Awal Muharram (also called Maal Hijrah) celebrates the beginning of the Islamic New Year. Muharram, derived from the word haram, which means sinful, is a month considered most sacred of all besides the month of Ramadan.
This first month of the Islamic year coincides with the migration of Prophet Mohammed from Mecca to Medina in 622 AD and is therefore, considered a time for self-evaluation and a starting point for change.
Sunni Muslims fast and celebrate the day according to the Sunnah of Mohammed, which is in honour of Moses’ rescue of the people of Israel from Pharaoh, sometimes on the 10th day. Shia Muslims in other parts of the world spend the day mourning – some even to the extent of flogging themselves – to commemorate the martyrdom of Hussein ibn Ali.
Also on the 10th day of Muharram, most Muslims start fasting when the sun rises and do not eat until later in the evening. Muslims cook sweet rice, also known as Bubur Asyura and share them among family members and friends during their break fast. It is also during this time that Muslims gather in mosques to usher in the new Hijri year.
At the same time, various religious activities will be carried out such as spiritual singing, religious activities and the recitation of Koranic verses. Since special prayers and sermons are conducted in public halls and mosques, areas around mosques might be congested in the evenings and at night.