Muharram 2019: We asked Islamic scholar Maulana Wahiduddin Khan to tell us about the significance of Islamic New Year, Muharram and Ashoura Day.
What is the significance of Islamic New Year? When does it begin and when does it end?
In the early period of Islam, no calendar was used in Arabia. People would determine dates through various different methods. After the death of the Prophet, the second caliph of Islam, Umar ibn al-Khattab, consulted with other Companions of the Prophet and decided to institute a new calendar. This calendar is called the Hijri or the Islamic calendar. The first year of the Gregorian calendar is the birth of Jesus, while the first year of the Hijri calendar is taken as the event of the migration of the Prophet from his hometown Makkah to another city called Madinah. This migration is known as hijrah in Islam and happened in the year 622 AD. Muharram is the name of the first month of the Islamic calendar and its last month is DhulHijjah.
The months of the Hijri calendar remind us that we should always be ready to accept the truth and live according to peace, and never show any kind of shortcoming in this regard. This is because Islam gives a lot of importance to one who is truthful and peaceful.
How is Islamic New Year celebrated? How long do the celebrations last?
The month of Muharrram is a considered a month of peace and security. One must take the pledge in this month to live as a peaceful member of society, to help others in need and to resolve to bring the society on the path of development.
What is Muharram? Why is it considered the holiest month? How do we greet Muslims on this day?
Muharram is the first month of the Islamic calendar. It is also known as Muharram al-Haram, or the Sacred Muharram. Even before the advent of Islam, this month was regarded as sacred and inviolable. Islam continued with this tradition, and therefore fighting or quarrelling is forbidden during this month. This is the reason why this month is called ‘Muharram’, which means, one that cannot be violated.
This month is the beginning of the new Islamic year. Greeting one another with the word ‘Salam!’ (Peace!) in this month signifies that we must sincerely seek others’ goodness and be their genuine well-wishers.
What is the story of Muharram?
One of the incidents that occurred during the month of Muharram is known in Islamic history as the incident of Karbala. This incident involved the death of Husayn, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, in the year 61 AH or 680 AD. His death is mourned and commemorated during this month by Shia Muslims around the world. There were other events also which happened during this month in the past. These incidents teach us that we must make every effort to seek the truth and remain peaceful.
What is Ashoura Day? How do Muslims observe the day?
According to the Islamic tradition, on the ninth and tenth days of Muharram, Muslims should observe fast. Also they must not forget the poor during these days nor should they oppress any individual who may be below them.
Are there any greetings given on Ashoura Day?
There is no special greeting for this day. People generally say: Assalamualaykum (May peace be upon you!) when they see each other. This is also the usual Islamic greeting. As a reminder of the significance of this day, we should give the peaceful message of Muharram to people.
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