“According to Islamic tradition, a new month or a new year can only be announced when the new crescent moon appears in the night sky and is seen by two reliable witnesses.”
The Islamic (Hijri) calendar is based on the lunar cycle, which means that each month is either 29 or 30 days (but never 28 or 31). Compared to the Western Gregorian calendar that makes it shorter by 10 or 11 days each year. The result is that every year the Islamic calendar ‘moves back’ compared to the Western year.
I say ‘around’, because that brings us to one of the most salient features of the Islamic calendar: the lack of specificity of exact dates, because they are dependent on when the new moon appears in the sky. According to Islamic tradition, a new month or a new year can only be announced when the new crescent moon appears in the night sky and is seen by two reliable witnesses. This means that it some countries the moon may be seen and the new month begins before other locations. That’s why you might read about Eid being celebrated on different days in different places.
“The Solar Hejri is a solar calendar used in Iran and Afghanistan which counts its years from the “Hijra” or migration of Muhammad from Mecca to Medina in AD 622.”
The Solar Hejri is a solar calendar used in Iran and Afghanistan which counts its years from the “Hijra” or migration of Muhammad from Mecca to Medina in AD 622.
This lack of agreement on dates is a point of contention across the Muslim world and it is better to be cautious to avoid declaring the exact dates of events like Eid, as this is the role of scholars, religious bodies and governments. However, Muslims themselves are often frustrated – even joke about it through gritted teeth – by the lack of agreement. But in a global world connected night and day across geographic boundaries, there seems to be little to do other than embrace the uncertainty and variation.
The Islamic Lunar Calendar
One of the major effects of the lunar calendar is that the major events of the Islamic year move backwards by 10 or 11 days each year, which mean that when they happen in the seasons changes. For example, the month of fasting moves throughout the year which means that at times it will be in winter, with shorter fasts, and at other times it will be in the summer with longer fasts. This is important to note in particular also when it comes to decisions concerning the best days each month and during the lunar year for various treatments (such as Hijama, Leeching, Cupping, and various other treatments).