Saudi Arabia Resets Calendar To Follow Birth Date Of Jesus Christ

Islamic prayers at the Grand Mosque in Riyadh, Saudi ArabiaReuters

Saudi Arabia has changed its official calendar so that the Islamic kingdom is now being run on a timeline based on the birth of Jesus Christ.

Saudi Arabia has used the Islamic Hijri calendar since the kingdom was founded in 1932. The lunar Hijri calendar dates its first year in AD 622, when Muhammad made his pilgrimage from Mecca to Medina.

It has 12 months but each year is 11 days shorter than a year of the Gregorian calendar.

The kingdom has adopted the Western Gregorian calendar, based on the date of the birth of Jesus Christ, for administering the state, such as paying its civil servants. The downside for the civil servants and all other public sector workers, is that for no extra pay, they now have to work an extra 11 days a year.

The dates of Islamic festivals will continue to follow the Hijri calendar as they do worldwide.

Christians are still not allowed to worship publicly in Saudi Arabia and there are no official churches. 

According to The Economist, puritans in Islam's birthplace are "wincing" at their loss of control of the calendar.

The Economist reports: "Guardians of the Wahhabi rite, who seek to be guided by Muhammad's every act, ask whether they are now being required to follow Jesus."

These scholars refer to the pre-Islamic as an "age of ignorance". The Economist notes: "The judiciary, a clerical bastion, still defiantly insists on sentencing miscreants according to the old calendar."

The change was announced in April, when it was part of a plan that significantly was titled "Vision 2030" and not "Vision 1451" as Islamic scholars and judges would have wished. It passed into law in October.

"Henceforth they will run the state according to a reckoning based on Jesus Christ's birth, not on the Prophet Muhammad's religious mission," reports The Economist, which also notes that some other countries also use non-Christian calendars to order their affairs.

In Iran it is currently 1395, in Kurdistan it is 2628 and in Israel it is 5776. In Thailand it is 2559 and in Japan, it is just year 28 of the Heisei era.