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Muharram/Islamic New Year

The Islamic year lasts for about 354 days and consists of 12 months. Muharram is the first month and some Muslims mark the start of the Islamic year on the first day of Muharram. Many Muslims fast during daylight hours on the ninth and 10th or 10th and 11th days of the month to mark the Day of Ashura (Yaumu-l 'Ashurah). This is the anniversary of the death of Husayn ibn Ali, a grandson of the Prophet Muhammed.
Muharram New Year

There may be some congestion around mosques on some days, particularly in the evenings, during Muharram.


What do people do?

On the first day of Muharram, some groups of Muslims mark the first day of the Islamic year and others begin observing the Commemoration of Muharram. This marks the 10 days between the anniversaries of the battle of Karbala (currently in Iraq) and the death of Husayn ibn Ali in the year 680 CE.

The events of Muharram are commemorated in many ways in different Islamic denominations and cultures. However, it is common for Muslims to fast during the hours of daylight on the 10th day of the month, known as the day of Ashura, and also on the ninth or 11th day. Mosques may provide free meals (nazar) on these dates. In some countries, other events also take place and Muslim communities in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States may incorporate some aspect of these traditions when observing the Commemoration of Muharram.

In Iraq, Shi'a Muslims, may make a pilgrimage to the Imam Husayn Shrine, on the site of the grave of Husayn ibn Ali. In Iran, taziya (ta'zieh) or Condolence Theater are performed. During Muharram, these take the form of re-enactments of the battle of Karbala. In south Asia, similar events are known as such as marsiya, noha and soaz, tabuik or tabut. In Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, they are known as Hosay or Hussay and are attended by people from a variety of religions and cultures.

Shi'a Muslims, particularly those in Afghanistan, Bahrain, India, Iraq, Lebanon and Pakistan, may take part in remembrance parades or matam (matham). During matam, males gather in large groups on the streets to take part in ritual chest beating. In some areas, some participants also beat themselves with zanjir (metal chains fixed into handles), but this practice is controversial and has been banned by some civic and Islamic authorities.

Public life

The Islamic New Year is a public holiday in places such as (but not exclusive to) India, Indonesia, Jordan, Malaysia, and the United Arab Emirates. It is not a nationwide public holiday in countries such as Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom or the United States. However, Islamic businesses and organizations may have altered opening hours and there may be some congestion around mosques, particularly in the evening and at night.


Muharram is the first month in the Islamic year and a time of mourning and peace. It is forbidden for Muslims to fight during this month. A number of important events in Islamic history have occurred during this month. These include: the Battle of Karbala (currently in Iraq) in the year 680 CE, which enabled Husayn ibn Ali, a grandson of the Prophet Muhammed, and his army to enter the city on the first day of the month; the restriction of Husayn ibn Ali's access to water on the seventh day; and the death of Husayn ibn Ali and his clan (Ahl al-Bayt) on the 10th day of the month. The Shi'a and Sunni denominations of Islam attach different weights to these events and mark them in different ways.


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