In AD 615 according to the Gregorian Calendar, Muhammad, the founder of Islam, was living in Mecca and was being persecuted for his beliefs. In fact, all of his followers were being persecuted by an economic monopoly that feared a mono-theistic belief system. Muhammad told his followers to head west to modern-day Ethiopia to find shelter from persecution. The interesting thing about where he sent them was the leadership of the country. The king there was Christian.
Muhammad sent his followers to a Christian nation to escape persecution.
The same wealthy merchants from Mecca threatened to kill Muhammad, so he left on the 200 mile trip to Medina and the rest of the story forms the foundation for the Islamic faith. But I found this bit of history very interesting.
I was looking into it because I was talking to Khaliq about a business license for one of our vendors, and he told me that the license expired in 1390. I was impressed that we somehow were keeping records from the 1300′s. What I didn’t understand is that the Persian calendar is the standard for datekeeping here in Afghanistan. Dates are recorded a bit differently in Iran because of the changes that have happened in both countries in the last 100 years or so, but when I asked Khaliq what marked the beginning of the calendar 1390 years ago, he didn’t understand my question. It was actually funny because I asked him, “What happened 1390 years ago to mark year zero?” He laughed and responded, “I wasn’t there!”
I learned that it was Muhammad’s journey to Medina that marked the first year of the Persian calendar in approximately 622 AD. But besides that, the Persian Calendar is nearly the exact same length as the Gregorian calendar that we use in the US. They are both solar calendars, so unlike those crazy Babylonians who went with the lunar calendar, there are 365 days plus a smidge that’s taken care of every four or five years in a leap year. Stupid Babylonians couldn’t get on board with that?!
The good news is that since the Persian calendar marks the new year with the beginning of Spring on the vernal equinox (which is how the Christian calendar marks what holiday?) this next year, I’ll get a new year’s party on Dec 31st and on March 20th! Oh yeah! Daddy’s going to party like its . . . 1391! (I’m Daddy in this little story.)
It humbling to think about the fact that even in this modern day, we are all still marking time (on both sides of the planet) according to the lives of ancient religious figures. And the most revered figure of the religion that many Christians believe is the enemy, sent his followers to Christians for sanctuary. Would he do the same today? Will we be a sanctuary for people with different beliefs? I hope so.