The Muslim fast and the Jewish fast: Really? By Atiya Aftab, Co-Founder and Board Chair

Today, November 3, is the 10th day of Muharram in the year 1436. I am referring to the Hijri calendar — often less accurately called the “Islamic” calendar. While there is nothing “Islamic” about it in a religious sense, year one of the Hijri calendar marked the Hijra in 622 CE (Common Era). The Hijra was the emigration of Prophet Muhammad from his birthplace in Makkah to then Yathrib (renamed the City of the Prophet and shortened to Madina (City)). The Hijra was a highly significant event of the nascent Muslim community on many levels. It is important to note that the Hijri calendar was retroactively determined to start in the year 622 CE by Caliph Umar ibn al Khattab over ten years after the event. It is also important to note that community of Madina followed a lunar calendar and the hijri calendar did not change the name or numbers of the months. Muharram is the first month of that lunar calendar and therefore the Hijri calendar.
After Prophet Muhammad settled in Madina he discovered that the Jews were observing a fast on the 10th day of Muharram. When he inquired as to why they were fasting, he was told that it was the day that Prophet Moses fasted to show gratitude to God for the victory over the Pharaoh and the releasing of Children of Israel from bondage. Prophet Muhammad told the Muslim community that they too should fast on this day.
So today, November 3, 2014 corresponds to Muharram 10, 1436 AH (After Hijra). Many Muslims are expressing their gratitude to God by fasting and recalling the freeing of the Children of Israel and commemorating victory over oppression. Let’s hope and pray that all those who are in bondage today are freed from their oppressors.
Atiya Aftab, co-founder, Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom®
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