As we get closer to Ramadan, Allah ﷻ helps us prepare for the blessed month by sending upon us two others of particular importance, namely Rajab and Sha’ban. A time to gain extra reward and mentally prepare ourselves for Ramadan, these months also serve as an inspiration when we look back at what occurred at these times in our history.
When one looks to Rajab, Islamic history professes four particular events which occurred within this significant month that changed the course of history forever.
1) Al Israa’ Wal Mi’raj (The Night Journey)
The night journey of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ to Jerusalem, known as Al Israa’ Wal Mi’raj, was in Rajab of the 10th year of Prophethood (620CE). In one night the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ travelled from Makkah to Jerusalem, and then into the heavens and beyond. The stories and lessons from this one journey are numerous and inspire awe in those who choose to study them at length.
The spiritual significance of this prophetic journey is only matched by the importance of its timing with regard to the mission of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. Having lost his uncle Abu Talib who had protected him from the beginning of his call, as well as his beloved wife Khadija (ra), Rasulullah ﷺ was in a difficult situation. The Quraysh and other tribes of Makkah openly declared their hostility towards Islam through their campaign of torture and persecution. It was in this dire situation, at the height of the struggle between Islam and disbelief, that Allah ﷻ decided to show His chosen servant some of His greatest signs, taking him in one night, or a part of it, to the sacred mosque in the sacred land of Jerusalem and from there to the highest heavens
2) The Battle of Tabuk
Rajab also marks the Battle of Tabuk, which saw 30,000 Muslims march under the leadership of the Prophet ﷺ towards the region of al-Sham, or modern day Syria, in the ninth year after hijra. The Muslim army easily manged to overcome the Roman army, who surrendered and accepted to pay the jizya (tax of protection), without any need for combat. This event also marked the completion of the authority of Islam over the Arabian peninsula and the subsequent era of Islamic expansion.
3) The reconquest of Jerusalem
The victory of Salahuddin al-Ayyubi over the European crusaders is also believed to have occured in Rajab in 583AH. It marked a great victory for Muslims, in retaking the blessed Al-Aqsa after the bloodshed and religious intolerance experienced at the hands of the European crusaders. Events before and after this victory were indicative of the far reaching and holistic Islamic revival that occurred after deviations and oppression had spread throughout Muslim lands.
4) The destruction of the Ottoman Caliphate
However, the final event the month of Rajab witnessed was not blessed at all, although it is worthy of remembrance: the catastrophic destruction of the Islamic Caliphate.
The enactment of the divine Islamic law, the sharia, was abolished and the Muslim lands were carved up and distributed among the European colonial powers. Much of the catastrophic situation in the Muslim world since has its origins rooted in this event, with its loss reverberating across communities in formerly Islamic lands.
Rajab begins the season of auspicious months of worship to Allah ﷻ, specifically known as the month of Allah, Sha’ban the month of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ and Ramadan as the month of the ummah.
However, it is important for us today to see beyond the one dimensional approach that many encourage regarding these months and remember that our Prophet ﷺ and our pious predecessors carried out weighty actions for the expansion and protection of Islam during this time.
The idea that Islam is relegated to the prayer mat and days of fasting alone is a contemporary one, devised to diminish the role of Islam in the public sphere in postcolonial Muslim lands by reforming the core ideas and principles of Islamic governance associated with its holistic implementation.
In recent years, the zeal to connect with Islamic history and identify with the conquests of the past has become the bedrock of a postcolonial Islamic identity. Many of the youth are enamoured by our great heroes, like Khalid Bin Walid, Salahuddin and even Ertugrul. The glorification and pride in their achievements and strengths is littered over the social media pages of men and women. However, when we observe the situation of the global Muslim ummah, everywhere from Palestine, Syria, and Iraq to Myanmar, Kashmir, and the Central African Republic, one has to question whether the mentality of sacrifice for Islam is really understood.
For Muslims, history should be studied from the perspective of our Islamic obligations, as was clearly understood by the successive generations of Muslims after the companions of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, may Allah be pleased with them.
For us, the safety and progress of the ummah and its expansion denotes a successful period in history. We cannot say a nation progressed if it neglected the commands of Allah ﷻ, despite the material progress or wealth it accumulates. However, today the role of Islamic governance in the Muslim lands is confused with secular liberal thought which judges success by the standards of material advancement alone.
If we as the Muslim ummah collectively understand Islam as an ideological force which shapes the thinking of our global community and are unafraid to propagate Islam and strive for its implementation, this alone would be the vehicle for producing individuals worthy of veneration, the likes of which would protect the Muslims and uphold this deen. This is surely a lesson worthy of learning this Rajab.
When the victory of Allah has come and the conquest.
And you see the people entering into the religion of Allah in multitudes.
Then exalt [Him] with praise of your Lord and ask forgiveness of Him. Indeed, He is ever Accepting of repentance. (Surah Nasr, 110: 1-3)