Rajab: The Forgotten Sacred Month

We may be well aware of the significance of Ramadan, Syawal, and Zulhijjah, to name a few. However, what about Rajab? In fact, Rajab is one of the four sacred months in Islam.
by Muslim.Sg 2024-01-08 • 21 min read
Muslim.Sg is a Muslim lifestyle platform that aims to deepen your understanding of faith, in collaboration with the Asatizah Youth Network (AYN). We are part of the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis).
2024-01-08 • 21 min read

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:

“Rajab is a month of cultivation, Sha'ban is the month of irrigating the fields, and Ramadan is the month of reaping and harvesting.”

Preparing before the arrival of Ramadan is crucial. Rajab could be the starting point for these preparations. Our deeds can (hope to) be compared to a tree, where the seeds are planted in Rajab, the tree begins to take shape in Sha’ban, and the fruits are harvested in Ramadan. 

Therefore, it is recommended that we take advantage of Rajab so that they may hope to perform well in Ramadan. This article will delve into the origin of "Rajab", significant events that happened in Rajab, and four acts you can perform during this period. 

Hijri month, why is rajab a sacred month

Etymology of Rajab (the origin of Rajab and the historical development of its meaning)

The word “Rajab” (رجب) comes from the word 'at-tarjeeb' (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 in Islam, as mentioned in Surah At-Tawbah, verse 36. The Quran states:

إِنَّ عِدَّةَ ٱلشُّهُورِ عِندَ ٱللَّهِ ٱثْنَا عَشَرَ شَهْرًا فِى كِتَـٰبِ ٱللَّهِ يَوْمَ خَلَقَ ٱلسَّمَـٰوَٰتِ وَٱلْأَرْضَ مِنْهَآ أَرْبَعَةٌ حُرُمٌ

“Indeed, the number of months ordained by Allah is twelve—in Allah’s Record since the day He created the heavens and the earth—of which four are sacred…”

(Surah At-Tawbah, 9:36)

Many classical scholars have interpreted this verse with the accompanying hadith whereby the Prophet s.a.w. mentioned in a hadith:

 إنَّ الزَّمانَ قد استدار كهيئتِه يومَ خَلَق اللهُ السَّمواتِ والأرضَ، السَّنةُ اثنا عَشَرَ شَهرًا، منها أربعةٌ حُرُمٌ، ثلاثٌ متوالياتٌ: ذو القَعْدةِ، وذو الحِجَّةِ، والمحَرَّمُ، ورَجَبُ مُضَرَ الذي بين جُمادى وشَعبانَ

“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 Al-Bukhari)

Read: Muslim SG | 4 Sacred Months in Islam

Rajab is also called Rajab Al-Fard (Rajab the single one) because the month is a standalone compared to the other three consecutive months of Zulkaedah, Zulhijjah, and Muharram.

And finally, it 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.

During the pre-Islam period, it was a practice of the Arabs to rearrange the months in the calendar wherever they saw 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.

Read: 4 Intriguing Things You May Not Know About the Islamic Hijri Calendar 

Islam takes great emphasis on calculating time and not changing it on a whim, which has been the case of many past civilisations. Allah s.w.t. says in the Quran: 

إِنَّمَا ٱلنَّسِىٓءُ زِيَادَةٌ فِى ٱلْكُفْرِ ۖ يُضَلُّ بِهِ ٱلَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا۟ يُحِلُّونَهُۥ عَامًا وَيُحَرِّمُونَهُۥ عَامًا لِّيُوَاطِـُٔوا۟ عِدَّةَ مَا حَرَّمَ ٱللَّهُ فَيُحِلُّوا۟ مَا حَرَّمَ ٱللَّهُ ۚ زُيِّنَ لَهُمْ سُوٓءُ أَعْمَـٰلِهِمْ ۗ وَٱللَّهُ لَا يَهْدِى ٱلْقَوْمَ ٱلْكَـٰفِرِينَ

Reallocating the sanctity of (these) months is an increase in disbelief, by which the disbelievers are led (far) astray. They adjust the sanctity one year and uphold it in another, only to maintain the number of months sanctified by Allah, violating the very months Allah has made sacred. Their evil deeds have been made appealing to them. And Allah does not guide the disbelieving people.

(Surah At-Tawbah, 9:37)

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.[1]

One of the 4 sacred months

Rejab, Hijri month, why is rajab a sacred month

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 we should welcome them.

Allah s.w.t specifically warns us on this matter:

يَـٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوا۟ لَا تُحِلُّوا۟ شَعَـٰٓئِرَ ٱللَّهِ وَلَا ٱلشَّهْرَ ٱلْحَرَامَ وَلَا ٱلْهَدْىَ وَلَا ٱلْقَلَـٰٓئِدَ وَلَآ ءَآمِّينَ ٱلْبَيْتَ ٱلْحَرَامَ يَبْتَغُونَ فَضْلاً مِّن رَّبِّهِمْ وَرِضْوَٰنًا

“O believers! Do not violate Allah’s rituals (of pilgrimage), the sacred months, the sacrificial animals, the (offerings decorated with) garlands, nor those (pilgrims) on their way to the Sacred House seeking their Lord’s bounty and pleasure.”

(Surah Al-Maidah, 5:2)

These months are called sacred for two reasons:

1. Prohibition of fighting

Ibn Kathir[2] 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:

يَسْـَٔلُونَكَ عَنِ ٱلشَّهْرِ ٱلْحَرَامِ قِتَالٍ فِيهِ ۖ  قُلْ قِتَالٌ فِيهِ كَبِيرٌ

“They ask you (O Prophet) about fighting in the sacred months. Say, “Fighting during these months is a great sin”

(Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:217)

Rajab, Hijri month, sacred months, rejab

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 the prohibition wronging oneself. The Quran states:

إِنَّ عِدَّةَ ٱلشُّهُورِ عِندَ ٱللَّهِ ٱثْنَا عَشَرَ شَهْرًا فِى كِتَـٰبِ ٱللَّهِ يَوْمَ خَلَقَ ٱلسَّمَـٰوَٰتِ وَٱلْأَرْضَ مِنْهَآ أَرْبَعَةٌ حُرُمٌ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ ٱلدِّينُ ٱلْقَيِّمُ ۚ فَلَا تَظْلِمُوا۟ فِيهِنَّ أَنفُسَكُمْ 

“Indeed, the number of months ordained by Allah is twelve—in Allah’s Record since the day He created the heavens and the earth—of which four are sacred. That is the Right Way. So do not wrong one another during these months…”

(Surah At-Tawbah 9:36)

According to Ibn Kathir, sins are worse in general in the sacred months, where their degree is almost akin to sinning within the confines of the Holy cities of Makkah and Madinah. Ibn Abbas states:

"In all (twelve) months. Allah then chose four out of these months and made them sacred, emphasising their sanctity, making sinning in them greater, in addition to multiplying rewards of righteous deeds during them."

Important Events That Happened In Rajab

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.

Read: Muslim SG | What Does Islam Really Say About Muslim-Christian Relations?

Rejab, Hijri month, why is rajab a sacred month

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.[3] 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 securely from the threats of the Quraysh.

Read: Muslim SG | Can Muslims Live in a Non-Muslim Country?

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. 

Rejab, Hijri month, why is rajab a sacred month

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:

فُرِضَتْ عَلَى النَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم لَيْلَةَ أُسْرِيَ بِهِ الصَّلَوَاتُ خَمْسِينَ ثُمَّ نُقِصَتْ حَتَّى جُعِلَتْ خَمْسًا ثُمَّ نُودِيَ يَا مُحَمَّدُ إِنَّهُ لاَ يُبَدَّلُ الْقَوْلُ لَدَىَّ وَإِنَّ لَكَ بِهَذِهِ الْخَمْسِ خَمْسِينَ 

"On the Night of Isra, fifty prayers were made obligatory upon the Prophet. Then it was decreased until it was made five. Then it was called out: 'O Muhammad! Indeed My Word does not change; these five prayers will be recorded for you as fifty.'"

(Sunan At-Tirmizi)

The journey occurred on the 27th of Rajab and happened a year before the hijrah of the Prophet s.a.w. to Madinah.

Read: Muslim SG | Isra’ & Mi’raj: The Miraculous Night Journey of the Chosen One

4 practices you can do in the month of Rajab

1. Istighfar

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.

Rajab, Hijri month, sacred months, rejab

Read: 8 Ways To Get Closer To Allah

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:

مَن لَزِمَ الِاسْتِغْفَارَ، جَعَلَ اللهُ لَهُ مِنْ كُلِّ ضِيقٍ مَخْرَجاً وَمِن كُلِّ هَمٍّ فَرَجاً، وَرَزَقَهُ مِن حَيثُ لَا يَحْتَسِبُ

"If anyone constantly seeks pardon (from Allah), Allah will appoint for him a way out of every distress and a relief from every anxiety, and will provide sustenance for him from where he expects not."

(Sunan Abi Daud)

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.

Read: Muslim SG | Powerful Duas for Forgiveness From Allah

2. Reconcile

Islam teaches us to quickly reconcile with our Muslim brethren if there are any disputes between them. It’s emphasised in the Quran:

إِنَّمَا ٱلْمُؤْمِنُونَ إِخْوَةٌ فَأَصْلِحُواْ بَيْنَ أَخَوَيْكُمْ ۚ وَٱتَّقُواْ ٱللَّهَ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُرْحَمُونَ

“The believers are but one brotherhood, so make peace between your brothers. And be mindful of Allah so you may be shown mercy.”

(Surah Al-Hujurat, 49:10) 

Rajab, Hijri month, sacred months, rejab

The Prophet s.a.w. has also mentioned in a hadith:

لاَ يَحِلُّ لِرَجُلٍ أَنْ يَهْجُرَ أَخَاهُ فَوْقَ ثَلاَثِ لَيَالٍ، يَلْتَقِيَانِ فَيُعْرِضُ هَذَا وَيُعْرِضُ هَذَا، وَخَيْرُهُمَا الَّذِي يَبْدَأُ بِالسَّلاَمِ

“It is not lawful for a man to desert his brother Muslim for more than three nights. (It is unlawful for them that) when they meet, one of them turns his face away from the other, and the other turns his face from the former, and the better of the two will be the one who greets the other first”

(Sahih Al-Bukhari)

Historically, the month of Rajab was known to be a peaceful period as wars and fighting were prohibited. Therefore, we should take this opportunity to reconcile with those whom 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:

أنا زعيمٌ ببيتِ في رَبَضِ الجنةِ لمَن تَرَكَ المِراءَ وإن كان مُحِقًّا ، وببيتِ في وسطِ الجنةِ لمَن تركَ الكذبَ وإن كان مازحًا ، وببيتٍ في أعلى الجنةِ لمَن حَسُنَ خُلُقُه

“I guarantee a house in Jannah for one who gives up arguing, even if he is in the right; and I guarantee a home in the middle of Jannah for one who abandons lying even for the sake of fun; and I guarantee a house in the highest part of Jannah for one who has good manners.”

(Sunan Abi Daud)

3. Fast

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:

صَوْمُ ثَلاَثَةِ أَيَّامٍ صَوْمُ الدَّهْرِ كُلِّهِ

“Observing fasting on three days of every month is equivalent to fasting the whole year”

(Sahih Al-Bukhari)

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).

Read: Muslim SG | Fasting On The White Days

We can then follow up with fasting in the next month, Sha’ban. Narrated by Usamah bin Zaid r.a:

قُلْتُ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ لَمْ أَرَكَ تَصُومُ شَهْرًا مِنَ الشُّهُورِ مَا تَصُومُ مِنْ شَعْبَانَ‏.‏ قَالَ "‏ذَلِكَ شَهْرٌ يَغْفُلُ النَّاسُ عَنْهُ بَيْنَ رَجَبٍ وَرَمَضَانَ وَهُوَ شَهْرٌ تُرْفَعُ فِيهِ الأَعْمَالُ إِلَى رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ فَأُحِبُّ أَنْ يُرْفَعَ عَمَلِي وَأَنَا صَائِمٌ‏"‏

"I said: 'O Messenger of Allah, I do not see you fasting any month as much as Sha’ban.' He said: 'That is a month to which people do not pay much attention, between Rajab and Ramadan. It is a month in which the deeds are taken up to the Lord of the worlds, and I like that my deeds be taken up when I am fasting."'

(Sunan An-Nasai)

Read: Muslim SG | The Virtues and Benefits of The Month of Sha'ban

4. Prepare for Ramadan

As the holy month of Ramadan approaches, we can 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!

Read: Muslim SG | 8 Tips To Prepare For Ramadan in Rajab

Rajab, Hijri month, sacred months, rejab

5. Read the dua for Rajab

Ibn Rajab Al-Hanbali related in his book, Lataif al-Ma'arif, that the companions would supplicate for a safe journey to Ramadan for six months. After Ramadan, they would continue to pray for another six months, asking Allah to accept the acts of worship that they performed throughout the holy month. We can recite the following dua:

اللَّهُمَّ بَارِكْ لَنَا فِي رَجَب، وَشَعْبَانَ، وَبَلِّغْنَا رَمَضَانَ

Allahumma barik lana fi Rajab wa Sha’ban wa ballighna Ramadan

“O Allah make the months of Rajab and Sha’ban blessed for us and let us reach the month of Ramadan.”

(Musnad Ahmad)

And the dua:

اللَّهُمَّ سَلِّمْنِي مِنْ رَمَضَانَ، وَسَلِّمْ رَمَضَانَ لِي، وَتَسَلَّمْهُ مِنِّي مُتَقَبَّلًا

Allahumma Sallimni min Ramadhan. Wa sallim Ramadhana li. Wa tasallamhu minni mutaqabbala

“O Allah preserve me for Ramadan, safeguard Ramadan for me and accept it for me.”

(narrated by Imam At-Tabrani)

So let's turn to Him, the Most Generous, as we get ready for Ramadan. May Allah s.w.t. accept all of our deeds and make it easier for us to prepare for the holy month this year.

And Allah knows best.


[1] Safa Faruqui, The Benefits and Virtues of Rajab, the Month of Allah. Muslim Hands, 2021. https://muslimhands.org.uk/latest/2021/02/history-importance-and-benefits-of-rajab-in-quran-and-hadith 

[2] Abu Al-Fida’ ‘Imad Ad-Din Ismail Ibn Kathir, Tafsir Ibn Kathir, vol. 1

[3] Saifur Rahman al-Mubarakpuri, The Sealed Nectar. 1976. pg.64

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