Monday, 12 December 2011

Islamic New Year and the Importance of Muharram

Imam Hafiz Abdullah Muhammad and Reverend George Hargreaves speaking for peace, unity and restoration on the 10th Anniversary of 9/11 at Redbridge Carnival.

Around 40 visitors attended Imam Hafiz Abdullah's presentation on the importance of Muharram in the Islamic calendar.

A spirit of unity amongst diverse people.

On the 6th December 2011 a gathering of around 40 people from a diverse mix of at least 4 faiths, attended an interfaith meeting with guest speaker Hafiz Abdullah Muhammad from Ilford based "Quran Study Group."

The British Pakistani Christian Association together with other faith groups, are holding a series of similar events, to create a better awareness of the variety of faiths represented in our locality.  Our goal is to dispel myths about "other faiths" and to create a better awareness of festivals and practices, that local people might share the goodwill that enshrines such festivities.

Hafiz Abdullah spoke of the "cultural enrichment" that communities open to other faiths benefit from and commended the work of the BPCA in organising the meetings.  Our funding was gained very much as a result of the progressive partnerships we have with groups such as Quran Study Group, the British Sikh Council and the Hindu Human Rights Group.  We are grateful to all these groups.

In his address on the Islamic Calendar, Hafiz Abdullah described how the English word ‘month’ comes from the word moon and the Islamic Calendar is based on the Lunar Calendar that many Ancient Civilisations as well such as the Babylonians, Jews, Greeks, Egyptians, Aztecs, Indians and Chinese. Each month is just over 29.5 days long, the period it takes for the moon to complete a full cycle of the Earth.   The Islamic calendar is therefore 10-11 days shorter than the Gregorian Calendar.  A result of this is the difficulty to coordinate holidays in the UK, as Eid and other dates move forward by a week and a half each year.  An advantage of the Lunar Calendar is that religious periods such as Ramadan and Hajj are subject to climatic variations with "different length of hours in submission to Allah where human imagination plays no part."

Hafiz Abdullah informed us that the Islamic Calendar was initiated by the second Caliph Umar in 16 AH/ 637 AD.  He said:

"The event of the Hijrah, the migration of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) from Makkah to Madinah in 622 AD, was chosen to begin the Islamic Calendar."

Hafiz Abdullah explained when setting the calendar the Caliph and his advisors wanted to select an important event and it was believed that the Hijrah was the first major sacrifice made by the early Muslims for the preservation of Islam in its formative years.  He said;

"The Hijrah year reminds Muslims, every year, of the sacrifice made by the first Muslims and should prepare them to do the same."

Hafiz Abdullah described the period of Muharram, the first month of the Islamic Calendar and one of four sacred months.  He informed us that although not obligatory, it is recommended to fast during this period as there is Prophetic Tradition that states:

"The best fast, after Ramadan, is in the month of Muharram"

Hafiz Abdullah further explained that this fasting was originally done to thank God for liberating the ancient Jews from the oppression of the Pharaohs and the Jews remember this event during Passover.

Hafiz Abdullah also mentioned that the Prophet’s younger grandson Imam Hussain was tragically martyred on the 10th day of Muharram 680 AD.  He said;

“The heroic martyrdom of Imam Hussain demonstrates to Muslims the need to uphold justice and to fight against tyranny and evil.  They should be prepared to give their lives in similar cause if the need arises not just for Muslim's but for all people”. Hafiz described the peaceful message of the Quran and gave examples of the mercy shown by Prophet Muhammad (SAW) towards his enemies.  This is in total contrast to a minority of extremist people who carry out atrocities in the name of religion.  He also spoke about the tolerance of Islam and quoted the Quran (2:256):

"There is no compulsion in religion, for the right way is clearly from the wrong way”.

After the meeting, all visitors enjoyed a period of fruitful discussion over a warm buffet.   Hafiz Abdullah will be returning sometime in the New Year to present on other Islamic celebrations. 

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