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Muharram 2019: Story behind Hijri New Year, 10 facts to know about this day

Hijri New Year 2019: The New Year signifies a time to reflect on the year gone by and look forward to the upcoming year.

more-lifestyle Updated: Sep 10, 2019 10:39 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
The New Year signifies a time to reflect on the year gone by and look forward to the upcoming year.
The New Year signifies a time to reflect on the year gone by and look forward to the upcoming year.(Unsplash)
         

The Islamic New Year marks the beginning of the Muslim era. Also called Hijri New Year or Hijrah (in Arabic), it coincides with the Prophet’s journey from Mecca to Medina on the first day of Muharram in 622 CE. It is held as the second holiest month after Ramadan. Prophet Mohammed had to relocate due to someone’s intentions of executing him. He chose to move to a town known as Yathrib, about 320 km north of Mecca. Yathrib in today’s age is known as Medina, located in modern-day Saudi Arabia, and means ‘the city’.

The next Islamic New Year starts on the evening of August 31, 2019, however, exact dates may vary depending on the method used to determine the start of the new year: local moon-sighting or astronomical calculations for the new moon.

In certain Islamic countries including Saudi Arabia, astronomical calculations for the new moon are used to determine the dates of the Islamic calendar, which might lead to a difference of up to two days for the precise date of Islamic New Year.

Islamic years are followed by the letter H, for Hijrah (Hijri New Year), or AH which stands for the Latin term Anno Hegirae meaning ‘in the year of the Hijrah’. This year will be the commencement of 1441 AH.

How is Islamic New Year celebrated?

Islamic New Year or Muharram is a time for prayer and reflection on the sacrifices that led to the beginning of the faith. The New Year signifies a time to reflect on the year gone by and look forward to the upcoming year. For Shia Muslims, it is a solemn period as it begins the 10 days of mourning leading up to the Day of Ashura. Several Shiites practice chest-beating and even self-flagellation during this time. For Sunni Muslims, Ashura marks the day when Moses was saved by Allah from the Egyptians.

10 facts you need to know about Islamic New Year:

1) The first month of the Islamic year is called Muharram. It’s calculated as per the lunar cycle and thus differs from the Gregorian calendar.

2) The Battle of Karbala in 680 AD, enabled Imam Hussein ibn Ali, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammed, and his army to enter the city on the first day of the month.

3) Hussein ibn Ali’s access to water was cut off on the seventh day.

4) Imam Hussein ibn Ali was executed during this siege on the tenth day. It’s an event highly commemorated by Shia Muslims.

5) The Islamic New Year has been observed since 622 AD when the Prophet relocated from Mecca to modern-day Medina (erstwhile Yathrib) in order to escape religious persecution.

6) The Prophet’s migration is called Hijrah in Arabic.

7) The Islamic calendar has 12 months but only 354 days, as opposed to the 365 in the Gregorian calendar.

8) The Islamic New Year is usually celebrated with low-key religious events.

9) It’s an official holiday in certain Muslim countries but a regular working day in a few others.

10) For Sunni Muslims, it is a day of celebration, while for Shia Muslims, it’s a day of mourning. Both factions of Islam usually observe a fast on this day. Sunni Muslims observe a fast for an additional day, either before or after Muharram. It’s believed that this extra day of fasting is observed in accordance with the teachings of Muhammad Prophet.

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First Published: Aug 31, 2019 09:07 IST