We use cookies to enhance your experience on our website. By continuing to use our website, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Find out more Nawrūz - Oxford Islamic Studies Online
Select Translation What is This? Selections include: The Koran Interpreted, a translation by A.J. Arberry, first published 1955; The Qur'an, translated by M.A.S. Abdel Haleem, published 2004; or side-by-side comparison view
Chapter: verse lookup What is This? Select one or both translations, then enter a chapter and verse number in the boxes, and click "Go."
:
  • Previous Result
  • Results
  • Highlight On / Off
  • Look It Up What is This? Highlight any word or phrase, then click the button to begin a new search.
  • Next Result

Nawrūz

By:
B. Todd Lawson
Source:
The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World What is This? Provides comprehensive scholarly coverage of the full geographical and historical extent of Islam

Nawrūz

Literally “New Day” in Persian, Nawrūz 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 earliest times. 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 Shīʿī Muslims in Iran associate the day with important events in their sacred history. According to Majlisī (pp. 91–93), it was on this day that the Prophet Muḥammad designated his cousin and son-in-law ʿAlī ibn Abī Ṭālib his successor and amīral-muʿminīn (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-mīthāq) recounted in the Qurʿān, sūrah7:172. 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. Jūdī (Qurʿān, 11:44); the day on which Gabriel came down to the Prophet; the day on which the Messenger of God carried ʿAlī 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 Ibrāhīm (Abraham) destroyed the idols; and finally, the day on which the Qāʿim will appear and defeat al-Dajjāl and crucify him at Kufa. All this information is relayed on the authority of the sixth imam of the Shīʿah, Jaʿfar ibn Muḥammad al-Ṣādiq (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-Ṣādiq: “And there is no Nawrūz but that we have ordained that some divine felicity take place therein because it is one of our days and the days of our Shīʿah.” Further, the imam acknowledges the importance of the Zoroastrian prelude to the Islamic period in Iran by saying that the observance of Nawrūz 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 Nawrūz is preserved in the preparation and display during this holiday period of seven items whose names begin with the Persian letter sīn—the haftsīn. 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 Qurʿān, 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. Nawrūz is also observed by Sunnī Kurds and Shīʿah in Iraq and other places, in addition to other religious communities within Iran, and by the Parsi community of India. Nawrūz is an official holy day in the Bahāʿī faith, so that with the spread of this religion this ancient Iranian festival is being observed in other places throughout the world.

See also BAHāʿī and ISLAMIC CALENDAR.

Bibliography

  • Boyce, Mary. “Iranian Festivals.” In Cambridge History of Iran, vol. 3, part 2, The Seleucid, Parthian, and Sasanian Periods, edited by Ehsan Yarshater, pp. 792–815. Cambridge, 1983.
  • Majlisī, Muḥammad Bāqir al-. Biḥār al-anwār. Vol. 56, Beirut, 1983.
  • Nasrin, Alavi. We Are Iran: The Persian Blogs. Brooklyn: Soft Skull Press, Inc., 2005.
  • Patel, Manilel. “The Navraz: Its History and Its Significance.”Journal of K. R. Cama Oriental Institute (Bombay)31 (1937): 1–57.
  • Sciolino, Elaine. Persian Mirrors: The Elusive Face of Iran. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2000.
  • Yarshater, Ehsan. “Now Ruz.”Iran Review4 (March 1959): 12–15.
  • Previous Result
  • Results
  • Highlight On / Off
  • Look It Up What is This? Highlight any word or phrase, then click the button to begin a new search.
  • Next Result
Oxford University Press

© 2020. All Rights Reserved. Cookie Policy | Privacy Policy | Legal Notice