The arrival of the new moon of Muharram signifies the beginning of the auspicious Islamic New Year, which is also known as Hijri New Year. The change of a year is not very important in Islam. But, what is important to keep in mind is that the time that runs out from our life will not run through again in our life. It is here that the words of the Prophet (S) prove worth when Muslims cross the threshold of New Year. “May Allah turn out the opportunities of our life to be an occasion of enhancing virtues”.
The word “Muharram” means “forbidden”. If it is explained further, Muharram is the month in which all unlawful acts such as shedding of blood are forbidden. A new year in Islam, thus, begins with the message of abandoning all unlawful acts which at least make a world peaceful. In Islam, there are four months including Muharram in which all unlawful acts are forbidden. Quran says:
“Verily the number of months in the sight of Allah is twelve (in a year) So ordained by Him the day He created the Heavens and the Earth; of them four are sacred; (Zul Qa’d, Zul Hajj, Muharram and Rajab). That is the straight usage. So wrong not yourselves therein.” (9:36)
A true believer cannot but show justice to the verse in question by relinquishing evil acts. This does not mean that Islam allows wrongdoings and fighting during the rest of the year. The concept of Islam says only right and peace should prevail in the world. In order to achieve this, Islam disseminates self-restraint through activities such as prayer, fasting and Haj.
Now, it is opportune to leaf through the historical background of the Hijra New Year or Islamic New Year. The Arabs had no specific event to set the calendar. Umer bin Khatab, the second Khalifa of Islam after the death of the Prophet (S), was receiving letters from governors without mentioning a year. Letters as well as their replies were not dated with a year by both parties. Umer discussed the matter with his advisers regarding the beginning of an Islamic Calendar Year. Different names of months in connection with the life of the Prophet were mentioned by his advisers. But, the majority agreed to the suggestion of Muharram as the first month of the year, because it is the month in which the Prophet of Allah (S) had a thought of shaping his plan about his and his followers’ forthcoming migration to Madina.
While mentioning the planning of the Prophet’s migration, one should not misunderstand that it was his own idea to leave from Mecca to Madina, but happened due to the order of Allah the Almighty to vanquish the devilish plot of the pagans of Mecca. The Quran makes a reference to this incident:
“Remember how the unbelievers plotted against you. They sought to take you captive or kill you or banish you. They devised plans – but Allah too made a plan and Allah is the best planner”. (8.30)
Thus in the month of Rabiul Awwal, the Prophet (S) along with his nearest companion Aboobacker set out his house to Madina, after Ali was kept by the Prophet (S) in his bed. It was on the same night the disbelievers surrounded the house of the Prophet (S) with their wicked plot to kill him (S). But their roguish conspiracy was met with a tragic end. The disbelievers in a state of frustration announced a reward of one hundred camels for anyone who could catch and bring back Muhammad (S) dead or alive. The greed for such an ample incited a number of persons to search the area but their efforts met with total failure.
Referring again about Muharram, it has witnessed a sequence of events. The most important of which was the emancipation of Prophet Musa (A) and the people of Israel from the cruel hands of Pharaoh and his aides on the 10th of Muharram. Prophet Musa (A) observed fasting on the 10th of Muharram as a sign of thanks to Allah the Almighty. The Prophet of Allah also observed fasting on the 10th of Muharram and he said: “It recompenses the sins of the preceding year” (Saheeh Muslim). The Prophet also said: “When the following year comes – Allah Willing – we shall fast on the 9th of Muharram so as to ascertain that Islam does not want to imitate Jews in any of their religious activities.”
In short, the Hijra of the Prophet (S) and his companions leaves an eternal lesson for all Muslims. It is the spiritual journey from vices to virtues what is otherwise called reflective migration from evils to virtues without leaving their countries. It is achieved only by relinquishing all sorts of malicious thoughts, deeds, riots and naughty parts of media and the like. Then only the Muslims, who honour the month of Muharram, can show true justice to the meaning of Muharram “forbidden” of all unlawful acts.