The first snows have fallen on the mountaintops. Cold winds have started to blow. Sweaters and coats have been pulled out and little by little put to use again. The leaves have turned from green to gold and snapped loose by the torrents of icy gusts. Winter has arrived.
For many in the world that means "it's party time". Decorations go up. Trees are adorned with silver and gold like the pagans used to do to worship the "spirit" within them. Big meals and gatherings are planned. Invitations go out and hopes run high for a magical moment at the strike of midnight on the last night of the year. New resolutions are made but mostly soon forgotten. The color, the excitement, the entertainment, and the masses make it seem so appealing. But there's a deep emptiness to it all, an aspect preferred forgotten, that void of the Creator's remembrance and our purpose.
On that night full of fireworks and fantasy, sleeplessness and excesses, the participants have missed the point of life. Choosing folly and fad over the guidance of the One Who knows what is best for us:
Allâh has given you better than those feasts: the ‘Eid-ul-Adh-haa (Feast of Sacrificing) and ‘Eid-ul-Fitr (Feast of Breaking the Fast).
An-Nasaaee: English translation: (vol. 2, p.333, no. 1559)
Abu Dauwud: English translation: (vol. 1, p.293, no. 1130)
Our call is to choose what is better and more lasting. As Muslims everyday is precious and another opportunity to strive to show gratitude for the life we have been given. Especially during the month of Ramadan, we have the excellent occasion for reflection, realization, and struggling to rectify our shortcomings and establish betterment in our lives. Having worked for an entire month to implement corrective actions, the routine of good is easier to perpetuate throughout the following year.
Beyond that Allah has blessed us with the obligation to at least once in our lifetime make pilgrimage to His house, to seek His forgiveness and attain His promised rewards. Whether in Mecca or anywhere else in the world, our year ends not with a bang but with sacrifice and the humble distribution of meat to the poor. And as our pilgrims return with shaved heads and/or bearing dates and Zamzam, we reflect upon the magnitude of what they just experienced, millions dressed in white, bowing to their Lord, circling His house declaring their submission, following in the footsteps of the righteous ones who set the example, turning their palms toward the heavens for a day to ask for forgiveness, casting pebbles at symbols of their tempters, and then, finally, celebrating the hope of having attained forgiveness and Paradise with a sacrifice. This powerfully compelling process provides us with motivation, inspiration, and, hopefully, piety.
Far better than any excessive spending, spiked eggnog, or midnight kiss, we have been given traditions that strengthen morality, feed the poor, and nourish the soul providing true happiness, lasting benefit, and a healthy society. Most certainly the heavenly light shining from the faces of the believers is purer and more precious than any string of lights used to celebrate the coming of a new year. It is unbecoming to us that we should get swept up in the frenzy of the times as if to shake our fists at death one more year. For surely we will not avoid nor beat it: rather as Muslims we prepare for this life, our death, and the next life by adamantly adhering to what is better, the way of our Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), and heeding his warning:
Whoever survives me would observe many differences. However, you should follow my sunnah and that of my rightly guided caliphs. Adhere to it firmly. Beware! Avoid innovation, for each innovation is a deviation from Islam.
Abu Dawud: (vol. 3, p. 1294, no. 4590)
Accordingly let us not copy those who have gone astray by inventing a "Muslim" version of the New Year's celebration calling it the "Hijrah New Year" and then congratulating one another upon it. Did the Prophet do this? What's next? Giving gifts covered with crescent designed wrapping paper and serving Zamzam at the stroke of midnight? Allah forbid it. Let us hold fast to what we have been given, be content in it, and focus on completing each day as Allah and then our Prophet would have it, so when the final countdown is done, we stand before our Creator Him pleased with us. Amen.