The Islamic New Year
The 29th or 30th of the month is the last day of Dhul-Hijjah, which is also the last day of the Islamic lunar calendar. Based on the sighting of the new moon.
The next day is the first day the Month of Muharram and the Islamic New Year. The Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Whoever fasts the last day of the year and the first day of the year, Allah makes it an expiation of 50 years for him, and fasting one day of Muharram is equal to 30 days of fasting.” For this reason these are important days to fast.
Benefits of Fasting
And there are great benefits to fasting in the month of Muharram. “A man once came to the Prophet and said, “O Messenger of God, tell me what month I should fast other than Ramadan?” The Messenger of God replied, “If you desire to fast for an entire month in addition to Ramadan then fast the month of al-Muharram as it is the month of God, a month in which God accepted the repentance of certain folk and in which he accepts the repentance of others.”
Ibn Hajr al-‘Asqalani has related on the authority of Hafsa that the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, said;
“Whoever fasts on the final day of Dhul-Hijjah and on the first day of al-Muharram then God will make it an expiation for him for fifty years and fasting one day in al-Muharram is the equal of fasting for thirty days.”
“Whoever fasts three days in the month of al-Muharram, they being Thursday, Friday and Saturday, God will decree for him the reward of seventy years worship.”
“Whosoever fasts ‘Ashura it is as if he fasted the [whole] year, and whosoever gives charity therein it is tantamount to a years [worth] of charity.” and…
“Distinguish yourselves from the Jews by fasting either the day before`Ashura or the day after it as well.”
Day of Ashura
In the tradition of Sunni Islam, we honor the Day of Ashura, the 10th of Muharram, because it is the day that Allah Most High saved the Prophet Moses, alayhi-s-salam, and his people from Pharaoh. This is a beautiful story with many lessons for all of us. It is sunna to fast on this day and many people also fast on the 9th and/or 11th day of Muharram, as well.
Our beloved Prophet Muhammad, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said, “The best of fasting after Ramadan is fasting Allah’s month of Muharram.” (Abu Hurayrah, Sahih Muslim)
In Shi’a Islam Ashura is a day of mourning for the martyrdom of the Prophet’s grandson, Hussayn, may Allah give him peace and mercy and blessings.
Regardless of which tradition you follow, the Day of Ashura is a sacred day observed by Muslims around the world.
The Significance of the Hijra and Why Our Calendar Restarted
When we think about the Islamic calendar what often comes to mind is its beginning–it began in the year of the hijra and Muharram is the first month of the year. We want to take this opportunity to explain why the calendar restarted in the year of the hijra.
As you may know, for the first 13 years of the Prophet Muhammad’s ministry, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallim, he and his followers were harshly persecuted. From the very beginning there were very strong opponents against Islam for economic, political, and ideological reasons. The Prophet, his family, and his followers, may Allah bless them and give them peace and mercy, endured many hardships, including physical abuse, ostracism, starvation, murder, and more, culminating in an assassination attempt upon the Prophet. While that assassination was being planned by the leaders of the non-believing Meccans, Allah Most High gave the Prophet and his followers permission to emigrate to the city of Medina and finally escape the persecution.
The significance of the emigration from Mecca to Medina cannot be overstated. When it was contained in Mecca, Islam had a minority status and was limited to being a form of worship. Once it moved to Medina, Islam flourished unimpeded and became not only a form of worship, but a way of life. While in Medina Allah taught the Prophet and his people, may Allah bless them all and give them peace and mercy, about politics, economy, community building, social interactions and every other aspect of life. Islam grew and dominated the region as the Prophet formed significant alliances and they gained many followers from outlying regions.
The hijra is one of the most significant events in the history of Islam and for this reason, the Caliph Omar, radiyallahu anhu, decided to start the Islamic calendar at year 0 in the year of the hijra, with the first day of the year continuing to be the first day of Muharram.