The Islamic Calendar and Pairing

وَبَرَكَاتُهُ اللهِ وَرَحْمَةُ عَلَيْكُمْ السَّلاَمُ

Now as we know, the Arabs did not have a proper calendar before Islam as they were not advanced or united enough as a society. Instead, what they used to do was name a year by an important event that took place in it, and then count years before or after those incidents (e.g. 2 years after the Year of the Elephant). But these chosen events would be different for each tribe. Now they did have the concept of 12 months in a year and 7 days in a week (which is actually something decreed by Allah at the start of time and that is why all major calendars have it like that), however to make matters confusing they had a practice where the most powerful tribes would actually change the order of the months around at whim. And this was because the Arabs knew from Ibrahim (AS) that four months of the year were sacred, and so if they wanted to declare war during one of these months they would just say that it was not that month, but another month. And because those tribes were powerful everyone followed what they said, and this meant that the order of the months was completely jumbled.

Now on the year that the prophet performed his hajj he announced to the people, ‘This year the months have fallen in order the way that they were when Allah created the heavens and the earth. From now on, no swapping.’ And so the months have stayed in the correct order from then on till now.

A few years after the death of the prophet – probably in 17th Hijra – Umar ibn Khattab (RA) instituted the Islamic calendar as we know it. The Muslims were faced with the problem of when someone set a deadline of something to be done by a particular month, no one would know whether that person meant the month of the current year or the month of the next year. And so Umar called a meeting to decide on a calendar, and a few different suggestions were put forward as to what incident to begin it from. And eventually Ali (RA) declared, ‘The year of the Hijra shall be the first year of the calendar, because this was when the situation of the Muslims changed from persecution to honour.’

And then the question was raised as to what month to begin the year on. And after some more discussion, Uthman ibn Affan (RA) said, ‘It shall be Muharram.’ And there are a few possible reasons why this month was chosen, one of which is that that the order given to the Muslims to migrate to Medina was given in that month and so it linked with the idea that the calendar would begin from the Hijra. And another is that Muharram is directly after hajj, and returning from hajj is like a fresh beginning for the Muslims.

Now returning back to the beginning of the Madani period, soon after the prophet entered into Medina he instituted a system called the ‘muaakha’. And this was essentially pairing the Muhaajiroon (ones who undertook the Hijra) with an Ansari. As we know, when the Muhaajiroon came to Medina they had to leave their properties behind and could only take a limited amount of wealth with them. And so essentially they became poor when they undertook the Hijra. And so the prophet made each one of the Muhaajiroon men pair up with a man of the Ansar, so that they could become close as an ummah and so the Muhaajiroon could have a place to live. And initially this pairing was so complete that they were considered brothers even in inheritance. This specific ruling was later abrogated by Allah when the Muhaajiroon after the battle of Badr, however the pairings still remained. And in fact, the prophet continued to make these pairings throughout his life even after the conquest of Mecca, showing us that this is actually a lost sunnah that new Muslims get paired with older ones in order to teach them the religion, or those new to an area get paired with long-time residents. And this built trust between the Ansar and the Muhaajiroon, and solidified the cohesion of the community which is something that we as Western Muslims desperately need and yet usually lack. And the people that the prophet paired together always had something in common – such as being businessmen or being of like minds – and this meant that their pairings ended up being genuine and the two of the pair had a very brotherly care for one another.

The most famous story of a pair is that of Abd Ar-Rahman ibn Awf and Sa’ad ibn Rabia’ (RA). When they were paired, Sa’ad ibn Rabia’ brought Abd Ar-Rahman back to his house and declared, ‘I am the richest of the Ansar in money and I shall give you half of all of my money. And I have a two storey house; one of the levels is yours. And I have two gardens; one of them is yours. I have two wives; choose one of them, when the divorce is done you can marry her.’ And this shows how serious Sa’ad took the pairing, such that he wanted to literally share everything by half with Abd Ar-Rahman, even down to his wives.

Now Abd Ar-Rahman used to be a very wealthy and successful businessman back in Mecca, however he had had to give his wealth up to undertake the Hijra and so he was left with nothing. And yet he said, ‘May Allah bless you even more in your money and your family. I don’t want any of this, just tell me where is the souk?’ And he took whatever little he had managed to carry with him on the Hijra to the souk, and he bought and sold with it and managed to return with some butter and wheat. And the next day he took that and sold it and brought some other things, and he repeated this until he had amassed enough wealth to get married. And the prophet saw him one day all dressed up and jokingly asked him if he had gotten married, to which he replied that yes, he had married a lady of the Ansar. And the prophet asked what he had given her, and he replied, ‘A date seed’s weight in gold.’ So a very little amount. 

And the prophet said, ‘Do a wedding ceremony (waleema), even if it is with one sheep.’

Now note the immense generosity of the Ansar, the likes of which has never been seen of a group of people either before or after them. In fact, the Ansar helped the Muhaajiroon so much and were so generous in all that they gave them and sacrificed for them, that one day the Muhaajiroon went worriedly to the prophet and said, ‘O messenger of Allah, we have never seen any group of people like these that we have come to. They share equally with us in times of difficulty, and are generous with us at times of ease. They have taken care of our needs and allowed us to share with them in good, so much so that we are worried, O Rasulallah, that they will take all of our good deeds away from us.’ Subhanallah, look at the beauty of this complaint. They started by giving such a high praise to the Ansar, and in fact that which they were worried about was not because of any fault of the Ansar or even of any materialistic issue, but instead because they were worried about their rewards of the afterlife being taken from them because of how good the Ansar had been to them.

And the prophet replied, ‘No, they are not going to take any of your reward as long as you praise them and make du’a for them.’

And so we see the blessings of the Ansar, so much so that the prophet himself said, ‘The sign of imaan is loving the Ansar, and the sign of hypocrisy is hating the Ansar. And as well as this he even told them after the conquest of Mecca, ‘If I could I would give up my lineage and be a part of you. If it were not for the Hijra (i.e. if he did not originate in Mecca) I would have considered myself one of the Ansar… If all of mankind went in one direction, and the Ansar went in another direction, I would choose the direction of the Ansar.’ And so we are also required to love the Ansar as part of our imaan.


Dr.Yasir Qadhi’s Seerah of The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) 032