In the month of Safar, the pre-Islamic Arab tribes tended to be fearful. This stood to reason, at the time. At the end of Muharram, the long truce produced by the occurrence of three sacred months back to back was over, and fighting could break out again at any moment. In fact, one of the meanings of the word safar is “empty,” and some of the old dictionaries suggest that the original reference was to the emptiness of houses after raiders had pillaged them. Naturally, the possibility of violence produces fear.
The fear was due to the anticipation of violence, not to the month itself. Yet because of the constant association of Safar with anxiety, the old tribes formed the opinion that Safar was intrinsically, of itself, a bad month – that the month of Safar caused suffering, rather than what people themselves did in it. So eventually, every time Safar came around, people would be frightened, whether or not there was any danger in sight.
The Prophet Muhammad (s) took a firm stand against this kind of concrete thinking. “There is no evil-omened owl, no star that brings rain, and no Safar,” he said. He challenged people to drop habits that trapped them in pointless anxiety by breaking the connection between their feelings of fear and what they believed produced them. For only when we see the workings of our imaginations for what they are, are we empowered to deal with realities.
If we wanted to use the month of Safar to connect us more firmly to the Prophetic tradition, we might choose to dedicate it to the relief of anxiety.
One of the greatest relievers of anxiety is reliable reality-based knowledge. The Prophet of Mercy was devoted to such knowledge, and Allah advised him to pray for its increase. Knowledge is tested by practice: through practice, knowledge evolves. That’s why the AMC Code of Ethics puts the practice of our Islamic inheritance, as well as the practice of our common agreements as chaplains, at the top of its concerns.
– Chaplain Rabia T. Harris