There is manifest wisdom in the alternation of the days and nights and in the succession of months and years. It is incumbent upon us that we utilize the days and nights by performing righteous deeds within them and differ from those that fill their time with evil deeds until death overtakes them.
Allah has given us two indicators in the day and night: The sun in the day, and the moon in the night. Upon the emergence of each new day, life is renewed and every worshipper musters his energy to practice more acts of devotion. It is because of this that Allah has likened sleeping at night to death while likening the day time to resurrection. “It is He who takes your souls by night [i.e. when you sleep] and knows what you have committed by day. Then He revives you therein [i.e. by day] that a specified term [i.e. One’s decreed life span] may be fulfilled. Then to Him will be your return; then He will inform you about what you used to do.” (Qur’an, 6:60)
It is a manifestation of the mercy of Allah toward His worshippers that He has made the sun and the moon follow exactly on computed courses. By observing the sun, people can know the different seasons and from moon, they can calculate a month’s beginning. Allah has divided the year into 12 months: “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….” (Qur’an, 9:36)
Of the four sacred months, three are consecutive: Dhul Qadah, Dhul-Hijj and Al-Muharram. The fourth is Rajab.
The advent of a new month is known by appearance of the crescent in the west after sunset; once the crescent is manifest, one month has come to an end and another has begun. Therefore, we also come to know that the day starts at the sunset and not at midnight, because the first day of the month is marked by the sunset of the last day of the previous month.
The Islamic calendar was first introduced during the era of the Amir Al-Mu’mineen, or leader of the believers, Umar ibn Al-Khattaab (may Allah be pleased with him) during the 16th or 17th year after the Hijrah, or migration of the Prophet (peace be upon him). Umar sought the people’s advice on when the Hijri calendar should start. Some held that it should have started from the birth of the Prophet (peace be upon him), whilst others thought that it should have begun from the very first day that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) began his mission. Another group believed that the calendar should have started from the emigration and the last group held that the calendar should have begun from the death of the Prophet (peace be upon him).
Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) agreed with those who wished to start the Islamic calendar with the Hijrah of the Prophet (peace be upon him) due to the fact that this marked the point in history when Allah differentiated between truth and falsehood by giving the Prophet (peace be upon him) real power and authority which was manifested in the form of the first Islamic state.
The companions were also consulted on which month should mark the beginning of the year; Umar ibn Al-Khattaab and Uthman ibn Affaan (may Allah be pleased them), chose Al-Muharram due to it being a sacred month and because it follows the month of Dhul-Hijj, which is when the Muslims perform Haj, or the pilgrimage, which was the last pillar of Islam that Allah enjoined upon the Muslims. Al-Muharram also follows the month in which the Prophet (peace be upon him) pledged allegiance to the Ansar (His Madinan supporters) to emigrate to Madinah and this pledge of allegiance was one of the introductory acts of emigration. Due to all these reasons, Al-Muharram was deemed the most suitable month to begin the Islamic calendar.
Servants of Allah! We must be thankful to Allah for such an easy method of calculation. The Muslim nation must have a distinct and independent identity, which is derived solely from the essence of Islam. It is incumbent on the Muslim nation that it be distinguished from other nations as far as morals, manners and entire way of life are concerned. This nation cannot be a subservient one that is always tending toward the blind imitation of others; this kind of blind imitation will not entail any goodness or prevent any evil. On the contrary, it will cause the Muslim nation to become weak and depend on others and this will cause it to forget its past glories. This nation will never be reformed except by following the very same methodology that reformed it in the past. We have learned that the day starts at sunset, the month starts once the crescent is sighted and the year starts from the day of the emigration of the Prophet (peace be upon him). This is the method followed by the Muslims of the past; their jurists recorded dates according to this method in their books when handling issues, such as the time of settling debts and other similar matters.
“And a sign for them is the night, We remove from it the [light of] day, so they are [left] in darkness. And the sun runs [on course] toward its stopping point. That is the determination of the Exalted in Might, the Knowing. And the moon, We have determined for it phases, until it returns [appearing] like the old date stalk. It is not allowable [i.e. possible] for the sun to reach the moon, nor does the night overtake the day, but each, in an orbit, is swimming.” (Qur’an, 36:37-40)
• Courtesy: islamicvoice.com