Life – An Exalted Destiny – Aga Khan III
The Nawruz Festival
by ‘Allamah Nasir al-din “Nasir” Hunza’i
Nawruz literally means the new day. This day means the day of the festival which is celebrated at the beginning of spring and the arrival of the new year, in which Aries faces the sun and from this day is counted the new solar year of the Egyptians and the Iranians. The Nawruz festival is among the oldest festivals of the world, and according to reliable reports, some important historical events and religious victories also happened on this day. Thus, it is narrated that approximately 4200 years ago it was on the occasion of the Nawruz festival that Hazrat Ibrahim broke the royal idols of Iraq and Hazrat Musa, in his time on the same day, gave a crushing defeat to the magicians of Pharoah which event we would like to authenticate in the light of the Qur’an, in the following:
The competition between Hazrat Musa and the magicians of Pharoah is mentioned in these Qur’anic verses: “He (Pharoah) said: Have you come to us O Musa, to drive us out of our land with your sorcery? Then surely we can produce sorcery like thereof, so appoint a tryst between us and you, which we will not fail to keep, neither we nor you, in a place alike (to us both). Musa said: Your tryst is the day of the festival (yawmu’z-zinah) and let the people assemble in the broad daylight of the forenoon.” (20:57-59).
If we reflect on the all-inclusive meaning of Qur’anic wisdom, we certainly realize that by “yawmu’z zinah” or “day of festival” is meant the Nawruz festival. For, everything is mentioned in the Qur’an in one form or the other. In Egypt also, the Nawruz festival has continued from old times. It is also more appropriate for the “day of adornment” to be in the beginning of spring from the literal point of view and the context of the gathering of the people in the forenoon also indicates that it was the Nawruz festival, because until the beginning of spring, it is cold in Egypt, therefore, it is said that the people should gather in the forenoon. The proof of this is also found in the fact that when Hazrat Musa was returning from Madyan, during the journey due to the cold it became necessary to kindle a fire for his wife Safura as mentioned in the verse (20:9-10). As soon as Hazrat Musa reached Egypt, he started to convey the Divine message to the Pharoah and his people, and according to these verses, after some days it came to a stage that there should be a competition between miracle and magic. By this time the season had become moderate to some extent and the tryst on which the competition took place was the Nawruz festival.
The above-mentioned verse proves that some religious good fortune has also secretly continued with the Nawruz festival from the very beginning. As Hazrat Musa said to Pharoah: “The day of adornment”. By this is meant that the day of festival, with respect to the religious victory, was the day of Hazrat Musa and his followers and with respect to worldly merry-making, was the day of the Pharoah and his progeny. Thus, being common it is not attributed to anyone. That is, it is not said: “Your day of adornment”. This shows that there are religious blessings in the Nawruz festival from the very beginning. Thus, if someone objects and says that it used to be celebrated by the Pharoah and his people, this objection has no significance, because it would amount to saying that since once there were 360 idols in the “Ka’bah”, therefore, God forbid, it was possessed by the idolaters. This is not possible in any way.
The importance of the Nawruz festival is found in the time of every Prophet in one way or the other, but its complete importance became evident in the time of the Final and Last Prophet, just as Prophethood reached completion with him. Thus, on this blessed day while returning from the Farewell Pilgrimage at Ghadir Khumm, by God’s command he appointed Hazrat Mawlana ‘Ali as his Wasi (Legatee). According to reliable reports this auspicious day was 18 Dhi’l-hijjah 10 A.H./21 March, 632 A.D. With reference to the place of Ghadir, this festival is also known as ‘id-i Ghadir (Ghadir festival) in Islamic history. The Holy Prophet already knew that this was his last pilgrimage, therefore, he had named it Hijjatu’l-wada (Farewell Pilgrimage), and had announced that it was his last pilgrimage. It is because of this that approximately 120,000 people accompanied the Holy Prophet. The Holy Prophet was on the way to ‘Arafat when the Surah (94) revealed, in which one of the great Divine commands to him was: Nominate (your Wasi), and return to your Lord with fervour.” (94:7-8). Thus, the importance of the Nawruz festival also became fully manifest where the rank of Mawlana ‘Ali became manifest.
The above-mentioned part of the description of Nawruz relates to its formal and external aspect. Now let us see with insight what the reality of this example of Nawruz is and what is the spiritual Nawruz festival for the true mu’mins? This question arises because of the fact that every festival, religious or worldly, cannot prove to be the real and spiritual festival when it provides more and more means of physical happiness. Therefore, it is necessary for it to be a spiritual festival simultaneously with being a physical one, as it is reported in a famous Hadith, that Allah has founded the basis of His religion on the pattern of the physical world (khalq), so that this may be a guide towards His religion and His religion to His oneness.
The description of the religious spring and the real Nawruz festival is that just as the sun is in the centre of the universe and does not move from its place, the eternal light of the Imam of the time is always in the same state and does not change at all. Further, just as the different parts of the planet earth due to its daily and annual movement pass through light and darkness and become close to or far from the sun and due to which continue the change in day and night, and seasons of spring, summer, autumn and winter, and as in Arctic, Antarctic and in many other deserts of the planet earth the question of habitation, season of spring and the Nawruz festival does not arise at present, in the same way there is still time for the light of Imamat to shine on some human souls. Further, just as in certain regions of the planet earth due to their being on the equator or close to it, the plants do not become dormant, in the same way there are certain mu’mins in whose heart the heat of devotion and love for the Imam of the time always remain and the flowers of spiritual happiness always bloom. This example of the beneficence of the light of Imamat is according to the physical and spiritual position of the select and the common.
Read about the physical significance and beneficence of the Imam of the time in this connection, that the example of the light of Imamat and the human souls, which is given by the sun and the planet earth, is true, but the sun does not have choice while the Imam has absolute choice. Therefore, we want to explain further that suppose a great and wondrous mirror is set up on the surface of the earth. This mirror shows the luminous reflection of the world-illumining sun wherever it turns its face, and there it causes the happiness of Nawruz and the cheerfulness of spring. This is the example of the Imam of the time, because with respect to his corporeality he is the mazhar of the Divine favours and blessings and the mirror of the eternal light. It is because of this that the spiritual season of the Ismaili worlds always remain temperate and extremely pleasant and there is always spring in them. Thus the real Nawruz festival is found in the individual spirituality of mu’mins. That is, every sincere mu’min’s initial spiritual progress is his Nawruz festival, in the sense that when the mu’min truly obeys the light of Imamat, the personal world of his heart becomes like the garden of Paradise due to spiritual vegetation and prosperity.
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