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Muharram/Islamic New Year in the United Kingdom

Muharram is the Islamic New Year. While the day itself is not celebrated as extensively as the Gregorian New Year, it marks the beginning of the holiest month of the year and a period of remembrance or mourning that culminates on Ashura nine days later.

Two praying men in a mosque.
For Muslims in the UK and around the world, the first day of Muharram is a day to pray and reflect on one's life.
©iStockphoto.com/FS-Stock

Muharram in the Islamic Calendar

The Islamic New Year falls on the first day of Muharram, the first month of the Islamic calendar.

Muslims use a lunar calendar which differs in length from the Gregorian calendar used worldwide. This means the Gregorian date of Muslim holidays, including Muharram, shifts slightly from one year to the next, falling about 11 days earlier each year.

Muharram Date Depends on Moon Sighting

The timing of Muslim months and holidays depends on the sighting of the Crescent Moon following the New Moon. Because the Moon's visibility depends on clear skies and a number of other factors, the exact date for Muharram cannot be predicted with certainty.

Also, since the Moon is never visible in all world regions at once and current local dates can vary from one country to another, the holiday may fall on different dates according to a country's longitude and time zone. Depending on their country of origin or cultural affiliation, some Muslims in the UK may, therefore, celebrate Muharram one day earlier than others.

Is Muharram a Public Holiday?

While Muharram is marked by many Muslims in the United Kingdom, there are no bank holidays associated with this particular date. However, since the Gregorian date of Muslim holidays changes every year, Muharram can fall on other UK bank holidays.

Some Muslim-owned businesses may close or have reduced opening hours on this day. UK schools generally do not give their students the option to take the day off on Muharram.

Muharram in the UK

The month of Muharram is generally deemed the holiest of the year, even more so than Ramadan, and many Muslims in the UK spend its first day praying and reflecting on their lives. However, the first day of Muharram is a relatively minor celebration, so it usually goes largely unnoticed by the general public.

Mourning of Muharram

During the first ten days of Muharram, Shia Muslims commemorate the martyrdom of Husayn ibn Ali, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad. Often called the Mourning of Muharram or Remembrance of Muharram, this is a period of intense mourning which is expressed in a number of rituals that culminate on Ashura.

For Sunni Muslims, on the other hand, this is a period of remembrance and fasting, marking the day Noah left the Ark and the day Moses was saved from the Egyptians.

How Is Muharram Marked in Other Countries?

The customs and rituals associated with Muharram vary greatly from one country, community, and branch of Islam to the next.

Who Celebrates Muharram in the UK?

With nearly 2.8 million Muslims living in the United Kingdom, which equals about 4.8% of the population, Islam constitutes the second largest religion in the country, after Christianity. The largest Muslim community can be found in London. The municipalities of Bradford, Luton, Blackburn, Birmingham, and Dewsbury also have significant Muslim populations.

The great majority of Muslims in the UK are Sunni; adherents of the Shia tradition amount to only 5-8% of the country's total Muslim population.

About Muharram/Islamic New Year in other countries

Read more about Muharram/Islamic New Year.

Muharram/Islamic New Year Observances

Note: Regional customs or moon sightings may cause a variation of the date for Islamic holidays, which begin at sundown the day before the date specified for the holiday. The Islamic calendar is lunar and the days begin at sunset, so there may be one-day error depending on when the New Moon is first seen.

YearWeekdayDateNameHoliday TypeArea
2010WedDec 8Muharram/Islamic New YearMuslim 
2011SunNov 27Muharram/Islamic New YearMuslim 
2012ThuNov 15Muharram/Islamic New YearMuslim 
2013TueNov 5Muharram/Islamic New YearMuslim 
2014SatOct 25Muharram/Islamic New YearMuslim 
2015ThuOct 15Muharram/Islamic New YearMuslim 
2016MonOct 3Muharram/Islamic New YearMuslim 
2017FriSep 22Muharram/Islamic New YearMuslim 
2018WedSep 12Muharram/Islamic New YearMuslim 
2019SunSep 1Muharram/Islamic New YearMuslim 
2020ThuAug 20Muharram/Islamic New YearMuslim 

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