For more than six decades, the Muslim community in Nigeria have consistently clamored for the declaration of Muharram 1st, the first day of the month of the Islamic New Year (Hijrah/Lunar calendar) as a public holiday.
Many Muslims believe that the Hijrah calendar – which dated back to the migration of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) from Makkah to Madina in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, deserves a special status, similar to the one enjoyed by the Christian Gregorian calendar.
Investigations by Muslim News revealed that the agitation for the national holiday, which started about 60 years ago has yielded positive results, with five states – Jigawa, Kano, Osun Oyo and Sokoto recognising the 1st of Muharram as a public holiday.
As at 11:00pm Nigerian time on Sunday, Osun, Kano and Sokoto states declared Friday and Monday respectively as public holiday for the Muslims in the states to celebrate with their families and loved ones.
There was yet to be any word of cancellation from the two other states (Jigawa and Oyo) at the time of the filing this report.
The probable cancellation in Oyo state however should not come as a surprise because Muslims in the state had raised an alarm during the April 2019 gubernatorial election, alleging that Mr Seyi Makinde would among other things, cancel the yearly Hijrah holiday, return public schools to the missionaries and stop the use of Hijab once he emerged the State governor.
Governor Makinde, who was then the candidate of People Democratic Party (PDP) however denied all the allegations.
In less than six months at the helm of affairs, pundits said Mr Makinde has carried out his ‘first assignment’ by not recognising the Hijrah holiday, which usually comes with funfair and massive participation of the Muslim community and different schools across the states.
It would also be recalled that by this time last year (2018/1440AH), in addition to making strong demand that Muharram 1st be declared as public holiday, prominent Muslim organisations, including the Muslim Media Practitioners of Nigeria (MMPN), Muslim Community of Oyo State (MUSCOYS), the Federation of Muslim Women in Nigeria (FOMWAN) and the Muslim Students’ Society of Nigeria (MSSN) had issued press statements, congratulating Muslims.
“Muharram 1st is our own January 1st”, said the National president of MMPN, Alhaji AbdurRahman Balogun in his last year (1440 AH) message, adding that, “We want the Federal and State Governments alike to declare it a public holiday in the interest of fairness and religious harmony in Nigeria.”
A respected Muslim elder, the Chairman, Muslim Community of Oyo State, Alhaji Ishaq Kunle Sanni in his 1440 AH message, said the declaration and recognition of Hijrah was long overdue and called for its immediate implementation.
In an exclusive interview with the Muslim News in 2018, Prof Lakin Akintola, the Director of the Muslim Rights Concern insisted that MURIC would not back out of its quest to secure the Hijrah holiday for the Nigerian Muslims.
The eloquent and prolific writer who is always at the forefront of defending the rights of the Muslims in Nigeria said, “We demanded the recognition of 1st Muharram of every year for Muslims. It must be emphasized that Islamic organizations (not MURIC alone) have been making this demand through petitions and appeals dating back to the 60s, but successive administrations have turned the deaf ear to their pleas.”
Findings by Muslim News however revealed that as at today, Muharram 1st, there has been no Hijrah 1441 message from those notable Islamic figures in Nigeria, not even the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), an umbrella body for the Nigerian Muslims has spoken to remind the Federal Government on the Muslims’ demand for the Hijrah public holiday.
Surprisingly, in its recent 728-word Hijrah 1441 Goodwill message issued yesterday (Saturday) and signed by the Council Deputy-General Secretary, Prof Salisu Shehu on behalf of the President-General, the Sultan of Sokoto, the NSCIA didn’t give any prominence to the recognition of Muharram 1st as a national holiday.
So, why has no organisation demanded for Hijrah public holiday? Have the Muslims given up on their demands for special recognition for Hijrah, and have they succumbed to the Christian Gregorian calendar? These among many other questions are what observers and speculators ask.