The Significance of Mawlid al-Nabi: Understanding the Hijri Calendar

man making calendar

Every year, millions of Muslims around the world commemorate Mawlid al-Nabi, the birth of the Prophet Mohammed, which falls on the 12th of Rabi al-Awwal in the Islamic calendar. This year, the date corresponds to November 30th, 2017. The significance of this day extends beyond the celebration of the Prophet’s birth; it also marks the profound moment of his Hijrah (migration) from Makkah to Madina, which set the chronological foundation for the Islamic, or Hijri, calendar.

The Beginnings of the Hijri Calendar

The Hijri calendar’s inception is deeply rooted in significant historical and religious events. At the age of forty, Prophet Mohammed received his first revelation, marking the beginning of his prophethood. Thirteen years later, his migration to Madina occurred on the same date—12th Rabi al-Awwal. This date not only signifies his safe arrival in Madina but also represents the starting point of the Hijri calendar. Syedna Idris Imad al-Din, a Fatemi Dai and historian, notes this day as the literal ‘beginning of history’ for Muslims.

The Lunar Calendar: A Guided Choice

The choice of a lunar calendar over a solar one is guided by both practicality and divine instruction, as highlighted in the Quran. Ancient civilizations like the Akkadians, Sumerians, and Babylonians also utilized lunar calendars due to the straightforward visibility of the moon’s phases. The Quran directs Muslims to use the moon to mark time and dates, citing its phases as a means to measure years and the timing of the Hajj pilgrimage.

Philosophical Insights and Astronomical Precision

The lunar calendar is not just a methodological choice but also a philosophical one. Dr. Yusuf bhaisaheb Najmuddin, a rector of Aljamea-tus-Saifiyah, suggests that understanding the sun’s light through the moon’s phases reflects a unique approach to knowledge, emphasizing ease and proximity in learning. This philosophy underpins the Dawoodi Bohra community’s adherence to the lunar calendar, based on teachings attributed to Imam Jafar al-Sadiq and extensive astronomical research by Fatemi scholars.

The Misri Calendar: A Legacy of Calculation

The Dawoodi Bohras follow the Misri calendar, which is renowned for its calculated precision. This calendar divides the year into 354 days, alternating between “complete” and “incomplete” months. The intricate system of determining leap years—or kabisa years—within this calendar involves both a larger 210-year cycle and a smaller 30-year cycle, ensuring meticulous alignment with lunar phases.

Celebrating Mawlid al-Nabi

As we observe Mawlid al-Nabi, we not only celebrate the birth of Prophet Mohammed but also acknowledge his role in shaping a calendar system that has guided millions for centuries. The Hijrah was not just a physical journey but a transformative moment that structured time itself for the Islamic world. The Hijri calendar is a testament to the enduring legacy of the Prophet’s teachings and the deep-seated wisdom of Islamic astronomical and philosophical traditions.

This dual celebration of the Prophet’s birth and the foundational moment of the Hijri calendar offers a profound reflection on the intersections of faith, history, and science in Islam. As we mark these significant events, we are reminded of the rich heritage that continues to influence the daily lives of countless individuals around the globe.

Dawoodi Bohra Hijri calendar converter can be downloaded from github