Today is the beginning of Year 1429 in Islamic Calendar.
When you are free, you may pursue and defend your happiness. Even if your choices may land you in troubles and misfortunes, you have at least the opportunity to make that choice and to strike again for better outcomes. On the other hand, happiness without freedom is the happiness of slaves and pets, not free men and women. Therefore, I wish you freedom before happiness.
Many of us in Malaysia are aware of only two new years – that of Gregogian (Solar) Calendar and that of Chinese (Lunisolar) Calendar. Putting others in their own shoes, many Chinese tend to call festivals in other cultures as their new year days such that Hari Raya Aidil Fitri (Eid) becomes “Malay (Muslim) New Year” while Deepavali (Divali) becomes “Indian (Hindu) New Year” when those new year days are respectively Awal Muharram and April 14 (for Southern Indians as well as Thais, Burmese, Cambodians, and Laotians as I understand it).
On this auspicious day of Awal Muharram, may us not just enjoy the holiday brought by multiculturalism, but truly appreciate it. Awal Muharram has great meaning because the Prophet’s Hijrah (Migration) was commemorated here.
I googled and found this wonderful piece from M. Bakri Musa in 2006 when Awal Muharram and Chinese New Year were celebrated about the same time to share with you. (part of which is reproduced below) The good doctor advised us to stay away from the evils of corruption, dependency, drug abuse, dysfunctional families, and breaches of faith among officials.
That was written before the cause of electoral reform takes root.
My Awal Muharram wish is that Malaysia will soon “migrate” from the state of electoral authoritarianism to at least that of electoral democracy and ultimately to that of liberal democracy. Will you join me in this?
Hijjrah of the Heart and Mind (M. Bakri Musa)
The Prophet’s Hijrah (migration) from Mecca to Medinah on 622 CE was such a pivotal moment in Islamic history that Caliph Omar decided that the Muslim calendar, and hence Awal Muharram, should begin on that day. Historically, the migration actually took place during the third month.
Awal Muharram is not so much celebrated as observed. On this day, Muslims pause and reflect on that signal event in our history, and ponder its meaning and significance.
Hijrah means to move away from oppression, a bad place or situation. The symbolism of the new moon is particularly apt, the emergence from total darkness to ever increasing brightness under the soft luminescence of the moonlight.
Allah commands us not to accept the evil around or perpetrated upon us. In Surah Al Nisaa (4:97 – Women) (approximate translation), “When the Angels take the souls of those who die in sin, they [Angels] say, ‘In what plight were ye?’ They [sinners] replied, ‘Weak and oppressed we were on earth.’ They [Angels] say, ‘Was not the earth of Allah spacious enough for you to move yourself away from evil?’ Such persons will find their abode in Hell – What an evil refuge!”
The Prophet’s physical Hijrah is well known. Less well appreciated is his non-physical hijrah, when he moved his people away from the Age of Jahilliyah (Ignorance) with his divine messages. His physical Hijrah was a matter of days; his other hijrah consumed his total life after he received that first revelation.
The prophet’s physical Hijrah saw the Anzars (the Medinah natives) warmly welcoming and adopting the Muhajirins (the migrants following the prophet from Mecca). Through their unity and shared identity in that first Muslim community, the faith spread beyond. There is a particular lesson in this for Malaysia.
The early Muslims’ other hijrah saw servants paired with masters, and the rich with the poor. It emancipated the Arabs from a culture where female infanticide was the norm to one where women like Khatijah and Fatimah (the prophet’s wife and daughter respectively – May Allah bless them) have a special place in Islam.
I too have undertaken my own physical hijrah by coming to America. As wrenching an emotional decision as that was, it was the easy part. Now I must continue with the hijrah of my heart and mind.
Living in the heart of capitalism, it is easy to be caught up with the unbridled consumerism. I must constantly remind myself that in giving I am indeed receiving, and that zakat (charity) means purification. It is a continuous hijrah for me to live up to those ideals.
As a society, we too must undertake our own collective hijrah. Through the blessings of Allah, Malaysians are spared the horrors of having to undertake any mass migration, as the Afghans now have to in avoiding anarchy and tyranny of their homeland. However, the evils of corruption, dependency, drug abuse, dysfunctional families, and breaches of faith among officials are still with us. We have to undertake a hijrah of our collective hearts and minds to rid and keep us away from all such ills.
Thus, my third wish upon myself and others, Muslims and non-Muslims alike, is to undertake this mental and social hijrah to move ourselves away from these evils.