Thursday, November 14, 2012 marks the Islamic New Year of 1434.
We sometimes forget what years mean. The Gregorian Calendar year of 2012 is two thousand and twelve years since the birth of Isa/Jesus (peace be upon him). The Hijrah Calendar year of 1434 means one thousand, four hundred and thirty four years since Muhammad (peace be upon him) left Mecca for the city of Yathrib. Islamic New Year is marking that historical journey.
The Western New Year doesn't feel the same. Certainly, New Year's Eve is shrouded in darkness; not just by virtue of night time but by debauchery. There's drinking, dancing, dates, parties, hooking up and falling apart.
There's that awful aspect of New Year's Resolutions. We make a resolve to be better tomorrow since the New Year starts a fresh chapter. Yet, it's only a day and that isn't really enough to set the stage for the 365 days ahead. It's a set-up for disaster. The feeling of shame and disappointment soon sets in. As a Muslim, I've come to see how Ramadan's month-long resolve and habit changing is more realistic.
The morning after the biggest party of the year is New Year's Day; full of regrets and hang-overs. Everything is off schedule and off kilter. It is the worst way to start those resolutions. Right away we wish we hadn't.
So, for us Muslims, how do we observe Islamic New Year? It isn't like the Western New Year at all. It isn't full of scandalous parties. It's quiet.
There aren't any resolutions we are supposed to get in order and share with friends and family. We are simply asked to remember; not so much our own plight but the plight of our religious ancestors. Our lives are not the focus.
It's more of a painful birthing story than anything. It's the moment of labor and delivery. A small group of persecuted believers, the Muslims, did their best to spread messages of freedom, equality, and worship of The One True God. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and his followers, The Sahabi (blessings on them), wanted to bring light into the dark, warring, tribal world of the Arabian Penninsula. They gave up trying to change their city when their neighbors began plots to kill them. They left. They fled. They fled as much as any American slaves fled the South on the Underground Railroad. The Muslims were also after freedom as they escaped from oppression.
The city of Yathrib became known as Medina after their arrival. It became a place for prosperity despite diversity. There were still problems but there was an ability to freely practice and spread Islam. Alhumdulillah.
That moment; that journey is the hijrah. That's what we remember on Islamic New Year. We remember that there was a time when our most beloved was the most hated; when he would have been killed except for The Grace of God Al Rahman. It's remembering the sacrifices made for us---a bit like Veteran's Day. It's knowing that we are connected to that time and those people who struggled to achieve a deeper faith.
And we need, therefore, to also ask ourselves if we can get closer to our faith somehow. Is there a way to walk away from the darkness and into the light? Are there oppressors in our life who need to stop having power over us? It isn't so much making a resolution as an introspection. It doesn't have to be shared with anyone else except God and God is the only one who can truly help you reach your place of peace.
Wishing you peace in 1434.
If you would like to download this free 1434 Hijri Calendar. Click here.