Hijrah: Islamic New Year (II)

In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

The Holy Qur’an 70:4-6 says: “The angels and the Spirit ascend unto Him in a day the measure whereof is (as) fifty thousand years. Therefore, do thou hold patience, a patience of beautiful (contentment). They see the (day) indeed as a far-off (event). But We see it (quite) near.”

The Muslim calendar is lunar and its months are determined by the various positions of the moon. Qur’an 2:189 says: “They ask thee concerning the new moons. Say: they are but signs to mark fixed periods of time in (the affairs of) men and for pilgrimage. It is no virtue if ye enter your houses from the back; it is virtue if ye fear God. Enter houses through the proper doors and fear God that ye may prosper.” In every year, there are 12 months, and each month is either 29 or 30 days, depending on the position of the moon. This differs from the man-made calendar, which has 30 or 31 days per month and 365 days in a year. That is why there is a remarkable difference of 578 years between the two calendars so far since the formal adoption of Hijra calendar in 622 A.D. We cannot get the required number of years if we subtract the Hijra calendar year from the Gregorian calendar year because of the 11 days difference every year. Thus, the solar astronomical year differs from the lunar ecclesiastical year. The months in the latter travels all-round the season and the solar year calendar whose dates indicate the season or almost equivalent the apparent position of the sun relative to the stars. The Gregorian calendar, widely accepted as a standard in the world, is an example of a solar calendar. The other main type of calendar is a lunar calendar, whose months correspond to cycles of moon phases. The months of the Gregorian calendar do not correspond to cycles of the moon phase. The lunar year remains the ecclesiastical year. Apart from the lunar and solar calendars, we also have lunisolar or solli-lunar calendar which is also based on the lunar month. It takes 12 months as a year and lunisolar calendar system not only takes lunar part but also places importance on solar one. Lunisolar calendar puts a complete month every three year, makes the length as long as a tropical year. Now, Chinese use this calendar system for some time.

As named by Allah (SWT), the 12 months of Hijra calendar include Muharram, the first period of material provision and renewal of divine faith; Rabiul-Awwal, the first season of harvesting of fruit of faith and the month of birth of Prophet Muhammed (Maolud Nabiyyi); Robiul-Thanni, the second season for harvesting of fruit of faith; Jumadal-Awwal, the first season for introspective self-appraisal and hope in Allah; and Jumada-al-Thanni, the second season for introspective self-appraisal and hope in Allah.

Others are Rajab, the unique month for active pursuance of peace and prohibition of all forms of retaliation and one of the sacred months; Sha’ban, the month in which the Night of Record for mankind occurs; Ramadan is characterised by spiritual discipline and elevation through compulsory fasting, Lailatul-Qadr (the Night of first revelation of the Holy Qur’an). Shawwal is the tenth month in which Eid-el-Fitr occurs and first month of Hajj. Dhul-Qa’da is the 11th month that is specialised for the attainment of individual and collective peace; and Dhul-Hijjah, the 12th and one of the sacred months in which Hajj rites are performed.

Really, the first day of Muharram is our New Year. It is a joyous moment to reflect on the past year. It is a time to take stock. It is a period to ponder over our relationship with Allah (SWT). It is a time to express determination for more spiritual uplift. It is a day of inspired efforts for more disciplined life in the New Year. It is a time for the Muslim Ummah to re-examine their propagation strategies.

As a moment of fear, grief, anxiety, and courage among the faithful, during Hijra, we are expected to show concern for the education of the youths and the future of Islam. It is a time to surrender ourselves totally in the service of Allah as did the emigrants (Muhajiruns) who left all their belongings and even families in Makkah during Hijra. It is a period to ponder and resolve to use our wealth, knowledge and power or authority in the propagation of Islam (Jihad). It is a time to be our brother’s keeper, give helping hands, and be nice to strangers as done by the Helpers (Ansar) in Madinah. It is a time for leaders to have determination and resolve to lead by example as did by Prophet Muhammed (SAW) during the tortuous journey from Makkah to Madinah during Hijra.

As the Prophet (SAW) puts it in an authentic Hadith, “The Muharram is an honoured and distinguished month before Allah. Therefore, pious and fortunate is he who takes cognizance of his thoughts and action before his trivial and insignificant deeds are taken into account (on the Day of Judgment) and unfortunate is he who turned aside from the right path and followed the wrong one”. (Bukhari and Muslim)

Actually, the rightful path is the divine path where laws are specified by Allah on acts of Worship, good deeds, and charity to the poor and the needy (Qur’an 9:60). And the divine law of reckoning dates is by the lunar system where dates or days cannot be fixed or determined by human memory or measure of counting. That is why the moon is expected to be sited for the major dates in Islam as against others being fixed on particular dates.

Such important dates in Islam include the Hijra which falls on the eve of the first day of Muharram; the tenth day of Muharram (Ashura); the Prophet’s birthday which falls on the eve of the 12th day of Rabiul-Awwal (Maolud Nabiyy); the Night of Record for all mankind which falls on the 15th day of Sha’ban (Nisfu-Sha’ban); the fasting month of Ramadan in which the Holy Qur’an was revealed, the special Night of Power of Qadr worth more than a thousand months which may be celebrated with prayers on the odd number days of the last ten days of Ramadan. Others are Eid-l-Fitr, the feast of breaking the fast of Ramadan which falls on the first day of Shawwal; the Arafat Day of world convention of Muslims which falls on 9th of Dhul-Hijjah; the Eid-I-Adha, the Feast of Sacrifice which falls on the 10th day of Dhul-Hijjah.

This Hijra calendar further demonstrates the disparity between the Islamic religion reckoning of dates and others. As the months are named by God, they represent beauty, good meaning, and reasonable concepts, ideas, and events. But the popular months of January to December in this part of the world are named after pagan Roman gods and goddesses or after other created objects.

The January is got from Janus, the pagan Roman god of doorways and beginnings; February from Februs, the pagan Roman god of purification; March from Mars, the roman god of war; April from the Latin Aprilis; May from Maia, the pagan Roman goddess of growth and spring season; and June from Juno, the sister, the wife and co-equal of Jupiter, the supreme Roman god. Others are July named after Julius Caesar by the Roman Senate in 44 B.C.; August named by Augustus Caesar after himself in 12 B.C., September from Latin word for seventh as in the old Roman calendar; October from the Latin word for 8th as in the old Roman calendar; November from the Latin word for 9th as in old Roman calendar; and December from the Latin word from 10th as in old Roman calendar.

Thus, 1st January was not recognised as the New Year Day in England until 1752 A.D. when it replaced March 25. It hence marks nothing but the birthday of Janus, the pagan Roman god of doorways and beginnings. The 1st Muharram, which is named by Allah (SWT) as the New Year, is divine, honourable and rightful.

This is wishing you all Happy and Prosperous Islamic New Year.

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