Last November 4, 2013 is the 1st day of Muhararam. It is called Amon Jadeed or the Islamic New Year.
Muharram is the first month in the Islamic calendar or Hijrah calendar. Unlike the typical New Year Celebrations that are observed by non Muslims in the west and in our country who follows the gregorian calendar which include ” boisterous gaiety and fireworks display, Muslims observe Muharram or the Islamic New Year with deep solemnity and reverence”.
On the day of Amon Jadeed, Muslims perform prayers and rituals including fasting which symbolizes discipline and restraint rather than individual gratification, extreme expression of joy. The reason behind this can be traced back to the events in the Islamic history about the life of the prophets of Islam which happened in the month of Muharram.
Based on Islamic history, the rituals practiced on Muharram are linked to two significant events that are relevant in defining Muslim practices and traditions. There are two major classification of Muslims, the Sunni and the Shia.
For most Muslims, specially the Sunni Muslims, it is an auspicious day because it is associates with the epic moment when Musa or Moses (A.S.) led his people to freedom from Egypt. Hence, it is a time to be thankful for the freedom and the blessings they have and look forward to the future with a spiritual renewal.
For the Shia Muslims on the other hand, it is a day of mourning, because they associate the advent of the New Year with Martyrdom of Imam Hussein bin Ali (AS for both of them), the grandson of Prophet Muhammad (SAW).
They therefore observe the day with mournful solemnity and expressions of grief to commemorate the suffering and martyrdom of Imam Hussein (AS). This day is commemorated on the 10th day of Muharram which is called Ashura.
The Hijrah calendar follows the lunar cycle, unlike the Gregorian calendar which is based on the solar cycle. Thus, the important days in Islam varies every year if we compare it to the gregorian calendar.
In the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao the Amon Jadeed is a regular holiday. Muslims in ARMM and the rest of the Philippines celebrate this day by participating in group prayer recitals at mosques and observe fasting starting on this day for 4 to 5 days onwards.
The old practices of our forefathers during Amon Jadeed is focus on expression of solidarity. People in the community gather at the mosques for morning prayers, after they have performed their ablutions and wear new clothes to welcome the Islamic New Year.
Looking at the semantics, the term Muharram is derived from ‘haram’ which means ‘forbidden’. Thus, Muslims are reminded to be conscious of the temptations and sins that we encounter and how to remain steadfast on the path of righteousness through the performance of obligatory and sunnah prayers.
Muslims also pay respect to the sacred virtues of love, compassion and kindness towards the brotherhood and gather for a ritual breaking of the fast with friends and family members.
My personal reflection on this day and the Muslim ummah in the Philippines opens a door of many challenges. What is a Muslim Filipino or Filipino Muslim today?
Even on the Muharram, rituals may differ between the Shia and Sunni Muslims. However, both unanimously considered that this day is the second holiest month in the Hijrah calendar. Looking at our commonality, Muslims recite prayers together with the rest of the community as a mark of solidarity, taking part in processions and observance of fasting.