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2020 vs. 1442: Sacred Time in Islamic Schools

By Sead Puškar

Here’s a great pop quiz question to ask students: what Hijri year are we in? Chances are slim that they’ll know. For many of us, the year is punctuated by Ramadan and Dhu’l-Hijjah, but their effects are felt within a secularized time context, one defined by a scientific obsession over increasing exactitude (think of the atomic clock). However, we must realize that this scientific view of time is an invention of human abstraction, one we selected over witnessing the movement of the spheres and the accompanying wonderment of God’s firmament this witnessing brings. Stargazing is so passé these days. We’ve traded the witnessing of Allah’s signs upon the horizons for cell phone calendars and alarm clocks. So the question we are asking here is: whatever happened to sacred time?

Most Islamic school curricula focus on sacred space and our movements within sacred space. This is understandable, as the majority of our schools cater to pre-teens, whose sense of time has not yet been fully developed. But as we are witnessing with the disorientation around us caused by COVID-19 and nationwide protests, it may be more important than ever to reorient our children by teaching them about the Islamic months, which have themes of their own much like Ramadan and Dhu’l-Hijjah. Our concept of time is, indeed, one the Qur’an’s concerns: “God decrees that there are twelve months- ordained in God’s Book on the Day when He created the heavens and earth - four months of which are sacred. This is the correct calculation. Do not wrong your souls in these months - though you may fight the idolaters at any time if they first fight you - remember that God is with those who are mindful of Him.” {Surah At-Tawba, Ayat 36}

For many of us, 2020 will go down as a weird year, a turning point, or a debacle. To us Muslims, it’s Muharram, one of the 4 sacred months Allah and His Prophet spoke of, and it marks the beginning of the year 1442. With that said, we must remember that we are in good hands. The Messenger of Allah, peace, and blessings be upon him, said, “Allah Almighty said: The son of Adam abuses me. He curses time, and I am time, for in my hand are the night and day.” (Al-Bukhari)

From all of us at IQRA’, we wish you a blessed and safe year. Amin!

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