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What Are the Islamic Sacred Months?

Welcome to “The Virtues of Dhul-Hijjah”. So, first just some historical context on what the sacred months are, and what they even mean.

A lot of times if you ask people what the sacred months are, they would immediately think Ramadan because they’re thinking of a very specific type of sanctity. But the sacred months have different connotations and certainly.

Ramadan is the holiest month and the most virtuous month. But the sacred months mean something, and it is important for us to try to memorize the Islamic calendar, and to know the different months that we are in; because each month has its own set of virtue and each month has its own set of rules, and in many cases, its own set of practices.

If I was to ask you what month is fasting the most virtuous outside of Ramadan? Most people would think of Sha’ban, or Shawwal, because they are thinking about the six days of Shawwal. But the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said that the most beloved month of fasting, is Muharram, after Ramadan.

So, it’s important to try to know these months, where they are on the calendar, and what they represent.

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Meanings of the Sacred Months

Now, the sacred months all have a special meaning to them. The names typically have to do with seasons of warfare; and so you’ll find that these months often refer to the practices or the things that were taking place at the time.

There are four sacred months, and these were the months where fighting was prohibited, in which all forms of battle was prohibited, even to the pre-Islamic Arabs.

So you look at the names:

Dhul- Qi’dah, which means the month to sit. You sit back, you do not fight, you do not engage in any type of warfare.

Dhul-Hijjah is the month in which Hajj is, so there used to be a reiteration of Hajj in the pre Islamic days.

There is Muharram, which means forbidden. It is the beginning of the year, so it’s forbidden.

And then there’s the month of Rajab, which is the only month that does not come in succession. And Rajab means to remove and refrain. So you would remove your weapons, and refrain from fighting somewhere in the middle of the year.

Read Also: 9 Interesting Facts About the Hijri Calendar

Now, what the Arabs would do with these months is they would shift them around, before Islam, so that they could structure the year around their fighting. So if they needed to change a month so they could engage in battle, they would do so.

And the separation of Rajab also has a beautiful meaning to it. Imam Shafi’i said that:

“This is like Omar ibn Abd-ul-Aziz to the rest of the Caliphs. That they are considered the righteous Caliphs, and Omar ibn Abd-ul-Aziz, though he did not rule immediately after Ali, he is included amongst them even though he is separated from them.”

So you get three months in succession, Dhul-Qi’dah, Dhul-Hijjah, Muharram, and Rajab which is separated. These months all contain very special rulings and special things.

Now, because the Arabs played with these months and they messed with the order in order to give themselves time to fight or to give themselves flexibility in certain times of the year, Allah set them and put special rules with them.

Keeping Spirituality High

The benefit of the order for us is that if you think about the way that Allah bunches these months up… You finish Ramadan, and then after Ramadan you’ve got the six days in which you fast in Shawwal; and then immediately coming after that, you end up with Dhul-Qi’dah; you immediately have a sacred month to prepare yourself for Hajj for Dhul-Hijjah, for the month of Hajj in which there are virtues in the first 10 days in Dhul-Hijjah, there’s the day of Arafah…

So you’re still on a spiritual high after Ramadan, and you’re able to capitalize on that with the 6 days of Shawwal; and then going into Dhu-Hijjah you’re able to capitalize on the best 10 days of the year. And then right after Dhul-Hijjah, you have Muharram which is the best month to fast outside of Ramadan, so you can increase your fasting.

So the way that these months are bunched up – you finish the Islamic year strong, and then you’re able to start the Islamic year strong, and you’re able to maintain that spiritual high.

What to Do in These Months?

So what happens in these months or what’s to be taken into consideration at a practical level, outside of the specified virtues of those months and outside of the war and battle and things that are not applicable to us today?

Well for one, good deeds are more blessed in these days, so Allah multiplies the rewards of good deeds. And because these are sacred months, the sins are worse in these days; and this is according to a saying of Al-Hafidh ibn Rajab, he said:

“Be careful of the acts of disobedience, because verily they forbid forgiveness in the seasons of mercy.”

Just like if you commit a sin it’s bad enough, but if you commit a sin in prayer, it makes it worse. So when Allah gives you a season of mercy, a season of forgiveness, then you need to capitalize on that and make sure that you don’t do anything that’s going to deprive you of the blessings of those rewards in those months.

Dhul-Hijjah – The Most Sacred Month

Finally, when it comes to these sacred months, Dhul-Hijjah is the most sacred of the sacred months, as a month as a whole. And we know that because the Prophet (peace be upon him) said in a hadith narrated from Abu Bakr, he said that:

No doubt your blood, your property, your honor are more sacred to one another as the sanctity of this day of yours, as sacred as this month of yours as sacred as this place of yours.

So Prophet Muhammad was saying that the most sacred day, and the most sacred month is Dhul-Hijjah; and the most sacred place which is Al Masjid Al-Haram, which is the sanctified place.

So it’s important to memorize the Islamic calendar.

About Omar Suleiman
Imam Omar Suleiman is the President of the Yaqeen Institute for Islamic Research and a professor of Islamic Studies at Southern Methodist University. He’s also the resident scholar of the Valley Ranch Islamic Center and Co-Chair of Faith Forward Dallas at Thanks-Giving Square, a multi-faith alliance for peace and justice.