Muslims in Pasadena will celebrate Muharram, the start of the new year in the Islamic calendar, with a solemn gathering this Friday.
Sheikh Asim Buyuksoy, Director of Religious Affairs of the Islamic Center of Southern California, will be leading regular daily prayers in Pasadena and will also explain why the month of Muharram is one of the four sacred months in the Muslim calendar.
“It’s going to be like a potluck-style dinner, and then I’m going to lead the fourth prayer, which is called Sal?t al-Ma?rib,” Sheikh Buyuksoy said. “And then after the prayer, I’m going to say a few words about the significance of the first of Muharram. That will be it. And then people will socialize on these.”
The beginning of Muharram varies from year to year because it depends on the sighting of the crescent moon, which this year is around July 28.
For many Muslims, the sacred month that kicks off each new year is a time of mourning and reflection: it is the anniversary of the summer of 622 C.E. when the Prophet Muhammad and his followers are said to have migrated in secret from Mecca to Medina.
That migration, also known as Hijrah, was an attempt to escape religious persecution, and the date is widely seen as the beginning of Islam both as an organized religion and a political institution.
“In general, this is not something that you gather together to celebrate,” Sheikh Buyuksoy said. “Some do, but it’s not part of the ritual or the worship. The idea is there’s no specific worship or celebration for these. The only thing that we see or experience is someone who is knowledgeable about Islam or the topic gives speech. And then at the end he shares why this event is so significant and what we can learn from it.”
The month is also significant because one day, on the 10th of Muharram, the Prophet Mohammad saw the Jewish people fasting to commemorate Exodus, when Moses — called Musa in Arabic — led the Israelites out of Egypt.
“We love the Prophet Moses as well, and that’s how we also celebrate one of the more significant events in this month,” said the Sheikh. The other major event of the month, he said, is the martyrdom of Mohammad’s grandson, Hussein, who was killed in a battle near what is now Karbala in Iraq.
“It’s a heartbreaking event,” Sheikh Buyuksoy said. “We remember that incident as well and we of course learn from the lesson that peace is the only solution, and justice and brotherhood.
In Pasadena, the event observing the start of Muharram on Friday will be held at the New Horizon School at 651 Orange Grove Blvd.