When the Islamic and Jewish New Years intersect

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This year sees the alignment of main holy days in the Jewish and Islamic calendars – Rosh Hashanah, which translates as the ‘beginning of the year’ in Hebrew, began at sundown on September 20, marking the start of 5778 on the Jewish lunar calendar, lasting for two days.

The Islamic New Year of Al-Hijra marks the first day of the month of Muharram, which marks the Hijrah, when in 622 CE, the Prophet Muhammad and his companions migrated to Mecca moved from Medina, begins on September 21, which in the Islamic calendar year is Muharram 1,1439 Hijri.

Both Abrahamic faiths use the lunar calendar, which falls short of the solar calendar, to remedy this shortfall, both the Islamic and Jewish calendars have, when needed, inserted an extra day or month in their respective calendars to align closer to the solar cycle.

For Muslims, this low-key affair puts focus on what the Hijrah means, to understand how the spiritual and earthly life are bound together in devotion and obedience to God, in the first Islamic community, where the strength of this bond was proven by the actions of the Prophet Muhammad, who, by turning away from the norms of his own tribe, gave an example to his companions that the bonds of Islam were stronger.

Rosh Hashanah celebrates the creation of the world, and a day of judgement, where Jews believe that God weighs up the good and bad deeds of a person from the previous year, and decides what the year ahead will bring them.

The Jewish New Year also offers time to reflect on the bonds between God and humans, to consider optimism when faced with adversity, to seek forgiveness, and ponder more existential questions about achievements over the year, and what a person holds most dear.

Rosh Hashanah begins with the blowing of the ritual ram’s horn (Shofar), in Hebrew, the term derives from the verb שפר, which means to enhance, improve and succeed.

Muslim and Jewish communities welcome in the new year with sweet dishes in the hope of a sweet and prosperous year ahead.

This post initially appeared on Faith Matters.

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