Awal Muharram (also called Maal Hijrah) is considered as the New Year celebration according to the Islamic calendar, and is one of the national holidays observed in Malaysia (a national holiday is observed and celebrated by the whole country, while a public holiday can be observed by just one of a few states in the nation). In English, the word “Awal” means “beginning”, while “Muharram” is the first month of the Islamic year that consists of 12 months and lasts for 354 days. For 2012, Awal Muharram will fall on November 15, which is a Thursday.
How is Awal Muharram Celebrated in Malaysia?
Muslims in Malaysia start the commemoration of a brand-new year with reflections on the year that has passed, and with resolutions and plans on making things even better for the coming year. There are no specific or grand celebrations that are associated with Awal Muharram, unlike the Western New Year’s celebrations that come with colorful fireworks and abundant feasts. Awal Muharram is a day that is spent mostly on thinking of the things that were done during the past year and deciding which of these things should be changed, or can be retained, so that the new year can bring a life that is much better.
Muslims throughout Malaysia will mostly attend religious meetings and various related activities on Awal Muharram. The religious gatherings often consist of reciting verses from the Koran, spiritual singing, and the holding of sermons and special prayers in mosques or public halls.
The Awal Muharram celebration in Malaysia also includes bestowing the Tokoh Maal Hijrah – an award which is given to deserving, eminent individuals who are chosen in recognition of their significant contributions to the Islamic world.
The Awal Muharram History
The celebration of Awal Muharram started with the journey of the Prophet Muhammad on the year 622 AD, from Mecca to Medina. The other term for Awal Muharram, “Maal Hijrah”, means “migration” in English. The Prophet Muhammad’s migration was put into action because of information that there was an assassination plot against him. The plan was for Muhammad to go to a city called Yathrib, which was located around 320 kilometers north of Mecca. It is said that the lengthy journey was completed by Muhammad and his followers in only one night. The city where the journey ended, and where Muhammad and his followers finally migrated to, is now called Medina – renamed by Muhammad himself.
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