By Muhammad Amin
The word Nawroz has been derived from the Persian words, Naw and Roz`. Naw means new and Roz means day, respectively. As a whole, Nawroz means 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 the astronomical Northward Equinox which falls accurately 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, besides Shiite Muslims, for the Sufis, Bektashis, and adherents of Baha’i faith. The term Nawroz in writing 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, rulers in different periods tried to minimize or do away with 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-emergence of the Persian dynasties such as Sassanid and Buyids the festival of Nawroz was elevated even to more important event. The Buyids lifted all the restriction imposed by the Caliphs.
Even 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 by both the people 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 holiday and a distraction from purely Islamic practices, however such efforts later became wrong and ineffective.
At present, the festival of Nawroz is being celebrated as public holiday in Iran, Afghanistan, Albania, Tajikistan, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Iraqi Kurdistan and Kazakhstan etc. ranging from two to four days. In Iran preparations for the ritual begin months before. The Shiite Muslims of South Asia, especially in Pakistan and India, also commemorate the day with great religious pompous.
In Shi’ite Islam the festival of Nawroz occupies an important place both spiritually and culturally. Muhammad Bakir Majlisi in his famous book ,,Bihar al Anwar, quotes from Imam Jafar a Sadiq, the great grandson of Imam Ali (a.s) that the following important events have occurred on this day:
- God made a covenant with the souls before creation.
- Nawroz marks the first day when universe started its motion.
- Adam was created
- Hazrat Ibrahim (A.S) destroyed the pagan idols that were being worshipped by his father and others.
- The holy Quran was revealed to the prophet Muhammad (pbuh) on the night of Layla tul Qadr, the Night of Power.
- Muhammad took Hazrat Ali (A.S.) on his shoulders to smash 360 idols in Makkah.
- Muhammad declared Ali as his legitimate successor at Ghadir Khum.
- Hazrat Ali was born on the day of Nawroz.
- The prophet migration from Makkah to Medina took place on this day.
- Hazrat Ibrahim and Ismail built Kaaba on the day of Nawroz.
- Hazrat Salman Farsi converted to Islam on Nawroz day and used to bring special dishes to the prophet (pbuh) and Ali on this day.
The festival of Nawroz gives us the lessons of unity, pluralism, tolerance and good will. People visit each other homes and this in return promotes the spirit of unity and brotherhood among them. They understand about each other conditions and give helping hand to the needy. Last but not the least the festival is part of a great cultural heritage which highlights the rich cultural values of Pakistan, which have its roots entrenched in Iran & Central Asia. This culture is deep rooted since centuries and being commemorated with great enthusiasm and respect. Such activities will help to promote our rich cultural values.
The significance of Nawroz can be realized from the fact when the UN General Assembly in 2010 declared March 21st as the International Day of Nawroz describing it as spring festival of Persian origin which has been celebrating for over 3000 years and calling on world countries to draw on the holiday rich history to promote peace & good will. During the meeting of “The Inter-Governmental Committee for safeguarding the Intangible Heritage of the United Nations, held between 28th September-2nd November 2009 at Abu Dubai, Nawroz was officially registered on the UNESCO List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Therefore, it is essential that we should make all efforts to preserve this important tradition as it is a symbol of our great cultural heritage, otherwise such unique and rich cultural traditions are being eroded by the effects of modernity and it’s so called followers.