Monday, October 19, 2015

Muharram: New Islamic Year Begins

Naya Saal Mubarak!

The Islamic calendar begins with Muharram, which is considered sacred a month. Muslims today do not take into account the value of our Islamic year. The majority of them do not even know when our Islamic year begins. 

Allah (swt) says in the Quran: 
Indeed, the number of months with Allah is twelve (lunar) months in the register of Allah (from) the day He created the heavens and the earth; of these, four are sacred (that is to say, Dhul-Qaddah, Dhul-Hijjah, Muharram and Rajab): That is the correct religion, so do not wrong yourselves during them. (9: 36)

Allah (swt) has given us a sacred month and year based on the Islamic calendar but unfortunately a great number of Muslims - especially here in Mauritius - do not take this into consideration, whereas on the other hand they take into great consideration the Gregorian and Christian calendar, celebrated at the end of December. So in preparation for the Gregorian year, they go shopping, and moreover, those working as officers in the public sector (Government servants) and also the private sector - hotels, factories etc. - organize parties and also receive year-end bonuses (called also, “13th or even 14th months” – that is, a surplus in salary amounting more than the 12-month salary scale) to celebrate the new year.

It is during this time of year (end of year - December) that we see a lot of waste. People spend their money and their all their bonuses in firecrackers, fireworks, liquor, gifts and the celebration continues until New Year’s Eve whereby many families today prefer to spend these days in hotels or to meet in a place where food - especially the barbecue - and several alcoholic beverages are available in large quantities. As for alcoholic drinks, it is true that the vast majority of Muslims do not consume this poison, but this custom does exist for people of other religious communities. For them, they must have an alcoholic drink because without it their New Year’s Eve won’t be complete! So you can imagine how much money is wasted in the weeks preceding the end of the year and the beginning of the following year - especially on the 1st, 2nd and 3rd days of the first month (January) of the New Year, even going until the 6th of January.

People do not realize that they must make savings. They wrongly spend their money in vain things such as in parties and preparations of the New Year’s Eve. Unfortunately, Muslims also have entered into the same circle as these people. They imitate them and their customs. There are many of them who do not even perform their Tahajjud prayers and even the Fajr prayer at the prescribed time. They are too busy partying with family and friends!

In Mauritius, the Government has given the general population two days public holidays to this end: 1st and 2nd January. Private sectors and other sectors give 8 to 10 days of leave to their workers to celebrate the arrival of the new year. I do not know if in other countries it’s like that, but I do not think it is the case in Islamic countries. Rather in non-Islamic countries.

So it is very unfortunate that Muslims do not take into account their month and year that Allah (swt) has given them. Even in the Quran and in the Hadith, Allah and our beloved prophet Hazrat Muhammad (pbuh) showed us how welcome the New Year (which begins with the month of Muharram). The divine and prophetic teachings encourage us not to imitate other nations (religious community) and customs (who celebrate with dances, songs and music etc.) but we should gather in prayer in thankfulness to God. 

We, Muslims; we are different from other nations and religious communities. Our year begins with the month of Muharram and therefore it is our duty to enter into a spiritual bath through special Ibaadat (acts of worship) as taught by our beloved prophet Muhammad (pbuh) in the Hadith so that we benefit from divine blessings for the current year and for the rest of our days on earth. So when the moon is visible, read two cycles of voluntary prayers (2-Rakaat Nafil Namaz) and in each Rakah after the Surah Al-Fatiha, read 11 times the Surah Al-Ikhlas and also read personal duahs for you, your families and for the entire Muhammadan Ummah for the new year.

The word “Muharram” comes from the Arabic word “Haraam” meaning “forbidden/ban”. Why such a name, which increasingly seems a bit harsh to be assigned to the first month of the calendar? We also see, for example, particularly in the Quran, that Allah calls the Grand Mosque of Mecca the “Masjid-il-Haraam”, in other words ‘Mosque of Prohibition’ and the clothing worn by the male pilgrims in the precincts of the mosque is also called ‘Ihraam’ which means “prohibited” and the one who is in a state of Ihraam is called Muhrim’ which means: ‘He who is the subject of a prohibition.’

The reasons for all these names that are all derived from the same meaning are very simple, because the place where the grand mosque of Mecca is located, before the arrival of Islam it was infested with idols and idolaters found there were completely in perdition in respect to the oneness of Allah (swt). Islam came to destroy idolatry, cleaning at the same time this sacred mosque. The word “Haraam” also means “sacred”.

As for the clothing of the pilgrim (Hajji) during the pilgrimage, he is prohibited from committing all kinds of sins, even actions that would in normal times be permitted for him to do, such as being intimate with his wife. Thus, in times of pilgrimage, after entering that state of purity (Ihraam) he is banned from even these normally permitted actions. As for the month of Muharram, as I just explained, the word Muharram comes from the Arabic word ‘Haraam’ meaning ‘ban/prohibit’. So, it is Haraam to welcome the month of Muharram with fireworks, or alcoholic beverages, music, songs and dances. For Muharram, there is no special holiday and also no Bonus on wages. This is quite different!

With the arrival of Muharram, it is recommended to observe the first day in fasting and also to perform two cycles (Rakaat) of voluntary prayers (during the day). This protects from worries and problems during the year. As for the month of Muharram, which marks the beginning of a new year, the moral reason is that the best way to start a new year is precisely to refrain from doing sins, hence the name given to this month.

In addition, this month features the ‘Yaum-e-Ashura’ (The Day of the Consultation), the chief of all days celebrated on the 10th of Muharram. Hazrat Hafsa (ra), the wife of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) narrated that the Holy Prophet (pbuh) always used to fast the day of ‘Ashura’, that is to say, the 10th of Muharram.

According to the compilation of the Hadiths of Imam Muslim, Hazrat Abdullah Ibn Abbas (ra) reported that when the Holy Prophet (pbuh) observed the fast of Yaum-e-Ashura, he advised his Sahaba (companions) also to do the same.

Also, given that the leader of the martyrs (Sayyidush-Shuhada) Hazrat Imam Hussain (ra) was martyred on the 10 Muharram of the year 61 Hijri in the plain of Karbala with many of his companions, thus to preserve the true Islamic faith, the most spiritual among Muslims feel (or recalls this martyrdom with) sadness during the month of Muharram.

Before ending (my discourse), according to a Hadith in Mishkat, Hazrat Abdullah Ibn Masud (ra) narrated that the Holy Prophet (pbuh) said that there are Muslims who offer Sadaqa on the Day of Ashura for the pleasure of Allah, and Allah in His turn promises that He will grant to these people blessings in their provisions for a year.

O Muslims, consider what Allah has ordained for you. Allah has given you an Islamic year which begins with the month of Muharram. Do not take this as an ordinary thing and do not give great importance to the other religious communities’ ‘End of Year’ or ‘New Year’ and do not follow them in their customs. Indeed, Allah hates it when we reject His divine prescriptions to hold fast to the inventions and customs of other nations that are against the pure teachings of Islam. Also, do not overspend because this can attract the wrath of Allah on you and you will have no blessings in your money, your homes and your provisions etc.

So I pray for you all; may Allah enlighten your hearts in the light of this speech and make you understand the importance and value of the month of Muharram. I wish you all: A Happy New Year 1437 Hijri (Naya Saal Mubarak), with the Barakat (blessings) and the protection of Allah (swt). Ameen.

---Special Sermon delivered by the Khalifatullah Hadhrat Munir Ahmad Azim Saheb (atba) of Mauritius on 15 October 2015 ~ (02 Muharram 1437 Hijri), after the Salaat-ul-Maghrib & Esha.

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