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Islamic New Year and what it means in Nigeria

Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa with a diverse population of over 200 million people that cut across the two dominant religions of Islam and Christianity. Just like for Christianity a date is marked for Islamic New Year, including the Feast of the Naming and Circumcision of Jesus, the religion of Islam also has its distinct and unique day that marks the beginning of a new year. As has been the tradition in Nigeria, His Eminence, Alh. Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar, CFR, mni, the President General of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) and Sultan of Sokoto, after considering the report of the Moon Sighting Committee, has declared Tuesday, 10th of August, 2021 as the 1st day of Muharram, 1443 AH (Anno Hegirae in Latin). 

What is the Islamic New Year?

The Islamic New Year is known to all Muslims around the globe as the Hijri New Year or more vivid the Arabic New Year. It is the day that marks the beginning of a new year in the islamic new year. According to Paul Lunde, Saudi Aramco World Magazine, the first day of the Islamic year is observed by most Muslims on the first day of the month of Muharram. According to Islamic calendar, this calendar is for 12 months and consists of 355 days. This calendar is exactly 11 days shorter than the Gregorian calendar. This calendar’s beginning is marked with Muharram and ends with Dhul ah-Hijjah. 

Along with being called as Hijri New Year, Muharram is known as Muharram-ul-Haram. The moon-sighting committee of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, said that the first day of Muharram 1443 AH will be on Tuesday, August 10, 2021. According to the Ummul Qura calendar (Hijri calendar), August 9 is the first day of Muharram 1443. The crescent moon, which marks the beginning of the new Islamic year-1443 AH, was not been seen in Saudi Arabia on Sunday evening. So, August 9 was the last of the Islamic year-1442 AH and the 30th day of Zul-Hijjah, the committee said. Muharram marks the beginning of the Islamic New Year or the Hijri New Year. Also, in addition to this, according to the calculation done by the Astronomy Centre, the first day of the New Year falls on Tuesday 10 August in most of the countries in 2021. 

The Islamic Calendar

According to Islamic calendar, August 9 was the 29th day of Dhul Qadah. The month of Muharram will start when the moon is sighted. If the moon is not sighted on August 9 then Muharram will begin from August 11. The epoch (reference date) of the Islamic era was set as 622 Common Era (CE), the year of the emigration of Muhammad and his followers from Mecca to Medina, known as the Hijra. All religious duties, such as prayer, fasting in the month of Ramadan, and pilgrimage, and the dates of significant events, such as celebration of holy nights and festivals, are calculated according to the Islamic calendar. The Islamic New Year commences with Muharram, which is considered as the second holiest month after Ramadan, and ends with Dhul al-Hijjah, as the name suggests it is the month in which devotees go for Hajj. 

The Islamic New Year marks the beginning of the new Muslim lunar calendar. Also known as Hijri New Year, the Islamic calendar has 354 or 355 days. As compared to the Gregorian calendar, it is roughly 11 days shorter. The Islamic New year commences with Muharram, which is considered as the second holiest month after Ramadan, and ends with Dhul al-Hijjah, as the name suggests it is the month in which devotees go for Hajj. This year, the Hijri New Year is slated to commence on today, August 10. As per the Islamic mythology, the Islamic New Year began in 622 AD with the migration of Prophet Muhammad and his followers from Mecca to Medina. The upcoming year will be considered as Hijri 1443 AH (In Latin, AH means Anno Hegirae or the year of the Hijra). Hujri 1443 AH signifies that it has been 1443 years since Prophet Mohammed’s migration. 

Islamic New Year as a Public Holiday

Though the day holds significant importance, no big celebrations are held in Muslim-majority nations like Nigeria, for example. To commemorate the day, many countries, including United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia declare a public holiday. Along with this, the first 10 days of holy Muharram are extremely important for the muslim community because it opens up doors to reflect on areas to harness peace, tolerance, forgiveness, prayerfulness, etc. On this very special day, Muslims in Nigeria and indeed all across are enjoined to embrace peace, love and tolerance. Happy Islamic New Year!

From Nigeria Blog Series

Aliyu Abdulkadir

Aliyu Abdulkadir is student of chemical engineering at the prestigious ATBU. He is a science enthusiast, lover of literature and an ardent advocate of peace and harmony in Nigeria and the world at large.