Islam has a lunar based calendar with 354 days. The New Year date also changes every year as the Islamic Calendar is 11 days shorter than the solar calendar. Maal Hijra or Islamic New Year is celebrated on the first day of Muharram (first Islamic month). The word Muharram also means respect. It is more of a cultural event than a New Year celebration. People welcome the New Year with peace and prayers.
New Year celebrated by Muslims is not a gala affair rather it's a quite and sober celebration. People gather in mosques and dargahs to offer special prayers. Muslims celebrate this day to pay homage to Prophet Muhammad. The most important part is to tell the hijra (Muhammad's flight from Medina to Mecca). This story is also broadcast on radio. Maal Hijra or the Islamic New Year is spent on reflecting how one's leading his or her life and their own mortality.
The most recent trend of exchanging New Year cards and gifts have been witnessed in many Muslim communities. However, Shia Muslims do not take part in New Year activities. They commemorate the Battle of Karbala and observe it as a month of mourning. This commemoration ends on the tenth day of Muharram called Ashurah. Similarly, Sunni Muslims do not take part in the New Year traditions as on this day first Caliph Abu Bakr died.
Remembrance of Muharram has become an important day for the Shias. People enact the scenes of the Battle of Karbala in mosques. At some places, people clad in black dresses. They recite sorrowful poems in the memory of the martyrdom of Imran Hussain. Many males beat their chests or walk barefoot over the burning coal to remember the sufferings of Hussain. Loud cries of congregation can be heard which reflects their inability to save Hussain from the torture and brutalities.
Later, food and other things of survival are distributed to the poor. The first nine days of Muharram are spent in making an exact copy of martyr's tomb with bamboo and paper. On the tenth day, Ashura, processions are carried out through the streets with the beautifully embellished tombs (also called taziyas). A horse leads the procession relating to Hussain's horse, Dul Dul.