The Islamic Calendar and the Month of Shawwal Explained
When we’re running on western time, it’s easy to forget that we’re existing on a whole other timeline in the Islamic world. While many of us know the months of the Islamic calendar, and while most of us have Ramadan on lock, for some of us it’s easy to forget that the months that follow or precede it are just as important.
Eid al-Fitr is the start of the holy month of Shawwal.
A Bit About The Islamic Calendar Works
In pre-Islamic Arabia, months, days of the week and years weren’t formatted numerically, they were done so according to major events that took place during the year. One such example is the recorded, ‘Year of the Elephant’, the year that the King of modern day Ethiopia embarked on the destruction of the Ka’ba in Mecca with a hoard of elephants, importantly, it’s also the year the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him was born). When Islam was born, our Hijri calendar was aligned with the moon, and the lunar calendar is what we operate with now. Like in pre-Islamic Arabia however, our first calendar years were named after major events, the first 10 years after the Hijra (the migration of the Muslims from Mecca to Medina) were also recorded according to major events;
- The year of permission.
- The year of the order of fighting.
- The year of the trial.
- The year of congratulation on marriage.
- The year of the earthquake.
- The year of enquiring.
- The year of gaining victory.
- The year of equality.
- The year of exemption.
- The year of farewell.
We’re currently in the year 1439 AH (After- Hijri), Alhamdullilah.
So what’s the significance of the month of Shawwal in the Islamic year?
The month of Shawwal is the 10th month in the Islamic calendar, its name was given to signify the time of year in which the she-camel would be pregnant with her baby. A symbol of new life and renewal after a month of spiritual cleansing. It’s a truly transformative period for Muslims, in this month we’re afforded so many opportunities to put into action what we may have learned or struggled with during the month of Ramadan:
- Allah (swt) provided us with more blessings in the form of the 6 days of Shawwal – 6 days you can fast at any time during the month of Shawwal after Eid, that, together with your Ramadan makes it as if you fasted the whole year: “Whosoever fasts during the month of Ramadan and then follows it up with six days of fasting of Shawwal will be rewarded as if he or she had fasted the entire year” – Hadith | Muslim
- We’re given Eid al-Fitr on the first day of Shawwal
- The Hajj season commences in Shawwal
- It’s the only other month in the Islamic calendar that is recommended for us to fast in.
One thing that always gets me whenever I read about the month of Shawwal is this: that a sign of an accepted Ramadan is that you intend to fast the 6 days of Shawwal.
It’s like a mirror held up to my face about whether I’ve actually meant what I’ve cried about in my duaa’s, when I’ve asked for forgiveness, or pledged to do more. It’s a Sunnah of the Prophet (saws), which means that it’s not incumbent upon any one of us to fast these six days, but it’s recommended for the benefit of the believer. In fact, for anyone looking for an easy solution to suffering from those post-ramadan blues, fasting the 6 days of Shawwal is a great way to keep up the momentum of fasting and the spiritual benefits of doing so.
There’s no doubt about it, it’s a bit of an extra push after a month of long fasts like the one we’ve just had. The golden take-away from having this mirror held up to us is not to be disheartened if you feel you can’t fast the 6 days, whatever your reasons are. It could be that you take another, different step towards ibadah (worship) just by being reminded that Shawwal is upon us, or it could be that you prepare to be more mindful. Don’t be hard on yourself if you don’t feel able. One step at a time, it’s okay to be a Ramadan Muslim.
God does not burden any soul with more than it can bear: each gains whatever good it has done, and suffers its bad- ‘ Lord, do not take us to task if we forget or make mistakes. Lord, do not burden us as You burdened those before us. Lord, do not burden us with more than we have strength to bear. Pardon us, forgive us, and have mercy on us. Qur’an | 2:286
Time Well Spent
Many more of us would recommend spending time trying to internalise the teachings of our faith as opposed to absentmindedly reciting or memorising key facts, dates, names, etc. However, these things are still good to know, and I’ve often found that memorising things, even if they’re of no particular meaning to me at that specific time, always crop up in places I least expect, and I’m able to make a great connection. That feeling helps me internalise what I’ve learned more than anything else, and it’s a great way to increase the scope of your knowledge, a small step in the direction of knowledge has you climbing ladders without you even realising.
Our intentions are the key to all knowledge and it’s the best way to fill our years with Barakah (blessings).
Below is a list of the Islamic year in order. Why not try learning about the significance of the months we live in, and what Allah (swt) and his messenger have advised us about them?
Islamic Hijri Calendar:
Muharram – Meaning ‘Forbidden’
Safar – Meaning ‘Void’
Rabi al-awwal – Meaning ‘The First Spring’
Rabi ath-thani – Meaning ‘The Second Spring’
Jumada al- Ula – Meaning ‘The First of Parched Land’
Jumada al-Akhirah – Meaning ‘The Last of Parched Land’
Rajab – Respect ‘Honour’
Shaban – Meaning ‘Scattered’
Ramadan – Meaning ‘Burning Heat’
Shawwal – Meaning ‘Raised’
Dhul al- Qa’dah – Meaning ‘The One of Truce’
Dhul al -Hijjah – Meaning ‘The One of Pilgrimage’
This article was written by a member of the Amaliah team