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The Ancient Hebrew and Islamic Calendar
Posted In: Ancient Civilizations  8/28/11
By: Yona Williams

The Hebrew (or Jewish) and Islamic calendar is based on the lunar Moon cycle. Every month begins approximately on the day of a new Moon or when a crescent moon is first spotted. The start date is not something that can be calculated ahead of time because the visibility of the Moon is affected by the weather. Because of this, printed calendars are known to vary by a few days. There are 12 months in each year.

The Hebrew Calendar in Detail

In reading the Tanakh (canon of the Hebrew Bible), you will encounter a handful of commandments associated with the keeping of the calendar and the lunar cycle. Changes related to the Hebrew calendar have also been recorded.

There is no fixed length of time for a Jewish day, as it is described as “there was evening and there was morning.” This is based on the Creation story. The start of the evening is expressed as sunset to the next sunset. Clocks are used as a reference point. The Hebrew calendar follows a weekly cycle with seven days. While the calendar runs at the same time of monthly and annual cycles, but as an independent method of time keeping.

Days relating to the Hebrew calendar correspond with the numerical order of the week.  Sunday is called the ‘first day’ (Yom Rishon). Monday is the second day (Yom Sheni), Tuesday is the third day (Yom Shlishi), Wednesday is the fourth day (Yom ReviÊ»i), Thursday is the fifth day (Yom Chamishi), Friday is the sixth day (Yom Shishi), and Saturday is the Sabbath day (Yom Shabbat), which is seen as a day of rest.

The months of the Hebrew calendar are called Tishri, Heshvan, Kislev, Tevet, Shevat, Adar, Nisan, Iyar, Sivan, Tammuz, Av, and Elu.

The Islamic Calendar in Detail

The Islamic months are expressed in the Arabic language. They include:

Muharram (means ‘forbidden’). During this month, it is forbidden to fight and is considered the second most sacred Muslim month in the calendar. Safar (means ‘void’) is thought to be the time of the year when pagan Arabs looted during this month and left the houses empty. Rabi al-Awwal means ‘the first Spring’. Rabi ant-Thani means ‘the second Spring’). Jumad al-Ula means ‘the first month of parched land.’ Jumada ath-Thaniya means’ the second month of parched land’.

Rajab means ‘respect’ or ‘honor’ and is another time of the year when fighting is traditionally forbidden. Sha ban means ‘scattered’ and marks the time of the year when Arab tribes travel to locate water. Ramadan means ‘scorched’ and is a time where Muslims fast between dawn and sunset. Shawwal means ‘raised’. Dhu al-Qa’da means ‘the one of truce’ – another month where fighting is banned. Dhu al-Hijja means ‘the one of pilgrimage,’ which refers to the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca – also known as the Hajj.


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