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Nowruz

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Nowrūz (Persian: نوروز) is the beginning day of spring and of the solar hijri calendar. The celebration of Nowruz is considered the oldest symbol of Persian culture. The celebration contains a collection of national, ethnic, and religious customs and traditions.

Nowruz is celebrated in several countries and nations and is a national holiday in some countries.

The United Nations has officially recognized the "International Nowruz Day" in its calendar.

Nowruz is recognized in some Shiite traditions as a blessed day and certain prayers and rituals are prescribed for it.

Introduction

Nowruz is the beginning day of spring and the first day of the month of Farvardin, which marks the beginning of the Solar Hijri calendar. The celebration of Nowruz is attributed by some scholars to ancient Iranian kings and is considered by others a Zoroastrian practice. Others simply regard it as an Iranian national tradition and the most ancient symbol of Iranian culture.

Nowruz is also introduced as an indication of pluralistic Persian culture that contributed to the peaceful coexistence among various people. It is a holiday that brings together Zoroastrians, Christians, Sunnis, and Shiites, despite all their differences, on the Haft-Sin table (a table with seven items whose names in Persian start with "sin" or s sound, which is arranged for the celebration of Nowruz).

Rulers used to receive gifts and taxes from people on Nowruz. In some periods, the appointment of officials to their positions would be arranged on this day.

In addition to Iran, Nowruz is celebrated in other countries, including Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Azerbaijan, Kirgizstan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Zanzibar.

The United Nations has officially recognized Nowruz as the “International Nowruz Day.”

Traditions and Customs

The celebration of Nowruz has included a series of traditions and customs. Iranians begin to prepare themselves for Nowruz days or even weeks ahead. They clean their houses and wear new clothes. They plant greenery for their tables of Haft-Sin and preserve it until the thirteenth day of Farvardin when they throw it to a river or a stream.

Arranging the Haft-Sin table is also a Nowruz custom, whose symbolic meaning has been variously explained. Iranian Muslims also place the Quran on their Haft-Sin table.

Giving and receiving gift, usually in the form of money, is an ancient Nowruz custom. Colored eggs are also among the gifts that are exchanged on Nowruz.

Visiting relatives and friends is a widely common tradition during Nowruz holidays.

Many people prefer to be present in a sacred place at the moment of the beginning of the new year.

Travelling is also very common on Nowruz holidays.

Nowruz in Shiism

Shiite sources include divergent hadiths on Nowruz. According to some hadiths, Nowruz is a blessed day, which is to be celebrated. For instance, Imam al-Sadiq (a) is reported to have instructed ghusl, wearing one’s best clothes, a special prayer, and fasting on Nowruz. In another tradition, Imam al-Sadiq (a) is reported to have mentioned a number of important events that had occurred on the day of Nowruz, such as the event of Ghadir.

However, according to a hadith from Imam al-Kazim (a), Nowruz was a custom that Islam did not recognize and thus the Imam (a) refused to celebrate it.

Many scholars have studied these two set of hadiths. Allama al-Majlisi, for instance, concludes that the hadiths that recognize Nowruz are more reliable. He mentions that the hadith which rejects the celebration of Nowruz might have been said under the precautionary dissimulation (taqiyya). Ibn Fahd al-Hilli speaks of Nowruz as an “esteemed” (jalil al-qadr) day. Many other scholars also have sided with first set of hadiths and, on their basis, have issued fatwas according to which ghusl and fasting are recommended (mustahab) on Nowruz.

Some scholars have explained that Islam does not necessarily regard the customs and traditions of a nation in a negative way. Islam’s acceptance or rejection of these customs and traditions rather depends on their contents, and since Nowruz celebrations consist of good deeds such as giving gifts, visiting relatives, and cleanliness, it was accepted in Islam.

Prayers and Religious Deeds on Nowruz

Shiite scholars, based on hadiths in this regard, have mentioned the following prayers and deeds for Nowruz:

  • Ghusl
  • Fasting
  • Wearing clean and fragrant clothes
  • Reciting the following prayer, mentioned by Allama al-Majlisi for the beginning moment of the new year: "O He who changes the hearts and eyes! O He who directs the day and night! O he who changes the year and states! Change our state to the best state!"
  • Reciting the following prayer, narrated by Allama al-Majlisi:

اللَّهُمَّ هَذِهِ‏ سَنَةٌ جَدِيدَةٌ وَ أَنْتَ مَلِكٌ قَدِيمٌ أَسْأَلُكَ خَيْرَهَا وَ خَيْرَ مَا فِيهَا وَ أَعُوذُ بِكَ مِنْ شَرِّهَا وَ شَرِّ مَا فِيهَا وَ أَسْتَكْفِيكَ مَؤُنَتَهَا وَ شُغْلَهَا يَا ذَا الْجَلَالِ وَ الْإِكْرَامِ[1]

  • Two prayers (salat), each consisting of two units (rak'at), together with special deeds.

Notes

  1. Some sources report that the Prophet (s) would recite this prayer in the beginning of lunar years.

References

  • The material for this article is mainly taken from نوروز in Farsi WikiShia.