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NAWRUZ. Literally “New Day,” Nawruz may be regarded as the foremost Iranian national festival. Although its origins are obscure, it is clear that it developed in a pastoral environment, as it has been observed on the first day of spring from the very earliest times. Both the Achaemenid and Sassanian kings celebrated the day by dispensing largesse and other observances. Its Zoroastrian features, which began to be secularized by the Sassanians, were finally completely neutralized with the coming of Islam, so that today ShN Muslims in Iran associate the day with important events in their sacred history. According to the Bihar al-anwar, it was on this day that the prophet Muhammad designated his cousin and son-in-law ‘Ali ibn AN Talib his successor and amir al-mu’minin (commander of the faithful). According to the same source, it was also the all-important Day of the Primordial Covenant (yawm alastu or yawm al-mithaq) recounted in the Qur’an, surah 7.172. It was also the first day on which the sun rose and on which the sweet basil sprang forth and the earth blossomed; the day on which Noah’s ark came to rest on Mt. Judi (Qur’an, 11.44); the day on which Gabriel came down to the Prophet; the day on which the Messenger of God carried `All on his shoulders so that he could throw the idols of the Quraysh from the roof of the Sacred House and destroy them; the day on which Ibrahim (Abraham) destroyed the idols; and finally, the day on which the Qd’im will appear and defeat al-Dajjal and crucify him at Kufa. All this information is relayed on the authority of the sixth imam of the Shi’is, Ja’far ibn Muhammad al-Sadiq (d. 765). That the day has long been identified with joyfulness at the end of winter and the beginning of spring may be hinted at in the following quotation from al-Sadiq: “And there is no Nawruz but that we have ordained that some divine felicity take place therein because it is one of our days and the days of our Shi’a.” Further, the imam acknowledges the importance of the Zoroastrian prelude to the Islamic period in Iran by saying that the observance of Nawruz represents an ancient divine commandment that the Persians rightly preserved even though the Muslims had inadvertently neglected it.

Today the festival commences at the vernal equinox and lasts twelve days. An ancient association of the number seven with Nawruz is preserved in the preparation and display during this holiday period of seven items whose names begin with the Persian letter sinthe haft sin. These are most commonly an apple, garlic, grass sprouts, silver coins, rowan berries, sumac, and vinegar. In addition, a table display is decorated with the Qur’an, colored eggs, a mirror, a bowl of water, various fruits, herbs and sweets. It is a time for exchanging gifts and hospitality and perhaps most closely resembles Christmas in the manner it is observed and the mood its anticipation generates. Members of the household often don new clothing for the occasion. Nawruz is also observed by Sunni Kurds and Shi`is in Iraq and other places, in addition to other religious communities within Iran, and by the Parsi community of India. It is of some interest to note that Nawruz is an official holy day in the Baha’i faith, so that with the spread of this religion this ancient Iranian festival is being observed in other locales throughout the world.

[See also Baha’i; Islamic Calendar.]

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Boyce, Mary. “Iranian Festivals.” In Cambridge History of Iran, vol. 3, part z, The Seleucid, Parthian, and Sasanian Periods, edited by Ehsan Yarshater, pp. 792-815. Cambridge, 1983.

Majlisi, Muhammad Bagir al-.Bihar al-anwar, vol. 56, pp. 91-93. Beirut, 1983.

Patel, Manflel. “The Navraz: Its History and Its Significance.” Journal of K. R. Cama Oriental Institute (Bombay) 31 (1937): 1-57. Yarshater, Ehsan. “Now Ruz.” Iran Review 4 (March 1959): 12-15.

  1. TODD LAWSON

Azhar Niaz Article's Source: http://islamicus.org/nawruz/
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  • writerPosted On: June 13, 2017
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