I have always had an interest in things that are very different from what we are used to, for example, I remember my fascination when I first found that some languages are written from right to left, and an aspect of the Bahá’í Faith that strongly sparked this interest in me at an early age is the Bahá’í calendar, also called the Badí’ calendar.
It is not a major surprise that a new religion has its own calendar, after all, other religions such as Christianity and Islam have their own calendars too…. or do they?
In fact, the Gregorian (Christian) calendar and the Hijri (Islamic) calendar were fairly minor adaptations of existing calendar systems. The earliest adoption of the current Gregorian calendar system was in the late 16th century, and the system is the last in a series of adaptations – improving alignment with the solar year – to the calendar used by the Romans, centuries before Christ, which was itself an adaptation of more ancient calendar systems. It was more than 500 years after the birth of Christ that the notion of using the approximate year of that event as year 1 on a calendar was proposed, and it took a couple of centuries to catch on. The Hijri calendar’s connection to Islam is a stronger one. It is thought that in the centuries immediately preceding Muhammad there were also attempts to align the lunar calendar used in the Middle East with the solar year, and in the Qur’an Muhammad forbade this, saying that there should be just 12 months. Initially, there were no years in the Islamic calendar, so a decision was taken to begin the calendar on the first new moon after Muhammad emigrated to Medina.
The Badí’ calendar clearly stands apart, then, from what have been considered religious calendars of the past. It is the first complete calendar system that has been revealed in religious scripture, in all its essential details.
What made the calendar particularly interesting to me is how different it is from the more common 12-month calendar systems.
We have 19 months of 19 days, with four or five intercalary days added in as a festival. That might initially sound complicated, but when compared with the Gregorian calendar in which 7 months have 31 days, 4 months have 30 days and 1 month has 28 days except for every fourth year in which it has 29 days unless the year is also divisible by 100 but not by 400, in which case it is 28 days, the Bahá’í system does not really sound so complex.
The Gregorian calendar is the result of millennia of humanity occasionally adapting a lunar calendar to fit more closely with a solar year, while the Badí’ calendar is a pure solar calendar that makes no attempt to align lunar months with solar years, though there is still some lunar alignment within the Badí’ calendar system.
In the course of the November Bahá’í blogging challenge I will be writing a series of posts that look more closely at the Badí’ calendar. Next week I will look at humanity’s historical relationship with calendars and explore how the Badí’ calendar resolves issues that we have been trying to solve as a species for millennia, and the following week I will look in more detail at the implementation of the calendar.
If you have any questions about the calendar, now would be a great time to ask them, so that my posts can attempt to answer them.
Meanwhile, if you would like to learn more about the calendar, there is a large collection of information over at 19months.com