Professor Marzia Dawlatzai on Muharram/Islamic New Year

By Kyna | December, 04, 2012

The Islamic New Year recently began, and this week, we have a post from a member of our own faculty, Dr. Marzia Dawlatzai, who explains this ancient tradition.

Dr. Marzia Hashem Dawlatzai is Aisha Bint Abu Bakr Professor of Women’s Studies and was born into a family of the Pashtun Tribe in Afghanistan.  She holds a M.Th. and Ph.D. in Islamic Studies from the GTF and a bachelor's degree (Faculty of Law) from Kabul University in Afghanistan.  She has worked for many years with the U.S. Military and with Pashtun tribal children.  To read her complete biography, please visit her faculty profile.

Muharram/Islamic New Year 2012

The Islamic calendar is lunar, like the Jewish calendar, with 12 months of 29 or 30 days each, for a total of 354 days.  The Islamic calendar makes no corrections to align itself with the solar calendar, so each year the Islamic holidays occur earlier and do not always fall in the same season.

The first day of the Islamic New Year is celebrated on the first day of Muharram.  Al Hijra is the day when Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) began his migration from Mecca to Medina in Islamic Year 1 (1 AH), 622 CE; the Day of Ashura (or Ashurah) is known as the most sacred day in the month of Muharram.  It is the 10th day of Muharram and is a day of fasting for many Sunni Muslims.  Many Shi’a Muslims use the day to commemorate the martyrdom of Husain Ibn Ali in 680 CE.  Some Muslims give to charity on this day.

The way the Muslims celebrate New Year’s Day is very different from other New Year celebrations; they gather in mosques and offer special prayers and listen to special readings from the Holly Kora’an.  An important part of the prayer service is the narration of the HIGRA’A of the Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) from Mecca to Madina.  Muslims are supposed to reflect on their lives, the manner in which they are leading their lives and about their own morality.  The day is spent in prayer and reflection.  There are no celebrations that Muslims normally associate with New Year’s Day and is known as “Maal Hijraa”.  A number of Muslims have taken to sending greeting cards to each other on this day.


Bismillaah ir Rahmaan ir Rahim In the Name of Allah “swt”, The Most Merciful, The All Merciful.  As Salaamu ‘Alaikum, the peace be upon you, Everyone.

The months of the Islamic year are:

1.   Muharram (“forbidden” – it is one of the four months during which it is forbidden to wage war or fight)

2.   Safar (“Empty” or “Yellow”)

3.   Rabia Awal (“First Spring”)

4.   Rabia Thani (“Second Spring”)

5.   Jumaada Awal (“First freeze”)

6.   Jumaada Thani (“Second freeze”)

7.   Rajab (“To respect” – this is another holy month when fighting is prohibited)

8.   Sha’ban (“To spread and distribute”)

9.   Ramadan (“Parched thirst” – this is the month of daytime fasting)

10. Shawwal (“To be light and vigorous”)

11. Dhul-Zi’dah (“The month of rest” – another month when no warfare or fighting is allowed)

12. Dhul-Hijjah (“The month of Haj” – this is the month of the annual pilgrimage to Makkah; again no warfare or fighting is allowed)


A happy and blessed Islamic New Year to all.

Dr. Marzia Dawlatzai

Aisha Bint Abu Bakr Professor of Women's Studies

(Visit faculty profile.)


Comments - 1 Response

1.  Ann V. Graber Friday, December 14, 2012 at 12:40:58 PM EST

Very informative. Thank you!

Leave a Comment

  1. (required)
  2. (required) (will not be published)