Atif Rashid, UK
“Verily, with Allah alone is the knowledge of the Hour. And He sends down the rain, and He knows what is in the wombs. And no soul knows what it will earn tomorrow, and no soul knows in what land it will die. Surely, Allah is All-Knowing, All-Aware.” (Surah Luqman, Ch.31: V.35)
Various cultures, nations and people act in different ways at the turn of the New Year. We’re used to seeing grand fireworks displays across the world with parties, drinking and raucous merrymaking on the last night of the year. This continues to persist, albeit scaled down because of the pandemic.
What does the world celebrate on 31 December? Is it that we made it through another year? Is it to say goodbye to it? Or is it just another excuse to go out and have a “good time”?
The Islamic New Year is on the first day of Muharram – the first month in the lunar Islamic calendar. Muslims will welcome the Islamic New Year 1444 with the sighting of the new moon at the end of July 2022.
The tenth day of Muharram is known as the Day of Ashura and commemorates Hazrat Noahas leaving the ark and Allah saving Hazrat Mosesas from the Egyptians. Muharram is also known as the month of remembrance and it is believed to be the most sacred month. Muslims are not allowed to fight during Muharram and make a special effort to fast, pray or ponder over their deeds. Many Muslims engage in prayer or take extra time to read the Quran during this month.
This is in contrast to secular traditions of partying, drinking and merrymaking with seemingly no purpose. Muslims are reminded to always be wary of what they’re sending forth for the future. What we do today has a direct impact on what happens to us in the future.
“O ye who believe! fear Allah; and let [every] soul look to what it sends forth for the morrow. And fear Allah; verily Allah is Well-Aware of what you do.” (Surah al-Hashr, Ch.59: V.19)
Since we don’t know what the future holds or what the New Year will bring, believers prepare for it with hope, prayer and resolutions. The purpose of Islam is to help one reform oneself and create a positive and observable change in life. This can’t happen without firm resolutions so New Year’s resolutions are one “secular” tradition we find in Islam also.
Most people break their New Year’s resolution within the first month, however. This is why the Holy Quran offers guidance and hope for those difficult periods when breaking a habit or permanently adopting a virtue becomes difficult. The Holy Quran records the advice of Hazrat Luqmanas that he gave to his son:
“‘O my dear son! observe Prayer, and enjoin good, and forbid evil, and endure patiently whatever may befall thee. Surely this is of those matters which require firm resolve.” (Surah Luqman, Ch.31: V.18)
Keeping to a resolution requires the belief that it will lead to a good end ultimately. This is why Allah reminds us that “If you believe and be righteous, you shall have a great reward.” (Surah Al-e-Imran, Ch.3: V.180)
When a person believes their actions will really produce the intended effects, only then do they have the determination and resolve to see their goal to the end. This is why belief has been made an essential prerequisite for achieving any objective, otherwise one would hardly have the conviction needed for achieving great tasks. So when Allah promises a great reward, it’s dependent on belief and constant effort towards the goal.
While making resolutions is commendable, keeping them is another matter. The Holy Prophetsa said, “Allah loves deeds which are done regularly, be they only a few.” (Sahih al-Bukhari)
The Quran teaches that mere pledge making is meaningless unless carried out in full. After all, God isn’t concerned with our words as much as our practical actions. The Holy Prophetsa preached what he practised and practised what he preached. This is the reason he was so successful in bringing others from degeneration to vast avenues of progress.
The Promised Messiahas advised:
“So first and foremost, mould your own hearts. If you desire to touch the hearts of others, then develop the power to do so by practising what you preach. Without practice, the force of words and human influence can be of no benefit. There are hundreds of thousands of people who make hollow statements. Many so-called Muslim clerics and scholars stand on pulpits and preach to others, declaring themselves to be representatives of the Holy Prophetsa and the heirs of the Prophets. They exhort people to refrain from arrogance and safeguard themselves from evil deeds, but one can gauge the quality of their own actions and behaviour by the degree to which their words have an influence on you.” (Malfuzat [English], Vol. I, p. 65)
He also instructed:
“Take heed of my words and remember well that a person’s speech can never influence others if it does not spring from a sincere heart and if it is bereft of the power of action. This is a significant proof in favour of the truthfulness of our Noble Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him. The success and influence that he commanded over the hearts is unparalleled in the history of the children of Adamas. All of this was achieved because there was perfect harmony between the words and actions of the Holy Prophetsa.” (Malfuzat [English], Vol. I, p. 66)
In this regard, the Khulafa have given guidance and set beautiful examples for us on how best to start the New Year.
Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, Khalifatul Masih Vaa reminds us to consider what efforts we’ve made to achieve the purpose of our lives in the previous year and what pledges we have made for the next one.
During his Friday Sermon on 1 January 2010, Huzooraa said:
“Today, God has given us an opportunity to adorn the very first day of the year with prayers. Pray for yourself, for your family, for Ahmadiyyat, the true Islam. Pray for the environment, for society and your country. A true believer prays for the country of which one is a citizen. These are the obligations that Ahmadis are entrusted with. Now, the permanence of the world, of mankind is with the prayers of an Ahmadi and it leads to Paradise. However, if we are not treading these paths ourselves, how can we show the way to the world?” (www.alislam.org/friday-sermon/2010-01-01.html)
During another sermon, Huzooraa said:
“We need to self-reflect how much we fulfilled our pledges last year and if there were any deficiencies how can we make good this year. The Promised Messiah, on whom be peace, said: ‘Only that person joins our Jamaat who makes our teaching his modus operandi and puts it in practice according to his strength and endeavour.’” (www.alislam.org/friday-sermon/2015-01-02.html)
Once, in his youth, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IVrh happened to be at a London train station on New Year’s Eve. When it was time for the New Year, he took a newspaper and placed it on the floor and performed some nawafil (voluntary prayers). After finishing, he saw an Englishman in tears watching him. He asked him what the matter was and the Englishman replied, “The whole world is getting drunk and you are the only one that remembers God at this time”.
The UK, with its Christian roots, is familiar with the value of prayer but has lost conviction in its efficacy. Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmadrh said Ahmadi youth should never care if people laughed at them; instead, we should always try to do the right thing as we are only answerable to God.
At the turn of 2022, there is more uncertainty than ever about the future of the world. New Year’s celebrations have been scaled down and lockdowns loom amid the new Covid variant. If there was ever a time to start the New Year with prayer and prostration rather than parties and pretensions, it is now.