Muslim’s New Year is the national event that indicates the start of Muharram, the first in a line of months in the Islamic calendar. The first year of the Islamic calendar started to be counted in Gregorian CE 622. That year was crucial for the first generation of members of Islam, it was the year when Rasulullah (s.a.w.) moved from town Mecca (where Kaaba is located) to Medina ( hijra – migration from Mecca to Medina) first Muhharam because of his safety. It symbolizes the beginning of the new era for Islam.
Islamic holidays are significant occasions for Muslims. On the days when the holidays fall, Muslims are reminded of the charity, modesty, and moral values that Islam has. The first generations of the Companions pass on that the Prophet Muhammed (s.a.w.) recommended that two holidays can be marked with celebration, which refers to the two Eids. So, the first generation of Muslims didn’t solemnize Islamic New Year but over the years, the celebration has become a part of traditional celebrations in many Muslim countries.
Shaykh Muhammad ibn Saalih al-‘Uthaymeen, the scholar from Saudi Arabia who lived in the 20th century, was asked about celebrating Hijri New Year. He replied that Muslims are allowed to respond to congratulation if someone offers it but not to be the ones to initiate the congratulation. He also mentioned that by his knowledge, there were no reports that the salaf (the early generations of Islam) celebrated or congratulated the Islamic New Year. The majority of scholars are on this opinion.
When Islamic New Year is going to be marked this year?
The calendar that Muslims follow is different from the Gregorian calendar and the Islamic New year doesn’t fall on the first of January as Gregorian New Year. This year, Hijri New Year of 1443, is going to be on August 9 or August 10 of the Gregorian calendar.
Every year it falls on different dates because of the lunar-based calendar (refers to the movement of the moon) that Muslims use which is 354 days long and has 12 months. So, that means when it’s set in a line with Western calendars, Islamic New Year appears by about 11 days earlier every year.
This date is the one that most countries will observe but because of the time differences, some countries will have a New Year on another date, according to Office Holidays, for example:
- Aug 9 – Kuwait, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan,
- Aug 10 – Algeria, Bahrein, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brunei, Comoros, Djibouti, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Maldives, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, Palestine, Niger, Yemen
- Aug 11 – Indonesia
- Aug12 – United Arab Emirates
Islamic New Year is also called Awal Muharram. The word Awal stands for beginning and Muharram takes first place in the list of months in the Islamic calendar so its first day is Islamic New Year.
Historical facts about Hijri New Year
The first generation of Muslims had a tough time when Rasulallah (s.a.w) started to openly invite the people of Mecca, a paganistic society, to worship the ONE and only God, Allah SWT. Most Meccans rejected the da’wah and the early Muslims faced religious persecution for their beliefs. The locals provoked and attacked them and their safety were compromised.
Prior to the mass migration to what is now known as Medina, the early Muslims had earlier migrated to neighboring Christian country, Habsha (now known as Eritrea), although Rasulallah s.a.w stayed on in Makkah.
When Rasulallah (s.a.w) found out they were planning to execute him, he decided to go to a town named Yathrib, which is located 320 km north of Mecca. Yathrib is the old name for today’s city of Medina ( full city name Al Madinah Al Munawwarah ), which translation means ‘the city’.
So, that’s the reason why Prophet Muhammed ( s.a.w.) and his followers began their journey that will mark history. Their travel from Mecca to Medina was successful and citizens of Medina received the Islamic population and welcomed them with great joy and hospitality. The inhabitants of the Medina were generous people who quickly embraced Islam, and made a welcome for the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.). They were looking forward to his arrival so much that they fought over who would host him and offer him their house to stay.
So, Hijra (Hijrah) was for them a reflection of freedom.
It was difficult for Rasulallah (s.a.w) to leave his hometown, but he was forced to do so because his fellow citizens condemned and attacked him. Mecca today has the official name Mecca el-Mukerrema which means the Holy City of Mecca because the Kaaba is located there, a holy place where Muslims perform the pilgrimage.
After 13 years of Revelation in Mecca, in the next 10 years, the Revelation came to Prophet Mohammed (s.a.w.) while he was in Medina. In Medina, Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) set forth a Constitution that defines Muslim’s rights and responsibilities. This occasion has remained recorded in the history of Islam as very crucial for the progress and spread of Islam, which is why Muslims commemorate this sacred moment of history.
Why else is Muharram of great importance to Muslims?
For Muslims around the world, the month of Muharram is also of great importance in addition to being the first month of the Islamic calendar. The month of Muharram belongs to the 4 selected months in Islam in which worship and prayers should be increased. The reason for that is because all the days in Muharram hide holy significance. It is the second month by importance, right after Ramadan.
Also in Muharram, there is an event honored in Islam called Ashura which takes place on the 10th day of Muharram. On the 10th of Muharram, many Prophets of Allah were granted relief from their trials, such as:
- This is the day when the ark of the Prophet Noah experienced salvation from the flood.
- Prophet Musa ( Moses) crossed the Red Sea Pharaoh was defeated and flooded
- Allah has received Prophet Adam’s tawba
- Prophet Yunus came out of the fish’s belly
- Prophet Ibrahim was saved from the fire
- Prophet Yusuf came out of the well
- Prophet Ayub recovered from a serious illness
- Prophet Yaqub found his son and his eyes and the blindness was cured
- Birth of Prophet Isa, escaped from the Jews so as not to be killed and alive ascended to heaven
- Prophet Idris ascended to heaven alive
Each of the Prophets had their own experience and their own struggle in this world which Allah made easier for them and gave them a way out of trouble. This month is the month of salvation for those who understand its meaning.
What is the significance of Hijri New Year for Muslims today?
Many Muslims experience the new year spiritually, as a new beginning just as it was the Hijra for our Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.).
The Prophet (s.a.w.) and his Companions left the beloved city and founded a new community far from their hometown so that they could live in peace and practice their faith.
Some people perceive this beginning of the year as solemn, as a time when they will start doing good and leave haram.
The emotional experience of the new year varies from person to person, and it is different in different cultures, but what they all have in common is that everyone experiences purification and the aspiration to be a better Muslim.
Alhamdulillah on the fact that Muslims today remember Islamic history and strive for spiritual advancement.
As long as believers stick to their foundations they will be free from chains. Their faith is a guide and it differs them from unbelievers. Only in this way can Islam exist and prosper.
Precisely because of the many events that took place in the month of Muharram, as we stated at the beginning of the article, Muslims consider this month very important because prayers are received in it. For this reason, Muslims increase their ibadah, payers hoping that Allah (God) will take their dua and fulfill their wishes.
Because of the increased ibadah, Muslims become attached to their faith and Allah and abandon the harams they performed.
How is it celebrated in certain countries?
In Saudi Arabia, there is no big celebration of the Islamic New Year. This holiday is not public in Saudi Arabia and the main proofs are that all businesses are open during this holiday with normal opening hours. In this country, there are only two public holidays and those are two Eids.
Meanwhile, in Jordan, Malaysia, the United Arab Emirates, India, and Indonesia, Islamic New Year is a public holiday (but not exclusive to). It’s an event that is celebrated less than the two main holidays Eid-ul-Adha and Eid-ul-Fitr.
The Hijri New Year celebration in these counties usually includes charitable acts and recitation sessions of calming prayers.
To mark Muharram, Muslims will recite verses from Quran, attend special prayers and ceremonies at public halls and mosques, spend some time with family, gather with friends in a quiet atmosphere. During this holiday, Muslims are based on reflection, remembrance, and gratitude. They recall the history of Islam and the wounds that the first generations of Muslims survived in order for Islam to come to life as a religion.
By this, we can notice that Muslims do not celebrate the new year like non-Muslims. There is no alcohol, parties, and similar.
There is only gratitude and modesty because Islam is a way of living, a recipe for happy life where there is no place for arrogance, nudity, intemperance in the celebration, in eating, and drinking.
In order to improve their faith and purify their hearts, Muslims during the beginning of the New Year may take a break from sins and need to analyze their lives.
Self-analysis is the best way for a person to improve himself in any segment.
Start the new year by visiting your family, relatives, buying a gift for someone, giving sadaqah, reminding yourself of charity, modesty, and moral values that Islam has, making a list of qualities you don’t like in yourself, and a list of qualities you would like to have so that you can be reminded of it every day. Make an annual plan of what you want to accomplish, write down how many pages of the Qur’an you want to memorize, and so on.
Don’t let the years go by without having a plan on how you want to live, because if you don’t have a plan your life will fly by. We will all die one day. Only those who have more good deeds than bad deeds will enjoy eternal paradise.
May your faith be a guide for every part of your life, marriage, family, business, way of dressing, the way of speaking. Allah has perfected the religion of Islam and made it irreplaceable above all other religions. Be proud to be a Muslim, and live Islam.
Nedma Aganovic is from Bosnia and Herzegovina. Her Engineering degree is in Petroleum Drilling and Exploration. She is also a writer where gained experience in writing creative, business and research articles. As a student, she was working as an online teacher.