The Lunar Hejira and the countries that adopted it
The Arabian lunar calendar (also known as the Muslim calendar or Islamic calendar) is known as the Lunar Hejira. «Hejira» (الهجرى, ♫ listen to the pronunciation of this word) is an Arabic word, that in English means «the commencement of migration; the starting point of moving from place to place». This calendar is nowadays widely used in many Muslim countries of Asia, the Middle East and Northern Africa.
This is a list of countries that have adopted the Lunar Hejira and that are currently using it, and also those which used the Lunar Hejira in the XX-th century:
In Asia and the Middle East:
- Afghanistan (until 1919 AD). 1 Afghani = 100 Pul.
- Bahrain. 1 Dinar = 1,000 Fils.
- Iran (until 1925 AD). Monetary unit is Rial.
- Iraq. 1 Dinar = 100 Fils.
- Jordan, the Hashemite Kingdom of. 1 Dirham = 100 Fils;
1 Dinar = 1000 Fils = 100 Piastres.
- Kuwait. 1 Dinar = 1,000 Fils.
- Maldives. 1 rufiyaa = 100 laari.
- Oman. 1 Saidi Rial = 1,000 Baisa.
- Palestinian autonomy. 1 Dinar = 100 Mils.
- Qatar. 1 Rial = 100 Dirhams.
- Saudi Arabia. 1 Riyal = 20 Girsh; 1 Girsh = 5 Halala;
Thus, 1 Riyal = 100 Halala.
- Syria (the country in which the biological father of Steve Jobs,
former CEO of Apple, Inc., was born). 1 Pound = 100 Piastres.
- Turkey (until 1928 AD). 1 Kurush = 40 Para; 1 Lira = 100 Kurush.
- United Arab Emirates. 1 Dirham = 100 Fils.
- Yemen. 1 Rial (Riyal) = 100 Fils; 1 Dinar = 1,000 Fils.
In Northern Africa:
- Algeria. 1 Franc = 100 Centimes.
- Egypt. 1 Pound = 100 Piastres;
1 Piastre = 10 Milliemes.
- Libya. 1 Dinar = 1,000 Dirham.
- Mauritania. 1 Ouguiya = 5 Khoums
(only ouguiya coins were minted).
- Morocco. 1 Dirham = 100 Santimat.
- Sudan. Monetary unit is Sudanese Pound.
- Tunisia. 1 Franc = 100 Centimes;
1 Dinar = 1000 Milliemes.
If you want to get an overall impression of the area of use of the Lunar Hijra in the world, refer to this map.
Countries with a red outline make use of the Lunar Hejira at present, whereas countries with a green outline are known to have used the Lunar Hejira in the past.
You are also welcome to take a look at the identification table for coins of the modern Arab states. This table contains 23 colour images.
[ Added on November 5th, 2012 ] If you need a visual aid to understand Kufic script and date inscriptions (an ancient form of Arabic script consisting of straight lines and angles, often with elongated verticals and horizontals; it was often used in 8th–10th centuries, also on coins of that period) — here is an example for you (click on the link to view the whole image in a new tab). It should be noted that some parts of the above-mentioned image involve revised data from the book «Arabic coins and how to read them» by Richard J. Plant, 2nd edition, 1980 — Seaby, London.
Lunar Hejira origination and common structure
Both the Gregorian and Lunar calendars have their base point associated with significant events in the relevant religion.
For instance, AD, or anno Domini indicates years numbered from the supposed year of the birth of Christ; and BC, or before Christ indicates years numbered back from the supposed year of the birth of Christ. As far as the Muslim calendar is concerned, the Prophet Muhammad and his followers in Mecca migrated to Medina in the year 622 AD. This event, the Hijra, also spelled as Hejira, marks the beginning of the Islamic (Muslim, Hijri) calendar. The Hejira was an event of exceptional importance for the whole Muslim world, and therefore in 638 AD the Lunar Hejira calendar was introduced by the command of caliph Omar, and the beginning of this new era was attributed to the year 622 AD – the year when Muhammad and his followers migrated to Medina. The initial point of the Hejira calendar is the 1st of Muharram, Muharram being the first month of the year. Hence, the 1st of Muharram is like January 1st in the Gregorian interpretation. This very date corresponds to Friday, July 16th, 622 AD (or, to be more precise, the night from July 15th to July 16th, as the Muslim day begins on the eve of that date, right after sunset, when the Moon appears).
The Muslim calendar is solely based on the variation of moon phases; therefore it is purely Lunar and doesn’t depend on solar motion.
The Muslim year is always shorter than the solar year: it is 10, 11 or even 12 days shorter, depending on leap years. Hence, as the time moves forward, the beginning of the Muslim year moves from spring to winter, afterwards from winter to autumn, then from autumn to winter and, finally, returns again to spring. This is why there is no summer, winter, spring or autumn months in the Lunar Hejira. They are constantly «migrating» round the seasons of the year.
Formulæ for direct and reverse date conversion
The approximate formula for converting the Moslem date to the Gregorian date is as follows (corrections are implied to be applied; LH stands for Lunar Hejira):
Date AD = Date LH – (Date LH / 33) + 622.
Hence, the backward calculation formula is:
Date LH = (33 × (Date AD – 622)) / 32.
Again, both of these formulas won’t give you precise results, and a 1 year calculation error is possible due to the reasons described above. For instance, 2010 AD corresponds to both 1431 LH and 1432 LH.
Coins of the Ottoman Empire and some other Muslim countries used double dating where on one side the ruler's accession year (AY) is specified in the Lunar Hejira, and on the other side of the coin the ruler's regnal year (RY) is shown. Let's take a look at the following coin:
This is a silver Ottoman coin, its nominal value is 2 kurush. It was minted during the reign of Mehmed V, the 35th Ottoman Sultan. If you want to find out the year of minting of this coin and other Muslim coins that are dated likewise, you should make use of the following formula:
DateLH = AY + RY – 1.
It is necessary to subtract one year because the 1st regnal year always coincides with the accession year, so if we don't subtract it, we would count it twice. The LH year that we get as a result should then be entered into the converter, this is how we finally find out the Gregorian year when a coin was minted. As far as the above mentioned Ottoman coin is concerned, its date is 1327 + 3 – 1 = 1329th year of the Lunar Hejira, which corresponds to 1911 AD. It's that simple.
It's an interesting fact, that the digit «4» had been earlier written not like we're now used to seeing it (٤ or ۴). It looked like this: . Those who are interested in the origins and transformation of the Arabic digits should refer to the site arabic-not-indian-numbers.com (section called «Geometric Analysis of the Arabic Numerals»). If you want to get an idea of those transformations, please take a look at the following picture (click to show/hide).
This way of writing the digit «4» can be found on many Golden Horde coins.
Information about recent updates of the converter and new information augmented
Update @November 4, 2010: oriental coin experts say that the Lunar Hejira also works for Indian Mughal coins, like these ones, and many Indian Princely States, as well as for the British Presidency coins.
Update @January 3, 2011: precise (day-to-day) Lunar Hejira date converter was added. Possible calculating error should not exceed one day.
Update @November 5, 2012: visual aid to understand Kufic script and date inscriptions (description on this page | direct link to .png file) was added.