Dr. A. Rashied Omar
The lunar month of Rajab is the seventh month in the Muslim hijri calendar and derives its importance from the Glorious Qur’an which refers to it as one of the four sacred months of the lunar year (al-ashhurul hurum).
In Surah al-Taubah, Chapter 9, verse 36, Allah, the Sublime, declares the following: “The number of months with Allah is twelve (in a year), so ordained and decreed by Allah the day He created the heavens and the earth; of these four of them are sacred; that is the upright religion. So do not wrong your souls by fighting during these (months), but only fight against the idolaters collectively if they first fight against you collectively. But know that Allah is with those who restrain themselves and remain conscious and mindful of Him.”
The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) identified the four sacred months referred to in the above verse to be: the 11th month of Dhu al-Qa’ida, the 12th month of Dhu al-Hijja, the 1st month of Muharram and the 7th month of Rajab. In one prophet tradition (hadith) narrated by the companion, Abu Bakrah (may Allah be pleased with him) and recorded in the hadith compilations of Imams Bukhari (4662) and Muslim (1679) the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is reported to have said the following during a sermon he delivered while performing his farewell pilgrimage: Three (of the sacred months) are in succession; Dhul-Qa`dah, Dhul-Hijjah and Muharram, and (the fourth is) Rajab of (the tribe of) Mudar which comes between Jumada (Al-Thani) and Sha`ban).
According to the ancient customs and traditions of the pre-Islamic Arabs all fighting was deemed utterly wrong and warfare was considered blasphemous during the four lunar months of Muharram, Rajab, Dhul Qaìda and Dhul Hijja.
Because Islam is al-din al-qayyim – an upright religion of peace that eschews fighting and warfare and because Islam is al-din al-waqi` – a contextually relevant and culturally responsive religion – the Qur’an naturally adopted this ancient Arab custom and confirmed these months as revered.
Some scholars speculate that these four months may have been made sanctified at the time of the establishment of the hajj (pilgrimage) by Prophets Ibrahim and Ismaìl (peace be upon both of them) to allow for a peaceful passage for pilgrims to the ka`bah – the ancient house of worship in Makkah. According to this view by recognizing these four months as sacred the pre-Islamic Arabs were thus merely following an ancient Abrahamic tradition. This argument clearly makes sense with respect to the three consecutive months of Dhul Qaìda, Dhul Hijja and Muharram since they coincide with the hajj season.
This line of reasoning, however, does not hold for the seventh lunar month of Rajab, which the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) himself described as standing alone (i.e. outside of the months of hajj) and being a distinctive custom and tradition of the tribe of madar.
In my view one logical explanation as to why the pre-Islamic tribal tradition of regarding the lunar month of Rajab as hallowed was adopted by the Qur’an is because Islam is a culturally friendly religion that affirms cultural norms and traditions which resonates with its spirit and ethos. In this case the goal was to promote and spread peace – the quintessence of Islam.
Such a view is furthermore supported by an authentic prophetic tradition recorded in the hadith compilation of Imam Bukhari (bab wafd bani Hanifa) on the authority of the companion Abu Raja’ al-`Utaridi (may Allah be pleased with him) who describes his tribes cultural traditions and customs before embracing Islam as follows: ‘We used to worship stones, and when we discovered a more attractive stone we would abandon the first one and worship then new one. If we could not find a stone we would collect some soil from the earth and after milking our sheep over it, we would perform the tawaf around it. When the month of Rajab arrived, we used to stop all military actions. We used to call the month of Rajab ‘the iron remover’ for we used to remove and throw away the iron parts of every spear and arrow in the month of Rajab.’
Such a view is also consistent with the Qur’an position that if the pre-Islamic Arabs violate their own indigenous customs and traditions by attacking and oppressing the Muslims first, then Muslims are obliged to defend themselves (see also Qur’an 2:217).
The lesson is clear
The lunar month of Rajab was regarded as sacred by the early Muslims because fighting and warfare was prohibited during this month. Islam’s adoption of this tribal custom and tradition teaches us that Islam is quintessentially a religion of peace that eschews fighting and warfare. Moreover, it teaches us that Islam is a contextually relevant and culturally friendly religion that adopts and affirms cultural norms and traditions which resonates with its spirit and ethos
In addition to the month of Rajab being one of the four sacred months of the hijri year, the lunar month of Rajab is also significant in that most historians concur that the Prophet Muhammad’s night journey and ascension known as al-isra’ wal m`iraj took place on the 27th night of the month of Rajab.
Furthermore, the lunar month of Rajab is also a prelude and gateway to the blessed month of Ramadan, because Ramadan follows it after the intervening month of Sha’ban. The month of Rajab thus comes as a timely reminder of the imminence of the blessed month of Ramadan.
The mystical scholar Abu Bakr Warraq, use to say: Rajab is a month of cultivation,
Shaban is month of irrigating the fields, and the month of Ramadan is a month of reaping and harvesting.
The companion Anas ibn Malik informs us that the Prophet (pbuh) used to make the following (du`a) supplication, during the month of Rajab and Sha`ban: “Allahuma Barik lana fi Rajab wa Sha`ban wa ballighna Ramadan” – ‘O Allah make the months of Rajab and Sha`ban blessed for us, and let us reach the month of Ramadan‘
(i.e. prolong our life up to Ramadan, so that we may benefit from its great merits and spiritual blessings).”
Insha-Allah, we pray that Allah, the Sublime, will once again afford us with the wonderful opportunity of this year witnessing the great spiritual blessings of the blessed month of Ramadan.