The year of Arabs consists of twelve months that are known and prevailing from ancient times to the present day. The ancient Arabs used it in the north and south, and they called it the twelve-year division of the year. Each month begins around the time of the new moon and the months are alternately 29 and 30 days in length.
The length of the 12th month (Dhū al-Ḥijjah) is varied in a 30-year cycle in order to keep the calendar in congruence with the phases of the moon. In eleven years of this cycle, Dhū al-Ḥijjah has a total of 30 days, and in the other 19 years, it has 29 days. Thus, the year comprises either 354 or 355 days.
Months of the year in Arabic
Muharram: Arabs, before Islam, were deprived of fighting in this month, and the name of this month is a confirmation of this virtue. Battle and fighting of all types are considered ḥarām in this month.
Ṣafar: Ṣafar stands for empty or void or vacate. The name is apparently called thus as the houses of the Arab before Islam were empty at this time of the year and their occupants collected food. Another story states that the Arabs used to loot the houses of their enemies after crushing them in battles and this left nothing (Ṣafar) behind.
Rabi’ al-awwal: The month implies ‘to graze’. Cattle were grazed in this month. Rabi’ al-awwal is a holy month of celebration for a lot of Muslims. It was in this month that Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) was born.
Rabi’ al-thani or Rabīʿ al-ʾĀkhir: Rabi Al Thani is the fourth month of the Islamic calendar and was previously called Rabīʿ al-ʾĀkhir. The literal meaning of the month implies the second month of spring. Donations in the name of the dead are performed this month.
Jumada al-Awalah: The month is considered the pre-Islamic summer. The name is also related to the verb ‘to freeze’. Another narrative states that the water freezes during this time of the year.
Jumada al-thani or Jumādā al-ʾĀkhirah: The word Jumada from which the name of the month is derived denotes dry or parched land. Jumada al-thani denotes the dry months.
Rajab: Rajab accounts for a sacred month in which fighting is forbidden. The name is also related to the verb that implies ‘to remove’. It is so called as the Arabs before Islam would remove the heads of their spears and abstain from fighting.
Sha‘bān: The name marked the time of the year when the Arab tribes dispersed in order to find water. It can also be linked with the verb that implies ‘to be in between two things’. Another narrative states that the month is so called because it lies between Rajab and Ramaḍān.
Ramadan: Its name was derived from “Ramadaa”, which is the period during which the weather is scorching, that is, the time of heat intensification. The heat is linked with fasting as in an empty stomach, one’s worldly desires are expected to burn. In this month, Muslims are required to fast from pre-dawn to sunset and should offer charity to the needy and the poor.
Shawwal: The name of this month is derived from the verb shāla which implies ‘carry or lift’, usually to move or take things from one place to the other. The name is so called because a female camel carries her fetus at this time of the year.
Dhu al-Qi’dah: Named after the Arabs in their homelands, this is a holy month and war is banned in this month.
Dhu al-Hijjah: The Hajj is performed on the 8th, 9th and 10th of this month. In this month, Muslims from across the world gather at Mecca to visit the Kaaba. ‘The festival of the sacrifice’- Eid-Al-Adha starts on the 10th day and end ends on the sunset of the 12th.