What is the Islamic New Year—and how is it celebrated?

The arrival of a new crescent moon heralds the beginning of a sacred month—and a period of mourning and reflection for many Muslims.

When the new crescent moon appears on July 28, 2022, Muslims around the world will celebrate the beginning of the Islamic New Year, also called the Arabic or Hijrī New Year. For many Muslims, Muharram, the sacred month that kicks off each new year, is a time of mourning and reflection.

Here’s an introduction to the holiday—what you need to know about its origins, how it’s observed around the world, and why it occurs in the middle of July.

Origins of the lunar calendar

The Islamic New Year takes place during the first month of the Hijrī, or Muslim lunar calendar. Though majority-Islamic countries are governed by the solar Gregorian calendar, the lunar calendar is used to calculate the dates of religious feasts and important observances such as the Hajj pilgrimage. Because the Hijrī relies on the movements of the moon, the Muslim calendar has just 354 or 355 days, making it about 11 days shorter than the solar Gregorian calendar with 365 days (366 in leap years).

Umar I, the second Muslim caliph, instituted the calendar in 639 C.E. as part of a broader attempt to standardize and organize Islamic life and traditions—and possibly so the calendar would stand apart from those used by other religions.

In the late 19th or early 20th century Iran, Shia Muslims mourn the death of Husayn ibn Ali, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammed who was killed at the Battle of Karbala in 680 C.E.PURCHASE GIFT OF LEONA SOUDAVAR IN MEMORY OF AHMAD SOUDAVAR, BRIDGEMAN IMAGES


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