Islamic New Year signifies a clean slate

by Beacon Staff • January 25, 2006

Al-Hijra begins the first month in the Islamic calendar.,As those New Year's resolutions to eat better and study harder are either falling into place or beginning to break, Muslims from Boston to Bahrain will celebrate another fresh start on Jan. 30, the first day of the Islamic New Year.

Al-Hijra begins the first month in the Islamic calendar. Because the Muslim calendar follows a lunar cycle, there are 354 days in a year, compared to the Western Gregorian calendar with 365. Each year, Al-Hijra begins 11 days earlier than the last.

Al-Hijra marks the day when Prophet Muhammad, who founded Islam, moved from Mecca to Medina in 662. Both cities are located in Saudi Arabia, however Medina was considered safer and more fertile.

According to the British Broadcasting Corporation, "The Quran uses the word 'Hijra' to mean moving from a bad place or state of affairs to a good one."

Al-Hijra, as the new year is called by Muslims, is considered relatively simple in comparison to other Islamic holidays, which typically involve fasting. Religious rituals are not required to observe the new year; however, observers may spend time visiting mosques as well as resolving to live better.

Helal Homaidan, a junior film major and Muslim, said that because the holiday is not religious, there isn't as much emphasis on celebrating it as other holidays.

"It's mainly just a way to observe the passing of time," Homaidan said. "It may have had more significance in the past to astronomers writing the calendar, but because everyone's on the solar calendar, it's not as big of a deal."

Homaidan is the leader of an Emerson-hosted group for Muslim students called I.C.E (Islamic Community of Emerson). It was established in 2001 by former students Rawan Zein and Nashmeen Moslehuddin. The two women wanted to promote awareness of their religion following the events of 9/11. Homaidan is now working with Rabbi Albert S. Axlerad, Chairman of the Center for Spiritual Life and I.C.E advisor, to engage more students in learning about the Islamic faith.

"I just want to be a resource for anyone interested in Islam, or any Muslim student coming to Emerson who may want more support," Homaidan said. "Boston is a culturally rich city, and there's a lot going on to become involved with."

Axelrad said that some of the planned activities include going out to eat, holding meals together and hosting guest speakers.

"The goal of I.C.E was to create a Muslim group that educates and doesn't get into politics," said Axlerad.