Al-hijra and Muharram is just around the corner (starting on 29th July 2022). Now is the perfect time to brush up on ideas and activities for your EYFS children about Islamic New Year. Whether you are a nursery or Early Years practitioner in a faith nursery or non-faith setting there are lots of different ways for you to recognise the beginning of the holy month, with the help of Zeinab Bhikha, Headteacher at Al-Huda Nursery and Primary School, we have collated 5 awesome ideas for you to celebrate in your nursery setting.
What is Islamic New Year and when is it celebrated?
Islamic New Year or Al-hijra is the first day of the month of Muharram. It isn’t always celebrated on the same date each year as it follows the lunar cycle. In 2022, Islamic New Year will begin on the evening of Friday 29th July. In the early days of Islam, there was no set calendar followed. After the death of the Prophet, the second caliph of Islam, Umar ibn al-Khattab created the Hijri (Islamic calendar).
This calendar follows the lunar patterns and has 12 months. The solar calendar (also known as the Gregorian calendar) also has 12 months and runs from January to December each year. The first month in the Islamic calendar is Muharram, which is one of the four sacred months, and celebrates the reflection of peace and pledging to help others.
What are the 12 months of the Islamic calendar?
This is the first month of the Hijri calendar, Muharram is one of the four sacred months and begins on a full moon. Ashura Day is on the ninth and tenth days of Muharram and can often be observed by fasting.
The second month in the lunar calendar, the focus of this month surrounds travelling and leaving the home. ‘Safar’ means empty in Arabic symbolising the empty home when Arabs used to travel.
Usually coinciding with the beginning of spring, Rabee Al-Awwal (alternative spelling) means the first spring. It is also the month the Prophet Muhamad was born.
This month is thought to represent the last spring, often linking with the end of the spring season.
Aligning with the seasons again, Jumada Al-Ula (alternative spelling) means ‘the first freeze’ in Arabic.
The sixth month of the Islamic calendar is Jumada Al-Akhirah (alternative spelling) meaning ‘the last freeze’, linking to the cold weather and the freezing of water due to cold temperatures.
Rajab means honour or respect. It is the second of the sacred months, where fighting and quarrels are thought to have been forbidden during this month. The Prophet Muhammad was thought to have shared the prayer below when he saw the moon of Rajab: ‘Oh, Allah! Make the months of Rajab and Shaaban blessed for us and let us reach the month of Ramadan.’
Thought to be associated with separation and division linked to the search for water, the eight month of the Islamic calendar is Sha’aban.
One of the most known Islamic months. Ramadan means the hot month. It often occurred in the hot season in the desert, fasting during Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam.
Eid Al-Fitr is celebrated on the first day of Shawwal, breaking the fast of the month of Ramadan. The tenth month in the calendar is associated with lifting and carrying.
The eleventh month of the calendar translates to sitting or resting in Arabic. This month is the third of the sacred months, this month encourages rest and preparation, in order to get ready for the final month.
The final month of the Islamic calendar means ‘pilgrimage.’ During this month Muslims from all over the world may travel to Mecca, to visit the Ka-bah. Visiting Mecca once in a lifetime is one of the five pillars of Islam. Eid Al-Adah is celebrated during this final month.
How can Islamic New Year be celebrated in a non-faith nursery?
Knowledge of other faiths and traditions is a key underpinning of British Values; a statutory requirement within school settings as well as covering Understanding the World Area of Development. As with any religious celebration, Islamic New Year is an excellent learning opportunity to explore different cultures, stories behind the celebrations and appreciate diverse beliefs and traditions.
As with any detailed story, the journey of building up understanding of different faiths and cultures can be tailored to the cognitive ability of your children. You can discuss with your feeder primary schools in your area to identify the information they will be taught in school to gauge how much detail you should cover. Use cultural traditions as valuable opportunities to engage with your families and community around your setting. Using your communications system, contact families to organise a guest speaker from a member of the Islamic community to share engaging stories and assist with the activities you may try.
5 activities to celebrate Islamic New Year in EYFS
Resolutions for the next year
As Islamic New Year celebrates the beginning of the new year, Al-Huda Nursery and Primary School explained the importance of reflecting on their past year and to look forward to the new year. They celebrate by discussing resolutions focused on peace and respect of others, and values which underpin the school’s development of the children. Why not try to combine sensory play and craft making when discussing your resolutions? A resolution tree with each child’s resolution written on a decorative leaf can be an excellent artistic addition to your welcome area in your nursery.
Order of the 12 months
The 12 months of the Islamic Calendar all have a specific focus often linking to the season of the year or associated with the story of Islam and the Prophet’s journey to spread the word of Islam. Linking to letter recognition with your EYFS children, the 12 months of the year can be created into a matching activity, recognising the shape and length of the words to order the months.
Reflection on good deeds
Al-Huda Nursery and Primary School focuses on the reflection of good deeds, to support the importance of peace and truth in Islam. They model good examples of kind deeds and encourage all children to be kind to others. To make the kind deeds even more exciting, try giving a child a secret kind deed for the morning and another child a kind deed for the afternoon. The test is to see if the other children can guess who had the secret task! This is a positive recognition and friendship developing activity where all will have kindness at the heart of their interactions.
Celebration cards are used to mark most occasions, Islamic New Year is no different. As Islam is underpinned by peace and truth, the children can choose from simple templates or create their own masterpiece. The cards can be to recognise Islamic New Year or focus on kindness and helping others.
Celebrating traditions that directly involve the children and families from your nursery setting can be an excellent method for building strong child-parent-nursery relationships.