The Islamic New Year holds great importance for the Muslims around the world. Referred to as the Arabic new year, it is beheld on the first day of the sacred month called Muharram. This month is noteworthy because Prophet Muhammad embarked on his journey from Mecca to Medina. Although majority Islamic countries are governed by Gregorian calendar, the lunar calendar is used to calculate date of feasts & important observances. It relies on first sighting of crescent moon. The Islamic New Year is however, not, a festival of gaiety and merriment, instead is a time of reflection, praying & reminiscence. It is a time of renewing beliefs and commitment to Islamic principles. Islamic New Year 2023 is to be celebrated on 20th August.

Historic Progression

            Umar-I, the second Muslim Caliph instituted the calendar in 639 CE as an attempt to organise Islamic life. He set the beginning of the calendar on an important anniversary. In 622CE (Summer), Prophet Muhammad and his followers migrated from Mecca to Medina. This was an attempt to escape religious persecution and therefore this day was seen as beginning of Islam both as a religion and a political establishment. Muharram commemorates the martyrdom of Imam Hussein, Prophet Muhammad’s grandson at the Battle of Karbala in 680AD. This battle symbolises the fight for justice. It is observed differently by Sunni & Shia Muslims.

            Shia Muslims engage in mourning processions, Self-flagellation, chest beating as pronouncement of sorrow & grief. Sunni Muslims however engage in remembrance & spiritual renewal by means of praying. Sunnis observe a fast called “Sunnah” following a precedent set by Prophet Muhammad who fasted after Prophet Musa.

Timeline of the Islamic New Year covers the following events: –

(a)       622CE: Hijrah / Migration.   Migration of Prophet Muhammad & his followers from Mecca to Medina.

(b)       624CE: Battle of Badr.      This took place in 2nd year after Hijrah. War was fought against Meccan forces.

(c)        625CE: Battle of Uhud.     This battle took place third year after Hijrah. This Battle highlighted the need for unity in crucial times.

(d)       627CE: Battle of Trench.   Known as battle of Ahzab, it took place in the fifth year after Hijrah. In this, the Muslim forces faced a coalition of tribes surrounding Medina.

(e)       630 CE: Conquest of Mecca.       Mecca was conquered by forces led by Prophet Muhammed. This was a decisive battle where Muslims gained full control over their land.

Significance of the Islamic New Year.

            The new year presents a time of spiritual renewal, setting aspirations and goals, promoting love over hatred and ensuring to build positive relationships. It’s also a time to outline targets to reach maximum self-improvement goals. It provides an opportunity to honour the teachings of Prophet Muhammad & take inspiration from the perseverance shown by him. At the same time, Shiite Muslims observe utter mourning, culminating in Ashura on the 10th day to mourn death of Al-Hussein. The differences taken can be taken back to 680 CE that set the stage for schism between Shias and Sunnis.

Worldwide Celebrations.

            Although it invariably teaches lessons of unity and community, celebrations do vary across regions throughout the globe. Congregational prayers are held in countries like India, Afghanistan, Pakistan. Engagement in processions happen in south east Asian nations like Indonesia, Malaysia etc. Middle East Asian and North African nations celebrate the new year by exchanging greetings and observing public holidays. At the same time, sub Saharan countries get engrossed in charitable acts. As much as the way of observing the festivity is different, the quintessential ethos of the spiritual legacy remains same.

            Muharram is a month to specially reflect on the sagacity, solicitude and comprehensiveness of Prophet Muhammad’s teachings. There are several incidents where people were made to reflect on their worth and potential, people were guided on the testimony of worship and how special blessings would be bestowed on them regardless.

Hijri New Year Celebration in Kashmir.  

            This event holds a special significance, as it marks the beginning of the Islamic Lunar Calendar. The local muslim community eagerly anticipates and prepares for the occasion. The festivities begin a day before the actual Hijari New Year as people engage in various activities to welcome the auspicious occasion.

            Special prayers are offered in mosques, people congregate in large numbers and seek blessings for the year ahead. The sermons focus on reflecting the part year, seeking forgiveness & gratitude for blessings received. People wearing traditional attire, march through the streets, chanting prayers & reciting verses from Holy Quran Many take opportunity to make revolutions, set goals & focus on growth in all walks of life.   

Cultivating the essence of the Islamic New Year.             At a time when Muslims constitute a quarter of the global population, it becomes important to recognise and acknowledge the significance of the Muslim New Year. It is an occasion to express gratefulness, seek forgiveness and make resolutions to enhance their relationship with humanity and divinity. It stresses the virtues of justice and bravery while resisting injustice. Recognising the importance of this will only help in strengthening cross cultural friendships and therefore reinforce a feeling of oneness and unity in diversity.

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