Yaqeen Institute for Islamic Research

Episode 1: The Sacred Months

In the first episode of the Virtues of Dhul-Hijjah, Dr. Omar Suleiman talks about the sacred months in Islam, their historical context and the virtues associated with each.

Episode Transcript

(Note: the transcript has been edited for clarity)

0:00 – 1:14 The sacred months in Islam

Assalamu Alaikum wa Rahmah Allah wa Barakatu everyone, 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.

So for example, the Prophet (pbuh), 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 6 days of Shawwal.

But the Prophet said that the most beneficial month of fasting, or the most beloved month of fasting, is Muharram, after Ramadan. The month of Allah, Muharram.

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

1:15 – 2:11 What the four sacred months mean

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.

So 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-Qadah, 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 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 is not in succession, 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.

2:12 – 3:14 Before Islam, the months were moved around

Now, what the Arabs would do with these months before Islam, is they would shift them around 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 (R) said that this is like Omar ibn Abd-ul-Aziz to the rest of the Khulufaa. That they are considered khulufaa Al-Rashideen, the righteous Khalifas, and Omar ibn Abd-ul-Aziz, though he did not live immediately after Ali or succeed immediately after Ali, that he is included amongst them even though he is separated from them.

So you get 3 months in succession, Dhul-Qadah, Dhul-Hijjah, and Muharram, and Rajab which is separated, and these months all contain very special rulings and special things.

Now, because the Arabs played with these months and they put them in order, or 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 SWT set them and put special rules with them.

3:15 – 4:14 The benefit of the order of the sacred months

Again, the benefit of the order for us is that if you think about the way that Allah SWT bunches these months up. You know, you finish Ramadan, and then after Ramadan you’ve got the 6 days in which you fast in Shawwal. And then immediately coming after that, you
end up with Dhul-Qadah, and then Dhul-Qadah, 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, and so much.

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.

And so the way that these months are bunched up – you go out of the Islamic year or 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.

4:15 – 5:22 Allah multiplies the rewards of good deeds

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 – you know outside of the war and battle and things that are not applicable to us today.

Well for one, good deeds are more acceptable or are are more beneficial, more blessed in these days, so Allah multiplies the rewards of good deeds in these months. And Allah SWT also because these are sacred months, the sins are also amplified, or they’re worse in these days, and this is according to a saying of Al-Hafith ibn Rajab, he said, “Ihtharu alma’asi, fa’inaha tahrimu almaghfirah fi mawasim alrahma.” He said that 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 blessing s of those rewards in those months.

5:23 – 6:03 Dhul-Hijjah is the most sacred month of the sacred months

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 (pbuh)
said in a hadith narrated from Abu Bakr (R), 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, ka hurmati shahrikum hatha, as sacred as this month of yours as sacred as this place of yours.”

Which is Makkah.

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

6:04 – 6:23 Know the Islamic calendar

So it’s important to memorize the Islamic calendar. I tell people by the way there’s a great nasheed that you can memorize the Islamic months. My kids would sing it all the time, where they’ll actually go through them, and it’s important for us to know where we are and to know the specified good deeds of that month, and to also amplify our good deeds in those months and be extra careful with our sins in those months.

6:24 – 6:35 Dua

May Allah SWT allow us to achieve the benefit and mercy in these months and forgiveness in these months, and allow us to abstain from sin throughout the entire year.

Allahuma Ameen, Jazakum Allahu Khayr, Wa Assalamu Alaykum wa Rahmatullah wa Barakatuh.

Dr. Omar Suleiman

Dr. Omar Suleiman

President | Imam Dr. Omar Suleiman is the Founder and President of the Yaqeen Institute for Islamic Research, and an Adjunct Professor of Islamic Studies in the Graduate Liberal Studies Program at Southern Methodist University. He is also the Resident Scholar at Valley Ranch Islamic Center and Co-Chair Emeritus of Faith Forward Dallas at Thanks-Giving Square.