Islamic New Year: What you need to know

The upcoming Hijri new year marking the start of the Muslim lunar calendar will fall during the second week of August.

While no big celebration takes place in most Muslim-majority nations to observe Islamic new year, it is a public holiday in many [File: AFP]
While no big celebration takes place in most Muslim-majority nations to observe Islamic new year, it is a public holiday in many [File: AFP]

The Islamic new year, or the Hijri new year, marks the start of the Muslim lunar calendar. This year, it is set to fall during the second week of August 2021.

The calendar has been observed for more than 1,440 years and is used to date important Muslim events including the beginning of Ramadan (month of fasting), Eid al-Fitr and the start of the Hajj pilgrimage.

Running for 354 or 355 days, it is approximately 11 days shorter than the solar, Gregorian calendar.

The year has 12 months beginning with Muharram, and ending with Dhul al-Hijjah. Each month starts with the sighting of the new moon.

Here is what you need to know:

How is the start of the new year determined?

The date when the new Hijri year begins is determined by various techniques – including the use of scientific and astronomical calculations, or conducting an official moon-sighting exercise. The method adopted differs from country to country.

According to the Astronomy Center’s calculations, the first day of the new year in 2021 will fall on Tuesday, August 10, in most parts of the world.

When did the calendar begin?

The Islamic new year starts with the migration, also known as the Hijrah, of Prophet Muhammad and his companions from Mecca to Medina in 622 AD, after they were repeatedly persecuted and threatened.

The Hijrah, considered one the most important events is Islamic history was chosen as the starting point for the calendar in 639 AD by Umar ibn al-Khattab, the second caliph.

The upcoming Islamic year will be 1443 AH (Anno Hegirae in Latin or “in the year of the Hijra”).

The Muslim calendar is approximately 11 days shorter than the Gregorian calendar [Mohammed Ballas/AP]

How is it observed?

While no big celebration takes place in most Muslim-majority nations, many declare a public holiday to commemorate the occasion. These include the United Arab Emirates, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and Tunisia.

The first 10 days of Muharram hold a considerable significance for Muslims – especially Shia Muslims – who mourn the death of Husayn Ibn Ali al-Hussein, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad who died at the Battle of Karbala in 680 AD.

Ashura, the annual commemoration of the death of al-Hussein on the 10th day of Muharram, is marked by Shia Muslims in several ways, including with public expressions of mourning and by visiting the shrine of al-Hussein in Karbala, Iraq.

Shia pilgrims gather between the Imam Hussein and Imam Abbas’s shrines during Ashura in Karbala, Iraq, October 1, 2017 [File: Abdullah Dhiaa Al-Deen/Reuters]

Some Sunni Muslims mark the day by voluntarily fasting.

Last year, several Muslim countries restricted activities on Ashura to help control the spread of COVID-19.

Similar measures are likely to be taken this year as the Delta variant of the coronavirus surges across the world, including in Muslim-majority nations.

The day of Ashura is also significant for it was when Prophet Nuh (Noah) left the ark and the day Musa (Moses) was saved from the pharaoh of Egypt by God.

Source: Al Jazeera

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