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The Islamic Jewish Calendar

The Islamic Jewish Calendar
How the Pilgrimage of the 9th of Av became the Hajj of the 9th of Dhu'al-Hijjah.
By Ben Abrahamson and Joseph Katz
Published 2007


The Islamic or Hijra calendar is made up of 12 lunar months. Traces of Jewish holidays like Rosh Hashanah[1], Yom Kippur[2], Pesach (Passover)[3] and Shavout (Pentacost) are still evident in this calendar. However, because of structural changes in the Islamic calendar, the Jewish and Islamic “celebration” of those holidays coincides only once in about 33 years. It is known that the Jews of Arabia felt that they were the “true mourners of Zion” and carried customs of mourning for the destruction of the Temple to extremes not matched by Jews elsewhere[4]. And we can assume that the mourning for the Temple influenced pre-Islamic culture to some extent. But even so, it is surprising to find one of the most holy days of the Islamic calendar -- the 9th of Dhu al Hijja, the Day of Arafat, the height of the Hajj pilgrimage – corresponding to the the Jewish fast day of the 9th of Av (which commemorates the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE). And the fast of Ramadan to be based on the Jewish Sefirat haOmer[5] which among other things is a time of mourning for the hundreds of thousands killed after Bar Kochba’s failed revolt in 135 CE.


  1. The Modern Islamic calendar
  2. Jewish roots
  3. The Temple Calendar and the Sanhedrin
  4. The Destruction of the Temple, 9th Av, 70 CE – a new pilgrimage
  5. The Disbanding of the Sanhedrin, 358 CE
  6. The Pre-Islamic Calendar
  7. The Pre-Islamic Week
  8. The Arab-Jewish Sanhedrin, 412 CE
  9. Belisarius' encounter with the Hajj, eighty years before the rise of Islam, 541 CE
  10. Intercalation, adding an extra month
  11. Commutation of a sacred for a secular month
  12. The Prophet’s (pbuh) Encounter with Yom Kippur (Ashura), 622 CE
  13. Intercalation and Commutation prohibited by the Qur’an, 631 CE
  14. Caliph 'Umar, Started the Muslim Calendar, 639 CE
  15. Religious observances of the Ka'aba
  16. Correspondence between Islamic Calendar and its Jewish Counterpart
  17. Conclusion
  18. Bibliography

This manuscript is also available as a pdf file.


  1. A tradition regarding "the first month of the year being al-Muharram," ascribed to Muhammad appears in ad-Daylamis Firdaws. Ad-Daylami's son reported the same tradition on the authority of 'Ali without the indication of a chain of transmitters." (F. Rosenthal, A History of Muslim Historiography, Leiden 1952, pp. 312-313).
  2. ‘Ubayd b. 'Umayr said: "Al-Muharram is the month of God. It is the beginning of the year. It is used as the beginning of the era. In al-Muharram, the Ka'bah is clothed, and money is coined. There is one day in al-Muharram on which repenting sinners are forgiven
  3. It was mentioned in Sayyid Saeed Akhtar Rizvi’s article, "Martyrdom of Imam Husayn and the Muslim and the Jewish Calendars" (Alserat, Vol.VI, No's 3 & 4; Muharram 1401 Nov.1980) that the first month of the Jews (Abib, later named Nisan) coincided with Rajab of the Arabs. W.O.E. Oesterley and Theodore H. Robinson have written that in Arabia "the most important of all the new-moon festivals was that which fell in the month of Ragab (sic), equivalent to the Hebrew month 'Abib, for this was the time when the ancient Arabs celebrated the Spring festival." (Hebrew Religion; S.P.C.K., London; 1955; p.128)
  4. Yemenite customs reportedly once included year round avoidance any musical instrument except drums, sitting on the floor, fasting during Sefirat haOmer.
  5. There is an additional similarity between Ramadan and Sefirat HaOmer. Most of Islamic jurists think that the intention "I will fast for this approaching month of Ramadan" is not legally enough, since the intention to fast must be formulated each night for the following day, i.e. "I will fast for Ramadan during this day", like the Jewish counting of the 49 day Omer period, Shaykh Prof. Abdul Hadi Palazzi.