By: Hassan Al-Haifi
22 August 2017
When I first returned to Yemen, in the Summer of 1970, I made a big fuss about finding out my real birthday. We had been lying in the United States for the last previous 9 years that my birthday was 4/4/51. There were no birthday certificates or even officcivil records then. My father, GBS (who was in New York then) had told me, yes he recorded my birthday in a Quran. I knew my father was a meticulous record keeper of all births in one or more of the Holy Qurans he had for all the family – not just his immediate family, but also of the offspring of all his brothers and sisters. When I arrived in Sana’a, I broke into the walled in closet that his books and documents were hidden in, jn case looters raided the city more on that later. I loo ked for this Holy Book that was to unlock the greatest mystery in my life then.. When I finally did find the book, I saw to my dismay, that indeed everyone in the 3rd generation of the family after my grandfather Hassan, and their cousins was recorded there and in another Quran, except the birthday of your truly, the writer of these words. I was flabbergasted. I know my father could not be so careless as to forget the
birthday of his later to be Honors student son throughout his education, so what happened here?. I refused to give up. I continued sifting through the books I found in the closet until I finished all the Qurans and other books. Where could my birthday be?
All of a sudden, after several days of sifting, I found a little spiral note pad (God knows where he got that in those days, as they were not readily available stationary in Sana’a in the early 1950s). Sure enough, there was this note on the first page of the spiral pad: “On this day of 30 Rajab 1370 AH, we were bestow3d with a boy, who we named Hassan Mohammed Al-Haifi. May God keep him and make of him a son of whom we can be proud”.
Understandably, I was jubilant. But that won’t do in the US. They want your birthdays in GregorIan solar, not Hegira lunar.
I then took out the “Munjid” (literally, Savior), which was a mini encyclopedia in Arabic, which Dad had obtained from one of his earlier trips from Yemen abroad. I found in it the way to convert Muslim Hegira Lunar calendar dates to corresponding GregorIan calendar. There was a formula and a couple of tables from which to obtain the variables! My calculations came out to 7 May 1951. You can check the Internet to see I was correct!
Ever since then. I made it a point to have my birthday noted, but not necessarily celebrated by my kin and friends.
After 2/3 of a Century of life, it does not really matter much. But my kids make it a point to wish me Happy Birthday, because 3 of the 4 kids I have have, three have their birthdays in the Month of May.