By: Sr. Aamena Saleh
As we begin the new Islamic year, 1436, we reflect upon the significance of the Islamic calendar and its historical underpinnings. Fourteen hundred and thirty six years ago, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and his companions migrated from Makkah to Madina in an attempt to escape the religious persecution they were facing at the hands of Quraish. Within the ten years that Muhammad (PBUH) lived as Prophet in Makkah, more and more people accepted the message of Islam, including the people of Madina: The Ansar. Upon accepting Muhammad (PBUH) as Messenger of Allah, the Ansar welcomed the Messenger and his people into their homes, at which point the companions began the migration to Madina.
This Hijrah was not historically significant only because it moved the capital of Islam to Madina, but because it marked a new era of Islam that was based on Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) determination to spread the truth, even if it meant sacrificing the comfort of his home: Makkah.
Because of the significance of the Hijrah, Umar Ibn Al Khattab (RA) selected its occurrence to mark the first year of the Islamic calendar. At the time of his khilafa (rule), there was some confusion regarding dates. Different groups used different calendars, which sometimes led to conflict. After consulting with his companions, Umar (RA) settled on Muharram 1, the first day of the first month of the Hijrah. Thus, the Hijri calendar was established, which consists of twelve months and is based on the lunar cycle.
More than 1400 years later, we commemorate the Hijra of the first Muslims and our beloved Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) to the city of Madina. We also remember the sacrifices that the first Muslims made to ensure that the message of Islam reached far and wide, and to ensure that it would live on.