3 Things You Need To Know About Awal Muharram


Farah Fazanna •  Jul 18, 2023

On Wednesday, 19 July 2023, Muslims in Malaysia will be celebrating Awal Muharram, the beginning of the Islamic New Year. Also known as Maal Hijrah, it marks the first day of the month of Muharram and is observed in many parts of the world as a public holiday including places like the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Malaysia as national holiday. Want to know more facts about the special day? Read on further!

1. The history and meaning of Awal Muharram

The month of Muharram is seen as the second holiest month, the first being Ramadan. As mentioned earlier, Awal Muharram is also knowns as Maal Hijrah, where the word Hijrah is derived from an Arabic word that means moving or emigrating. The month Muharram concurs with the migration of Prophet Mohammed from Mecca to Medina in the year 622AD. Prophet Mohammed needed to relocate because somebody had intentions to execute him. Consequently, the Prophet chose to go to a town known as Yathrib, which was 320 km north of Mecca. Yathrib is known today as Medina, which translates to ‘the city’. The Islamic calendar was introduced by Umar ibn Al-Khattab, a close companion of Prophet Mohammed, in 638AD. In accordance with the Islamic calendar, Awal Muharram is the beginning of the New Year for Muslims.

2. Freedom and unity in Medina

Credit: Adli Wahid on Unsplash

Another reason why this month is considered holy is that the Hijrah signified freedom from suffering for the Muslims in Mecca. When the Prophet emigrated to Medina, Muslims there were indirectly saved from further persecution by the Meccan pagans. During this time, the Prophet restructured the state administration. Jews and Muslims lived in harmony, and, for the first time in world history, a multi-racial and multi-religious state performed and adhered to laws by which all races had equal rights and citizenship. The stability and strength of the community depended on a stable economy and education and so the Prophet made necessary efforts to end economic exploitation and to educate the Muslim community.

3. How Awal Muharram is celebrated in Malaysia

This month is the best time for voluntary fasts and for charitable acts. The Muslims will celebrate the holiday by attending prayer sessions in their mosque and spending time with family. The main emphasis is on reflection, remembrance and gratitude, say religious scholars. Muslims in Malaysia would prepare sweet rice porridge, referred to as Bubur Asyura (Asyura porridge), and eat it together with friends and relatives for breakfast. Awal Muharram is a solemn occasion for self-reflection and prayer. We hope you had a great time celebrating with your friends and family.