Thursday March 20, 2014 is Nowruz, the first day of Persian calendar and thus celebrated by over 300 million people in the world from Iran, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and many other small ethnic groups in the world.
The celebration of Nowruz is held in the first day of spring which usually starts in Iran on March 21. New Year starts in Iran, Afghanistan, Central Asia, a part of China, and other Persian related cultures for thousands of years.
Nowruz begins with the blossom of flowers, beauty of environment, and the beginning of vitality for life. It is the time when the night and day become equal and the sun starts reviving the nature. Human behavior starts its flourishing phase and life gains a new momentum. All in all, Nowruz is a happy day to celebrate.
Nowruz is one of the oldest traditions in the world. Ancient Persians around a vast geography have celebrated it at least for the last 3000 years. It is believed that the idea is a reminder of the last ice age, or 18 thousand years ago when icy winter was at its end and spring was expected to emerge with its warmth and life again.
Ancient Persians believed there is a constant fight between good (light) and evil (darkness), which ends with the victory of good over evil. This has given way to the belief that Nowruz is a perfect time to fulfill human tasks by forgetting animosities and loving friends. On this day, children are given gifts, “Eidi”, old people are respected and family members visit each other.
Muslim herds of invasion in the 7th and then their Islamic Caliphate attempted to bring to end Persian “non-Islamic” celebrations and traditions in favour of Islamic imposed rituals. The Umayyad and Abbasid Caliphs, however, allowed it again as Nowruz resisted Islam, but there had to be compromises. So the Koran was added to the “Haft Sin”, a set of tray containing 7 items starting with the Persian letter “S”, although the Koran does not start in Persian with “S”. Another added item was golden fish, “Mahi” that neither starts with “S”: millions of golden fish kept in fishbowls, mostly small ones, die after few days of ceremony. This unethical practice reminds us the feast of sacrifice when millions of sheep are ritually slaughtered by Muslims.
Contrary to many traditions, Nowruz is not derived from religious or sacrificial rites. This is one of the reasons the Islamic regime has attempted in vain to disgrace Nowruz. No wonder when Nowruz happens in the Shiite mourning month of Muharram, fanatical Muslims spend their time mourning instead of celebrating. For them, Nowruz serves Islam as another occasion to mourn.
During the Safavid Dynasty, Nowruz became an established Shitte tradition, abundant with piety and special prayers by pious Muslims, which canceled the celebratory spirit of Nowruz, since joy does not comply with Islam. Nowruz served the obscurantism of the founder of the Shiite dynasty. Safavid Monarchs, through repression and what must be called genocide, physically eliminated those who resisted their imposed religion. Thus their imposed version of Islam, Shia, became the state religion.
Since its inception, the Islamic regime has been trying to extinguish all non-Islamic values and disgrace Nowruz. Ayatollah Motahari, a late scholar of the Islamic regime, qualified the feast of “Charshanbehsuri”, the last Wednesday before Nowruz, as the legacy of Iranians’ idiocy, “ Charshanbehsuri is a legacy of your idiot ancestors!” while addressing his Iranian audiences.
To reduce the discrepancy between Islam and Iranian people, some factions of the Islamic regime had to finally withdraw from suppressing Nowruz. They forged a compromise that on Nowruz the Prophet Muhammad appointed Imam Ali, the first Imam of Shiits, as his inheritor or the Caliph of the Muslims – what is not approved by most Muslims. Through this alleged event, Nowruz could be safeguarded as holy day. Also, based on the Islamic scholar Ali Shriati, a late propagandist of Islamic new despotism of “Imamat over Ummat”, Nowruz “fortifies the love of Iranians for (Shiite) Islam”. Whatever the diversionary tactics of the regime and its theorists, Nowruz remains a thorn in the eyes of the Islamic regime, because it does not fit the rites and norms of Islam.
Today, Nowruz as a non-Islamic day symbolizes a new concept for Iranian identity. It does not only mean a revival of pre-Islamic culture, but also the tradition of Nowruz symbolizes non-violent resistance against the Islamic establishment. In this perspective, the fact is that Nowruz has become more and more politicized and societal.
Nowruz resisted Islam when in the 7th century Muslims invaded Iran and today it resists its legacy or the Islamic regime. Despite all the ups and downs, Nowruz keeps its genuine non-Islamic values and remains in the hearts and minds of most Iranians as a joyful festival and cultural heritage of pre-Islamic Iran. We celebrate Nowruz not only as a pre-Islamic tradition, but also as a symbol of freedom, light and rebirth.