During the life of Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) in Arabia, people distinguished years by the major events that occurred within them.
For example, the year when the Hijra took place—the migration of the Prophet and his Companions from Makkah to Medinah—was named ‘the year of the permission to travel’.
During Caliph Umar Ibn Al-Khattab’s fourth year, it became necessary to invent a calendar for precise timekeeping among the regions of the vast Islamic caliphate.
This stimulated much discussion about the establishment of an Islamic calendar to help distinguish between the years and standardize the dates of religious events.
The Companions discussed the numerous calendars used by others at the time, including the Persian, Egyptian and Jewish calendars.
Al-Hurmuzan, a prisoner of war following the Islamic conquest of Persia, suggested a Persian system known as mahruz, which was based on the victories of the Persian kings. Some Jewish converts to Islam suggested using the Hebrew calendar.
The Prophet’s Companions also contemplated whether the calendar should begin with the prophet’s birth, death or revelation. But they were unable to agree on the exact years of these events.
Eventually, 17 years after it happened, the Companions agreed that the Hijra would mark the beginning of the Islamic calendar, as there was no disagreement over the year in which it occurred.
According to some, such as Egyptian scholar and chronicler Abd al-Rahman al-Jabarti and Egyptian mathematician and astronomer Mahmud Pasha al-Falaki, the Prophet arrived at Quba Mosque in Medinah on the 8th of the third Hijri month, Rabi al-Awwal. On the 12th, he entered Medinah itself.
These dates were further discussed by some analysts of the prophetic biography, such as Al-Biruni, Ibn Sa’d, and Ibn Hisham, and cited in the works of Burnaby (2001).
Dates vary slightly between different scholars depending on their methods of calculation. Nevertheless, they all conclude that the Hijra took place during the end of the second Hijri month of Safar and the beginning of the third month of Rabi al-Awwal.
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