A Muslim Perspective
Before Islam, Pagan Arabs used a lunisolar calendar system to calculate their month and years. The months were calculated according to the lunar cycle; however, they would add 10-11 days to the lunar calendar to align with the solar calendar. Hence, the pre-Islamic Arabian calendar started and ended in the fall of each year.
The pre-Islamic Arabic months’ names are the same as the one we use in the Islamic calendar, and some scholars note that the Arabs inherited this calendar system from Prophet Abraham and his son Prophet Ismaeel when they settled in Arabia. The proof for this is that the Arabs had the same four sacred months in their calendar as those in the Islamic calendar with very similar rituals, e.g., Hajj would be in Dhul-Hijja, and fighting was prohibited during the sacred months.
However, the Pagan Arabs manipulated these 12 months and each sacred month’s position to align with business and political interests. This manipulation of the months of the year was what Islam referred to as Al-Nasi’ (or in English intercalation) and was forbidden in the Quran. Allah says in the Quran:
إِنَّمَا النَّسِيءُ زِيَادَةٌ فِي الْكُفْرِ ۖ يُضَلُّ بِهِ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا يُحِلُّونَهُ عَامًا وَيُحَرِّمُونَهُ عَامًا لِّيُوَاطِئُوا عِدَّةَ مَا حَرَّمَ اللَّهُ فَيُحِلُّوا مَا حَرَّمَ اللَّهُ ۚ زُيِّنَ لَهُمْ سُوءُ أَعْمَالِهِمْ ۗ وَاللَّهُ لَا يَهْدِي الْقَوْمَ الْكَافِرِينَ
“Indeed, the (nasi’) – postponing [of restriction within sacred months]- is an increase in disbelief by which those who have disbelieved are led [further] astray. They make it lawful one year and unlawful another year to correspond to the number made unlawful by Allah and [thus] make lawful what Allah has made unlawful. Made pleasing to them is the evil of their deeds, and Allah does not guide the disbelieving people.” [Quran 9: 37]
According to Tafseer Maududi: “The pagan Arabs practiced nasi’ in two ways:
- Whenever it suited them, they would declare a sacred month to be an ordinary month in which fighting, robbery, and murder in retaliation were lawful for them. Then they would declare an ordinary month to be a sacred month in order to make up for the missed sacred month.
- The other way of nasi’ was the addition of a month in order to harmonize the lunar with the solar year so that the Hajj would always fall in the same season and they would be saved from the inconvenience of the shifting Hajj seasons that are experienced by its observance according to the lunar year.”
Why The Islamic Calendar Matters More Than You Think, Mohammed Faris, Mon 6 Dhul Hijjah 1441AH 27-7-2020AD
The Arabs, according to one explanation mentioned by Abu Ma'shar, learned of this type of intercalation from the Hebrew calendar used by the Jews, since intercalation was announced by the Nasi, meaning "prince", or "ruler". The Hebrew calendar commanded by Moses son of Amram, Mūsā bin ʿImrān, in Exodus 12, is necessarily lunisolar, because the lunar new year is fixed to the month of Aviv, or spring, and cannot rotate through the year. See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nasi%27#cite_ref-10
the absence in the Bible of any direct allusion to the methods of intercalation should cause no surprise. The cuneiform texts recovered from Mesopotamia include some that were intended solely for the narrow circle of the priesthood. 4) But the Bible as we have it was intended for the use of the public. It holds no secrets that the public should not know. And the secrets of the calendar, like the secrets of priestly divination, must have been guarded by the priests with jealous care. Such continued to be the practice in Palestine in later times also. Not only did the priests themselves examine witnesses to the appearance of the new moon in the Mishnaic period, 5) but the Nasi' reserved to himself the sole authority in calendrical matters. We read that "a year cannot be declared embolismic unless the Nasi' sanctions it". 6) The secrets of 1) intercalation were handed down by the Nesi' im from father to son. 1) They were not known outside the group of three or five or seven '"wise men", 2) and others were forbidden in Mishnaic times to presume knowledge of them; and we may recall the incident, about the end of the 1st century A.D., when the celebrated Rabbi Joshua ben Hananiah was forced publicly to proclaim his error in fixing the calendar not according to the ruling of the Nasi' Rabban Gamaliel.
J. B. Segal, Intercalation and the Hebrew Calendar, Author(s): Source: Vetus Testamentum , Jul., 1957, Vol. 7, Fasc. 3 (Jul., 1957), pp. 250-307
Was the first Pesach Sheni a model for an intercalated (leap) year?
1) while Hezekiah deferred Passover first to the second month. The later Jews, on the other hand, intercalated Nisan, the month of the spring festival; intercalation was in the previous month, Adar. In one respect, however, find a significant similarity between the early practice of the and the later practice of the Jews. In early times the ritual of the or autumn month was, my theory maintains, postponed to the ing month, and such, we have seen, was the action of Jeroboam Hezekiah. In the same way the Jews considered the first intercalary; the immediately following month ( 2 Adar) was as the true Adar and in it were performed the religious ceremonies peculiar to that month
J. B. Segal ibid
Heavenly Calendar and an Earthly Calendar
In the minds of the authors, the Enochic calendar and the 4Q317 lunisolar calendar represent a heavenly-based system that operates independently of the earthly sphere (cf. the Astronomical Book where the two legitimate systems merely need to be synchronized). Time in heaven is precise and unchanging while time on earth is warped and inexact. Time in heaven is base-60,280 with which time on earth does not agree. In heaven, the calendar makes sense. It hasn't changed and the perceived incongruences with any earthly calendar are merely coincidental due to earth's imperfections (caused by the sins of the watchers, mankind and the giants).
A Reassessment of Qumran’s Calendars, Stephen Pfann, University of the Holy Land
The first commandment given to the Jewish people was to construct their own calendar. What resulted was one of the most precise calendars ever produced. What makes the Hebrew calendar one the most precise calendars ever produced by any civilization? The Hebrew calendar (along with the Chinese, Tibetan and Hindu calendars) is a lunisolar calendar; it functions in harmony with both the solar and lunar cycles, whereas, our current (Christian) Gregorian calendar is purely a solar calendar. A solar calendar is very effective in keeping holidays in prescribed seasons; Easter in the spring and Christmas in the winter. However, the Gregorian calendar makes no attempt to harmonize with the lunar cycle. As a result, New Year's Day or any month of the year can and does appear during any phase of the moon. On the other hand, the Islamic calendar is purely a lunar calendar and is very effective at beginning each and every month with a new moon. However, the Islamic calendar makes no attempt to harmonize with the solar cycle. As a result, Islamic holidays can and do appear in all different seasons from year to year. The Hebrew calendar (along with the Tibetan, Hindu and Chinese calendars), in comparison, is far more complicated and maintains harmony with both the solar and lunar cycles. The Hebrew months always begin with the new moon and the holidays always occur in a prescribed season. Passover is always in the spring, Rosh Hashana always in the fall, and Hanukkah is always in the winter. Therefore, from this calendric perspective, Judaism and Christianity share the love of holidays occurring in prescribed seasons. In the winter, while Christians celebrate Christmas, Jews celebrate Hanukkah. In the spring when Christians celebrate Easter, Jews celebrate Passover. Likewise from this calendric perspective, Judaism and Islam share an appreciation of the moon's phases. For Jews and Muslims, looking at the moon is like looking at a calendar. If it's a full moon, it's always the 15th of the month. If it's a quarter moon, it is either the seventh or the 21st of the month, depending on whether the moon is waning or waxing. I believe these calendric aspects reflect a unique philosophy and general disposition of Judaism and the Jewish people. Jewish life perspectives train Jews to be open-minded, eclectic and always willing to regard and learn from others. The Bible calls Jews "the children of Israel." Jews are encouraged to maintain a fresh, childlike curiosity and thirst for knowledge. Moreover, the ability to establish harmony with the celestial bodies above and harmony with the civilizations below is a life skill Jews acquire from their unique heritage. Whether one is a Christian existing in harmony with the sun, or a Muslim existing in harmony with the moon, the essence of all worthy religions is existing in harmony with one another. May we all live in harmony and be worthy before God. Amen!
Hebrew calendar is one of the most accurate on earth News-Times, The (Danbury, CT), Rabbi Shaul Marshall Praver May 7, 2005Updated: Nov. 15, 2009 2:55 p.m.
“If God had consulted me before embarking on the Creation, I would have suggested something simpler.”
The theories of my predecessors were like a human figure in which the arms, legs, and head were put together in the form of a disorderly monster..
Nicolous Copernicus, In the preface to De revolutionibus