Islamic Voice A Monthly English Magazine

MUHARRAM - SAFAR 1424 H
MARCH 2004
Volume 17-03 No : 207

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Muharram


The Islamic New Year

The Islamic New Year

Is it not high time that as Muslims we resolve to work towards Allah's cause and start the Islamic new year on a pious tone?

By Md Ziyaullah Khan

 

The new year day of Hijrah reminds Muslims the Hijrah (migration) of Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) from Makkah to Madinah in the year 622 C.E. It is well-known that the Hijrah did not take place on the first day of Muharram, it probably occured in the month of Rabu'ul Awwal (3rd month). Also the Hijri calendar was instituted some time in the reign of Caliph 'Umar (634-644 C.E.). However, due to the association of the Islamic calendar with Hijrah, the new year day becomes an important day to remember the meaning and significance of Hijrah.

In modern times, some Muslims also began using it to send greeting cards and celebrate the Islamic New Year. There are, however, no religious services associated with this day.

How the Islamic calendar start?

Umar ibn al-Khattab and keeping track of letters with time-stamps, uniting the different dating methods of his time

Counting back to the year of the Hijrah to determine when to start

16 July, 622 CE = 1 Muharram, 1 AH

Our year begins with Sacrifice (hijrah of Muslims, of Prophets) and ends with Sacrifice (hajj, hijrah of Hajra, hijrah of Ummah to Makkah)

Not from someone's birthday, or some king or ruler's orders, but from the foundation of the Islamic community, on brotherhood and unity we begin and end

Lunar: Based upon the moon, accurate, close, visible, reminder of the beauty, order, submission of Allah's creation, but also its imperfection, its rise and fall, it needs the sun to shine, we interact with the signs of Allah when we look for the new moon every month, it is not passive time-keeping and time-passing, it's natural, animals, sea-creatures, oceans, plants, even human cycles are lunar timed

We rotate through the seasons, dynamic, perpetual, summer is not just in June, Eid is not just in winter, a nation of all times and all seasons, we remain steadfast no matter what the season

Note the meaning of the names of the months and compare to the pagan Gregorian names:

Muharram ["Forbidden" - it is one of the four months during which time it is forbidden to wage war or fight]

Safar ["Empty" or "Yellow"]

Rabia Awal ["First spring"]

Rabia Thani ["Second spring"]

Jumaada Awal ["First freezing"]

Jumaada Thani ["Second freezing"]

Rajab ["To respect" - this is another holy month when fighting is prohibited]

Sha'ban ["To spread and distribute"]

Ramadan ["Parched thirst" - this is the month of Islamic daytime fasting]

Shawwal ["To be light and vigorous"]

Dhul-Qi'dah ["The month of rest" - another month when no warfare or fighting is allowed]

Dhul-Hijjah ["The month of Hajj" - this is the month of the annual pilgrimage to Makkah, again when no warfare or fighting is allowed]

Nadwi: " It (the advent of the 15th century) is indeed, a unique occasion to ponder that the Islamic Era did not start with the victories of Islamic wars, nor with the birth or death of the Prophet (saw), nor with the Revelation itself. It starts with Hijra, or the sacrifice for the cause of Truth and for the preservation of the Revelation. It was a divinely inspired selection. God wanted to teach man that struggle between Truth and Evil is eternal. The Islamic year reminds Muslims every year not of the pomp and glory of Islam, but of its sacrifice and prepares them to do the same."

We look at history through the Seerah, the greatest life ever lived, everything is either before or after Hijrah, "Allah has renewed time", it's a universal new beginning in the history of man and civilization with the Hijrah of the Prophet and our forerunners at its centre piece.

Importance of Muharram

It's the first month of Islamic calendar, and one of the 4 sacred months.

"The best of fasts besides the month of Ramadan is the fasting of Allah's month of Muharram." [Muslim]

Note: Allah calls Muharram His month signifying its importance

It has the Day of Ashura' when Moses left Egypt with the Children of Israel and Pharoah and his army was drowned [Bukhari], also the day Noah's Ark landed on Mount Judi [Ahmed]

Need and benefits of making commitments

*Self-evaluation.

*Commitment to betterment, change, self-improvement.

*Prophet made commitments (e.g. to do Hajj, to do jihad, to free slaves, to fast Muharram, etc.) and fulfilled them.

*Sets goals, vision, challenges for the coming year.

*Organizes life, prevents efforts from going to waste on unworthy activities and causes.

*Sense of accomplishment at the end, new horizons for new year.

*Write them down in your planner, put them up on your wall/desk, and read them every day to remind and renew your resolve, don't let them be forgotten.

But remember always:"He whose 2 days are equal is a sure loser!" Hadith

Your greatest challenge is not to be better than someone else or to be like some scholar or personality or to 'get with the programme' but to be constantly better than, to out-think, out-do, out-smart, impress, surprise yesterday's you!

Worthy New Year Commitments

*Will join a Halaqa - an Islamic study group.

*Gain knowledge for personal improvement and service to community

strengthen brotherhood and work with others.

*Make sacrifices to attend and share with others.

*Re-charge spiritual batteries after week of studies, cure weak lazy Iman

*learn leadership, critical thinking and public speaking skills.

*Fall in love with the Quran and engage in Allah's remembrance

*Will not let myself be bored or sit idle

*Not waste hours watching TV, playing video games on the latest 'playstation 10' and 'game-tetrahedron' (face the Ka'aba not the Cube!)

*Will find work to do and take initiative myself without anyone asking

*Boredom is a disease, sign of poor life management, lack of direction or purpose, life is too exciting to be bored!

*Entertainment is not a replacement, don't expect others to entertain you or find things to do

*"One who helps someone in his need, Allah helps him in his work, and one who removes any worry or trouble of any Muslim, Allah, in return, removes anyone of his worries on the Day of Judgment"

*Lost time is lost ajar (reward)!

*Will get to know my neighbours and give them a gift on Eid.

*Do you know who they are? What is their name? What do they do? Do they need you? Can you approach them? What have you ever shared with them?

Kindness towards neighbors is actually a duty in Islam. The Qur'an says, in Sura'tul Nisa, Ayat 36, "Serve Allah, and join not any partners with Him; and do good - to parents, kinsfolk, orphans, those in need, neighbours who are near [relatives], neighbours who are strangers [non-relatives], the companion by your side, the wayfarer and what your right hands possess. For Allah loves not the arrogant, the boastful."

Ibn Mas'ud reported that a man asked the Holy Prophet, "Oh, Messenger of Allah! How can I know when I do good and when I do bad?" The Holy Prophet said, "When you hear your neighbors say you have done good, you have done good. And when you hear them say you have done bad, you have done bad" (Maulana Karim, pp. 249-250).

Will find a poor, needy, unemployed, sick, orphan, lonely Muslim in your community and befriend him or her.

This is the sign of a true Muslim, selfless altruistic love and concern for others, remembering those who are oft-forgotten, caring for the uncared, speaking for the voiceless.

*Do you know a poor Muslim in your building, your area? Do you know who to give Zakat, Qurbani too ? It's not that they don't exist, we just don't make an effort to find out such Muslims and families.

Abu Hurairah (RA) relates that the Holy Prophet (Pbuh) said, "A man set out to visit a brother in the neighbouring town. Allah deputed an angel (for his protection) on his way. When the man met the angel en route, the latter asked him, 'Where are you going?' He answered, 'I want to visit my brother who lives in this town.' The angel asked, 'Are you going to take some valuable thing to him?' The man answered, 'No. I have no desire except to visit him, because I love him for the sake of Allah only.' The angel said to him, 'I am a messenger from Allah sent to tell you that Allah loves you as you love your brother for His sake.'"

Remember Allah in Surah al-Maoon says the person who does not ENCOURAGE the feeding of the poor or does not do the SMALL ACTS of kindness has belied the Deen, is untruthful/insincere in it, and then Allah curses the one's who pray to be seen as their Salah is useless if it done to just show outward Islam whereas the inside, the heart, is empty and sealed from mercy and goodness!

*Will not eat (out) alone, will always share my food

*Make every meal a time for gathering and sharing

*Learn to share from your food, you will see the effect it has on you

*Have family dinners, don't just wake into your home and eat while watching TV and checking mail, get together with parents and siblings and have a proper meal

*This is where families meet and discuss their days and lives, be part of it, and start this tradition if it does not exist anymore in your home!

*Will give gifts to 5 people I don't know for no reason and expecting nothing in return

That's one person who won't forget you next Eid or ever for that matter!

The Prophet used to give to his Sahabah from everything he received

Will do something for the environment.

It never ceases to amaze me how, even though Allah calls Muslims the "best of peoples, evolved for mankind" (Holy Qur'an, Sura Al Imran, 3:110) and has appointed humans as his "agents, inheritors of the earth" (Sura Al An'am, 6:165), we are often very negligent when it comes to caring for this Earth that is our home and that of our children and their children as well.

Allah commands us to be mindful of the resources that He has placed at our disposal - He forbade the unnecessary cutting down of trees, and He emphasizes the need for cleanliness (which would extend to our environment and, thus, make polluting the earth abominable). Prophet Muhammad (SAW) also reminded us of the importance of cleanliness when he said, "Cleanliness is half of faith." We are ordered to make ablution before prayer, and also to make sure that our places of prayer are free of contamination and filth. Since the entire world (except wash-rooms, graveyards and other forbidden areas) is a potential place of prayer for us as Muslims, it follows that we should be mindful of preserving it in a state of cleanliness.

As Allah's vicegerents, surely, we should be foremost in efforts to protect our environment - in any manner that we might possibly do so.

Will 'adopt' and be a mentor/role-model to a small brother or sister in the family, at the mosque, Islamic school, or among circle of family friends

To find Islamic role-models is one of the hardest things today

Be that one that families, children, youth look upto as an example of a good Muslim, human being, successful in all aspects of life, and there for others.

Children run around our Islamic centres because no one cares to talk to them or play with them while the 'adults' discuss their important matters. Who is going to take care of these matters when the 'adults' are gone? The children!

Your brother/sisters gets enough negative brain-washing at school and on TV, you are lucky if the time you spend with them barely neutralizes that effect much less gives them confidence in their identity, self-respect, uniqueness, special gifts.

Will take a course to help the Muslim community.

e.g. conflict resolution, anger/addiction management, grief counseling, family/youth/marriage counseling, small business management, running a charitable non-profit organization, interacting with media, negotiating/leadership, project management.

"The best of you is the one most useful to others".

Just because you are willing to help does not mean you are able or equipped to handle every situation.

Need to be professional in how we run our masjids, schools, etc.

Will join a humanitarian cause

" e.g. illiteracy, poverty ("hateful to Allah"), third world rights, women's abuse, homelessness, soup kitchens, food banks, blood donation

" It's not 'volunteer work' for Muslims, it's caring, guardianship for the creation of Allah who Allah made us a Khalifah of

" Being Muslim is not just about attending Halaqas and coming to gatherings but social justice, harmony.

" Islam is and has been a socially conscious, useful, and egalitarian way of life, we believe we are only as good as the poorest, weakest amongst us

" Remember Abu Bakr's speech on becoming Khalifah!

" Allah connects Taqwa, Iman, Ihsan and all other "religious concepts" to practical humanitarian work.

(The writer is based in Nagpur and can be reached at khanziya@rediffmail.com)

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