Dr. A. Rashied Omar
We have just welcomed the lunar month of Rajab, the seventh month of the hijri calendar. This month acts as a prelude to Ramadan and marks the beginning of the spiritual season which holds great benefits and rewards for believers. In this khutbah I would like to briefly reflect on the significance of the blessed lunar month of Rajab.
The Four Sacred Months
The lunar month of Rajab derives its importance from the most primary source of Islamic guidance, the Glorious Qur’an, which refers to it as one of the four sacred months of the lunar year (al-ash-hur al-hurum). In Surah al-Taubah, Chapter 9, verse 36, Allah, the Sublime, proclaims 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 (twelve months) four of them are sacred; that is the upright ever-true 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.
In a prophetic tradition (hadith) narrated by the companion, Abu Bakrah (may Allah be pleased with him) and recorded in the authentic hadith compilations of Imam Bukhari (4662) and Imam Muslim (1679) the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is reported to have proclaimed the following during a sermon he delivered while performing his farewell pilgrimage (khutbat al-wida`): Three (of the sacred months) follow each other 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.
Embracing and Cultivating Peace
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 four months as revered and exhorts the early believers to observe it as a period of truce and armistice.
Some scholars speculate that these four months may have been made sanctified at the time of the establishment of the hajj (pilgrimage) by Prophet Ibrahim and Prophet Isma`ìl (peace be upon both of them) to allow for a safe and peaceful passage for pilgrims to the holy kàbah – 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, however, 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 inclusive religion that affirms cultural norms and traditions which resonates with its spirit and ethos. In this case the goal was to avoid warfare and 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).
Fasting and Increased Acts of Worship during the Month of Rajab
The month of Rajab is also significant in that most historians concur that the Prophet Muhammad’s ﷺ night journey and ascension known as al-isra’ wal m`iraj took place on the 27th night of the month of Rajab. It was at this time that Allah, the Most High, ordered Muslims to pray the five daily prayers (salah).
The month of Rajab is also a prelude and gateway to the blessed month of Ramadan, because Ramadan follows 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. Fasting during the sacred months of Rajab and Sha`ban especially on recommended sunnah days such as Monday or Thursday or during the middle days of the month i.e. the 143h, 14th, and 15th days known as ayyam al-bayd is also a useful way of preparing oneself for the onset of the blessed month of Ramadan and benefitting more fully from its unique merits.
I conclude with a supplication (du`a) that has been recommended by many Muslim scholars both past and present and invoking Allah, the Most High, to afford once again afforded an opportunity of spiritually experiencing the boundless blessings and manifold benefits of the month of Ramadan, the most important month of the year:
“Allahuma Barik lana fi Rajab wa Sha`ban wa ballighna Ramadan” – ‘O Allah bless us in months of Rajab and Sha`ban 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).”