that Allah does not know much of what you do. And that was your assumption which you assumed about your Lord. It has brought you to ruin, and you have become among the losers.’” (Fussilat: 20- 23).
Servants of Allah! The advent of every new year is marked by many Muslims with sincere resolutions and plans to improve and become closer to their Lord, but the days and hours slip away while the people’s conditions remain the same, the inevitable result of such failures will be loss and disgrace in this world and the next. Therefore, we must invest our time in obedience to Allah and make sure that our spiritual condition is improving from year to year; for the more time runs away from us, the closer we are drawing to our graves.
O servants of Allah! I swear by Allah that improvements in our worldly lives do us absolutely no good if our spiritual lives are not improving at the same time. I also swear that none can attain honour and dignity without submitting to the Lord of the Worlds. Safety, tranquillity and welfare cannot be attained except by adopting the methodology of the messengers of Allah. Be very clear that if any of you see welfare and pleasure accompanied with sins and deviation, then this is definitely a mere respite that has been given by Allah ahead of a total ruin. Thus, we must all stand firm in the obedience of Allah in order to protect ourselves from His punishment. Allah the Almighty says that which translates as: “...And turn to Allah in repentance, all of you, O believers, that you might succeed.” (An-Noor: 31)
O people! Fear Allah; be aware of the ultimate wisdom of Allah in who He chooses as messengers from angels and mankind. Be aware also of the fact that He favours certain times and places over others. Allah favoured Makkah over all other places and chose Madinah, the abode of the Prophet’s migration, next to Makkah in preference, after this, the next most virtuous place in the sight of Allah is Bayt Al-Maqdis, or Jerusalem, which was the abode of the majority of His prophets. Allah has also favoured certain months, days and nights more than others. The number of months is 12, as decreed by Allah when He created the heavens and the earth. Among these twelve are four sacred months, Dhu’l-Qa’dah, Dhul-Hijjah, and Al-Muharram, which are successive and the month of Rajab that comes between Jumada Al-Aakhirah and Sha’baan. The best day which the sun rises on is Friday and the night of Al-Qadr is more virtuous than a thousand months. Therefore, we must all esteem that which Allah has magnified.
The scholars of Islam maintain that the rewards for good deeds are multiplied in times and places which are favoured by Allah and vice versa for bad deeds. The proof of this is from Allah’s saying which translates as: “They ask you concerning the sacred month - about fighting therein. Say, ‘Fighting therein is great [sin], but averting [people] from the way of Allah and disbelief in Him and [preventing access to] the Sacred Mosque [in Makkah] and the expulsion of its people therefrom are greater [evil] in the sight of Allah. And fitnah [Polytheism and Disbelief] is worse than killing’. And they will continue to fight you until they turn you back from your religion if they are able. And whoever of you reverts from his religion [to disbelief] and dies while he is a disbeliever - for those, their deeds have become worthless in this world and the Hereafter, and those are the companions of the Fire; they will abide therein eternally.” (Al-Baqarah: 217).
Allah the Almighty says concerning the Sacred Mosque in Makkah that which translates as: “Indeed, those who have disbelieved and avert [people] from the way of Allah and from the Sacred Mosque [in Makkah], which We made for the people - equal are the resident therein and one from outside; and whoever intends [a deed] therein of deviation [in religion] or wrongdoing - We will make him taste of a painful punishment.” (Al-Hajj: 25).
O people! Do not wrong yourselves during the Sacred Months. Stay well within the limits defined by Allah, fulfil all His obligations, shun all His prohibitions and fulfil the rights of the people.
The Prophet’s emigration to Madina
Thirteen years after the commencement of the prophetic message, In the month of Rabee’ Al-Awwaal, the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, reached Madina having left from Makkah, which was the initial point of revelation and the most beloved of places to him. He left Makkah as an emigrant, in compliance with the command of his Lord, after he had spent 13 years there calling to the clear guidance of the message of his Lord. During this period he, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, and his followers were confronted with rejection, defiance and even physical harm from Quraysh (his tribe).
Moreover, Quraysh even conspired to kill him when their leaders met and exchanged views in order to decide on what course of action to take regarding the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, and his followers. They felt endangered by the message of the Prophet and when some of his companions emigrated to Madina, they knew that he would join them there sooner or later. They knew also about the pledge that the Ansaar (the Madinan supporters of the Prophet) had given to the Prophet which stipulated that they would protect him from any kind of harm, just as they protected their own wives and children.
Quraysh feared the revenge of the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam ,and his followers if they had the opportunity of establishing themselves firmly in Madina. Therefore, during the meeting of the elders of Quraysh, Abu Jahl said: “My opinion is that we should select a strong young man from each of our tribes and give each a sword to strike Muhammad all at the same time. On doing so, his blood will spread among all the Arab tribes – and it will be impossible for the Banu ‘Abd Manaaf (the clan to which the Prophet belonged) to revenge his death, rather they will be obliged to take the diyyah (blood-money).”
“And [remember, O Muhammad], when those who disbelieved plotted against you to restrain you or kill you or evict you [from Makkah]. But they plan, and Allah plans. And Allah is the best of planners.” (Al-Anfaal: 30).
Despite this, Allah revealed the entire conspiracy to the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, and permitted him to emigrate to Madina. Abu Bakr, may Allah be pleased with him, who had prepared himself for the move to Madina, was told several times by the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, to wait. It was clear that the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, wanted to accompany him in the journey of Hijrah, as he, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, said to him: “Wait, for I hope that Allah will allow me also to emigrate.”
‘Aa’ishah, may Allah be pleased with her, narrated: “One day, at midday, while we were sitting in our house, someone said to Abu Bakr, may Allah be pleased with him: ‘Here comes Allah’s Apostle, with his head and part of his face covered with a cloth (i.e. wishing to conceal his identity), at an hour in which he has never come to us’. Abu Bakr, may Allah be pleased with him, said: ‘Let my father and mother be sacrificed for you (an expression that indicates the level of sacrifice that the person expressing it is prepared to make), (O Prophet)! It must have been an urgent matter that brought you here at this hour.’ The Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, asked permission to enter and then did so, he, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, then said to Abu Bakr, may Allah be pleased with him: “Let those who are here with you leave.” Abu Bakr, may Allah be pleased with him, replied: ‘These people are your family (i.e. there is no need for them to leave because they are your own people); Let my father be sacrificed for you, O Allah’s Apostle!’ The Prophet sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam then said: “I have been given permission leave (Makkah).” Abu Bakr, may Allah be pleased with him, asked: ‘Can I accompany you, O Allah’s Apostle? Let my father be sacrificed for you!’ The Prophet sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam replied: “Yes.” Abu Bakr, may Allah be pleased with him, said: ‘O Allah’s Apostle! Let my father be sacrificed for you! Take one of these two she-camels of mine.’ The Prophet sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam replied: “I will take it only on the condition that I pay you for it.”
So we packed their baggage and placed food for their journey into a leather bag. Then the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam and Abu Bakr, may Allah be pleased with him, set off on their journey. After this, they arrived at a mountain named Thawr and remained there for three nights. ‘Abdullah bin Abu Bakr, may Allah be pleased with him, who was an intelligent young man, would stay with them two at night and leave before dawn so that in the morning, he could be among the Quraysh in Makkah and act as if he had spent the whole night there. If he heard of any plot contrived by the Quraysh against the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, and Abu Bakr, may Allah be pleased with him, he would return and inform them two of the plot after dark.”
Quraysh exerted the maximum effort to seize the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, and his companion, may Allah be pleased with him. They searched in all directions and could not find them and so they announced a reward of one hundred camels for anybody who could seize either or both of them. However, it was Allah’s plan to protect them, for some men from the Quraysh reached the very cave where the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, and his companion, may Allah be pleased with him, were hiding – but were unable to spot them.
Abu Bakr, may Allah be pleased with him, said: “I said to the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, when we were in the cave: ‘O Messenger of Allah, if any of them looks down at their feet, they will see us.’ The Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, replied, assuringly: “What do you think about two companions, of whom Allah is the third? (i.e. in terms of assistance)”.
When Quraysh’s pursuit abated, the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, and Abu Bakr, may Allah be pleased with him, left the cave after three nights and headed for Madina following the coastline. A young man by the name of Suraaqah bin Malik, may Allah be pleased with him, who had not yet at that time embraced Islam caught sight of them on his horse. When Abu Bakr, may Allah be pleased with him, turned back and saw him, he said: “Messenger of Allah, someone is following us.” The Prophet sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam replied: “Don’t be anxious; for Allah is with us.” When Suraaqah came closer to them and heard the Prophet’s recitation of the Qur’an, the forelegs of his horse sank into the hard ground, so much so that the horse’s stomach touched the ground. Suraaqah dismounted and spurred the horse until it stood up, but its forelegs were struggling, causing dust to rise up into the sky like smoke.
Recalling this at a later date, Suraaqah said: “I felt then that the Prophet’s affair will come to prominence some day, (i.e. I knew that the day would come when his message would be accepted by the masses) so I cried out at them giving them a pledge of security. The Messenger of Allah sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam was standing ahead of me with his companion. I mounted my horse and rode until I reached them and told them about the plots contrived against them. I offered them food and luggage and said to the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam: ‘You will pass by some flocks of sheep and camels that belong to me; you may take what you need from them.’ The Prophet replied: “I have no need of this, just conceal your knowledge of us.”
Suraaqah headed back to where he had set out from and diverted all those he came across away from the direction that the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam and his companion, may Allah be pleased with him, were heading towards. It seems so strange that Suraaqah, who first sought after the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam and his companion, may Allah be pleased with him, to seize them ended up giving them his full support. This is the support Allah gives to those who serve His cause.
When news of the Prophet’s Hijrah reached the people of Madina from among the Muhaajireen (those Muslims who emigrated from Makkah) and Ansaar (the Madinan supporters of the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam), they would go out to Al-Harrah, which is a place on the outskirts of Madina, in anticipation of the Prophet’s arrival, until they would be forced back by the heat of the sun. When the day of arrival of the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam finally came, a Jew who was looking for something on a hillock in Madina saw him approaching. Despite his enmity, he could not help but cry out: “O Arabs! This is your long-awaited fortune and honour.”
The Muslims hastened to meet the Messenger of Allah sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam with their weapons, as an honorary reception as well as an indication of their readiness for Jihad in the cause of Allah and to defend him. They met him at a place in Al-Harrah and he sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam diverted his course rightward and settled in the Banu ‘Amr bin ‘Awf in Qooba’ (a place on the outskirts of Madina) where he stayed for some nights and built a mosque. He then went on to Madina accompanied by many people, while many others lined the roadside.
Abu Bakr, may Allah be pleased with him, related: “When we came to Madina, people went out onto the roads and onto the tops of houses, along with their children and servants, crying: “Allaahu Akbar! The Messenger of Allah has come! Allaahu Akbar! Muhammad has come!” Anas bin Maalik, may Allah be pleased with him, narrated: “I was walking among small boys, since I was one of them, while people were crying out: ‘Muhammad has come! Muhammad has come!’ So the people repeated these words out of joy due to the Prophet’s arrival, who was the dearest to them. What an arrival! It filled the hearts with joy, pleasure and delight and illuminated the horizons with happiness.”
When the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam reached Madina, the various tribes of Al-Ansaar rivalled each other in leading the Prophet’s she-camel to their dwellings, each saying: ‘Come, O Messenger of Allah! Stay with us! We are great in number, fully armed and ready to defend you’ The Prophet sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam replied, regarding his she-camel: “Let it go where it wishes, for it is inspired. I will stay where Allah wished me to stay.” The she-camel stood in the place where he sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam later built his mosque, it knelt down and remained there for sometime, while the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam remained on its back. After this, the she-camel got up again and the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam loosened its bridle, it walked for a short distance and then returned to the previous location and knelt down. Upon this the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam said: “Here is the settling place, Allah willing”. The place where the she-camel knelt belonged to two orphans, who offered to give it to the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam for free, but he sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam refused and instead he purchased it from them.
Then Allah’s Prophet sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam asked: “Whose is the nearest of the houses to here?” A man called Abu Ayyoob, may Allah be pleased with him, replied: ‘Mine, O Allah’s Prophet! This is my house and this is my gate.’ The Prophet sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam then said: “Go and prepare a place for our midday rest.” Abu Ayyoob, may Allah be pleased with him, prepared it, then returned and said: ‘Come along, both of you, with the blessings of Allah.’
When Allah’s Prophet sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam went into the house, a man named ‘Abdullah ibn Salaam, may Allah be pleased with him, came and said: “I testify that you (i.e. Muhammad) are Apostle of Allah and that you have come with the truth. The Jews know very well that I am their chief and the son of their former chief and the most learned amongst them and the son of the former most learned amongst them. So send for them (i.e. the Jews) and ask them about me before they know that I have embraced Islam, for if they know that then they will say about me things which are not correct.” So Allah’s Apostle sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam sent for them and they came and entered. Allah’s Apostle sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam said to them: “O Jews! Woe to you! Fear Allah! I swear by Allah besides Whom none has the right to be worshipped that you people know for certain that I am the Apostle of Allah and that I have come to you with the truth, so embrace Islam.” The Jews replied: “We do not know this.” So he sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam repeated this twice and they repeated their answer twice. Then he sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam asked them: “What sort of a standing does ‘Abdullah ibn Salaam have amongst you?” They said: “He is our chief, the son of our former chief and the most learned man, the son of the former most learned man amongst us.”
He sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam said: “What would you think if he should embrace Islam?” They replied: “Allah forbid! He cannot embrace Islam.” He sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam repeated the question and they repeated the response, then He sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam called out: “O Ibn Salaam! Come out to them.” He came out and said: ‘O Jews! Be afraid of Allah besides Whom none has the right to be worshipped. You know for certain that he is Apostle of Allah and that he has brought the true religion!” The Jews replied: “You are a liar.” On that Allah’s Apostle sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam turned them out. ‘Abdullah ibn Salaam, may Allah be pleased with him, then said: “Did I not tell you, Messenger of Allah, that they are a people of falsehood, betrayal, lying and obscenity?”
That was the Prophet’s emigration, who left his home town to call to the religion of Allah and reform His servants.
Fear Allah! O servants of Allah and abandon acts of disobedience so that you can all at least achieve one kind of Hijrah. (This refers to the abandonment of sins. According to Islam, Hijrah is of two kinds: literal, which denotes moving from one place to another in order to be able to practise one’s religion, and metaphorical which means the abandonment of sins). Whoever abandons something which he likes for Allah’s sake, Allah will reward him with something better. Whoever sticks to piety and goodness, Allah will be with him. Allah the Almighty said that which translates as: “Indeed, Allah is with those who fear Him and those who are doers of good.” (Al-Nahl: 128).
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