SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 27: Happy New Year 1433! Yes, it’s a New Year for observant Muslims today, and on this—the first day of the month of Muharram—devotees remember when the Prophet Muhammad and his followers traveled from Mecca to Medina in 622 CE. It was in Medina that the prophet and his community set up the first Islamic state. Muhammad left his tribe and family for the sake of following Allah, and each Muslim since has desired to place Allah first, just as Muhammad did. The year of Muhammad’s journey thus became the first year in the Islamic calendar, and each year since has been marked “AH”— After Hijra. (Wikipedia has details.)
Have you done the math and it doesn’t seem to add up? Here’s an intriguing detail you can share with friends: The discrepancy is because the year-long Islamic calendar is shorter than our current worldwide calendar. The difference is roughly 11 to 12 days per year—partly because the Islamic calendar is lunar, not solar. Throughout the long history of Islam, these variances account for the differences in worldwide New Year’s math.
The Islamic New Year isn’t widely celebrated, but observers use the day to move “from a bad place to a good one,” just as Muhammad did—except, today, in the form of resolutions. Sunni Muslims reflect on the old year today and resolve to improve in the coming year, but Shia Muslims don’t recognize the New Year as a joyful time; Shia Muslims remember the death of Muhammad’s grandson during the month of Muharram. (Learn more from the BBC.)
If you’re looking for local Muslim observances of the New Year in your part of the world, you may find quite a variance. For example, the United Arab Emirates are giving workers December 1 the day off work in a national celebration of both the New Year and the UAE’s 40th National Day.
Originally published at readthespirit.com, an online magazine covering religion and cultural diversity.