About Islamic New Year
When is Awal Muharram?
Awal Muharram or Hijri New Year is celebrated by Muslims as the day symbolises two important events in the Islamic year.
Awal means beginning in English and Muharram is the name of the first month in the Muslim calendar. The first day of Muharram is therefore the Islamic New Year's Day and on this date the Hijra, the historic journey from Mecca to Medina began.
The Islamic Calendar
Islam has a calendar based on the revolutions of the Moon rather than the sun. Thus, it is only 354 days long. Islamic New Year is celebrated on the first day of Muharram, the first Islamic month.
Compared to Western calendars, the Islamic year goes backwards by about 11 days every year.
The date shown on this page is the date that most countries will observe. The date in some countries may vary by up to two days, as some countries use a lunar sighting basis to determine the date. Because of this, the official dates may not be announced until close to the actual day.
Islamic New Year
Islamic New Year represents the starting point of the Muslim era as it coincides with the Hijrah, the Prophet's journey from Mecca to Medina on the first of Muharram in 622 CE.
Prophet Mohammed needed to relocate because somebody had intentions to execute him. Consequently, the Prophet chose to go to a town known as Yathrib, some 320 km north of Mecca. Yathrib is known today as Medina, in modern-day Saudi Arabia, which translates to 'the city'.
Hijrah gave freedom from suffering for the Muslims in Mecca. When the Prophet emigrated to Medina, Muslims there were indirectly saved from further persecution by the Meccan pagans.
After the Hijrah, it was then declared by the Prophet in the Constitution of Medina that Muslims are a universal brotherhood with a unique identity in faith and ideology.
Umar ibn Al-Khattab, a close companion of Prophet Muhammad and the second caliph, subsequently adopted Hijrah as the reference point for the Islamic calendar, either in 638 CE or 639 CE.
The customs of Awal Muharram vary from country to country, though they generally involve attending various religious activities, spiritual singing and religious meetings. The traditions and customs for Muharram also vary between Shia and Sunni Muslims.
For both, the marking of the beginning of the new year is usually quiet, unlike New Year's celebrations associated with other calendars. It is a time for Muslims to reflect on the passing of time and their own mortality.
To mark Muharram, Muslims will recite Koranic verses and hold special prayers and sermons at public halls and mosques.
The New Year itself is known to Muslims as Maal Hijra.
Muharram is the second most holy month of the Islamic year, after Ramadan.
The first 10 days of Muharram hold a considerable significance for Muslims – especially Shia Muslims – who mourn the death of Husayn Ibn Ali al-Hussein, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad who died at the Battle of Karbala in 680 AD.
The death of al-Hussein took place on the 10th day of Muharram, known widely as Ashoura. It is commemorated by Shia Muslims in several ways, including with public expressions of mourning and by visiting the shrine of al-Hussein in Karbala, Iraq.
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