12th Rabi ul Awwal, Mawlid and the Hijri-Misri Calendar

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The Misri / Hijri Calendar

By Mufaddal Sh Zainuddin Adamjee and Murtaza Gulamali

Many Muslims throughout the world will commemorate the milad or mawlid (birthday) of Prophet MohammedSAW on the 12th of Rabi al-Awwal, the third month of the Islamic calendar, (which corresponds to 30th November 2017 this year). At the age of forty, the Prophet SAW was blessed with the Lord’s divine revelation and proclaimed his prophethood to the world. Thirteen years later, the Prophet Mohammed SAW migrated from Makkah to Madina and it was on this same date, 12th Rabi al-Awwal, a Monday, before noon, that he entered the city limits of Madina. The Fatemi Dai and historian, Syedna Idris Imad al-Din RA states that it was this day that marked the beginning of the calendar for all Muslims, literally the first ‘date’ اول التاريخ .[1] Hence the Islamic calendar is known as the “Hijri” calendar because it begins with the Prophet’s “hijrah” (migration) to Madina.

Calculating dates according to the moon was simpler for people to do than using the sun, as the moon has a continual cycle in which the new moon will always be on the first eve of the month, the full moon always in the middle and then slowly disappearing again. Ancient civilizations such as the Akkadians, Sumerians and Babylonians used the lunar calendar because of this synchronicity with the phases of the moon. The Quranic guidance was to follow the moon as a calendar, and the sun for salaah (prayer) times. The Quran states:

 هُوَ الَّذِي جَعَلَ الشَّمْسَ ضِيَاءً وَالْقَمَرَ نُورًا وَقَدَّرَهُ مَنَازِلَ لِتَعْلَمُوا عَدَدَ السِّنِينَ وَالْحِسَاب

It is He (Allah) who made the sun to be a radiance (daw) and the moon light (noor), and measured out (the moon’s) stages; so that ye may know the number of years and the calculation - 10:5)

يَسْأَلُونَكَ عَنِ الْأَهِلَّةِ ۖ قُلْ هِيَ مَوَاقِيتُ لِلنَّاسِ وَالْحَجِّ

(They ask you (Mohammed) about the new moons (pl. hilaal). Say: They are the signs [of time] for the people and to (determine) the Hajj (pilgrimage) - 2:189).

Alluding to the philosophy behind the lunar calendar the late rector of Aljamea-tus-Saifiyah, Dr Yusuf bhaisaheb Najmuddin QR states, “It can be said to underline the beautiful Fatemi approach to knowledge that the light of the sun could be understood better by looking at the moon, rather than by beholding the sun. The moon is much nearer, so much less dazzling, and as such, so much easier to gaze at and study. This beautiful approach to knowledge lends a clue to the lunar basis of the Islamic Calendar.” [2]

The calendar used by the Dawoodi Bohras is based on the lunar cycle for the calculation of months,[3] The Islamic year dates back to the year of the hijrah and works on astronomical and mathematical calculations (tabular Islamic calendar).[4] The lunar cycle has a fixed pattern and can be calculated years in advance.[5] [6] Their calculations are attributed to the teachings of Imam Jafar al-Sadiq AS.[7]

The Islamic Hijri calendar is also referred to as the “Misri” (Egyptian) calendar because it’s methodology of calculation was that followed by the Fatimi Imams of Egypt.[8] Fatemi writers have used this calendar for dating and the Fatemi Imams promoted astronomical sciences. The epistles of Ikhwan al-Safa lay out the foundations for Islamic astronomy. The famous astronomer Ibn Yunus excelled in the field by preparing astronomical tables. His al-Zij al-Hakimi was designed under the patronage of the 16th Imam al-Hakim AS, and was thus named after the Imam.[9] Fatemi duat such as Syedna al-Qadi al-Noman RA, Syedna al-Moiyed al-Shirazi RA, Syedna Hamiduddin al-Kirmani RA and Syedna Idris Imad al-Din RA have discussed the concepts of Islamic calendars and astronomy in their philosophical and esoteric works.

An introduction to the Misri/Hijri calendar

The calculation for the Hijri calendar used by the Dawoodi Bohras is provided in the Sahifa (commonly known as the “Bu Saheba Sahifa”).[10] A brief outline of these calculations is provided below:

Every year has 354 days and is divided into 12 months; six of them are “complete” (kamil) in the sense of being of 30 days each and the other six are “incomplete” (naqis); of 29 days each. The year starts with a complete month (Muharram followed by an incomplete month (Safar). All odd months are complete and all even are incomplete. Every so often, an extra day is added to the last month of the year (Zil Hijjah), to make up for the small difference each year of hours and minutes. Such years are known as kabisa years and they have a similar effect on the Hijri calendar as leap years in the Gregorian calendar. [11] [12]

The calculation to determine if a year is a kabisa year is a little complex. The system has two cycles, a big cycle (Qarn Kabir) and another small one (Qarn Saghir). A Qarn Kabir consists of 210 years while a Qarn Saghir consists of 30 years. The Qarn Saghir has 11 kabisa years which are those years that have a remainder of 2, 5, 8, 10, 13, 16, 19, 21, 24, 27 or 29, when divided by 30. For example, suppose we want to determine if the Hijri year 1431 is a kabisa year. Dividing 1431 by 30 gives 47, with a remainder of 21. That is:

1431 ÷ 30= 47 and remainder 21 (i.e. 21/30)

or (30 x 47) + 21 = 1431

The number 21 is one of the numbers in the list for Qarn Saghir, so 1431 is a kabisa year. However, the Hijri year 1432 gives a remainder of 22 when divided by 30. The number 22 is not in the list for Qarn Saghir, so 1432 is not a kabisa year.(View gallery image) 

(The kabisa year calculation example provided in the “Bu Saheba Sahifa”)

To remember these years, dawat texts give them in verse. (View gallery image)

According to a Prophetic tradition prevalent in the Da’wah literature, a few interesting aspects of the calendar are:

1) every 8th year, the hijri calendar is repeated, i.e., the days and the dates of the 1st year are repeated in the 8th year,

(2) the 4th of Rajab, the 1st of Shahr-e-Ramadan and Eid al-Adha fall on the same day,

(3) the 5th of Rajab, Laylat al-Qadr (23rd night of the month of Ramadan) and Eid al-Ghadir will all fall on the same day,

(4) the 6th of Rajab, the New Year and Eid al-Fitr will all fall on the same day[13]

The Hijri calendar followed by the Dawoodi Bohras is appreciated for its accuracy and has benefited the community in marking out auspicious dates and event planning. As we celebrate the Mawlid of Prophet Mohammed SAW, we are reminded that, regardless of a person’s belief in his prophecy or otherwise this was the birth of one of the greatest personalities of all time, a prophet who changed the course of history. That same day and date, Monday the 12th of Rabi al-Awwal, also marks the Hijrah from when is the “beginning of history” in the context of Islam.

***

The Dawoodi Bohra calendars can be viewed from the following links:

http://www.mumineencalendar.com/#

To sync with Google Calendar or Outlook Calendar:

http://www.mumineenmiqaats.com/

For Android:

ITS52 App (Android)

Misri Calendar (Hijrical)

For iOS

ITS52 App (iOS)

References:

[1] 'Uyun al-akhbar, v.1, al-Dai al-Ajal Syedna Idris 'Imad al-Din RA

[2] Ameer al-Jamea Syedi Yusuf Bs Najmuddin, A Philosophical discourse by His Holiness Dr. Syedna Taher Saifuddin, vol. 1, (Mumbai, Aljamea-tus-Saifiyah Press, 1421 AH/2000 AD) 6.

[3] Al-Dai- al-Ajal Syedna Taher Saifuddin RA , al- Risalah al-Ramadaniyah Tawheed al-Millat al-Bayda (Bombay: 1379H), 180.

[4] Blank, Jonah (2001). Mullahs on the Mainframe : Islam and Modernity Among the Daudi Bohras. University of Chicago Press; 1 edition (15 April 2001).

[5] Sīrat al-Malik al-Mukarram : An Edition and Study, Mohammed Shakir (Prof. Al-Jamea-tus-Saifiyah), Thesis (Ph.D.) - University of London, School of Oriental and African Studies, 1999.

[6] Dr.David McNaughton, A Universal Islamic Calendar, (Dubai,1997).

[7] Nashr Sahifah al-Salah wa al-Ibadaah (Mumbai, Al-Jamea-tus-Saifiyah 1427 H./2006 C.E.) 4/25-30.

[8] Al-Khitat al-Maqrizi, Ahmad ibn 'Ali Al-Maqrizi, Publisher: Ahmad Ali el-Milaqi, 1903

[9] 'Uyun al-akhbar, v.6, al-Dai al-Ajal Syedna Idris 'Imad al-Din RA

[10] Nashr Sahifah al-Salah wa al-ibadaah (Mumbai, Al-Jamea-tus-Saifiyah 1427 H./2006 C.E.) 4/25-30.

[11] Sīrat al-Malik al-Mukarram : An Edition and Study, Mohammed Shakir (Prof. Al-Jamea-tus-Saifiyah), Thesis (Ph.D.) - University of London, School of Oriental and African Studies, 1999.

[12] A deliberation on the irregularities In Islamic calendar, Najmuddin Saifuddin Shakir TR 2835/S, Al-Jamea-tus-Saifiyah, 2014.

[13] Sīrat al-Malik al-Mukarram : An Edition and Study, Mohammed Shakir (Prof. Al-Jamea-tus-Saifiyah), Thesis (Ph.D.) - University of London, School of Oriental and African Studies, 1999.

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