By Soyeon Park
This year’s Islamic New Year, also known as Al Hijri New Year, took place on 11 September 2018. However, the United Arab Emirates government allocated 13 September 2018 as a public and private sector holiday to club it with the weekend, making it a long three-day holiday.
Instead of the widely-used Gregorian calendar, Muslims use the Islamic or Hijri calendar, which is based on the moon. The months are divided into twelve from Muharram to Dhu-al Hijjah, and one month starts when the moon starts its revolution around the Earth. It first appears as a crescent moon, gradually becomes a full moon in the middle of the month, and slowly dwindles back to its initial shape again. This revolution takes about 27 days, making one month of the Hijri calendar about 29 to 30 days. The Gregorian calendar, however, is based on the movement of the sun and has either 30 or 31 days, with the exception of February on non-leap years. This makes the Islamic year approximately 11 days shorter than the Gregorian year. Al Hijri New Year, the first day of Muharram, falls on a different day every Gregorian year.
On the Al Hijri New Year, Muslims have entered their Hijri year of 1440 AH. The acronym AH stands for Anno Hegirae, which means “the year of Hijrah” in Latin. The Hijri calendar and its year count started from Al-Hijrah, the emigration of Prophet Muhammad (Peace be Upon Him) from Makkah to Madinah. This emigration is very meaningful to Muslims as the prophet established the first civil Muslim society in Madinah, marking the beginning of the era of successes and freedom. This year marked 1 AH in the Islamic calendar and 622 AD in Gregorian.
On the Al Hijri New Year, many Muslims take time to fast as they might during Ramadan. The month of Muharram, having the meaning of “forbidden,” is considered a period of prayer; any form of violence or war is strictly forbidden. Moreover, Muharram is the year when the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)’s grandson Imam Hussein ibn Ali was killed in the battle against the Umayyad dynasty, which rose in the city of current day Iraq. This battle is called the Battle of Karbala, and the Muslims commemorate Muharram as the period of self-reflection.
In UAE, residents have enjoyed the new year’s eve, some taking time to relax and have fun outside of work and others visiting their family members to spend time together.