Demystifying Safar

Safar is one of the months cited by Allah (SWT) in the Quran:


إِنَّ عِدَّةَ ٱلشُّهُورِ عِندَ ٱللَّهِ ٱثْنَا عَشَرَ شَهْرًا فِى كِتَـٰبِ ٱللَّهِ يَوْمَ خَلَقَ ٱلسَّمَـٰوَٰتِ وَٱلْأَرْضَ مِنْهَآ أَرْبَعَةٌ حُرُمٌ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ ٱلدِّينُ ٱلْقَيِّمُ ۚ فَلَا تَظْلِمُوا۟ فِيهِنَّ أَنفُسَكُمْ ۚ وَقَـٰتِلُوا۟ ٱلْمُشْرِكِينَ كَآفَّةً كَمَا يُقَـٰتِلُونَكُمْ كَآفَّةً ۚ وَٱعْلَمُوٓا۟ أَنَّ ٱللَّهَ مَعَ ٱلْمُتَّقِينَ

Lo! the number of the months with Allah is twelve months by Allah’s ordinance in the day that He created the heavens and the earth. Four of them are sacred: that is the right religion. So wrong not yourselves in them. And wage war on all of the idolaters as they are waging war on all of you. And know that Allah is with those who keep their duty (unto Him). (Surah At-Taubah:36)

The History of Safar

During the period of Jahiliyyah, the age of ignorance, Safar was considered unlucky or ill-fated. In fact, such superstition continues to permeate until this day in certain segments of the ummah.

This superstition stems from the belief that Allah (SWT) causes catastrophes to occur during this specific month, particularly, on the last Wednesday of the month. There are individuals who believe that as many 320,000 misfortunes have been predestined on that day.


Manifestations of Superstitions during Safar

Through this misguided belief, there are several superstitions which surfaced guiding individuals about ways to avoid being victims of those alleged misfortunes. 
One superstition is Thiyarah, a form of fortune telling based on a bird. The Jahiliyyah Arabs would startle a bird and watch the direction of its flight when intending to execute a task. If it flies to the left, they consider the task to be unfortuitous leading them to abandon it completely.

Another superstition involves the presence of an owl which would escape from the grave of a murdered individual in order to seek revenge.

Several hadiths which referenced Safar, however, oppose such beliefs:


وَحَدَّثَنِي مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ حَاتِمٍ، حَدَّثَنَا رَوْحُ بْنُ عُبَادَةَ، حَدَّثَنَا ابْنُ جُرَيْجٍ، أَخْبَرَنِي أَبُو الزُّبَيْرِ أَنَّهُ سَمِعَ جَابِرَ بْنَ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ، يَقُولُ سَمِعْتُ النَّبِيَّ صلى الله عليه وسلم يَقُولُ ‏”‏ لاَ عَدْوَى وَلاَ صَفَرَ وَلاَ غُولَ ‏”‏ ‏.‏ وَسَمِعْتُ أَبَا الزُّبَيْرِ يَذْكُرُ أَنَّ جَابِرًا فَسَّرَ لَهُمْ قَوْلَهُ ‏”‏ وَلاَ صَفَرَ ‏”‏ ‏.‏ فَقَالَ أَبُو الزُّبَيْرِ الصَّفَرُ الْبَطْنُ ‏.‏ فَقِيلَ لِجَابِرٍ كَيْفَ قَالَ كَانَ يُقَالُ دَوَابُّ الْبَطْنِ ‏.‏ قَالَ وَلَمْ يُفَسِّرِ الْغُولَ ‏.‏ قَالَ أَبُو الزُّبَيْرِ هَذِهِ الْغُولُ الَّتِي تَغَوَّلُ ‏.‏

There is no transitive disease, no safar, no ghoul. He (the narrator) said: I heard Abu Zubair say: Jabir explained for them the word safar. Abu Zubair said: safar means belly. It was said to Jabir: Why is it so? He said that it was held that safar implied the worms of the belly, but he gave no explanation of ghoul. Abu Zubair said: Ghoul is that which kills the travellers. (Sahih Muslim 2222c)

Muslim Bathing Festival

A distinctive tradition of Safar which has been passed down the generations is ‘mandi Safar’ or a Muslim bathing festival. 

Although it has been neglected and no longer practised by the masses, there are still small groups within the ummah who continue practising it. In fact, in certain areas of Southeast Asia, there are groups which still practise it in large numbers.

This superstition stems from the belief that Allah (SWT) made catastrophes occur during this specific month, particularly on the last Wednesday of the month.
Therefore, ‘mandi Safar’ or the Muslim bathing festival is carried out on the last Wednesday of the month with the hopes of avoiding such misfortunes over a period of a year.

The Truth of Safar

All of these practices are in fact wrong with no basis in Islam. It clearly stems from superstitions which originated from the age of Jahiliyyah.

مَآ أَصَابَ مِن مُّصِيبَةٍ فِى ٱلْأَرْضِ وَلَا فِىٓ أَنفُسِكُمْ إِلَّا فِى كِتَـٰبٍ مِّن قَبْلِ أَن نَّبْرَأَهَآ ۚ

No misfortune can happen on earth or in your souls but is recorded in a decree before We bring it into existence: That is truly easy for Allah. (Surah Al-Hadid:22)

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Abdul Rahman Rahuni

Ustadh Abdul Rahman Rahuni. The author is a graduate of the Islamic University of Madinah  studying in the field of Islamic Sharia. He is currently a lecturer at Sekolah Menengah Ugama Islamiah, Tawau, Sabah.

Edited by: Helmy Sa’at