When is Islamic New Year (Muharram)?

When is Islamic New Year (Muharram)?

Contrary to popular belief, Muharram is not a particular day, but the name of a month that marks the beginning of the year according to the Islamic calendar. Muharram is one of four months that have been designated as holy according to the Islamic calendar, the other three being – Dhul-Qa’adah, Dhul-Hijjah and Rajab.

Muharram is the first month of the Islamic or the Lunar Calendar, which means, the New Year starts with the start of Muharram for Muslims. The lunar calendar is 10 – 12 days shorter than the Gregorian calendar; hence the date of Muharram may vary year to year according to Gregorian calendar. Muharram is considered one of the most sacred months after Ramadan, thus it has great religious importance. The term Muharram has been derived from the word ‘Haram’ which means forbidden. According to the Holy Quran, it is forbidden and considered unlawful to fight in the month of Muharram.

Significance of Muharram

The process of celebration of Muharram differs between Shia and Sunni Muslims. Sunni Muslims keep fast and celebrate the day of Ashura observing the triumph of Musa over the Pharaohs. Though the religious sentiments are the same but Shia Muslims mourn on this pious day observing the sacrifice of Hussain at the war of Karbala. When Muharram approaches, Shias put on black clothes and keep themselves away from all the joyous events and music for the entire 10 day period. Every day till the ninth day of Muharram, assemblies called ‘Majalis’ are held where Shia speakers depict the story of martyrdom of Hussain and his troupe. On the day of Ashura, religious Shia Muslims go out in large congregation and parade the roads carrying the banners and models of mausoleum of Hussain and his folks. Some Shia sects, in order to mourn on this day harm themselves by beating themselves by chains in public and cutting themselves with knives. This is considered to their expression of sorrow on the death of their religious leader, Hussain. Everyone in the procession wails by loudly chanting the slogan ‘Ya Hussain’. A white horse is decorated and included in the parade. Free drinks and juices are served by the Shia community on this day for the people participating in the procession.

Muharram and Ashura to the Sunnis & Shias

Muharram is often believed to be synonymous with ‘Ashura’ which is the tenth day of the month Muharram. Though the entire month of Muharram is considered a holy month, but Ashura is most significant for both the sects of Islam, ‘Shias’ and ‘Sunnis’. However, the rituals followed by Shias and Sunnis are different on the day of Ashura. Sunnis fast on the 9th and the 10th day of Muharram because according to the records of hadith (is considered as one of the several reports depicting the actions, words, habits, etc. of the prophet Muhammad of Islam), Musa and his folks triumphed over the Pharaoh of Egypt on the 10th day of Muharram knows as Ashura and the 9th day is called Tasu’a. According to another Hadith, one should fast for two continuous days, either on the 9th and the 10th or the 10th and the 11th, the reason being Jews also used to fast on the day of Ashura and the Sacred Prophet in order to differentiate the Islamic rule of fasting, instructed Muslims to fast for one additional day in continuity. But Shia Muslims follow different rituals on the day of Ashura and consider this a day of mourning, as Hazrat Imam Hussain who was the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad was killed at the battle of Karbala on this day.

Conclusion

Muharram is one of the pious months for Muslims, whether a Shia or a Sunni. The term ‘Haram’ (forbidden) is applicable on both and no religious Muslim would indulge into unnecessary fights and battles during the month of Muharram.

Muharram Date Calendar

  • 2019: August 30 – September 29
  • 2020: August 20 – September 19
  • 2021: August 10 – September 09

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