By Muhammad Amin (Garam Chashma)
The word Nawroz has been derived from the Persian Nav and Roz which means new day. As a whole, Nawroz means the new day of the year. The tradition marks the first day of the spring or equinox and the beginning of the New Year in the Persian calendar.
It is celebrated on the day of astronomical northern equinox which falls on the 21st of March every year.
The tradition of Nawroz is being celebrated by people belonging to different religious and ethnic background for thousands of years. According to traditions, festival of Nawroz has its roots in ancient Persia since Achaemedians (550-330 BC) but the tradition has also become an essential part of many Muslim societies throughout the world. Some traditions indicate that the festival began with Zoroaster.
Nawroz is also a holy day not only for Shia Muslims but also for Sufis, Bektashis and adherents of Bahai faith. The term Nawroz in written form first appeared in Persian historical records in the 2nd century AD. When Fars or old Persia was conquered by the Muslims in the 8th century.
Muslim rulers in different periods tried to minimize the scope of the tradition. However, the followers of the tradition continued and promoted it even in harsh times. After the demise of the caliphate and the re-emergencies of the Persian dynasties such as the Sassanid and the Buyids, the festival was elevated to even a more important event and Buyids lifted all restrictions imposed by the caliphs.
The Turkish and Mongol conquerors did not make any attempt to abolish the festival and hence the festival remained an important event in the Persian lands celebrated eagerly both by the ordinary men and officials.
In Iran also, the Islamic republic met with little success to suppress it as according to the Ayatollahs the festival was a pagan and a distraction from purely Islamic practices. However, such efforts remained ineffective.
At present, Nawroz is celebrated as a public holiday in Iran, Afghanistan, Albania, Tajikistan, Azerbijan, Turkamanistan, Uzbekistan, Georgia, Kyrgystan, Iraqi Kurdistan, and Kazakhstan etc., ranging from two to four days. The Shia Muslims of South Asia, especially in Pakistan and India, also commemorate the event with great religio-cultural zeal.
In Shia Islam, the festival of Nawroz occupies a special place, both spiritual and cultural.
Muhammad Baqir Majlisi in his famous book Bihar al Anwar quotes from imam Jafar a Sadiq, the great grandson of imam Ali ibni Abi Talib (as), that the following events happened on the day of Nawroz:
- God made a covenant with the souls before creation.
- It marks the day when universe started its first motion.
- Prophet Adam (a.s) was created on this day.
- Prophet Ibrahim (a.s) destroyed the pagan idols that were being worshiped.
- The holy Quran was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) on the night of Laylatul Qadr (the night of power).
- Prophet Muhammad took Ali on his shoulders to smash 360 idols in Makkah.
- Prophet Muhammad declared Ali as his legitimate successor at Ghadir–e-Khum.
- Imam Ali was born on this day.
- Prophet Muhammad’s migration from Makkah to Madina took place on this day.
- Prophets Ibrahim and Ismail built Kaaba on this day.
- Salman Farsi converted to Islam and used to bring special dishes to the holy prophet and Hazrat Ali on the day of Nawroz.
People belonging to different backgrounds and societies celebrate the festival in different specific ways displaying their cultural beauty and colour.