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Religion of Saturday, 17 November 2012

Source: Abdur Rahman Shaban Alfa

1434 AH: Happy New Islamic Year

Introduction

With about a month and half for the Gregorian calendar to end, Muslims have already eneterd a new year 1434 Anno Hegirae [Hijriyya/Islamic calendar.]

This stems from the fact that the Islamic calendar has fewer days in a year. The number of days in each of the twelve months is not fixed because the months are dependent on the appearance and or disappearance of the moon.

Aside this vast difference, the Islamic [Hijriyya] and Gregorian calendars, a few similarities exist: amongst others: seven days a week and twelve months constituting a calendar year.

Regrettably however, keeping track of Islamic dates is virtually nonexistent in the lives of most Muslims except at particular times of the year; times of the year that are usually tied to festivities in the Muslim life.

Specific mention can be made of the two Eids (Fitr and Adha), Ramadan and Zul Hijjah – when pilgrims the world over troop to Saudi Arabia to worship Allah. The ninth Islamic month of Ramadan, is by far most popular amongst the rest, as its buzz resonates far beyond Muslims and encapsulates non – Muslims alike.

Zul Hijjah, is popular by virtue of the fact that it is in that month that prospective pilgrims make the sacred journey to the House of Allah in Saudi Arabia allied with other activities to seek Allah’s forgiveness and providence.

Justified Oblivion by Muslims?

Zul Hijjah is the direct opposite of December [i.e. the last month of respective calendars] as the twelfth month, it marks th end of the year and is followed by the entry of a new year, Muharram or January – Hijriyya and Gregorian respectively.

But how many Muslims keep track of the Islamic dates, call it a case of obliviousness. Granted that is it; to what extent can we call it justified in the general scheme of events?

The twin reasons that I can adduce for that; the social milieu within which we find ourselves leans more towards the Gregorian date, moreover; Muslims nauseatingly have preferred other than our own very unique calculation of time.

A unique and divine calculation given that the application of the Islamic calendar strictly depends on natures, thus signifies obeisance to Allah’s Law; the months are based on the moon; a core creation of Allah the Almighty.

Our lunar calculation meanwhile is the direct opposite of the Gregorian system which is hinged on a straightjacketed module that was couched years back (supposedly 2012 years after the death of Prophet Isa (Jesus); the last but one Messenger of Allah as per Islam).

But are the two reasons enough for us to discard the Islamic dates and can this oblivion be justified? Certainly NOT! If for nothing at all, a blend of both dates at any given opportunity would be a better state of affairs than what currently pertains.

The Way Forward

The solution to this indictment and grave ‘oversight’ on the Muslim Ummah [Community] lies in two words: Conscientization and Continued Use of the date especially at ALL Muslim gatherings.

The first point of call shall be with Muslim leaders irrespective of which part of the religious banner the hold, to make it a point to at all events be it at naming, marriage or funeral ceremonies to remind all gathered of the Islamic date.

Another very potent platform on which to best drum home the date to Muslims is on Jum’ah – the Friday Congregational Prayer pulpits.

A largely marginalized group cannot here be kept out, Islamic school teachers, on them should be the most important and long term role of pushing down the concept of the Hijriyyah date into the minds of young Muslims that they teach.

We cannot lose sight of the media and technological bit in the general scheme of events; what stops well-to-do Muslims from paying to publish each month of the Islamic calendar in a number of daily newspapers? I wonder.

All hosts of Islamic programs must make it a point to quote the Islamic date each time they are on set. In the long term, we should get slots at peak periods of programming to put in a reminder of the Islamic date.

If done; that would imply giving a wider scope to the publicity of the concept not only to Muslims but to non Muslim alike. Muslims on social platforms like facebook, twitter and myspace should always quote the Islamic dates; certainly would it be a reminder to other Muslims and a strong message to non Muslims.

Friday November 15, 2012, is the day when Muslims usher in a New Year as per the Islamic calendar. The New Year being 1434 Hijriyyah.

The Islamic Calendar

Aside the similarities earlier noted between the Islamic and Gregorian calendar. Another is that both have seven weekdays. The difference being that he first weekday in Hijriyya Sunday (Yawmul Ahad) whiles Monday is seen as the first on the other side.

In contrast to the Gregorian’s 365/366 days, the Islamic year has some 354 days. This is because the Islamic Calendar (or Hijri Calendar) follows the movements of Earth's moon. It is consistently less by 11 days compared to the Gregorian.

Testament to this being that in 2011, Saturday November 26 was equal to Muharram 1, 1433H. this time round, the likely New Year date could possibly be Friday November 15, 2012.

Like much of Islam, the calendar is based on the Quran and on personal reflection of the relationship between adherents and their creator [Allah.] Each month of the Islamic Calendar officially begins when the lunar crescent is first seen after a new moon.

Given that people would cite the new moon at different times due to cloudy skies, the start of the month is likely to differ but just by a day usually. Yet, most people prefer to rely on an official announcement by Muslim authorities as to when each month begins.

The Calendar is properly called the Hijri Calendar because it began with the Hijra, or hegira, The Holy Prophet Muhammad's flight from Medina to Mecca, due to persecution by the disbeliever of the time.

On the Gregorian calendar, A.D. stands for Anno Domini, which means "In the year of our Lord." The Hijri Calendar has years marked by A.H., which stands for Anno Hegirae, "In the Year of the Hijra." The year of the hegira therefore is calculated A.H. 1.

The Hijri Calendar is the official calendar in many predominantly Muslim countries, most notably Saudi Arabia. In other countries, Muslims refer to the Gregorian calendar for most dates and consult the Hijri Calendar only for religious purposes – same in Ghana.

Conclusion

For us Muslims, first Muharram is akin to January 1, and is a day worth celebrating in every sense, this I contend is the time that we Muslims are ideally supposed to call New Year’s Day.

For far too long, we have failed as a collective to drum home the need to use our Islamic dates along with the Gregorian dates, but better late they say than never, from this year and for many years to come there certainly must be a concerted and calculated effort to hype the occasion and to celebrate it as such.

From our Imams, through to Muslims in the media, Islamic school teachers and any Muslim Abu, Musa or Amina, Salamatu to Zainab living any and everywhere, ours is the onerous duty to make do with what is ours from the Almighty Allah.

Authored this day 29 Zul Hijjah, 1433 (November 14, 2012)

Abdur Rahman Shaban Alfa
Teacher, Hamdaniyya Islamic School, Accra New Town
alfarsenal@yahoo.com, newcguide@gmail.com

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