• FEATURE

    For Muslim Filipinos, New Year is a social obligation

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    Last night before the clock struck midnight, majority of Filipinos were waiting for the New Year countdown with much excitement as the first day of the Gregorian Calendar, January 1, 2017 or Rabi’ul-Akhir 3, 1438 in the Muslim Calendar known as Hijra, began.

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    Some Muslim religious scholars are of the belief that it is not permissible for a Muslim to celebrate the New Year which is a Christian tradition considering that they have their own New Year, known as the Amun Jadid.

    In an exclusive interview with the Chairman of the Imam Council of the Philippines, which is akin to the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), Aleem Said Ahmad Basher told The Manila Times that Muslim Filipinos in particular may celebrate the New Year as part of their social obligations but not as a religious compliance.

    “The New Year that was celebrated last night by all people throughout the world, including the Philippines, could be part of a social obligation but not a religious duty. Nowhere is it mentioned in the Holy Qur’an or the Hadith or sayings of Prophet Mohammad that Muslims are enjoined to celebrate New Year,” Aleem Basher emphasized.

    NEW YEAR'S EVE SPECTACLE Fireworks display ushers in the first day of the year. PHOTO BY DJ DIOSINA

    NEW YEAR’S EVE SPECTACLE Fireworks display ushers in the first day of the year. PHOTO BY DJ DIOSINA

    Basher, a graduate of Kolliyatu Da’wah from the College of Islamic Propagation in Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt, explained that Islam is a religion of peace, tolerance, harmony, and humanity where its followers are enjoined to perform three duties – to God, to himself, and to others.

    Hence, if there were some Muslim Filipinos who celebrated the New Year last night, in the same manner they celebrate their own Amun Jadid New Year, just like the Filipino Chinese celebrating their Chinese New Year, they were just showing respect or pakisama (sense of belongingness) with their non-Muslim neighbors.

    Muharram is the first month where Muslims are supposed to celebrate their New Year. Hence, the Islamic New Year is on the first day of Muharram, the first month in the lunar Islamic calendar, which differs from the Gregorian calendar.

    Basher said since the Islamic calendar is based on the lunar month, which is roughly 29 days, it usually ends up being about 11 days shorter than the Western calendar. The calendar used in the West, the Gregorian or Christian calendar, is a solar calendar that is based on the earth’s 365-day year.

    In as much as the Western calendar is based on an Earth year, its months are divided somewhat arbitrarily, and February is a month with an irregular number of days. By contrast, the Islamic year is 354 or 355 days long based on the moon’s cycle, and each month is either 29 or 30 days long, Aleem Basher further explained.

    Is it permissible?
    According to Basher, Islam ordains Muslims to treat non-Muslims kindly. However, it warns against imitating them.

    One of the basic principles of Islam is “Islamic ethics,” which is described and emphasized in many Quranic verses and sayings of the Blessed Prophet Muhammad (PUBH).

    He said Islamic morals teaches Muslims to “treat (people) kindly and justly” no matter where they are from or what they believe in as long as they do not fight against them.

    While Islam ordains Muslims to treat all people without discrimination except those who are hostile to Islam, it also urges Muslims to “take care in their relations with non-Muslims in order not to weaken in their Islamic belief, consciousness and identity. ”

    Imitation of creed
    Basher, who hails from the Islamic City of Marawi said that under the belief of Islamic teachings, a person who has accepted the basic tenets of Islam will be weakened if he celebrated Christmas too.

    So it is not permissible for a Muslim to celebrate the New Year which is a Christian tradition.

    Other Muslim religious scholars agreed that a Muslim performing an action of another religion willingly is committing blasphemy.

    They said it is not permissible for a Muslim to join in the celebrations of holidays of other religions, to congratulate each other, buy and eat turkey for instance for that occasion, to give presents and to have a feast. If a person insists on committing these actions and does not repent, his or her faith is in serious danger.

    Therefore for a Muslim to sit with these people, help them cut and cook for the feast makes him or her a sinner.

    Muslims on New Year’s Eve
    On New Year’s Eve, a lot of events happen that Allah would not consent to. It would be preferable for a Muslim to worship in a way that Allah would be pleased. Starting on the New Year a Muslim can evaluate his or her actions from the previous year that are acceptable or not to Allah.

    Finally, Basher said any celebration by Muslims needs to be put into context based on the local and global situation of human beings. The two Eids (Eid’l Fitr and Eid’l Adha) amply do so by encouraging prayers, or “duwaa” for those suffering and alms to the needy. However, celebrating the New Year does no such thing.

    He cited the starvation in Somalia, the murder in Aleppo, Syria, the imprisonment of Gaza, the ethnic cleansing of Burma – and where celebrating the New Year is pretty much exactly the opposite of the “fever and wakefulness” that the Prophet spoke about when he said we were like one body.

    Every year, a large number of Muslims get into the festive spirit and celebrate New Year’s day. either through a Facebook status, social media message or holding New Year’s Eve parties. While it may be a harmless cultural practice with no Islamic faith based significance, Muslims joining the New Year revelry take a wrong direction, many Muslim religious scholars concluded.

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