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Muharram 2024: The Islamic New Year explained

Updated on: 07 July,2024 10:35 AM IST  |  Mumbai
mid-day online correspondent |

The Islamic New Year, also known as Hijri New Year or Islamic Lunar New Year, marks the beginning of the Islamic lunar calendar

Muharram 2024: The Islamic New Year explained

An image of a person praying after sighting the moon. — AFP/File

The Islamic New Year, also known as Hijri New Year or Islamic Lunar New Year, marks the beginning of the Islamic lunar calendar. The Islamic calendar is based on the sighting of the moon and consists of 12 lunar months, with each month approximately 29 or 30 days long. The first month of the Islamic calendar is Muharram, and the Islamic New Year begins on the first day of Muharram.


The Islamic New Year is significant for Muslims as it commemorates the migration of Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) and his followers from Makkah to Madinah in 622 CE. This migration, known as the Hijra, marked a turning point in Islamic history and established the first Islamic state in Madinah.



While the Islamic New Year is a time of reflection and gratitude for Muslims, it is not typically celebrated with elaborate festivities or specific religious rituals. Instead, it is seen as a time to reflect on the passage of time, renew intentions, and set goals for personal and spiritual growth in the coming year.


Some Muslims may choose to observe the Islamic New Year by engaging in acts of worship, such as offering additional prayers, reciting the Quran, or seeking forgiveness and repentance. They may also take the opportunity to spend time with family, engage in charitable acts, or participate in community activities that promote unity and brotherhood.

The word "Muharram" means "forbidden" or "sacred" in Arabic.

Muharram commemorates the martyrdom of Imam Hussein, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) and his companions in the Battle of Karbala in 680 CE. This event is known as Ashura. The Battle of Karbala took place on the 10th day of Muharram, which is known as the Day of Ashura. It is a solemn and mournful occasion for Shia Muslims, during which they remember the sacrifices made by Imam Hussein and his followers.

During Muharram, Shia Muslims participate in various rituals and observances to mourn the martyrdom of Imam Hussein. These rituals may include processions, public expressions of grief, recitation of elegies and poetry, and reenactments of the Battle of Karbala. Some Shia Muslims may also engage in self-flagellation or self-beating as a form of expressing their sorrow and solidarity with Imam Hussein's suffering.

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It's important to note that the way Muharram is observed can vary among different Muslim communities and cultures. While it holds special significance for Shia Muslims, Sunni Muslims may observe the month of Muharram as a time of fasting and reflection, but without the specific focus on the events of Karbala.

Muharram holds great importance in Islam for several reasons:

Historical Significance: Muharram marks significant historical events in Islamic history, most notably the Battle of Karbala and the martyrdom of Imam Hussein, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad. This event represents the struggle for justice and truth against oppression and tyranny, serving as a reminder of the values that Muslims should uphold.

Spiritual Reflection: Muharram is a month of reflection and introspection for Muslims. It serves as a time to contemplate the sacrifices made by Imam Hussein and his companions, their unwavering commitment to their principles, and their willingness to stand up against injustice. Muslims are encouraged to draw lessons from their example and apply them to their own lives, fostering a sense of spiritual growth and personal development.

Commemoration and Mourning: Muharram is a period of mourning for Shia Muslims. They commemorate the martyrdom of Imam Hussein and express their grief and sorrow through various rituals and observances. This includes gatherings, processions, and recitation of elegies and poetry that highlight the tragic events of Karbala. These acts of remembrance help strengthen the bond of the community and reinforce their commitment to the principles upheld by Imam Hussein.

Unity and Solidarity: Muharram fosters a sense of unity and solidarity among Muslims, particularly within the Shia community. It serves as a time when people come together, irrespective of their social or economic backgrounds, to mourn and remember Imam Hussein. This shared experience strengthens the community and reinforces the importance of standing up for justice, supporting one another, and promoting harmony among Muslims.

Fasting and Worship: Muharram also provides an opportunity for Muslims to engage in acts of worship, such as voluntary fasting. While fasting during the month of Muharram is not obligatory for Muslims, it is highly recommended, especially on the 9th and 10th days of the month (the Day of Ashura). Fasting during Muharram is believed to carry great rewards and serves as a means of seeking closeness to Allah and purifying one's soul.

It's important to note that the significance and observance of Muharram can vary between different Islamic traditions and communities. While it holds particular importance for Shia Muslims, Sunni Muslims may observe the month of Muharram as a time of fasting, reflection and gratitude, but without the specific focus on the events of Karbala.

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