بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
by Ruhaifa Samir
All praise is to Allah (سبحانه وتعالى), the Exalted who has given us life, enabled us to spend the month of Muharram in peace and to witness the new moon of the month of Safar with health and iman (faith).
Following the sacred month of Muharram, Safar is the second month of the Islamic or the lunar calendar. However, it is a month that is greeted with caution and fear in many circles of our Muslim ummah (community). It is considered a month of bad omens, bad luck and has been linked with many superstitions.
One wonders why Safar has been singled out so in this manner? We all know that our deen of Islam is a practical way of life. Superstition and belief in irrational omens does not fit in with the way of life defined by Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) and our Prophet (صلي اللهُ عليهِ وسلم). A quick look at history clears up not only the root causes behind many superstitions but also clears many misconceptions that people may have regarding the month of Safar.
A Glance at the History Behind the Month of Safar
The Arabs were a warring nation. Small arguments and disputes would turn into feuds and wars that lasted not only for years, but sometimes spanned over even generations. However, even in the days of jahiliyya (Pre-Islamic ignorance), the Arabs observed the sacred months of Rajab, Dhul Q’ada, Dhul Hijja, and Muharram, wherein there was a ban on fighting and battles. However, as soon as the month of Muharram would end, the Arabs would resume their feuds and the men would proceed to settle scores with their rivals, thus leaving their houses empty, while they headed out to battles or skirmishes. Hence, the month of Safar derives its name from this event of Safar-al-Makaan (or empty houses). The literal meaning of the word ‘safar ‘ is empty or vacant.
Another opinion holds that fighting the enemies and leaving them empty handed after taking away their possessions, may have been another reason for the name Safar (Sifran-min-Almata’) – i.e. they would leave their enemies’ coiffeurs empty and take all their belongings away. (Reference: Lisan Al-‘Arab)
Famous muhaddith (writers of hadith) and historian Sakhawi states in his book, Al Mashoor Fi Asma-il Ayam Walshahoor that due to this resumption of killings and fighting in the month of Safar, many people started regarding it as a month of ill-fate and bad luck.
Sadly, history has revealed that man has never been able to accept what he has done himself as the cause for his own unhappiness, and instead has always blamed others for his misfortune. Safar was no exception. Instead of realizing that they themselves were responsible for the lootings and killings in Safar, the Arabs blamed the month itself to be that of misfortune and despair.
The Truth about Superstitions
Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) tells us in the Qur’an that every person is responsible for what happens to him:
وَكُلَّ إِنسَانٍ أَلْزَمْنَاهُ طَآئِرَهُ فِي عُنُقِهِ وَنُخْرِجُ لَهُ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ كِتَابًا يَلْقَاهُ مَنشُورًا
And [for] every person We have imposed his fate upon his neck, and We will produce for him on the Day of Resurrection a record which he will encounter spread open.
[Al-Qur’an-Surah Al-Isra (The Night Journey): 13]
No person, animal or object, nor day, month or year can cause harm to anyone. All such superstitions and beliefs have no basis in Islam what so ever. How can any particular day or month be unlucky or be a portent of bad omens when in fact months and years are formed by the alternation of days and nights which Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) has appointed for our convenience and to help us organize ourselves?
وَجَعَلْنَا اللَّيْلَ وَالنَّهَارَ آيَتَيْنِ فَمَحَوْنَا آيَةَ اللَّيْلِ وَجَعَلْنَا آيَةَ النَّهَارِ مُبْصِرَةً لِتَبْتَغُواْ فَضْلاً مِّن رَّبِّكُمْ وَلِتَعْلَمُواْ عَدَدَ السِّنِينَ وَالْحِسَابَ وَكُلَّ شَيْءٍ فَصَّلْنَاهُ تَفْصِيلاً
“And We have made the night and day two signs, and We erased the sign of the night and made the sign of the day visible that you may seek bounty from your Lord and may know the number of years and the account [of time]. And everything We have set out in detail.”[Al-Qur’an-Surah Al-Isra (The Night Journey): 12]
Considering any time, hour, day, month or year to be ‘unlucky’ is also disliked as Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) the Exalted says: “ The son of Adam hurts me for he abuses Time though I am Time: in My Hands are all things, and I cause the revolution of day and night.” (Sahih Bukhari)
The Prophet (صلي اللهُ عليهِ وسلم) also negated all superstitions and beliefs of the period of jahiliyah (Pre-Islamic Ignorance) concerning the month of Safar.
Abu Hurayrah (رضى اللهُ عنهُ) narrates that the Messenger of Allah (صلي اللهُ عليهِ وسلم) said: “(There is) no ‘Adwa (contagious disease conveyed without Allah’s permission), nor is there any bad omen (from birds), nor is there any Haamah, nor is there any (bad omen in the month of) Safar… ” (Sahih Bukhari and Muslim).
Superstitions Regarding Safar Existing in Society Today!
Although the Prophet (صلي اللهُ عليهِ وسلم) negated the superstitions the Arabs had associated with Safar in his time, unfortunately those sentiments have crept back into our society. Some of these superstitions are:
- This month is full of misfortune and calamities and one must recite Surah Muzammil 313 times in order to be saved from them.
- To commence any important venture, business etc. during this month will bring bad luck. One must instead make 365 balls of flour and toss them into the sea or rivers in order to counter bad omens and to increase rizq (provision).
- The first to the thirteenth of Safar are days of ill-fortune and evil.
- The person who distributes food or money on the 13th of Safar will be saved from its ill-fortune.
- The last Wednesday of Safar should be celebrated and regarded as a holiday due to the incorrect belief that the Prophet (صلي اللهُ عليهِ وسلم) recovered from his illness on this day. Unfortunately, recourse into history reveals that it was in the latter days of Safar that the Prophet (صلي اللهُ عليهِ وسلم) fell ill, and this was the same illness that became the cause of his death.
- A nikah (marriage) performed in this month would not be successful. Again, history reveals to us that Ali (رضى اللهُ عنهُ) married Fatima (رضى اللهُ عنهما) in the latter days of Safar. Would the Prophet (صلي اللهُ عليهِ وسلم) have allowed the marriage of his beloved daughter in a month which could have brought bad luck?
What We Should Do in the Month of Safar!
Although specific ibadaat (acts of worship) for certain months of the Islamic calendar have been defined for us, there is no such special instruction given regarding the month of Safar. However, we must realize that every minute given to us on Earth is a blessing in which we can gain Allah (سبحانه وتعالى)’s Pleasure and amass good deeds for our hereafter. Whether it is the month of Safar or any other, we must do our utmost to do as many good deeds as we possibly can.
Due to the association of Safar with superstitions, we as Muslims, should also make it a point to shun all superstitions that we come across and direct others to do so too. We should shun all superstitions not only regarding the month of Safar but also otherwise. We must understand that all conditions which befalls us, good or bad, favourable, or unfavourable are from Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) (as a result of our actions as proven in the ayah mentioned above). Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) says in the Qur’an:
وَمَا أَصَابَكُم مِّن مُّصِيبَةٍ فَبِمَا كَسَبَتْ أَيْدِيكُمْ وَيَعْفُو عَن كَثِيرٍ
“And whatever strikes you of disaster – it is for what your hands have earned; but He pardons much.”
[Al-Qur’an – Surah Ash-Shuraa (The Consultation):30]
We must remember that the most unfortunate person is actually he who disobeys Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) commandments such as one who does not perform the five daily salawaat (prayers), not someone who has his path crossed by a black cat or one who weds in the month of Safar. We must not let unimportant and baseless matters of superstitions occupy us so much that we forget to do what Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) has commanded us. Rather, we should remember to keep things in perspective and follow and believe only that which has been revealed by Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) and taught by our Prophet, in order to gain success in this world and the next.
May Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) grant us the courage and fortitude to follow His commands and to follow the guidance given by his Prophet (صلي اللهُ عليهِ وسلم). Ameen!
مَّا أَصَابَكَ مِنْ حَسَنَةٍ فَمِنَ اللّهِ وَمَا أَصَابَكَ مِن سَيِّئَةٍ فَمِن نَّفْسِكَ وَأَرْسَلْنَاكَ لِلنَّاسِ رَسُولاً وَكَفَى بِاللّهِ شَهِيدًا
“What comes to you of good is from Allah , but what comes to you of evil, [O man], is from yourself. And We have sent you, [O Muhammad], to the people as a messenger, and sufficient is Allah as Witness.”
[Al-Qur’an-Surat An-Nisa’ (the Women): 79]
About the Writer:
Ruhaifa Samir is a freelance journalist who writes for Hiba Magazine and Perceptions – the blog. Also a creative writing coach for younger children, she believes the “pen is mightier than the sword” and is a great form of Da’awa. She holds a degree in Nutrition, International Relations, and the Montessori methodology of teaching. She is currently training as a remedial specialist for children with learning difficulties, more specifically dyslexia.