The appearance of today’s title in this column once in a year often looks strange and even odd to most Nigerian readers because it does not come in January. In Nigeria, like in most other African countries south of the Sahara, the idea of ‘New Year’ is ignorantly believed to be peculiar to January which is the first month of Christian Gregorian calendar. That is the effect of colonial scar on the smooth body of our continent.
From whichever angle it is viewed, European colonialism has a thick Christian colouration that still portrays African culture in a rainbow of colonial Christian religion and tradition.
It is a well known fact that out of the 109 days of official religious holidays in Nigeria today, Islamic religion enjoys only five days as public holidays (two days for Eidul-Fitr, two days for Eidul-Adha and one day for Mawlidun-Nabiyy). The remaining 104 days are for Christianity.
At least, it is undeniable that in every one of the 52 weeks in a year, two days (Saturday and Sunday) are ceded to Christianity as religious holidays.
Yet, the Nigerian Christians continue to incessantly and maliciously allege islamization of the country especially whenever a Muslim becomes the President.
Even at the State level, the monotonously sour song of islamization gets loudest whenever a Muslim is elected as Governor. And the hatchet job is invariably done by the Christian dominated media. Incidentally, this irredentism originates mostly from the Southwest which is the main hub of Nigeria’s hate media despite the very large population of the Muslims that put them in the majority in the country.
Why this Article?
The event that motivated the writing of this article came up yesterday, August 20, 2020. That event was the celebration of the first day of Muharram. And, Muharram is the name of the first month of Islamic year of Hijrah calendar. That is an occasion that is yearly celebrated by millions of Muslims around the world, in commemoration of Prophet Muhammad’s triumphant entry into the city of Madinah as the climax of his emigration from Makkah for safety, following a plot to kill him in Makkah by the pagans of that city, in 622 CE.
The celebration of that event has been on course for almost one and a half millennia. Thus, yesterday was the beginning of 1442 Hijrah year.
In a country like Nigeria, celebration of new Hijrah year is like a coin with two sides. A fading face of one side of that coin neither debases the coin nor renders it invalid.
While the celebration of this festival brings joy to Muslims, it attracts sadness to the antagonists of Islam. But gladly, Islam is like the Sun which aids the ventilation of oxygen to all living organisms and photosynthesizes all plants in the environment. Any blind person can deny the existence of the Sun because of his inability to see it. But such a person cannot deny its scorching effect except he does not walk under its rays.
Besides, any sincere observer will notice that this divine religion called Islam is like a surging train. The barking at it by over one trillion dogs can never halt its surging force.
The Fastest growing Religion
Despite all odds, intrigues, blackmails and all evil machinations being constantly and surreptitiously erected on its way by its antagonists, Islam continues to wax stronger even as it remains the fastest growing religion in the world today. Alhamdu Lillah!
Throughout the 99 years of the British colonial rule in Nigeria (1861-1960), the Southern Muslims were never granted any public holiday to celebrate their festivals. It took Nigeria’s first and only Prime Minister, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa to address that malicious injustice by granting religious holidays officially to Islamic festivals at national level after independence in 1960. Hitherto, the only recognized religious festivals granted public holidays by the British colonialists and their successors in the Southern part of the country were Easter, Christmas and the so-called New Year. That was in addition to the weekly holiday every Sunday.
Holiday by Military Fiat
Prior to 1972, Nigeria was a six working day country in which public workers worked statutorily from Monday to Saturday. It was General Yakubu Gowon, a Christian military Head of State, that granted Saturday, by fiat, to the Seventh Day Adventists denomination of Christianity as a weekly religious public holiday at a time when the total population of that denomination in Nigeria was less than 700,000 within the then Nigerian total population of about 56 million people. Following that unjust imperial action, Nigerian Muslims could have kicked against Gowon’s declaration of Saturday as holiday which further expanded the tentacle of Christianity to the gross disadvantage of Islam in Nigeria. In the alternative, the Muslims could have demanded equal right by asking for Friday as a public holiday for their religion. But since granting multiple public holidays to enable Nigerian Christians to worship according to their faith did not, in anyway, hinder the practice of Islam, the Muslims decided not to contest it in order to give peace a chance. That is part of what makes Islam a religion of peace.
Yet, the Nigerian Christians still believe that their Muslim counterparts do not deserve any right at all even as they consider the declaration of one day public holiday declared by some States for Hijrah celebration, as a religious aberration amounting to islamization of Nigeria. Isn’t that ridiculously laughable?
Islam has its own calendar called Hijrah calendar. And, like in other calendars of the world, there is a beginning and an end for every Islamic year which consists of 12 months. However, unlike those other calendars, the Islamic calendar, otherwise known as Hijrah calendar, is divinely ordained because it originated from Allah. This is confirmed in chapter 9, verse 36 of the Qur’an as follows: “Surely, the number of months ordained by Allah when He created the heavens and the earth is twelve. Therefore, do not wrong yourselves in them….”. That verse is a confirmation of Islam as Allah’s divine religion.
The Months of Islamic Calendar
The 12 months of Islamic calendar as follows: Muharram; Safar; Rabiul-Awwal; Rabiu-th-Thani; Jumadal-‘Ula; Jumada-th-Thaniyah; Rajab; Shaban; Ramadan; Shawwal; Dhul-Qadah; and Dhul-Hijjah. Out of these 12 months, four are specially designated as sacred. They are the last four months of Islamic year thus: Ramadan, Shawwal, Dhul-Qa‘dah and Dhul-Hijjah. Some of these months have 30 days while others have 29 days. No more, no less.
It takes well- educated Muslims to understand the facts stated here and relate them to their lives. It is such education that prompted the former Governor of the State of Osun, OgbeniRauf Adesoji Aregbesola to be the first Nigerian Governor to declare a public holiday for new Islamic year in Osun State in 2013.
That historic declaration by Ogbeni Aregbesola was not only an exhibition of sound education and civility on his part, it was also a clear evidence of justice which had hitherto been denied to Nigerian Muslims in that State despite their demographic majority. And, was he not frontally attacked and called all sorts of names in the Southwest media for declaring that holiday? That is Nigeria for you as far as rligion is concerned.
Meanwhile, to emulate similar justice, either out of conviction or for political reason, some other Governors, including the late Alhaji Ishaq Abiola Ajimobi later joined the train of sanity along that line by declaring Hijrah holiday in his State. And, that historic gesture which had been considered irreversible in Nigerian history has now been audaciously reversed with unbridled impunity.
Genesis of Hijrah Calendar
Hijrah calendar took its name from Prophet Muhammad’s migration from Makkah to Madinah which is otherwise known as Hijrah, in 622 CE.
The use of Hijrah calendar began shortly after that migration when Umar Bn Khattab who was later to become the second Caliph in Islam suggested the idea of a distinctive calendar for Islam which should be named after the Prophet’s migration from Makkah to Madinah and he classified that incident as a watershed for the success and survival of Islam. Without that landmark event in Islam, it would have been difficult for the sacred religion to survive. As a matter of fact, Hijrah is foremost among the three main factors responsible for the survival of the religion of Islam. The second was the victory of the Muslims in the battle of Badr which the Makkah pagans waged on them in Madinah, about 500 kilometres away from Makkah, shortly after the Prophet’s migration to Madinah. And the third factor is Allah’s great promise that became an everlasting fulfillment. That promise is contained in Chapter 15 verse 9 of the Qur’an thus:
“It was ‘We’ (Allah) who revealed the Qur’an and it is ‘We’ who will surely ensure its preservation.
Now, after about 1500 years of the inception of that divine religion which was ushered into the world by the Sacred Book called the Qur’an, who can doubt the ability of the Almighty Allah to make promise and fulfill it? But for those three fundamental factors mentioned here, perhaps Islam would have joined the legion of defunct religions in human history. It is only with Allah that all things are possible.
Significance of Hijrah Calendar
The first day of the Hijrah month (1st of Muharram) is one of the most significant days in Islam. Without ‘the great Message of Islam’ Prophet Muhammad (SAW) would have had no cause to migrate from Makkah to Madinah.
It was that Great Message that compelled him to migrate to Madinah for safety, an incident which eventually paved the way for him to become the greatest man that ever lived.
Benefits of Hijrah Calendar
Basically, the Prophet’s migration (Hijrah) from Makkah to Madinah, institutionalized three important aspects of Muslim lives in that city. These are social, economic and political. When the Qur’anic revelations in started coming to the Prophet (SAW), in Makkah, in 610 CE, he devoted a period of twelve (12) years to the incubation of their maturity and implementation in the minds of believers at a time when no pattern of a collective life, based on any true religious concept, could be presented to the world. As a result, the status of the individual Muslims in Makkah at that time gave rise to the misconception that Islam, or rather, believing in the mission of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) was a personal affair which concerned only the Hereafter and had nothing to do with people’s collective life in the present world.
It was only after the Prophet’s migration (Hijrah) that people began to see Islam clearly as a total way of life which paid attention to, and reformed every facet of human existence. It then became evident that Islam was the divine religion that gave mankind directions regarding almost every moment of a believer’s conscious life. Hijrah also enabled the Arabs, in particular, to see what a Muslim’s matrimonial home should be in a Muslim society as against what it was in the days of ignorance. Hence, it was only after the Prophet’s migration that the world could see the aspect of human social decency and decorum prescribed by Allah through Islam.
The second reason for the importance of Hijrah is its economic significance which manifested in the lifestyle of the pioneer Muslim immigrants who were led by Prophet Muhammad (SAW) himself in migrating to Madinah. The unsurpassable hospitality of the people of Madinah towards the Muslim emigrants at that time did not only provide a new peaceful home for the immigrants, it also showed the hosts’ passionate self-sacrifice in philanthropic gesture. And with Hijrah, those immigrants vividly came in contact with advanced agricultural acumen and ingenuous artisanship which they never experienced in Makkah. These resulted in an unprecedented economic revolution for the city of Madinah. Since the hosts shared virtually everything they had with the immigrants when the latter first arrived, a lesson was learnt by those immigrants that they should not continue to be a burden on their brotherly hosts. Thus, every one of them adopted legitimate way of earning righteous income, an action which enabled the city’s economy attain an unprecedented leap.
Moral Effect of Hijrah
Initially, the Muslim Immigrants in Madinah worked as labourers in the agricultural fields, and construction sites of their hosts. But later, they, being traditional traders before migration, started small scale trading activities which brought them into economic competition with the Jews of Madinah. One aspect of the Islamic economic revolution at that time was that the Muslim immigrants paid the right price for every product they consumed since the Prophet had forbidden the practice of acquiring products on reduced prices in return for loans given to the artisans or to the land cultivators as was the practice in Madinah before Hijrah. That practice was prohibited because it was considered to be a form of usury.
Thus, it was only after Hijrah that agriculture, industry and trade freely helped the Muslims to bring about an integrated, balanced and unfettered economic growth to the Ummah.
The third reason which made Hijrah a very important event is the enjoyment of political freedom by the Muslims. Before Hijrah, the Muslims in Makkah had no say in any matter, internal or external. They were a minority against whom the hearts of the majority were full of poisonous enmity simply because they were considered to constitute an insignificant fraction in a society overwhelmingly dominated by unbelievers.
It was Hijrah, therefore, that made the Muslims masters of their own internal affairs, external relations as well as other matters relating to war and peace. If there was any disagreement between the Muslims and the non-Muslims in Madinah, at that time, the privilege of taking the final decision on it was conceded to the Prophet by consensus because of his unbiased sense of mediation. The agreement to that effect was by all the leaders irrespective of race, tribe or faith.
This concesion accentuated the autonomy and fair judgment enjoyed by the Muslims in that city for the first time in their Islamic religious lives. Thus, Madinah became the nucleus of a city-state which, within a period of ten years 622-632 CE, in the life time of the Prophet, which rapidly expanded to most parts of Arabian Peninsula. It is therefore evident that the event of Hijrah turned the city of Madinah into a highly successful society in commerce and agriculture.
But when celebrating the Hijrah day, you are celebrating not only the historic success of the Prophet’s migration but also the triumph of Islam as the everlasting password of the Universe. That is why Muslims, during the period of Hijrah celebration do exchange pleasantries by congratulating one another and by chanting the slogan of HAPPY NEW YEAR!
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