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January 3, 2008

Islamic New Year : 1 Muharram (Al-Hijra)

The Islamic New Year is a cultural event which some Muslims partake on the first day of Muharram, the first month in the Islamic calendar. Many Muslims use the day to remember the significance of this month, and the Hijra, or emigration, Prophet Muhammad made to the city now known as Medina. Recently, in many areas of Muslim population, people have begun exchanging cards and gifts on this day.

However, not all Muslims take part in this event. Shia Muslims do not, since the month is observed as a month of mourning in honor of Imam Husayn_ibn_Ali, who was martyred in the Battle of Karbala on Muharram 10th. Sunni Muslims believe that this is the day that the first Caliph (Abu Bakr) died.

Since the Islamic lunar calendar year is 11 to 12 days shorter than the solar year, Muharram migrates throughout the seasons. The estimated start dates for Muharram are as follows (all future dates are estimates and depend on sightings of the new moon), though strictly speaking the month starts at sunset on previous day:

Al-Hijra (1 Muharram): New Year's Day

The Kaaba, a shrine in Mecca

Al-Hijra, the Islamic New Year, is the first day of the month of Muharram. It marks the Hijra (or Hegira) in 622 CE when the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) moved from Mecca to Medina, and set up the first Islamic state.

The Muslim calendar counts dates from the Hijra, which is why Muslim dates have the suffix A.H. (After Hijra).

It's a low-key event in the Muslim world, celebrated less than the two major festivals of Eid-ul-Fitr and Eid-ul-Adha.

New Year rituals

There is no specific religious ritual required on this day, but Muslims will think about the general meaning of Hijra, and regard this as a good time for 'New Year Resolutions'.

A personal Hijra

The Qur'an uses the word Hijra to mean moving from a bad place or state of affairs to a good one — and so Muslims may think about how their faith helps them leave behind bad ways of living and achieve a better life.

The start of Islam as a community

The date marks the beginning of Islam as a community in which spiritual and earthly life were completely integrated. It was a community inspired by God, and totally obedient to God; a group of people bound together by faith

By breaking the link with his own tribe the Prophet demonstrated that tribal and family loyalties were insignificant compared to the bonds of Islam.

This Muslim community grew steadily over time, unifying the many tribes that had made up the Arab world beforehand.

Earthly and heavenly power

Islam now developed as a combined spiritual and earthly community, with political and military power working hand in hand with spiritual power and guidance.

At the same time the community developed the religious and ethical codes of behaviour that still provide the foundation of Muslim life.

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