Muslim New Year 1438 begins tonight
Towards practising Islam as taught in the Qur’an and enhancing friendship and compassion to all
After sundown today (1 October 2016), the Muslim New Year 1438 begins. Throughout Singapore, mosques, as in the past, will usher in the Muslim New Year with special prayers for spiritual upliftment of Muslims as well as for peace and harmony among all people and nations.
The first day of the first month of the year, Muharram (called Maal Hijrah), is a religious day of joy; but the celebration involves no wild merry-making like dancing and shouting or drowning oneself in ecstasy. Instead, all mosques across the world conduct two special prayers (solat sunat) at about sunset – one to leave the last day of the current year, in this year’s case, 1437, and the other, after the obligatory Maghrib or after-sundown prayer (fourth prayer of the five obligatory payers of the day) to usher in the New Year, 1438H. Following the lunar calendar, the Muslim day of tomorrow begins after sundown of today, not after mid-night as in the case of the sun-based system.
In Muslim countries, Maal Hijrah is a public holiday. The Muslim New Year, or Hijrah year, is written with an “H” denoting Hijrah, like 1438 H (that is, 1438 Hijrah), “Hijrah” simply meaning “Migration” in Arabic. It indicates movement – from one place or condition to a better place or condition for success. And that was exactly what happened in history with Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him).
Muslims follow a lunar calendar which has 29 or 30 days a month. Hence, the Muslim year is shorter by 11 days than the solar year in the Gregorian calendar.
A leap year is not engaged so as to allow the Muslim months to advance over the Gregorian calendar by 11 days each succeeding year.
Taking Ramadan (the month when Muslims fast) as an example, the Muslim calendar allows Ramadan to roll over all the months of the solar calendar by advancing 11 days in each English year.
Thus, for instance, if the first day of Ramadan falls on 14 February of a year, in the following five years it is on 3 February, 23 January, 12 January, 1 January and 22 December respectively. In other words, Eid ul-Fitri (or Hari Raya Aidilfitri in Malay), which comes after the last day of Ramadan, falls at least twice in any one month of the Gregorian calendar as it moves forwards over 33 years before coming to the same or almost the same point again.
The advantage of the Muslim calendar is that no one religious festival will take place in the same season of the Gregorian calendar, year in and year out. For instance, if the fasting month of Ramadan were to be fixed in December, then a Muslim in London will experience the pangs of hunger of the Ramadan fasting and celebrate Eid ul-Fitri in the same month year in and year out in mid-winter. That would also mean that (in December) Muslims in Sydney will always fast and celebrate the festival in the hot mid-summer! The Muslim calendar therefore removes the monotony of celebrating a festival or observing a religious function in the same month or in any one of the natural seasons of the solar calendar every year. The Muslim calendar allows movement and variety.
ISLAMIC MESSAGE AND PROPHET’S MIGRATION
The Muslim calendar began from the date of the Hijrah which means the Migration of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) from Mecca to Madinah, a historic event in the success of Islam. The Hijrah marked the Prophet’s founding of the brotherhood of Islam and of a state based on the principles of equality, liberty and fraternity, until then unknown in Arabia.
The Prophet, born in 570 AD in Mecca, received God’s first Revelation when he was 40 years of age. When the Prophet began to preach about the One God, the Meccans who were largely pagans, were alarmed because, though the Islamic Message was simple, compassionate and rational, it struck at the root of their beliefs in polytheism (belief in many gods) and cultural practices like infanticide (burying alive of female babies), drinking of alcohol, slavery and women having no human rights.
However, the number of converts to Islam grew, so too was the opposition to Islam. Many attempts at stopping the Prophet from preaching Islam failed. So, the pagan Meccans began to plan ways to get rid of him altogether.
This was the situation when a group of men from Yathrib, some 500 km from Mecca, embraced Islam. Having heard of the Prophet’s persecution, they invited him and his followers to Yathrib to settle there. But, the Prophet waited for some time until he received a Revelation telling him to proceed to Yathrib.
So, one night, the Prophet left Mecca, travelling across the desert on camels, and reached Yathrib with a small group of his followers to the anxiously-waiting Ansars (supporters of Muslims) of that town who sang the famous welcome song, “Tala‘ al-Badru ‘Alaynā”, with beating of tambourines to welcome the Muhajirins (the first converts to Islam).
Yathrib henceforth became known as Madinatul-Nabi or simply Madinah – City of the Prophet, and Muslims on the Haj or Umrah would not miss going to this city to see it and pray in the Masjid an-Nabawi (the Prophet’s Mosque) which was the second mosque built in the history of Islam and is now one of the largest mosques in the world. The Prophet is buried in this mosque.
The Migration of the Prophet from Mecca, the place where he was born but whose people wanted to kill him, to Yathrib (Madinah) where the people welcomed him, known as Hijrah, took place on 2 July in the year 622. The Muslim or Hijrah calendar began from this date to mark the beginning of Islam’s success and expansion.
PATIENCE AND CHANGE
Yesterday (28 October 2016) was the last Friday of the Muslim year, 1437, and in the Friday Prayer sermon that carries the topic “Patience” reminded Muslims of the significance of the Muslim New Year and the importance of patience in maintaining peace and harmony in Singapore through patience.
Some of the points of the sermon includes:
- “Sabr, or patience, is a virtuous characteristic that is strongly encouraged in Islam. It is a special trait given by Allah to humanity to face a life that is full of challenges and trials.”
- “The blessing of having patience from Allah s.w.t. has enabled us to grow and evolve from one civilisation to another. It is with patience that we continue to learn and undertake research, in order to improve the quality of life.”
- “The Friday sermons in the coming weeks will discuss it in more detail and will include tips on how we can practice patience in our everyday lives. This includes being patient in seeking knowledge, and to clarify what we read from the Internet. Patience is also important in developing our resilience to tackle the issue of terrorism that is threatening our society today.”
For the full sermon, go to: http://www.muis.gov.sg/officeofthemufti/documents/E16Sep02%20-%20The%20Virtues%20Of%20Patience.pdf
Like the Prophet did, it is we Muslims who have to take the initiatives to better ourselves and be friendly and compassionate to all because God does not change the condition of people until they change what is in themselves: “Allah does not change a people’s lot unless they change what is in their hearts.” (Qur’an translation,13:11)
1 October 2016
(29 Zulhijjah 1437H and after sundown today, it is 1 Muharram 1438H)