Q&A on celebrating the new year


Is it a sin to acknowledge that we are beginning a new year (2021) given that we have a Hijri calendar?


There is nothing objectionable about this if our intention was – for example – to remind ourselves to make good use of our time in this world. However, we should do not do so as if it were a religious ritual – we are not allowed to introduce new religious practices without the sanction of the Law-Giver. Once we take to heart this critical point, we are free to acknowledge the new year’s arrival and wish each other well.

After all, the Quran reminds us to use every opportunity to reflect on our past, make new decisions and new resolutions. So, if we use such occasions to bring positive change in our lives, it can be a good thing.

What would be wrong is if we considered new year celebrations to be a religious ritual. We cannot invent new acts of worship. Customs, however, are a different matter altogether. As Imam Ibn Taymiyya and others have pointed out: We are free to innovate in our customs as long they do not contradict any of Islam’s principles or teachings.

We need not worry about this amounting to replacing the Hijri calendar, as long as we do not change the observance of religious events such as Ramadan, Eids, and Hajj based on the Gregorian Calendar. No Muslim would ever consider such a proposition.

Furthermore, we would do well to remember that marking the Islamic calendar based on Hijra was itself, not a religious ritual, but a custom to facilitate communication and organization.

We do not worship the sun or moon, yet the Quran urges us to reflect upon the sun and moon as signs of Allah, and associates their movement with the passage of time and thus the creation of calendars. So there is nothing wrong for Muslims in accepting the Gregorian calendar facilitating their daily, business, legal affairs, etc.

Allah says in the Qur’an, “We made the night and the day two signs. Then We effaced the sign of the night, and made the sign of the day, giving sight, that you might seek bounty from your Lord, and that you might know the number of years and the reckoning. And We have expounded everything in detail.” (Qur’an: 17:12)

He it is Who created the night and the day, the sun and the moon, each gliding in an orbit.” (Qur’an: 21:33)

Therefore, acknowledging the arrival of the new year based on the Gregorian calendar does not contradict any of the explicit teachings of Islam. No Muslim scholar has ever said that we cannot organize our life and work based on the Gregorian calendar because by doing so, we would be supplanting the Hijri calendar.

Finally, there is an important rule of jurisprudence which applies in matters such as these, which do not involve strict acts of worship: general permissibility is the rule to follow, and prohibition is the exception. In other words, we cannot prohibit a custom without clear evidence to condemn it.