Q. The Qur'an states in 9:36: "Verily, the number of months with Allah is twelve months (in a year), so was it ordained by Allah on the Day when He created the heavens and the earth; of them four are sacred . . ."

I only know two "sacred" months: Ramadan (ninth month) and Dhul Hijjah (twelfth month). What are the other two months, and what makes them "sacred?"

A. Yusuf Ali's note 1247 in chapter nine is beyond any criticism. Yes, the hajj was well known before the Prophet's time, as is well attested (see even Josephus), and so the months were well known, as is also evidenced by the Qur'an in 2:197. Ramadan is not a sacred month in the definition meant by the verses. "Haram" means that in which all forms of warfare was forbidden. It was meant to allow for security of movement. As you may know, the Muslims embarked on war in Ramadan, thus taking it out of that category of "sacredness." Please note too that the Muslim fast as prescribed in its final form was the result of Qur'anic legislation, something new to the people.

What I mean is that whereas the Arab Jews and Christians had observed fasting before as a divine legislation, they did not do so in the Qur'anic form as is evident from a reading of the verses in chapter two. Ramadan was the month in which the revelation commenced, and perhaps that is why it was selected. But as a sacred month known to the people, it was not, see Q2:197. As I have explained elsewhere, "known" presupposes cognizance on the part of everyone, those who are Muslims, as well as non-Muslims. Non-Muslims would not recognize Ramadan as being a sacred month to them, whereas the other four months: Zul-qa'd, Zul-Hajj, Muharram, and Rajab are sacred to all, or to put things in historical perspective, were sacred to all, and hence none waged war against another during these times.

Posted August 25, 1999