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Islamic New Year : what you should know about Hijra

Hijra celebrates the emigration of Muhammad in 622

Hijra celebrates the emigration of Muhammad in 622

This Tuesday, Muslims celebrate the Islamic New Year. This is the first day of the year in the Islamic calendar. But what do Muslims actually celebrate during this event, and how do they do it? Here's what you need to know about this landmark date in the history of Islam.

What do Muslims celebrate during the Islamic New Year?

The Islamic New Year – also called Hijri New Year – is an annual commemoration of the Hijra, which is the Arabic word for emigration or exile. This day celebrates the emigration of Muhammad in 622 from Mecca to the city of Yathrib, known today as Medina. In Yathrib, the prophet of Islam gathered with his companion their first community – or Ummah – around the same belief. The Hijri New Year celebrates, thus, the foundation of the Muslim community. This year, Muslims celebrate the year 1440 of the Islamic calendar.

When is the Muslim New Year?

In the Hijri calendar, the year starts on the 1st of the month of Muharram. Unlike the Gregorian solar calendar used in the West since 1582, the Hijri calendar is based on lunar months. In a year, there are 12 months with a duration of 29 to 30 days. Each month begins on the first crescent of a new moon. Thus, this calendar contains only 354 or 355 days. And that is why the dates of the new year, Ramadan and Aid al-Adha are, every year, shifted by ten or eleven days in the Gregorian calendar.

What do Muslims do on the Islamic New Year?

As in the Gregorian New Year, the Islamic New Year is a holiday in Muslim countries and is therefore, festive. In some Gulf countries such as the United Arab Emirates, for instance, fireworks are scheduled annually. More commonly, the Muslim New Year is celebrated with family or friends, gathered around a traditional meal. The dish  differs from one region to another. In North Africa, for example, it is a couscous or a meal made from cornet leaves, locally called Mloukhiya, accompanied by various cakes for deserts. In Indonesia a curry lamb is served.