There are momentous times in the history of all peoples. Momentous days, weeks and months. The Muslims are no exception. To the contrary, Islamic history overflows with events and occurrences worthy of the mention, and indeed worthy of remembrance. Such comes with no surprise given the fact that the Islamic civilisation brought a new dawn to the world of the 7th century, as it established itself in the Middle East before moving forth to conquer land after land, bringing with it knowledge, civilisation and real progress.
It is well-known that the holiest of months in the Islamic lunar calendar is Ramadan. A month with unrivalled historic significance, both at the time of the Prophet (ﷺ) and after him. A significance which shadows a heavy burden on the other eleven months, sometimes rendering their magnitude minuscule in its grandeur. In any absolute analysis nevertheless, all the Islamic months have their unique significance. Here we look at one such month, which races towards us, in this, the 1429th year after hijra. That month is Rajab, and it is indeed a month which carries a momentous history. In particular, Rajab saw four events in Islamic History which belong in the category of those which changed the course of history.
It was in Rajab of the 10th year of Prophethood (620 CE) that al-Isra wa ‘l-Mi’raj occurred. In one night the Prophet (ﷺ) went from Makkah to Jerusalem, then to the heavens and beyond.
The spiritual significance of Prophetic journey is only matched by the importance of its timing with regard to the Prophetic mission. Having lost his uncle Abu Talib who had protected him from the beginning of his call, as well as his beloved wife Khadija (ra), the Prophet (ﷺ) was in a difficult situation. The Makkans openly declared their campaign of torture and persecution. It was in this dire situation, at the height of the struggle between Islam and Kufr, that Allah decided to show His chosen servant some of His greatest signs, taking him in one night, nay a part thereof, to the sacred mosque in the sacred lands of Jerusalem and from there to the highest heavens.
Rajab also saw one of the glorious military victories of the Messenger (ﷺ); the Battle of Tabuk, which occurred in the 9 AH, and marked the completion of Islamic authority over the whole Arabian Peninsula. Notwithstanding the intense heat and the long journey to al-Sham from Madinah, an army of 30,000 Muslims moved relentlessly towards al-Sham. The Roman armies were encamped at Tabuk ready to raid the Muslims, but when they heard of the size and strength of the Muslim army coming towards them, and that they were led by the Messenger of Allah himself, they were terrified and rushed back into the interior of al-Sham to the safety of their fortresses. This left the Messenger (ﷺ) with an easy task of occupying Tabuk without a fight. He stayed there for a month dealing with other minor resisting forces and also sent letters to the leaders and governors under Roman control in the area, who made peace with him and agreed to pay the Jizyah.
It was also in Rajab, of the year 583 AH (1187 CE), that Salah al-Din marched into Jerusalem, liberating it from the clutches of the European crusaders who had taken it and ruled it for close to a century.
This conquest was not only significant because of the inalienable importance of Jerusalem in Islam, but also because of its role as being one of the crucial stabs in crusader efforts to conquer Muslim lands. A few months earlier Salah al-Din annihilated the Crusader army of Guy of Lusignan and Raymond III of Tripoli in the Battle of Hittin. This was a major disaster for the Crusaders and a turning point in the history of the Crusades to the favour of the Muslims.
Centuries later, in 1342 AH (1924 CE), the month of Rajab again brought a history-setting event upon the Muslim Ummah. This time, unlike the previous two, it was not an occurrence worthy of praise, though certainly worthy of remembrance. On the 28 of Rajab, corresponding to the 3rd of March, the Khilafah was officially abolished at the hands of Mustafa Kemal Pasha. That institution which united the Muslims and implemented the Shari’ah was abolished. That institution which for centuries had played out its role of being a shield for the Muslims was removed. What happened afterwards was to be expected. Without a shield, the Muslims, their resources and their lands were no more than war booty to the disbelieving colonialists, who had been pulling the strings to make sure that the Khilafah was eradicated and replaced by secular rule.
These four events in Islamic History are indeed momentous events. They are events which set the course of history in a specific direction. They are events worthy of our remembrance and commemoration. Not a Western commemoration, but an Islamic one. We commemorate not by partying the night away, nor by extravagant marches and trumpet-blowing, nor by building statues and monuments of men. Rather our commemoration is in turning to Allah (ﷻ) in worship and contemplation: praising Him for His great favours, and seeking forgiveness for our shortcomings. Our commemoration is in praying extra prayers, reciting more Qur’an and making extra dhikr. Our commemoration is in reflecting upon our situation today, as individuals and as an Ummah, and assessing it in light of our Islamic obligations. Our commemoration is in resolving our will to fulfil our obligations towards our Creator to the best of our ability.
We are in another Rajab, of 1436 AH. We should familiarise ourselves with our great history, and take the opportunity to do the above things with pure sincerity to Allah (ﷻ) and with the sole motivation of seeking His pleasure. We should reflect upon al-Isra wa ‘l-Mi’raj and ask: as we find ourselves in the midst of an intense struggle between Islam and Kufr, this time in the form of Western secular liberalism, are we resolving our will and engaging with the aim of making Islam dominant? We should reflect upon Salah al-Din’s liberation of Jerusalem and ask: what are we doing knowing well that the holy city is occupied yet again and has been so for over fifty years? Where is the Salah al-Din of today? We should reflect upon the destruction of the Khilafah and ask: what is our contribution to the Islamic revival and efforts to re-establish the Khilafah? What are we doing to fulfil our collective obligation to Allah of ruling by Islam and being the role model of humanity, leading it towards progress and success in both worlds?
We must ask these questions in taking lessons from our history, as we venture into our future.