Al-Hijra, the Islamic New Year, is the first day of the month of Muharram.
New Year's Day is used to remind Muslims of the Hiraj or migration, of
Prophet Muhammad from Mecca to Medina.
The Islamic calendar or Muslim calendar or Hijri calendar is a lunar calendar
consisting of 12 lunar months in a year of 354 or 355 days. Each numbered year
is designated either H for Hijira or AH for Al-Hijira.
Islamic New Year is based on the revolutions of the Moon. The word Muharram
also means respect. It is more of a cultural event than a New Year celebration.
People welcome the New Year with peace and prayers.
Muslims celebrate Islamic New Year's Day (Al-Hijra) in very different manner
from other celebrations. Muslims gather in mosques and offer special prayers
and listen to special readings from the Koran.
New Year celebrated by Muslims is not a gala affair rather it's a quite and
sober celebration. People gather in mosques and dargahs to offer special
prayers. Muslims celebrate this day to pay homage to Prophet Muhammad. The
most important part is to tell the hijra (Muhammad's flight from Medina to
Mecca). This story is also broadcast on radio. Maal Hijra or the Islamic New
Year is spent on reflecting how one's leading his or her life and their own
The most recent trend of exchanging New Year cards and gifts have been witnessed
in many Muslim communities. However, Shia Muslims do not take part in New Year
activities. They commemorate the Battle of Karbala and observe it as a month
of mourning. This commemoration ends on the tenth day of Muharram called
Ashurah. Similarly, Sunni Muslims do not take part in the New Year traditions
as on this day first Caliph Abu Bakr died.
Remembrance of Muharram has become an important day for the Shias. People
enact the scenes of the Battle of Karbala in mosques. At some places, people
clad in black dresses. They recite sorrowful poems in the memory of the martyrdom
of Imran Hussain. Many males beat their chests or walk barefoot over the burning
coal to remember the sufferings of Hussain. Loud cries of congregation can be
heard which reflects their inability to save Hussain from the torture and
Later, food and other things of survival are distributed to the poor. The
first nine days of Muharram are spent in making an exact copy of martyr's tomb
with bamboo and paper. On the tenth day, Ashura, processions are carried out
through the streets with the beautifully embellished tombs. A horse leads the
procession relating to Hussain's horse.
Muharram is also observed by Dawoodi Bohras in the same way as Shias. They
practice prayers on the sayings of the present dawah of Bohras, Mohammed
Burhanuddin. On the tenth day of Muharrum, they pray for Husayn till the
namaz. When the namaz ends, Husayn is considered shahid by Yazid. It is also
close to the day of resurrection because it said in a book that this world
will one day come to an end on Friday 10th of Muharram.
Fasting differs among the Muslim groupings. Shia Muslims stop eating and
drinking during sunlight hours and do not eat until late afternoon. Sunni
Muslims also fast during Muharram for the first ten days of Muharram, just
the tenth day or on both the ninth and tenth days, the exact term depending
on the individual.
The Islamic New Year is a public holiday in places such as India, Indonesia,
Jordan, Malaysia, and the United Arab Emirates. It is not a nationwide public
holiday in countries such as Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom or the
Islamic businesses and organizations may have altered opening hours and there
may be some congestion around mosques, particularly in the evening and at