The month of Rajab is the seventh month of the Islamic calendar and a prelude to the ninth month, Ramadan. The classical Muslim scholar Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali quoted another scholar, Abu Bakr Al-Warraq, in his book Lataif al-Ma’arif:
Preparing before the arrival of Ramadan is crucial. Rajab could be the starting point for these preparations. The year can be compared to a tree, where the leaves appear in Rajab, the fruit begins to show in Sha’ban, and the people harvest it in Ramadan.
Therefore, it is recommended that we take advantage of Rajab to engage in righteous actions, with an added focus on improving them in Sha’ban, so that they may be performed with excellence during Ramadan.
This article will delve into the origin of the name “Rajab”, the sacredness of the month, significant events that occurred during Rajab, and four acts you can perform during this period.
The etymology of Rajab (the origin of Rajab and the historical development of its meaning)
The word “Rajab” (رجب) stems from the word (الترجيب) which means revered/reverence. The month also goes by Rajab Al-Haram, Rajab Al-Fard, and Rajab Mudhar, just to name a few.
The reason it is named Rajab Al-Haram (Rajab the sacred one) is because it is one of the four sacred months, as mentioned in Surah At-Tawbah, verse 36. The Quran states:
Many classical scholars have interpreted this verse with the accompanying hadith whereby the Prophet s.a.w mentioned about the sacred months. Prophet Muhammad s.a.w said:
“Time has completed its cycle and has come to the state of the day when Allah created the heavens and the earth. The year consists of twelve months of which four are inviolable; three of them consecutive – Dhul-Qa’dah, Dhul-Hijjah and Muharram and Rajab, the month of Mudar (tribe), which comes between Jumada and Sha’ban.”(Sahih Bukhari)
Rajab is also called Rajab Al-Fard (Rajab the single one) because the month is standalone compared to the three consecutive months of Zulkaedah, Zulhijjah, and Muharram.
And finally, is known as Rajab Mudhar (Rajab of the tribe Mudhar) because historically, there’s a tribe called Mudhar (Bani Mudhar) in the Arabian peninsula and the tribesmen would often perform their pilgrimage in the month of Rajab as they view the month as sacred and holy.
It was a practice of the Arabs from the pre-Islam period to rearrange the months in the calendar wherever they see fit. However, the tribe Mudhar would not rearrange the month of Rajab and would consistently appoint it accordingly every year, which they became known for.
Islam takes great emphasis on calculating time as how it is and not changing it on a whim, which has been the case of many past civilisations. Allah s.w.t. says in the Quran:
Hence, when the Prophet s.a.w. declared Rajab as Rajab Mudhar, the companions knew the Prophet s.a.w. meant the seventh month of the hijri lunar calendar.
One of the 4 sacred months
As it has been established that the month of Rajab is one of the four sacred months in Islam, let us look at why these months are sacred and how should we welcome them.
Allah s.w.t specifically warns us on this matter:
These months are called sacred for two reasons:
1. Prohibition of fighting
Ibn Kathir explains that this warning comes as an instruction for Muslims to observe, respect and honour the sacred months and avoid bad deeds such as fighting. Allah s.w.t. says in the Quran:
Historically, even before the advent of Islam, fighting was prohibited within the four sacred months. The sequence of the sacred months appears to be intentionally arranged to provide a safe journey for pilgrims travelling to and from Makkah.
The month of Zulkaedah is when the pilgrims begin their preparation for the hajj, Zulhijjah is when they perform the hajj rituals, and Muharram is when they return from the hajj pilgrimage.
On the other hand, Rajab was made sacred to ensure safety for pilgrims performing the minor pilgrimage (umrah).
Hence, in this spirit, let us strive our best to leave conflict, disputes and animosity as we benefit the best from the sacred month of Rajab.
2. Prohibition of wronging oneself
Allah s.w.t. instructed us to observe the sanctity of the sacred months by prohibiting wronging oneself. The Quran states:
According to Ibn Kathir, sins are worse in general in the sacred months, where its degree is almost akin to sinning within the confines of the Holy cities of Makkah and Madinah. Ibn Abbas states:
Events that happened in Rajab
1. First hijrah (migration) to Abyssinia
From the late fourth and into the middle of the fifth year of Muhammad s.a.w’s prophethood, Quraysh slowly but steadily accelerated the persecution and torture of Muslims. It was evident that practising Islam in Makkah was no longer tolerable.
The Prophet s.a.w. then instructed some Muslims to migrate and seek asylum in the land of Habshah (Abyssinia, modern-day Ethiopia), as the Negus (King) Ashama, was a fair ruler.
The first migration consisted of twelve men and four women, among them was the son-in-law of the Prophet s.a.w, Uthman Ibn Affan r.a. and his wife, Ruqayyah r.a. (the daughter of the Prophet s.a.w.)
While the news of the migration was made known to Quraysh, the dispatch came too late to stop the migration. Several futile attempts by Quraysh to dissuade the Negus to expel the companions of the Prophet s.a.w. back to Makkah were made but failed. The Negus lived up to his reputation of being a just ruler and the Muslims lived peacefully and secure from the threats of the Quraysh.
2. Isra’ Mi’raj
Isra’ and Mi’raj are events referring to the miraculous night journey of the Prophet s.a.w. from Makkah to Jerusalem and then the ascension to heaven.
The journey impacted Muslims as after the ascension to heaven, the Prophet s.a.w. was commanded to teach Muslims to establish the prayers five times a day. The daily prayers became a Pillar of Islam.
Anas Ibn Malik r.a. Reports:
The journey occurred on the 27th of Rajab and happened a year before the hijrah of the Prophet s.a.w. to Madinah.
4 practices you can do in the month of Rajab
Istighfar, or seeking forgiveness from Allah s.w.t, is considered one of the most important acts of worship for Muslims as it is a means of purifying oneself from sins and seeking protection from Allah s.w.t.
One should regularly make Istighfar as a means to purify oneself from his sins and to also seek protection from the wrath and punishment from Allah s.w.t, as often emphasised by the Prophet s.a.w. In a narration by Ibn ‘Abbas r.a, the Prophet s.a.w. said:
Even if the month of Ramadan is only a few months away, that doesn’t mean we have to wait till then to seek forgiveness because ideally, as Muslims, we should regularly seek forgiveness.
2. Reconcile (in spirit of the ceasing of war in Rajab)
Islam teaches us to quickly reconcile with our Muslim brethren if there are any disputes between them. It’s emphasised in the Quran:
The Prophet s.a.w. has also mentioned in a hadith:
Historically, the month of Rajab was known to be a peaceful period as wars and fighting is prohibited. Therefore, we should take this opportunity to reconcile with those who we have disputes with and make peace with them as it brings not only harmony but also may be a source of help on the Day of Judgement, as mentioned by the Prophet s.a.w. in a hadith narrated by Ibn Umar r.a:
In preparation for the upcoming fasting month, why not start voluntarily fasting on Monday and Thursday? or perhaps the ayyamul bidh (the white days of fasting), which falls on the 13th, 14th, and 15th of every hijri month? In a hadith, Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. said:
Do note, if you have missed prior Ramadan fasts, it is important to prioritise making up the missed fasts as they are wajib (obligatory) while the fasting of white days is sunnah (non-obligatory/non-mandatory).
We can then follow up with fasting in the next month, Sha’ban. Narrated by Usamah bin Zaid r.a:
4. Prepare for Ramadan
As the holy month of Ramadan approaches, we could ready ourselves by making a bunch of preparations. We could make a timetable or a daily schedule of what to do in Ramadan, plan meal preps, and many others to set us in the mood of welcoming the month of Ramadan!
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