SAN FRANCISCO, CA –
Beginning this past Wednesday night (9/20) and extending until dusk Thursday (9/21), Rosh Hashana, Ras as-Sanah, رأس السنة الهجرية, lunar new year, Hijri new year, or whatever we call it in our myriad languages and traditions, was upon us.
This is an interesting day and period of the year to reflect on. For a Muslim, this day is the first day of the first month in the lunar calendar, Muharram. The year is now 1439 AH, or after Hijra.
There is a built in homage payed to the migration, or Hijra (هِجْرَة) in Arabic, from Mecca to Medina by the seal of Prophets, Muhammad, peace upon him, as the first year of the calendar corresponds with the year he left his hometown for a new city to call home.
Our cousins in faith, those who follow the Judaic path, call this first day of their lunar calendar Rosh Hashana. This is the Hebrew term for new year, or literally “head of the year.” The Arabic term Ras as-Sana (رأس السنة) sounds almost identical and holds the exact same meaning.
This is not surprising as both faiths follow a lunar calendar and their devotional languages are born out of the same region.
The similarities don’t end there, though.For Jews, Yom Kippur (Arabic: Yawm Kibeer – يوم كبير) is arguably the holiest day of the year. Jewish people traditionally observe this holy day with an approximate 25-hour period of fasting among other acts of worship.
It comes as the tenth day after Rosh Hashana. The period in between the two days is called the Ten Days of Repentance in which repentance, prayer, and charity are encouraged.
For Muslims, the beginning of the new year comes with an intriguingly similar tradition.
The tenth day after the new year, the tenth of Muharram, is known to Muslims as ‘Ashura’ (عاشوراء). Among many reported events that took place on this day, God saved Moses, peace upon him, and the children of Israel from Pharaoh on the tenth of Muharram.
Muslims fast ‘Ashura’ and preferably one day before or after it to commemorate that great mercy from God.
Additionally, there are many reports on the blessed nature of the month of Muharram and the first ten days of the month as well. Fasting, prayer, charity, and repentance are always encouraged, but especially so during this blessed time.
How both traditions serve as such great mirrors to each other during this period of the year is a great lesson and a beneficial one to reflect on.