Party Like It's 1428 (A.H.)!
Confused? Don't be. It's hardly worth it because I have a day off from work and in my world, that's all that really matters. If the ringing in of the New Year is incumbent on a pack of wild female hyenas viewing the total eclipse of Pluto as they run counter clockwise around a palm tree then so be it. I have a holiday.
And what was New Year's Eve like in this, the capital city of
In my grab-bag of adjectives, I am tempted to pull out the word "comatose" to describe the city’s demeanour on this auspicious morning but that wouldn't be accurate: a car just passed by outside my window. Perhaps I’ll try "sedate". And I could live with sedate if by sedate it meant "woefully hungover". But it does not. Sedate means just that.
Now I appreciate that the passing of a year means different things to different cultures, and that each has its own customs to ring out the old & ring in the new. I get that – I am not as ethnocentric as I might lead you to believe. But the fact that religion and culture are so inextricably entwined in Muslim societies doesn’t help matters much. Muharram is counted from the year of the Hegira – hence the suffix A.H. (anno Hegirae) used in dates – when Muhammad emigrated from Mecca to Medina, and is generally observed with prayers and readings. For Shias, Muharram is a month of mourning because it marks the martyrdom of Imam Hussein. Well, why not?
So, foolishly, I keep trying to find the joy here – the roll-up-your-trouser-cuffs-and-jump-in-a-fountain-and-dance-like-a-fool sort of joy – that I see elsewhere in the world. A joy that is not predicated on slicing the throat of a ruminant and bringing out the kids to watch as it thrashes about in the death throes of the dying. So perhaps I’ll just stop trying.
But there is hope: if you allow a brief indulgence in etymologies, we learn that the name of the month (Muharram ul haram in its entirety) is derived from the word “haram” (forbidden) and as such, it is illegal to fight during the holy month. No armed conflict for a month? No suicide bombers? No bickering? No sticks & stones?
That’s joy enough.
I am mindful that next month will usher in the Year of the Pig according to the Chinese calendar. We’ll have to see how the Muslim world fares under the auspices of this most generous and honourable but decidedly haram creature.