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Islamic New Year

Islamic New Year 2017 and 2018

In UAE, as in many Muslim countries, Islamic New Year is a public holiday. It falls on the first day of the month Muharram, the first month of the Islamic lunar calendar, and is also known as “Al Hijra” (“flight”) because of the flight of Muhammad from Mecca to Medina on this day.

Update: The UAE Federal Authority for Government Human Resources has announced that the Islamic New Year will be celebrated on 21 Sep 2017 (Thursday).

YearDateDayHoliday
201721 SepThuIslamic New Year
201811 SepTueIslamic New Year
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The flight followed the initial rejection by the people of Mecca of the Islamic religion, which Muhammad had brought to them, and is a major event in the history of Islam.

Islamic New Year varies in date from the perspective of the Gregorian Calendar used commonly around the world. According to that calendar, the Islamic New Year moves about 11 days per year. The exact date is never certain, since each country announces it based on moon sightings, but it can generally be predicted with great accuracy. Also note that Islamic New Year begins around 6pm, for the Islamic day always starts after sunset.

The first month of year, Muharram, is considered a time for remembrance of important events of the past and a time of mourning and reflecting on the wrongs of the past. The whole month is considered holy, so no one is permitted to fight during Muharram.

However, in 680 A.D., Muhammad’s grandson Husayn ibn Ali did engage in war on the first of Muharram. He fought and won the Battle of Karbala on the day, but on the 7th of Muharram, his water supply was cut off. Three days later, on the 10th of Muharram (“the Day of Ashura”), he died of thirst. Some Muslims fast and mourn for him on the 10th of Muharram, even though he clearly violated the “rules of the month”.

As to Islamic New Year’s Day itself, it is an off-work day for UAE public sector employees, and in some parts of UAE, alcoholic beverages may not be legally sold for the duration of the day. There really aren’t the grand fireworks displays and massive festivities during Islamic New Year that you see on Western New Year’s Eve and Day. In fact, there are often more fireworks going off in Dubai on December 31st than on the first of Muharram. Instead, Muslims go to mosque and take time to relax, reflect, and even mourn on their New Year’s Day.