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What’s Awal Muharram & Why Is It A Public Holiday?

What’s Awal Muharram & Why Is It A Public Holiday?

Awal Muharram is the first day of the Islamic year and it signifies the migration of the Prophet Muhammad from Mecca to Medina.

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Awal Muharram is a public holiday here in Malaysia. Most Malaysians are thrilled about this holiday but some of us might not know why. What is Awal Muharram and why is it a national public holiday? Let us tell you all about it.

The start of a new year

Awal Muharram or Maal Hijrah is the first day of the Islamic calendar called the Hijrah/Hijri Calendar. In the Islamic New Year, the first month is called Muharram and it is the second most holy month of the Islamic year, after Ramadan where Muslims fast for a month.

What Maal Hijrah means

Maal Hijrah in simple terms means moving or migrating in Arabic. This is because Prophet Muhammad PBUH migrated from Mecca to Medina in the year 622 AD. The migration was seen as a pivotal event that changed the history of Islam and hence, the date is made to be the starting month of the Islamic year by Prophet Muhammad’s companion, Umar ibn Al-Khattab later on in 638AD after the Prophet died in 632AD.

(Credit: ojosujono96 / Freepik)

At the time, Muhammad migrated from Mecca to a town called Yathrib, 320 km north of Mecca to avoid persecution from the then-still pagan Makkans.

By then, most Makkan Muslims already migrated to Yathrib. The Prophet and his close companions were the last to follow and successfully avoided an assassination attempt on the fateful date.

Some citizens in Yathrib who were already Muslim converts welcomed the Prophet with open arms and the town was later called Medina, meaning, the city of the Prophet.

The significance of it

The migration signified freedom from suffering for Muslims in Mecca and indirectly allowed Islam to expand and grow significantly. There in Madinah, the Prophet created a city-state administration where Muslims lived in harmony with local Jews, pagans and others in the city.

With an increasing number of Muslims and more stability later on, the Prophet later came back to Mecca with his loyal followers and won back the place that hosts the holiest and most sacred building for many, the Kaaba.

Self-reflection, Fasting & Ashura Porridge

Nowadays, Muslims all over the world celebrate the Islamic new year by remembering the great migration that makes Islam what it is.

As it is a public holiday to commemorate the day, Malaysians celebrate Maal Hijrah by focusing on self-reflection, praying, giving alms, remembrance and gratitude. They attend prayer sessions and spend time with their family.

As Muharram is the second holiest month after Ramadan, a lot of people fast during this month too, especially on the 10th day of Muharram, called the Ashura day.

(Credit: @syzwniblqs / Twitter)

To celebrate the occasion, they’ll have a porridge called Bubur Ashura which is a sweet and grainy porridge that has lots of ingredients in it. Some say that Ashura porridge was born based on the story of the great flood during the time of the Prophet Noah. After the flood, much of the edible food left was mainly grains and dried fruits, so they combined everything together and cooked it into a porridge that is known as Ashura.

All in all, Maal Hijrah is a very important day for Muslims worldwide. The way they celebrate may be different but they all focus on the main gist of migrating, which is to start anew and improve themselves to be a better servant of God.

READ MORE: Do You Know Where Bubur Lambuk Came From? Let’s Get Down To History

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