The Sacred Month of Rajab
“Verily, the number of months with God is twelve, so it was ordained by God on the Day when He created the heavens and the earth; of them four are sacred. This is the right religion, so wrong not yourselves therein” (Quran 9:36).
Timekeeping has always been a preoccupation of human beings. It was devised for some necessity, purpose, or convenience. The effort proved most useful to man; it helped him demarcate seasons for migratory and agricultural purposes and to sequence events and mark important days coinciding with religious or cultural observances and events.
As with other cultures, the people of pre-Islamic Arabia measured time into defined periods of days, weeks, months, and years. They mostly used a lunisolar calendar of twelve months where the difference between the lunar and solar year was compensated for by periodically inserting an additional thirteenth month when required. After the advent of Islam, the practice of intercalation was prohibited. It was reported that Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “O people! Time has gone back to how it was at the time God created the heavens and the earth. A year has twelve months, four of which are sacred …” (Bukhari).
The Islamic calendar is composed of twelve months, four of which are sacred. The sacred months, so called because it was prohibited, even pre-Islam, to fight and shed blood during these months. The sacred months of Dhul-Qi’dah, Dhul Hijjah, and Muharram are consecutive while Rajab occurs in isolation of the other three months.
Rajab, the seventh month of the Islamic calendar, falls after Jamada al-Thani and before Sha’baan. The lexical definition of Rajab denotes its importance, honor, and glory. This month was invariably called by several names. It was called Rajab al-`Asam (the silent month) because during this month, the Arabs would lay down their arms in respect of its inviolability and there would be no sound of fighting or warfare. It was called Rajab al-Asab (the month of inundation) because the mercy of God descends in great abundance in this month. It was also called Rajab al-Murajjab in reference to its exalted and sublime status.
The Excellence of the Month of Rajab
In His eternal wisdom and all-encompassing knowledge, God the Almighty favored some prophets, people, places, months, and times over others. He favored His prophets and Messengers over all mankind by revelation and favored some of them over others. He says, “Those Messengers We endowed with gifts, some above the others: To one of them God spoke; others He raised to degrees (of honor)” (Quran 2:253). God also gave preference to some places and times to others. He favored Mecca above all other cities and chose al-Medina to be the abode of the Prophet’s migration. Following in rank is Bayt al-Maqdis which is the abode of the majority of God’s prophets. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “One prayer in my mosque is superior to one thousand prayers offered in any other mosque except Al-Masjid al-Haram” (Bukhari). God also favored certain times over others. He chose Friday from the rest of the days of the week for the Friday congregational prayer. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said that the best day on which the sun rises is the day of Friday while the night of al-Qadr is better than a thousand months. Out of all the months of the year, God the Almighty designated the month of Ramadan for fasting and of all the rest of the months, He chose four for special reverence. As with all other times God the Almighty has favored, we need to make extra observances and maximize our worship during these blessed times to earn the pleasure of God and attain divine propinquity. This honor however does not preclude that we obey and worship God at all times and places. In spite of this, we need to give special reverence and honor to what God has favored and made sacred for it is part of the piety of the heart.
What are the virtues of these sacred months? There is no Quranic verse or authentic hadith that specifies the excellence of Dhul Qi’dah, Dhul-Hijjah, Muharram, and Rajab except what God the Almighty mentions in His Holy Book, “Verily, the number of months with God is twelve, so it was ordained by God on the Day when he created the heavens and the earth; of them four are sacred. This is the right religion, so do not wrong yourselves therein” (Quran 9:36). This verse is sufficient proof for us to honor them by following the guidance of God set forth in the verse, “… so do not wrong yourselves therein.” God the Almighty urges us be extra mindful about our actions during these months by emphasizing both the obligatory elements of responsibility with regard to both right and wrong and voluntary acts of worship.
Wrong can come in many forms. It may refer to committing an act that contravenes the will of God that does not go beyond oneself. Examples include neglecting prayers, neglecting ritual purity, drinking alcohol, arrogance and conceit, breaking oaths, and so forth. God Almighty says, “Whoever oversteps the limits of God wrongs his own soul” (Quran 65:1) and “Do not contribute to your own destruction with your own hands, but do good for God loves those who do good” (Quran 2: 195). The second form of wrongdoing involves harming others such as by backbiting, slander, wrongfully consuming the property of others, bearing false witness, killing, causing bodily harm to others, inaugurating a reprehensible innovation, and so forth. Regarding this kind of wrongdoing, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “There shall be no infliction of harm on oneself or others” (Al-Daraqutuni). One of the greatest forms of wrongdoing is that which is committed against God the Almighty and this includes forging lies against and ascribing partners with Him. God the Almighty says, “Who does greater wrong than one who invents falsehood against God?” (Quran 61:7). Muslims must therefore not wrong themselves or others. Although sins of commission and omission are forbidden at all times, they are even more so in the month of Rajab and the other sacred months because these are times when the recompense for evil deeds is magnified.
A Muslim can wrong himself not only by committing sins but also by depriving himself of the abundant rewards contained in the month of Rajab and the other sacred months. Just as the recompense for evil deeds is multiplied during Rajab (and the sacred months) so is the recompense for good deeds. Divine mercy, blessings, and rewards are at their peak during this time; Muslims must therefore invest their time in obedience to God and not miss the bounties of the rewards Rajab al-Asab has to offer. Because there exists no particular course of action to follow during this month, Muslim are recommended to observe all obligations conscientiously and maximize voluntary acts of worship. Abu Huraira (may God be pleased with him) narrated that the Messenger of God (peace and blessings be upon him) said that God the Almighty said, “My servant does not draw near to me with anything more beloved to Me than the religious duties I have enjoined upon him. And he continues to draw close to me with supererogatory works until I am His hearing with which he hears, his seeing with which he sees, his hand with which he strikes, and his foot with which he walks …” (Bukhari).
Good Deeds in Rajab
Good deeds garner great divine bounties during Rajab. Acts that are emphasized and whose rewards are multiplied during this month include:
- Fasting: Fasting entails a greater reward and excellence than any other act of worship. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, "All of man's good deeds are rewarded from ten to seven hundred times. God the Almighty says: ‘Except for fasting. It is Mine and I shall repay the faster who gives up his desires and food for My sake" (Muslim). Fasting is an act of worship that is known only to God and the faster. A person therefore fasts for no other purpose than to gain the pleasure of God Alone. It is for this reason that God ascribes the fast to Himself and rewards it without limits because it does not contain any element of boastfulness. Moreover, fasting inculcates in man self-discipline by making him less dependent on his material desires and creates an awareness of those things he normally takes for granted. Fasting contains innumerable moral values as well because it cultivates virtues such as patience, charity, and sympathy for the poor and deprived and because it refines manners especially those related to lowering the gaze, honesty, and abstaining from vile speech. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Whoever does not abandon falsehood in word and action, then God is not need of his leaving his food and drink” (Bukhari) and, “… when anyone of you fasts, he should not behave foolishly or impudently. And were anyone to quarrel or abuse him, he is to tell him twice, ‘I am fasting’” (Bukhari).
The reward of fasting may best be described in the words of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) who said, "Whoever fasts a day for the sake of God, God will keep him away from hellfire for a distance covered in seventy years” (Bukhari and Muslim).
- Reciting the Quran: The Quran is the book of guidance for every Muslim. God the Almighty says, “This is the Book; In it is guidance sure, without doubt, to those who fear God” (Quran 2:2). The benefit and reward for reciting the Quran are countless. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him said), “Whoever reads a letter from the Book of God shall have a reward and that rewards will be multiplied tenfold. I do not say that ‘Alif, Laam, Meem’ is a letter but that ‘Alif’ is a letter, ‘Laam’ is a letter, and ‘Meem’ is a letter. So increase your recitation of the Quran that you may gain these merits (At-Tirmidhi).
- Dhikr (Making Remembrance of God): Dhikr is one of the most excellent acts and the sheer number of times it is mentioned in the Quran is sufficient testament to its importance. Dhikr is indeed one of the most praiseworthy acts that earns the pleasure of God the Almighty. He says, “And remembrance of God is the greatest without doubt. And God knows everything that you do” (Quran 29:45). There are no restrictions to the manner, frequency, and times for the performance of this great act of worship deserving of divine mercies and blessings. For this reason God the Almighty says, “O you who believe! Celebrate the praises of God, and do so often; and glorify Him morning and evening. He it is Who sends blessings on you” (Quran 33:41). Making constant remembrance of God is one of the means to the elevation of status in paradise. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “There are many people who make remembrance of God the Almighty while lying comfortably in their beds. For this God will reward them with the highest ranks in paradise” (At-Tirmidhi, Al-Hakim, and At-Tabari).
- Tahajjud (Late Night Prayer): Praying is among the best of the bodily spiritual works and the late night supererogatory prayer is one of the best means to attain spiritual purification, divine propinquity, a generous reward from God, and an elevated status in the hereafter. God the Almighty said, “Their limbs do forsake their beds of sleep, the while they call upon their Lord in fear and hope” (Quran 32:16) and “As to the righteous, they will be in the midst of gardens and springs, taking joy in the things which their Lord gives them, because before then, they lived a good life. They were in the habit of sleeping but little at night, and in the hours of early dawn, they (were found) praying for forgiveness” (Quran 51:15-8).
- Charity: It is one of the most meritorious acts. God the Almighty says, “Hurry towards your Lord's forgiveness and a Garden as wide as the heavens and the earth prepared for the righteous, who give, both in prosperity and adversity, who restrain their anger and pardon people— God loves those who do good” (Quran 3:133-4). The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Whosoever gives out in charity the measure of a date from lawful earnings — and God does not accept save that which is lawful — God will take it in His right hand and foster it (augment its reward) for the donor as any of you raises his foal, until it becomes like a mountain” (Bukhari and Muslim). Voluntary charity is highly encouraged in Islam. And because it is not obligatory, it is a measure of the true strength of generosity and compassion. Charity comes in all forms and every action performed to help another pleases God the Almighty. Delineating charity, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “… Bringing about justice between two people is charity; assisting a man with his mount, lifting him onto it or hoisting his belongings onto it is charity; a kind word is charity; every step you take towards the mosque is charity; and removing harmful things from the road is charity” (Bukhari and Muslim).
- Helping Others: Exerting effort to help others achieve their needs or relieve their distress is one of the acts that distances one from hellfire. It was reported that the Prophet of God (peace and blessings be upon him said, “A Muslim is the brother of a Muslim; he does not wrong him nor does he forsake him when he is in need. Whosoever fulfills the needs of his brother, God will fulfill his needs and whosoever removes the distress of a believer, God will remove one of his difficulties on the Day of Judgment” (Bukhari and Muslim). The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) also said, “... God will aid a servant of His as long as the servant aids his brother” (Muslim).
- Helping Others to Settle Their Debts: Helping others fulfill their financial obligations is a worthy cause for which God rewards both in this world and in the hereafter. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “… Whosoever alleviates the difficulties of a needy person who cannot pay his debt, God will alleviate his difficulties in both this world and in the hereafter” (Muslim).
- Seeking and Disseminating Religious Knowledge: Knowledge is the basis of all actions. Through knowledge, we are able to do what is praiseworthy and avoid what is blameworthy. It is because of this that God the Almighty says, “It is those who have knowledge among His servants that fear God” (Quran 35:28). The Messenger of God (peace and blessings be upon him) gave glad tidings to knowledge seekers. He said, “Whoever follows a path to knowledge, God will make easy for him the path to paradise” (Ahmad, Abu Dawud, Ibn Majah, and at-Tirmidhi). Any person who attains knowledge that is of benefit to other members of the society, is enjoined to disseminate that knowledge, even if it is little. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) told his Companions, “Convey (what you have learned from me) even if it is only one verse” (Bukhari).
- Speaking Kind Words to Others: Kind words are a charity, from noble manners, and an element of perfect faith. The Messenger of God said, “A good word is also a charitable deed” (Muslim). Kind words are also salvation from hellfire; the Messenger of God said, “Ward off the Fire even if by giving a date in charity. If you cannot afford that, then utter a kind word” (Bukhari and Muslim). Umar Ibn al-Khattab (may God be pleased with him) even said, “Generosity is an easy thing. It is a smiling face and kind words.”
- Mercy: Muslims are enjoined to show mercy to everyone around them as it elicits the mercy of God. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “He who shows no mercy will not be shown any” (Bukhari). The injunction to show mercy to others is not limited to the ambit of human relations but extends to animals as well. Consequently, Muslims are enjoined to be merciful to animals. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Fear God regarding these animals [without the power of speech]. Ride them when they are in good condition and feed them when they are in good condition” (Abu Dawud). Mercy to animals is of such paramount importance that Muslims are instructed to be kind to them even at the time of their slaughter. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “God has enjoined benevolence in everything [you do]. So, when you kill [an animal], then kill in the best manner, and when you slaughter [an animal], slaughter in the best manner i.e. spare suffering to the animal as much as possible” (Muslim).
- Truth and Honesty: Truth and honesty are two of the greatest virtues and are praised in both the Quran and Sunnah. God the Almighty says, “That God will reward the people of truth for their truth” (Quran 33:24). Honesty is one of the means to righteousness. The Messenger of God said, “Verily, honesty leads to righteousness and righteousness leads to paradise” (Bukhari and Muslim).
- Purity of Heart: Purity of heart emanates from faith and earns us success in the hereafter. God the Almighty says, “He has succeeded who purifies the soul …” (Quran 91:9) and, “A day when there neither wealth nor children will avail, but only he (will prosper) who comes to God with a pure heart” (Quran 26: 88-9). Muslims must therefore purify their hearts from all kinds of evil and replace them with virtues and noble manners.
- Justice: Justice is both one of the fundamental principles of Islam and a great virtue. Whichever path leads to justice and fairness among the people is part of religion. God the Almighty says, “God commands justice, the doing of good, and generosity to relatives” (Quran 16:90) and, “God commands you to render back your trusts to those to whom they are due; and when you judge between people to judge with justice. Verily, how excellent is the teaching which He gives you! For God is He Who hears and sees all things” (Quran 4:58). Muslims are enjoined to observe justice at all times, even when it proves detrimental to their own interests. God the Almighty says, “O you who believe! Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to God, even though it be against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, be he rich or poor, God is a Better Protector to both (than you). So follow not the lusts (of your hearts), lest you may avoid justice, and if you distort your witness or refuse to give it, verily, God is Ever Well ¬Acquainted with what you do” (Quran 4:135).
- Humility and Modesty: Humility and modesty mean freedom from pride and arrogance both of which are hateful to God the Almighty. Humility and modesty are praiseworthy virtues for Muslims; God says, “And the servants of (God) Most Gracious are those who walk on the earth in humility, and when the ignorant address them, they say, "Peace!" (Quran 25:63). The excellence of modesty are evinced by the words of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) who said, “Modesty does not bring anything except goodness” (Muslim). The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) also said, “Verily, God has revealed to me that you must be humble towards one another, and that no one should oppress another or boast over another” (Muslim).
- Sincerity: Sincerity helps us attain sincerity and steers us away from pride. God the Almighty says, “And be not like those who started from their homes insolently and to be seen of men” (Quran 8:47). Good deeds must be performed for the sake of God alone, seeking His pleasure and not for worldly gains. He says, “And they have been commanded no more than this: To worship God, offering Him sincere devotion, being true (in faith); to establish regular prayer; and to practice regular charity; and that is the Religion Right and Straight” (Quran 95:5). Seeking publicity and recognition eliminates reward but the purity of motive of seeking the pleasure of God alone earns us the pleasure of God and His divine propinquity. He says, “If you disclose (acts of) charity, even so it is well, but if you conceal them, and make them reach those (really) in need, that is best for you: It will remove from you some of your (stains of) evil. And God is well acquainted with what you do” (Quran 2:271). Sincerity to God also helps to determine our fate in the hereafter — whether we will be among the blessed or the wretched. The Messenger of God said, “… whoever does the deeds of the hereafter to gain some worldly benefit, will have no share in the hereafter” (Ahmad). Sincerity in intention in all of our actions is the most important factor for our salvation in this world and in the hereafter. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Deeds are but by intentions and every man will get but what he intended” (Bukhari).
Rajab, as one of the sacred months, is a month in which Muslims must not only obey the prescriptions of Islam but exert extra effort to increase their moral and spiritual wholeness. The above is by no means an exhaustive list of the deeds we can perform to reap from the abundant rewards, mercies, and blessings God bestows upon His righteous servants during this sacred month. It merely serves as a reminder of some examples of praiseworthy action. The sphere of good is wide and each one is to walk the straight path to the limit of his capacity. We hope that in this month, all Muslims are elevated to the highest degree of excellence and achieve benevolence in both religious and worldly matters, availing themselves of the virtuous times when God sends His bounties, blessings, mercy, and elevation of rank. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, "There are certain days of the year on which God the Almighty sends gifts, so exert yourselves (in worship) on these days, perchance one of you will attain one of its bounties after which he will never be wretched.”