Umm Al Qura Calendar

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What is Umm Al-Qura Calendar

Umm al Qura calendar is developed and used by Saudi Arabia to determine dates and months. This calendar is based on the lunar cycle or phases of the moon. The months start with the beginning of a new lunar cycle and the end of the month is observed when the lunar cycle is ended. The lunar cycle refers to the revolution of the moon around the Earth. The moon completes its revolution around the Earth in approximately 29 or 30 days. Hence, a lunar month in the Umm al Qura calendar or other Islamic lunar calendars consists of 29 or 30 days.

Difference between the Umm al Qura calendar and other lunar calendars

Traditionally, Islamic lunar calendars were based on moon sightings. A lunar month would begin with the sighting of a new moon after sunset. A committee of people experienced in observing moon phases would gather to see the new moon at the end of the 29th day of lunar months. If a new moon is sighted, it will mark the beginning of the next lunar month. If a new moon is not sighted on the 29th, the 30th day will begin and the next day will be the 1st of the next lunar month.

However, the government of Saudi Arabia developed and employed the Umm al Qura calendar. This calendar, similar to other Islamic calendars is based on the lunar cycle. However, it has a major difference as compared to other lunar calendars. Umm al Qura calendar is not based on the moon sightings, but on astronomical calculations that determine the phases of the moon. In this way, dates and months of lunar years in this calendar are determined through complex computational calculations.

Length of the year

Umm al Qura calendar is based on the lunar cycle and hence, a lunar month is either 29 days or 30 days. On average, a lunar year in the Umm al Qura calendar has 354 days. If we compare this calendar to the Gregorian calendar, the Umm al Qura calendar is on average 11 days shorter than the Gregorian calendar. So, the start and end of a lunar year in this calendar are not fixed as in the Gregorian calendar which has solar years. Therefore, a lunar year starts about eleven days earlier than the previous year.

Months of the year

Like other Islamic lunar calendars, the Umm al Qura calendar has 12 months. The major difference is that other lunar calendars are based on the actual sighting of a new moon or crescent (Hilal). However, dates and months in the Umm al Qura calendar are determined through complicated astronomical calculations.

Umm al Qura calendar consists of 12 Islamic months:

1. Muharram: Muharram is the 1st month in Islamic lunar calendars and one of the four sacred months in the lunar year. Any kind of battles and wars are forbidden in this month. This month includes Ashura which is observed on the 10th of this month.

2. Safar:This is the 2nd month of the Islamic lunar year.

3.Rabi al-Awwal: This is the 3rd month of the lunar year. This month is of great importance for Muslims throughout the world as the Holy Prophet (PBUH) was born in this month.

4. Rabi ath-Thani: This is the 4th month of the lunar year.

5. Jumada al-Ula: This is the 5th month of Islamic lunar year.

6. Jumada ath-Thaniyah: This is the 6th month of Islamic lunar year.

7. Rajab: This is the 7th month of the Islamic lunar year and one of the four sacred months in which any war is forbidden.

8. Sha'ban: This is the 8th month of Islamic lunar year.

9. Ramadan: This is the 9th month of the Islamic lunar year. This month is also called the month of fasting. Muslims fast in this month from pre-dawn till sunset.

10. Shawwal: This is the 10th month of the Islamic lunar year. This month is of great importance to Muslims as it marks the end of the fasting month. The celebrations of Eid ul Fitr is observed on the 1st of this month.

11. Dual-Qa'dah: This is the 11th month of the Islamic lunar year and one of the four sacred months in the lunar year.

12. Dual-Hijjah: This is the 12th month of the Islamic lunar year and also a sacred month. Muslims celebrate Eid ul Adha on the 10th of this month. It is also the month of pilgrimage or Hajj.

Use of Umm al Qura calendar

Umm al Qura calendar is developed and used by Saudi Arabia but it is also used by many Arab countries including in the Arab peninsula. As compared to other lunar calendars that are based on the sighting of the new moon, the Umm al Qura calendar is based on calculations. Hence, the days and months in this calendar are determined based on these calculations which is not possible in other Islamic lunar calendars. Because of this fact, the Umm al Qura calendar is used in daily life such as for work schedules and school holidays, etc., in Saudi Arabia and some other Muslim countries. The Muslim countries that use lunar calendars based on moon sightings, use lunar calendars for determining religious months and festivals. They use the solar calendar or Gregorian calendar for everyday life.

Controversies regarding the Umm al Qura calendar

Traditionally, Islamic years or Islamic lunar calendars are based on the sighting of the new moon. However, the Umm al Qura calendar uses astronomical calculations to determine the phases of the moon and hence, the beginning and ending of the lunar months. Although the use of the Umm al Qura calendar is widespread in many Muslim countries, still there are many groups and Islamic countries that do not follow this calendar. They consider that this calendar does not conform with the recommendations of Prophet Muhammad and continue to use moon sightings to determine the beginning of new lunar months especially Ramadan, Shawwal, and Ḏū al-Ḥijjah.

Conclusion

Umm al Qura calendar is based on astronomical calculations and calculated moon cycles. This is used as the official calendar in Saudi Arabia and some other Islamic countries. One year in this calendar is 354 days long and consists of 12 months. The dates are determined through calculations, so this calendar can be used for official schedules just like the Gregorian calendar.