The Islamic new year is coming up soon on July 19th! Islamic communities will be coming together in large celebrations and spending lots of time at the mosque attending special sermons and prayers. Here’s what Christians need to know and how they can connect with their Muslim friend during this time.
Why is the Islamic New Year different from our New Year?
Islam follows a separate calendar from the typical Gregorian calendar that western countries follow. While the Gregorian calendar is according to the earth’s trip around the sun in 365 days, the Islamic calendar, called the hijri calendar, is based on the lunar cycle. But unlike the lunar calendar, the hijri calendar’s months are not adjusted to stay at the same time of the season each year. For example, Ramadan started in 2010 on August 10th but in 2023 it started March 22nd.
The hijri calendar was created in 639 AD by the third Islamic caliph, Umar ibn al-Khattab, almost seven years after Muhammad’s death. He wanted to mark the beginning of Islam in the world and to separate Muslims from the Jewish and Christian calendars. Even though the calendar was created in 639 AD, the hijri calendar’s first year was 622 AD because that was when Muhammad completed his “hijrah” or migration to Medina.
The first month in the hijri calendar is Muharram, which is also what they call the special new years holiday. According to Islam, Muharram is the second holiest month after Ramadan, the month in which Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset. To celebrate Muharram, Muslims spend a lot of time in their mosques, praying and listening to sermons. But they also get together with their communities and loved ones and throw parties!
What can Christians do during Muharram to connect with their Muslim friend?
Don’t assume that because this is an Islamic holiday that you won’t be able to connect with your Muslim friend. They may be spending time with their family, but you can still reach out to them and let them know that you hope they have a joyful celebration with their loved ones.
Even more importantly, we as Christians need to be praying that God can open our Muslim friends’ eyes to the truth of what Islam is during their time at the mosque. God is able to reveal Himself to Muslims in miraculous ways, like in dreams and visions. Pray that this holiday might be the first time your Muslim friend can question Islam and begin their search for the true God.
Asking your Muslim friend questions is also a wonderful way to get them thinking about their Islamic traditions and start a conversation. Here are some examples to help:
- Do you have a favorite memory of celebrating Muharram with your family growing up?
- Does Muharram affect your relationship with Allah at all?
- What are you looking forward to in the new year?
If you get an opportunity to talk about your faith, there are a few things you can point out to your friend. First, you can talk about the excitement and responsibility that a new year can bring, and emphasize that you trust God with your future because you know He loves you. You can share a story of His faithfulness to you so your Muslim friend understands the personal relationship you have with the Creator!