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Moon Sighting and The Qur’an (Part-5)



The Calendar Controlling Injunction 9.36

9.36: إِنَّ عِدَّةَ الشُّهُورِ عِندَ اللَّـهِ اثْنَا عَشَرَ شَهْرًا فِي كِتَابِ اللَّـهِ يَوْمَ خَلَقَ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضَ مِنْهَا أَرْبَعَةٌ حُرُمٌ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ الدِّينُ الْقَيِّمُ ۚ فَلَا تَظْلِمُوا فِيهِنَّ أَنفُسَكُمْ

Translation: Verily the count of all months [in a year] to God is 12 in the Law of God [since] the day He created the heavens and the earth. Of them, four are sacred. This is the upright way [of following the calendar]. Therefore, do not wrong your selves in the affairs of these [all] months.

It is the only calendrical commandment in the Qur’an, and holds all the legalities of Islamic Calendar. The next verse 9.37 on نسى (Postponement), revealed alongside it, is an assertive statement. Before it, all verses touching the calendar were in the context of either presenting divine signs for the Qur’an or dispelling superstition in Arabia associated with the waxing and waning moon crescents.

However, it is also among the most misunderstood verse by the scholars and intellectuals of today! The Qur’an is a book that clearly discloses its guidance when it is required. Therefore, if former scholars failed to understand it properly, we cannot question their abilities. In their times, there was no dispute surrounding Islamic Calendar.

There are a couple of things that people (scholars and commoners) usually fail to comprehend, or they misunderstand them. Such as:

(i) Why the verse is referring to a calendric reckoning that
God started right after creating the heavens and earth.
(ii) To what the pronoun هُنَّ in the verse is referring.
(iii) Why the verse was revealed so late, in the 9th Hijri,
and alongside the Verses of the Dissociation (بَرَاءَةٌ).
(iv) Whether it is calendar controlling or an ordinary injunction.

However, only the points related to the issues of moon sighting will be discussed in the discourse following.

Conventional Interpretations Have Linguistic Error:

Qur’anic commentators have usually linked فَلَا تَظْلِمُوا فِيهِنَّ (do not wrong in them) to أَرْبَعَةٌ حُرُمٌ (four sacred months). This linking is not right. Why?

The construction أَرْبَعَةٌ حُرُمٌ is masculine like four men because the rule for numbers 3 to 9 in Arabic language is: the feminine number is used with a masculine noun and vice versa.

That said, feminine number أَرْبَعَةٌ with حُرُمٌ establishes beyond any doubt that حُرُمٌ is masculine in the verse. Therefore, أَرْبَعَةٌ حُرُمٌ in expanded wording means four masculine sacred things. Consequently, the feminine pronoun هُنَّ is not there for أَرْبَعَةٌ حُرُمٌ = four masculine sacred things, but for الشُّهُورِ (all months) or اثْنَا عَشَرَ شَهْرًا (12 months). In either case, the message remains the same.

Regarding the latter (اثْنَا عَشَرَ شَهْرًا), the linguistic rule for using plural feminine pronoun is not that the plural noun has to be expressly in the form of a “broken plural word”. For example, look at the verse 41.37: اللَّيْلُ وَالنَّهَارُ وَالشَّمْسُ وَالْقَمَرُ… خَلَقَهُنَّ . Here, four nonintellectual things (day, night, sun, moon) have been mentioned separately. Then, their altogether plural has been considered as plural feminine (indicated by the feminine pronoun هُنَّ).

Moreover, though in Arabic language the plural of “things without intellect” is treated feminine, its number whether singular or plural is the choice of the speaker.

In the verse, God has used الشُّهُورِ (all months) as singular in مِنْهَا and as plural in فِيهِنَّ . What is understandable is: Had singular فِيهَا been used in place of فِيهِنَّ , it would have created confusion whether that فِيهَا is referring to the singular feminine عِدَّةَ or singular counted plural-feminine الشُّهُورِ .

In case of the former, the decree would have meant: Do not wrong in the matter of عِدَّةَ (counting) of months. That is, the decree would have been limited to not increase or decrease the number of months in any year. In contrast, by using فِيهِنَّ God made it unambiguous that He is referring to الشُّهُورِ (all months) or اثْنَا عَشَرَ شَهْرًا (the 12 months). Thus the decree is prohibiting any kind of violations in all the months.

The Consequence of Misperception:
The general perception that the verse is forbidding only the violations during the 4 sacred months opens door to applying one’s faulty knowledge of Science or that of the Sunnah in pursuit of following Islamic calendar today. This results in deviation and misguidance.

Conventional Meaning is Also Inconsistent with the History:

The history tells us that the problems in the Arab Calendar were كبيثه and نسى , and even the polytheists used to take care of the declared prohibitions during the 4 sacred months. So it makes no sense that God issued DIRECT prohibition for the violations that even the polytheists were not committing. To the contrary, He issued no direct prohibition against كبيثه and نسى which warranted to be stopped.

According to the other translation, the prohibition clause is one and comprehensive i.e. the injunction does not contain separate prohibitory provisions for specific or individual violations.

Basic Problem in Conventional Interpretations:

Most Muslims (scholars and commoners alike) think in line with the tales they have heard while understanding Qur’anic verses that sound to touch some story. They have heard the tale that Arabs used to wage wars and robbing attacks, therefore, four months were declared sacred for them so that the pilgrims could commute to and from Mecca safely and peacefully. As a result, when they read the verse 9.36, they connect their heard story to it and make out that the verse is prohibiting sacrilegious acts in the four sacred months. — though the verse is addressing and prohibiting Muslims (not the polytheists) who were not violating these months at all. So the basic problem is not reading the injunction in its proper context which is of Islamic Calendar.

The Clear Message in the Qur’anic Wording:

As discussed in the linguistic note above, the pronoun هُنَّ has been conspicuously used for الشُّهُورِ (all months) or اثْنَا عَشَرَ شَهْرًا (the 12 months) in the verse. Thus the decree means: Do not wrong in the affairs of all these months, such as: in their start-end times, in their number, in their order, in the sacredness of the sacred months, in prescribed obligations in anyone of the months, and so on. In other words, any kind of violations (ظُلْمً) whether in the calendrical technicalities or the prescribed dos-and-don’ts in all months is prohibited. This way, the supreme lawgiver has made the Calendric Injunction comprehensive.

Crucial Factor for the Timing of the Revelation:

To understand it, first consider the following hypothetical example.

Suppose a nation decides to celebrate its independence anniversary for a whole week such that the week would be of 8 days; they name the 8th day as C-Day or Culmination Day. Suppose their regular week runs Monday through Sunday. Thus, when they will start their regular week after their first year of such celebrations, their Monday will be originally Tuesday because they will have used that Monday as their C-Day. Let us call it Monday-on-Tuesday. Then after the 8-day-week celebrations of next year, their Monday will start as Monday-on-Wednesday. In the same way, in successive years, their Monday will start as Monday on Thursday, then Monday on Friday, then Monday on Saturday, then Monday on Sunday, then Monday on Monday. That is, after 7 years of such celebrations, the days of the week will come back to their original positions.

Similarly, if you add an extra month each year (i.e. make an year of 13 months instead of 12), in 12 years the months will come round to their original positions.

However, the Arabs were not intercalating (adding) a month each year but every 2 to 3 years. What follows is it was taking about 30 years for the months to come round to their original positions. But Muhammad’s prophetic life was only 22 years. This meant the coming round of months to their original positions could have occurred only once during his prophetic life.

God is all-knowing; He knew well that the time was going to come in the 10th year of Muhammad’s migration to Medina. So He revealed the Calendric Injunction in the 9th Hijri to make preparation and then FINALIZE the calendric date-order of the 10th Hijri at the time of his Pilgrimage to Mecca. This vey thing the Prophet (PBUH) disclosed in a sermon at Mina during his Last Pilgrimage:

.,.أَلَا إِنَّ الزَّمَانَ قَدِ اسْتَدَارَ كَهَيْئَتِهِ يَوْمَ خَلَقَ اللهُ السَّمَوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضَ
Translation: Beware! verily the [calendric] time has come round to the like state of it [what is in accordance with] the day God created the heavens and earth …

Had an injunction revealed in Mecca or in early period at Medina finalized the calendar, it would have finalized the wrong order of dates. Revisit the hypothetical example given above. If the authorities stop adding a day each year after committing it for 3 or 4 times for instance, the position of days will remain erroneous. In other words, to restore the original positions of days of week, the authorities must let it happen, or jump it to, 7 or any multiple of 7 times and then stop it.

God is all-knowing; He knew the calculus concerning the Arabs’ Calendar. So He let the Meccans do the required number of intercalations by letting them be in power, and then helped His prophet (PBUH) and his companions prevail over them.

God is upright, He promotes right things, and He never establishes any factually erroneous system. It is the sheer ignorance of today’s so-called intellectuals who are believing as such, and then maneuvering to correct the System of Islamic Calendar which God established correctly at the time of Muhammad (PBUH).

Remaining Discussion Concerning Verse 9.36
It is in the next part, i.e. part 6, of this article [1].


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