Islam speaks directly to the human heart and calls us to a pure and simple worship of the One God, Allah. This was the call of Allah’s Messengers down through the ages, starting with Adam, the first man, and Noah, the first prophet.
In remembering the Islamic New Year (the Islamic year, based on a lunar calendar), we remember the migration of our Prophet (peace be upon him) and of the first Muslims as they left everything and moved from all that they had known in Makkah, to a new life at the service of Allah in Madinah.
More than just a journey, that first migration was a transformation. It marked a new stage in the development of Islam. Islam would not be a religion like any other. It would be a complete way of life.
As sincere believers today, we, too, are called to make that transformation of our own as we leave behind the errors of the past and move forward to a better life, submitting as Muslims to the will of Allah. The Prophet Muhammad tells us:
Hijrah will not cease until repentance becomes useless; and repentance will not become useless until the sun rises from the West. (Abu Dawud)
In those earliest days of Islam, after suffering great persecution at the hands of the tribe of Quraish in Makkah, it was finally revealed to the Muslim community by Allah that they should leave everything and migrate to a new place, where they would worship Allah freely and where Allah would become the center of their life and their city.
So it was that those first Muslims set off, with almost nothing, for a new life in Madinah. Those who had gone to live in Abyssinia returned and went with them.
At first, Prophet Muhammad was not told to leave. His every movement was watched by those ensnared in idol worship, seething with hatred for Islam and its Prophet.
When it was finally revealed that he, too, should make the journey, it was done under cover of darkness and with great secrecy, lest his enemies would kill him and stop the message of Islam from spreading.
Accompanied by Abu Bakr, the Prophet Muhammad managed to fool those who went after him once his departure became known, by taking shelter in a cave by night and by following routes that his pursuers would not have expected him to follow.
When he finally arrived in Madinah, the Muslims there had been waiting for days in anticipation of his arrival, sending scouts to announce his coming. It was a Jew from Madinah who announced the Prophet Muhammad’s arrival.
“O Arabs!” he said, “Here is your great man whom you have been waiting for!”
The singing and rejoicing reached a great climax and the Prophet entered the city.
Celebrating the Hijrah
This is the event we celebrate each Islamic New Year. Those celebrations are different from what happens throughout the world on New Year’s Eve.
When the clock strikes midnight on December 31, people all over the world jump and shout and sing and dance that another year is over, and that a new one is just beginning.
In London’s Trafalgar Square, revelers throw themselves into the icy cold waters of the fountains. The Eiffel Tower and Sydney Harbor Bridge are lit up by the colors of a thousand fireworks.
The reason behind celebrating the New Year varies among people. Some will be pleased that the old year has passed. Maybe during that year they experienced the loss of a loved one or they lost their job or their home.
A new year, for those people, can only be something to look forward to. Others will simply be looking for something better, a new chance, a new start.
The Islamic New Year will not be accompanied by any balloons or fireworks or jumping into ice-cold fountains. For Muslims, it is not a feast at all.
Sincere believers throughout the world, though, will reflect on the meaning of the Islamic New Year and will take great comfort from it, they know that Allah Almighty is in charge of times and seasons and that He cares for His Creation with an infinite care. Islam calls all people to worship Allah:
He is the Lord of the heavens and the earth and everything that is in between them. Worship Him alone, then, and remain steadfast in His worship. Do you know any whose name is worthy to be mentioned side by side with His? (Quran 19:65)
Islam, as we all know, comes from an Arabic root word which means both “submission” and “peace,” Muslims are those who submit to Allah. What more potent symbol of that submission could there be than our Hijrah?
As Muslims we are always on the move. We may live in this or that place, but our destination is to be with Allah for all eternity. This is our goal, the destination of our Hijrah.
In the Quran we read:
Whosoever migrates for the cause of Allah will find much refuge and abundance in the earth, and whosoever forsakes his home, a fugitive unto Allah and His Messenger, and death overtakes him, his reward is then incumbent on Allah. Allah is ever Forgiving, Merciful. (4:100)
We are asked to put our trust in Allah alone. If we can reach the stage where our only hope is in Allah, then all the world’s wars and economic crises will not harm us or leave us in despair, as it does for those without faith, but will allow us to cry out that “there is neither strength nor power save in Allah.”
In another verse in the Quran we read:
To those who leave their homes in the cause of Allah, after suffering oppression, We will assuredly give a goodly home in this world; but truly the reward of the Hereafter will be greater; if they only realized (this)! (16:41)
So our Hijrah is yet another chance for Muslims to become better people. In this world we are struggling against personal weakness and struggling against the power of the world itself and striving towards heaven.
Neither blockades nor invasions can destroy the resolve of Muslims. This Hijrah we are called to leave old ways behind drawing all our help and sustenance from Him. We are called to destroy all the idols which remain in our hearts and to worship Allah with a pure worship.
And if, as Muslims, we are able to do this, the mighty powers of this world will sit up and take notice of the sweet and gentle message of Islam, and the Muslim Ummah will rise up once more, an Ummah justly balanced, not straying to right or to left, but adhering to the straight path, the path of Islam.
Happy New Year, insha’ Allah.
(From Reading Islam’s archive.)