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Iranian National Feast

Author : Mahdi Mehrizi
Subject : Iranian Traditions
Translator : Ahmad Rezwani
Editor : Mahdi Baqi

25 May 2010
Hadith Sciences 1


The article is centred on Iranians’ traditional feast Now Ruz, as mentioned in Islamic traditions. First, Islamic views toward national traditions and rituals are studied. In this regard two classes of hadiths are recognized. The main body of the article is addressed to review and criticize the various viewpoints which come up in an attempt to solve this emerging inconsistency and paradox. In doing so, the writer first surveys the views so far expressed, and then comes up with his own conclusion.

Key Words

National Feast,


How would the Universal Religion treat national customs and traditions? Does it put them aside and proceeds to create new customs and traditions? Or would it confirm them and seat them beside itself? Or would it select from among them?

First, it should be known that the perfect religion is not the one which undertakes everything by itself and replace all human capacities and civic institutions; rather, it is a religion that sees all of these in their own places as they rightly should be, gives them a holistic direction and undertakes what is out of the power of "individual faculties" and "collective institutions". And this has a profound philosophy, for as religion is God's legislative action, human faculties and their subordinate instruments (such as collective institutions) are His creational action, and never are creation and legislation mutually exclusive; for, they are commanded by a Single Origin.

If we look at the religious sources and origins with this rational background, we will find the religion does not demand to roll up the carpet of the ethno-national traditions; rather, it intends to give a sublime direction to these traditions, as religion closes down only what is incompatible with man's inner nature. As such, the Holy Qur'an respected the sanctity of the sacred months – revered in pagan (jāhilī) traditions:

﴾Then, when the sacred months have passed, kill the polytheists…﴿

﴾O you who have faith! Do not violate Allah's sacraments, neither the sacred months﴿

The Apostle of Allah (S.A.W.) said:

"Whoever introduces a good practice and it is practiced by others will get its reward and the rewards for all those who follow these practices after him, without any loss to their reward. And whoever introduces a bad practice and it is practiced by others will acquire its sin and the sins of all those who practice it, without any decrease in their sins.

Amīr al-Mu’minīn ‘Alī (A.S.) ordered Mālik al-Ashtar:

Do not discontinue the good practices that the earlier people of this community had been acting, by virtue of which there was general unity and through which the subjects prospered. Do not innovate any line of action which injures these earlier ways because (in that case) the reward for those who had established those ways will continue but the burden for discontinuing them will be left on you.

On the other hand, we encounter examples of pre-Islamic traditions (jāhilī, etc.) that have been approved by Islam:

1. Blood money in jāhiliyya period was one hundred camels. The Prophet (S.A.W.) confirmed it.

2. The menstruating women were forbidden in jāhiliyya period to participate in religious feasts and sacrifice rituals, which was also preserved Islam.

3. Barā’ b. ‘Āzib, was the first person who purified himself (after easing nature) with water, and then it became customary.

4. The Prophet (S.A.W.) took part in "Ḥilf al-Fuḍūl" (Alliance of the Virtuous) at the age of 25, and later on would take honor in it, saying: "If I be invited to that Alliance again, I would accept."

5. In another tradition, the seven round of circumambulation of Holy Ka‘ba, the prohibition of marriage of a son with his stepmother, and the khums (one fifth tax) of treasure are regarded among the traditions of ‘Abd al-Muṭṭalib in the jāhiliyya period that the Prophet (S.A.W.) has confirmed them.

6. Sanctity of the sacred months was also among the jāhilī traditions that were confirmed in Islam.

7. Barā’ b. Ma‘rūr lived in Makka before the Prophet (S.A.W.)'s migration. At his death time, he advised to be buried toward Makka and willed one third of his property. Both of these were then considered as traditions.

8. Prohibition of garment of infamy in jurisprudence is another proof to the acceptance of appropriate national conventions. It goes without saying that the garment of infamy in any community would be recognized with the customs and practices of the same community.

9. Reference of several issues to convention (‘urf) is yet another proof to this issue: alimony (nafaqa), capability of paying for Ḥajj expenses ; and legal alms (zakāt) , etc.

These evidences bear witness to the fact that doctrinal Islam does not recommend the effacement of all traditions; rather, it accepts whatever that yields to goodness and virtue or results in no depravity and rejects what is other than that, of which some examples are as follows:

1. A traditional practice (sunna) that represents a false doctrine. The prohibition of the manufacture, carrying, and keeping crosses is of this category. When the Apostle of Allah (S.A.W.) saw ‘Adīyy b. Ḥātam hanging a cross around his neck, told him: "Put away this idol."

2. A traditional practice that promotes superstition. When Ḥalīma b. Sa‘diyya wanted to fasten an amulet bead around the Prophet (S.A.W.)'s arm at his childhood, she faced a protest from the Prophet (S.A.W.). The Apostle of Allah (S.A.W.) said: "Allah is protecting us and nothing can be done by this bead."

3. A traditional practice that is incompatible with the legal precepts. The Prophet (S.A.W.) got married to Zaynab, who was (formerly) Zaid (his stepson)'s wife to show as wrong the pagan tradition that "One can not marry his stepson's wife".

Now that the religion's overall view on the ethnic and national customs and traditions is clarified, we proceed to take a look at one of the ancient and deeply rooted Iranian customs, i.e., Nawrūz.

Should we have not received a particular command by religion confirming or rejecting Nawrūz, we would have said – according to the earlier mentioned rule – that there is reproach or prohibition in regard to Nawrūz as an Iranian custom which had been respected by some people since long time ago; for, the Nawrūz itself, as a token of false rituals, is not dignified or respected, but its ethnic and national overall air is what we mean here. Yes, if case of any hidden vulgarity or promotion of superstition in that custom, it ought to be forsaken.

However, there are some traditions narrated in the Shī‘a and Sunnī sources that are confirmed by some and rejected challenged by others. This dichotomy in narrations has caused the religious scholars to be deliberating since long time ago on how to resolve this contradiction; some have attested to and defended them, others have chosen to reject them.

This paper aims at, primarily, reporting the scholars' endeavors to encounter such narrations and then tries to look at them from a different viewpoint. Perhaps it works!

It is befitting, before introducing the related outlooks, to narrate the traditions. Accordingly, discourses in this paper are organized in three sections: Nawrūz in traditions, viewpoints, and final assessment.

One: Nawrūz in Traditions

As we said before, the traditions about Nawrūz are divided into two groups: one approves it implicitly or by allusion and the other speaks ill of it.

1. Agreeing Traditions

A. Shī‘a Traditions

1- Kulayni (d. 329/940) relates the following in al-Kāfī:

Ibrāhīm Karkhī says: I asked Imam al-Ṣādiq (A.S.): Someone has a large farm. On the feast of Mehrgān or Nawrūz, people give him some gifts without having to; just for getting close to him [should he accept it?]. The Imam asked: "Do they pray?" I answered yes. He said: "He should accept their gifts and give them gifts in return. Verily, the Apostle of Allah (S.A.W.) said: If I am given a trotter as a gift, I will accept it; and this is a part of religiosity. And if a polytheist or hypocrite brings me a load [of dates], I will not accept it; and this is also a part of religiosity. The Almighty Allah has forbidden us gifts from the polytheists and hypocrites.

2- Shaykh Ṣadūq (d. 381/991) says in his Man lā Yaḥḍuru al-Faqīh:

They brought a Nawrūz gift for ‘Alī (A.S.). He asked: "What is this?" They said: "O Amīr al-Mu’minīn! Today is Nawrūz." He said: "Make all our days Nawrūz!"

3- The same relates:

It is quoted from ‘Alī (A.S.) as saying: "Every day of ours is Nawrūz."

4- Nu‘mān b. Muḥammad Tamīmī (d. 363/973) relates in his Da‘ā’im al-Islām:

They brought some fālūda (cold vermicelli drink) for ‘Alī (A.S.). He asked: "What is this?" They said: "Today is Nawrūz. He said: "If you can make every day a Nawrūz [that is, give gift to one another for God's sake and go visit each other].

5- Shaykh Ṭūsī (d. 460/1067) has related in his Miṣbāḥ al-Mutihajji:

Imam al-Ṣādiq said on the day of Nawrūz: "When the Nawrūz arrives, perform ghusl (major ablution), put on perfume, and fast that day. Then, after you have performed the noon and afternoon prayers and the related supererogatory prayers, perform a four rak‘a prayer. In the first rak‘a recite Sūrat al-Ḥamd and ten times Sūrat al-Qadr. In the second rak‘a, recite Sūrat al-Ḥamd and ten times Sūrat al-Kāfirūn. In the third rak‘a recite Sūrat al-Ḥamd and ten times Sūrat al-Tawḥīd; and in the fourth rak‘a recite Sūrat al-Ḥamd along with Sūrat al-Falaq and Sūrat al-Nās. After the prayers, perform a prostration of thanksgiving and invoke Allah (make du‘ā). [Thus,] Your sins of fifty years will be pardoned."

6- Ibn Fahd Ḥillī (d. 841/1437) says in his Al-Muhadhdhab al-Bāri‘:

What has been related about the merits of Nawrūz confirming our words, is a ḥadīth that ‘Allāma Sayyid Bahā’ al-Dīn ‘Alī has related from Mu‘allā b. Khunays with his own chain of transmitters that: The Nawrūz is the day when the Prophet (S.A.W.) secured allegiance on Amīr al-Mu’minīn in Ghadīr al-Khum and the Muslims admitted his Wilāyat. Blessed are those who held on to this allegiance, and woe on those who broke it. And this is the same day when the Prophet (S.A.W.) dispatched ‘Alī (A.S.) to the genies region and took allegiance from them. Also, it is the day when ‘Alī (A.S.) triumphed over the people of Nahrawān and killed Dhū al-Thudayya (the one having breasts). It is the same day that our Qā’im (the one who rises up) and his state authorities will appear and Allah will make him victorious over Dajjāl (Antichrist) who will be hanged in a garbage dump in Kufa. On every Nawrūz, we take hope in the faraj (the return of our savior); since Nawrūz is a day belonging to us, which the Persians respected it and you ruined it.

Also, a Prophet from among the Banī Isrā’īl Prophets beseeched God to bring back to life a group of several thousands who had fled their home land for fear of their lives. God sent a Revelation to that Prophet to sprinkle water over the graves of those people. The Prophet did so on the day of Nawrūz. Then, they came back to life and they numbered thirty thousand. Thus, sprinkling water on the day of Nawrūz turned to an enduring tradition, the reason for which is not known by none other than those who possess everlasting knowledge; and that is the beginning of the Persians' New Year.

Mu‘allā said that Imam al-Ṣādiq (A.S.) dictated these words to me and I wrote them down.

7- ‘Allāma Majlisī (d. 1111/1699) said in Biḥār al-Anwār:

Mu‘llā son of Khunays says: "I arrived to Imam al-Ṣādiq on the day of Nawrūz. He asked: 'Do you know this day?' I said: 'May I be your ransom! The Persians honor this day and give presents to one another. He said: 'I swear by the House of Ka‘ba that this has an ancient secret, which I will reveal to you to become aware of it.' I said: 'My master! Learning this from you is better for me than if the dead come back to life and my enemies die!'

"Then, the Imam said: 'O Mu‘allā! Nawrūz is the same day that Allah secured commitment from His servants to worship Him, not to ascribe partners to Him, to follow the Prophets, and to have faith in the Imams. This is the same day that the sun rose, the winds began to blow, and the flowers of the earth grew. It is the day when the Ark of Noah (A.S.) settled on the Mount Judi; and the day when God brought back to life a group of people – after He had caused them to die – who had fled their houses for fear of their lives. It is the day when Gabriel descended to the Prophet (S.A.W.) and a day when the Prophet (S.A.W.) raised ‘Alī (A.S.) up on his shoulder to smash the idols of Quraysh in the Holy Mosque and it was the same day that Abraham smashed the idols. It is the day when the Prophet (S.A.W.) ordered his companions to swear allegiance to ‘Alī (A.S.), and the day when he sent ‘Alī (A.S.) to secure allegiance from the genies. It was on the same day that the second allegiance to Amīr al-Mu’minīn was sworn. On this day he triumphed over the people of Nahrawān and killed Dhū al-Thudayya. It is the same day that our Qā’im (the one who rises up) and his state authorities will rise up; and on the same day our Qā’im will gain victory over Dajjāl (Antichrist) and will hang him in a garbage dump in Kufa. On every Nawrūz day we hope for the faraj; as it is a day belonging to us and our Shī‘as. The Persians respected it and you ruined it."

"The Imam said: 'One of the Banī Isrā’īl Prophets asked God how to bring back to life these people who had died. God revealed to him to sprinkle water on their graves on Nawrūz, the first day of the Persian year, and they came back to life; and they were thirty thousand people. Since then, sprinkling water on the day of Nawrūz became a common practice. I asked: 'Would you not teach me the names of the Persian days to me?' the Imam said: 'O Mu‘allā! These are ancient days of the ancient months. Each month is thirty days, intact…

It is also worth mentioning that Ibn Fahd has related this narration prior to ‘Allāma in his Al-Muhadhdhab al-Bār‘i.

8- Muḥaddith Nūrī (d. 1320/1902) has related in his Mustadrik al-Wasā’il quoting from Ḥusayn b. Hamdān:

Mufaḍḍal son of ‘Umar quotes Imam al-Ṣādiq (A.S.) as saying: "…God revealed to Ḥazqīl (Ezekiel) that: 'Today is a sublime and honorable day to Me. I have pledged My Word that any believer who asks for something from Me today, it will be granted to them.' And that day was Nawrūz."

B. Sunnī Traditions

9- Bukhārī (194-256/809-869) relates in his Al-Ta’rīkh al-Kabīr as follows:

Sa‘r al-Tamīmī said: "They brought fālūda for ‘Alī (A.S.). He said: 'What is this?' they said: 'Today is Nawrūz.' The Imam said: 'Make all your days Nawrūz!"

10- Ibn Nadīm (d. 385/995) relates in his Al-Fihrist:

Ismā’īl b. Ḥammād said: "I, son of Ḥammād, son of Abū Ḥanīfa, son of Nu‘mān b. Marzbān from among the free Iranians. Never had slavery been common among us. My father was born in 80 AH/699 CE. My grand father went to meet ‘Alī b. Abī Ṭālib along with his baby son. ‘Alī (A.S.) prayed for him and his son and we hope that his prayer for us will be answered to.

Nu‘mān b. Marzbān is the one who took fālūda to ‘Alī (A.S.) on the day of Nawrūz. ‘Alī (A.S.) told him: 'Make all your days Nawrūz.' Some said it was Mehrgān and ‘Alī (A.S.) said: 'Make all your days Mehrgān'.

11- Al-Bīrūnī (d. 440/1048) said in his Āthār al-Bāqiya:

"It is related that on Nawrūz a silver cup filled with sweetmeat was brought to the Prophet (S.A.W.) as a gift. His Holiness asked: 'What's this?' they answered: 'Today is the day of Nawrūz." He asked: 'What is Nawrūz?' They said: 'It is the great feast of the Iranians.' The Prophet (S.A.W.) aid: 'Yes, it was on this day that God brought ‘Askara back to life.' They asked: 'Who was ‘Askara?' his Holiness said: 'It was a thousand people, who fled their homeland for fear of their lives, took to the desert, and God told them, 'Die!' and they died. Then, He brought them back to life and ordered the clouds to rain on them. That is why sprinkling water [on Nawrūz] has become a common.' Then, he ate some of the sweetmeat and divided the rest among the companions and said: 'Were it that everyday was a Nawrūz for us!'"

12- Fīrūzābādī says in his Al-Qāmūs:

"Some sweetmeat was brought to ‘Alī (A.S.). He asked: 'What is this?' they said: 'It is for Nawrūz.' The Imam said: 'All our days are Nawrūz.' And on Mehrgan said: 'Make everyday Mehrgan for us.'"

1. Opposing Traditions

A. Shī‘a Traditions

13- Quṭb al-Dīn Rāwandī (d. 573/1173) said in his Lubb al-Lubāb:

It is related from the Apostle of Allah (S.A.W.) who said: 'I substituted two day for two days for you: Al-Fiṭr and Al-Ḍuḥā for Nawrūz and Mehrgān.'

14- Ibn Shahrāshūb (d. 588/1192) relates in his Al-Manāqib:

"It is narrated that Manṣūr suggested Imam al-Kāẓim (A.S.) to hold a ceremonial audience on Nawrūz for felicitation and receiving presents."

"Imam al-Kāẓim (A.S.) said in reply: 'I searched through the traditions of my great grandfather the Apostle of Allah (S.A.W.) and did not find any confirmation of this feast. Verily, this is a fast belonging to the Persians, which Islam has exterminated; and I seek refuge in Allah from reviving what Islam has exterminated."

"Manṣūr said: 'We do this to manage the military men and I swear you by God to hold this audience.' Then, the Imam accepted and the military commanders and troops came to felicitate and forward their gifts. Manṣūr's servant was standing behind the Imam counting the presents. The last person was an old man. He said to Imam al-Kāẓim (A.S.): 'O son of the Prophet (S.A.W.)'s daughter! I am a poor person and have nothing to present as a gift; but I present to you as a gift some lines of poetry that my great grandfather has written for your great grandfather Ḥusayn (A.S.)…'

"The Imam said: 'I accept your gift. Sit down. May God bless you!' Then, the Imam raised his head and told Manṣūr's servant to go to Manṣūr and report these gifts to him. The servant went away to Manṣūr, and when returned, he quoted Manṣūr as saying: 'These gifts belong to you; do whatever you want with them. 'Imam al-Kāẓim (A.S.) said to the old man: 'Take all these properties as my gifts to you.'"

B. Sunnī Traditions

15- Bukhārī (d. 256/869) has mentioned in his Al-Tārīkh al-Kabīr:

"Ayyūb b. Dīnār is quoted as saying: "‘Alī (A.S.) would not accept Nawrūz presents.'"

16- Ālūsī (d. 1342/1923) said in his Bulūgh al-Irab:

"The Prophet (S.A.W.) entered Medina. The people of Medina used to have two feasts in which they engaged in amusement and fun. The Apostle of Allah (S.A.W.) asked: 'What are these two days?' They said they were two memorials from the Jāhiliyya (paganism). The Prophet (S.A.W.) said: 'Allah has substituted them with better than those: the days of Al-Aḍuḥā and Al-Fiṭr.' It is said that those two days have been Nawrūz and Mehrgān."


So far sixteen traditions were gathered from various Shī‘a and Sunnī sources confirming or rejecting Nawrūz. Our attempt in this article was to make a thorough survey and deep research into all the relevant narrations, trying to organize the traditions according to their date of recording. As far as possible we tried to find the origin of each tradition and refer to its different sources. Having related those traditions, now proceed to state the viewpoints and make final analysis.

Two: Viewpoints

Different traditions are undoubtedly grounds for the formation of various opinions, clarified as such by searching into books of jurisprudence and ḥadīth.

Some scholars have criticized the traditions related on Nawrūz and, by pointing out their weak points and drawbacks, have taken them as unreliable; as, in contrast, the majority of the jurists have given fatwas (legal decrees) for the content of the first group traditions and recounted in their legal books certain rites and customs for Nawrūz. These scholars have attempted to respond to the critics and opponents while giving fatwas concerning the content of the traditions.

Now, we take glance at these two viewpoints.

A. Opponents

The critics and opponents of the traditions about Nawrūz are not many. These have tried to reveal the shortcomings existing in the first group traditions and thus held on to the traditions of the second group; although their attempts are not focused on editing and confirming the second group.

They have recounted some weak points and drawbacks for the agreeing traditions as follows:

1. weakness of sanad (chain of transmission),

2. contradiction and incoherence in Mu‘allā's tradtions,

3. no mentioning of Mu‘allā's tradtions in older sources,

4. inconformity of the events mentioned in the traditions with the historical realities,

5. ambiguity of the Iranian Nawrūz,

6. promotion of Magian rites.

On the basis of these drawbacks, the opponents view the agreeing traditions as invalid and by no means regard Nawrūz celebration as permissible. They maintain that the rites and customs mentioned in these traditions are not acceptable and practical, and that their weakness and infirmity can not be ignored by "tolerating the proofs of traditions", as we are dealing here with a great impediment such as the promotion of the Magian rites. We quote here some of these viewpoints:

Āqā Raḍī Qazvīnī (in a treatise he wrote in 1062/1651), is perhaps the first person who has criticized Nawrūz in detail. He has generally denied the correspondence of the common Nawrūz with the one mentioned in traditions and thereby criticizes the agreeing traditions, and writes the following after quoting the tradition related by Mu‘allā:

Given the preference of the mentioned practices on the day of Nawrūz, the temporariness of these practices, and that if in such acts of devotion the particular times are not taken into consideration and performed in other times, they would be bid‘a (innovation, heresy), so commitment to this practice is permitted to the obliged one who has least of all attained the supposition for determining the mentioned time. Attaining this supposition can inevitably be among the legal and conventional denotations, and since the day of Nawrūz is conventionally different due to the difference in the existing terminology – as some part of it will be pointed out later on – and the superiority of some times over others would not be regarded as a denotation, and as apparently there is no mention of such a issue in the Qur'an, its denotation is to be derived from the narrations and traditions.

Muḥammad b. Khwajawī (d. 1173/1759) views the contradictions in Mu‘allā's traditions as a reason for their insufficiency and writes:

This poor destitute says: apparently, there is contradiction between this ḥadīth and the previous one; as, it is mentioned in the previous ḥadīth that on the day of Nawrūz the Prophet (S.A.W.) raised ‘Alī (A.S.) up on his shoulder to topple the idols of Quraysh from atop the Glorified Mecca and smashed them, and this has undoubtedly took place at the conquest of the Glorified Mecca, as it is signified by the Shī‘as and Sunnīs…. And the conquest of the Glorified Mecca has taken place eight years after Ḥijra in the Holy Month of Ramadan as related by Shaykh Mufīd, Ṭabarsī, Shahrāshūb, and others and asserted by reliable traditions; majority of whom resolve that it has been on the thirteenth and others believe it to have been on the twentieth of Ramadan. [Whereas] The Prophet's departure was on Friday, Ramadan 2 after afternoon prayer; and the Ghadīr of Khum was on the Farewell Ḥajj, the eighteenth of the holy month of Dhu'l Ḥijja in the year 10 AH. So, how can both days happen to be Nawrūz? Because as calculated before, Nawrūz would happen in Dhu'l Ḥijja after six or seven years or more from the conquest of Mecca, and not after one year, as these two traditions imply.

He goes on to say:

And since both are transmitted by Mu‘allā in a similar way (sanad) …so preference of each one of them over the other with respect to its sanad is not conceivable; therefore, the content of none of them would be authoritative and may not be relied on or referred to as evidence; as, contradiction in the Infallible Imams (A.S.) is untrue. Thus, it is understood here that none of these two traditions are taken to be from the Infallible Imam, and as such, are not authoritative, nor can be used as legal evidence.

Ustād Muḥammad Taqī Miṣbāḥ has written in his marginal notes to this tradition in Biḥār al-Anwār:

Two different types of traditions have been related concerning Nawrūz; one related by Mu‘allā from Imam al-Ṣādiq (A.S.) signifying the splendor and significance of Nawrūz, and the other related from Imam al-Kāẓim (A.S.) who has considered as the Persians' customs which Islam has rejected.

It should be noted that none of them is sound and valid enough to be relied on for proving a legal judgment. Apart from that, Mu‘allā's tradition has other drawbacks in terms of conformity of Nawrūz with the Arabic months.

Then he goes on to write:

Manṣūr's narration appears to be honoring Nawrūz; as such, it is honoring the disbelievers' rites and customs and perpetuating the practices that Islam has eradicated. This narration – although not qualified as authoritative –with the general theme brought up in it (i.e., respecting the rites and customs of the unbelievers) is proved by the Sunnī proofs; and that Nawrūz is among such rites and customs is proved to be self evident.

But the legalists' fatwās, asserting the preference of ghusl and fasting on the day of Nawrūz, are based on the rule of "negligence in the evidences of sunan"; but here is not the place for executing this rule, since it does not apply to the instances in which there is the possibility of legislative prohibition.

Mr. Sayyid Jawād Mudarrisī wrote in an article in the journal "Nūr-i ‘Ilm" as follow:

With respect to the contradictory traditions, the inattention of the earlier scholars, the ambiguity of the [tradition's] text, and the lack of authenticity of the sanad, giving legal judgment about the legitimacy of Nawrūz is not so easy. It just remains to hold on to arguments of the "negligence in the evidences of sunan"; however, the day is done is designated by some jurists, rather than implied from the narration's content and the above mentioned arguments do not apply to the jurists' words.

On the other hand, the feast of Nawrūz is among the rites of the Magians and potentially ḥarām (unlawful) and the evidences of the negligence in sunna – as remarked by some – is inapplicable to such a case.

Mr. Rasūl Ja‘fariyān says in this respect:

This was what has been related in the sixth/twelfth century about Nawrūz. In this regard, what is significant is the very tradition narrated by Mu‘allā b. Khunays and there is no other confirmation of Nawrūz except than this tradition.

He has said in another place:

And the problem with these two traditions (namely, the ones that Ibn Fahd has related from Mu‘allā in confirmation of Nawrūz) is that they are not related in the old Shī‘a sources. Besides, the aforementioned traditions that originally have to be the same contain two types of information about Nawrūz which in itself has caused misconception about it, reinforcing the likelihood of its being fabricated. Furthermore, it is known that Ibn Ghaḍā’irī has said: "The extremists have attributed narrations to Mu‘allā b. Khunays; so, his traditions can not be trusted." In that case, this narration – which is not free from the extremist tendencies or zealous attitudes – is from the same group of fabricated narrations that the extremists have attributed to Mu‘allā. It should also be point out that the Qarmatis (a subgroup affiliated to the extremist Ismā’iliyya) are said to have fasted two days each year – namely, Nawrūz and Mehrgan. It is to be stressed right off that the Magians not only did not fast on Nawrūz, but according to Al-Bīrūnī "the Nagians are basically not obliged to fast and any one of them that do fast, they would commit a sin".

B. The Proponents

Nawrūz decorum such as fasting, prayers, supplications, etc. have been common among the Shī‘a scholars in the books of ḥadīth and jurisprudence since the time of Shaykh Ṭūsī.

Shaykh Ṭūsī (d. 460/1067) in Miṭbāḥ al-Mutahajjid , and after him Ibn Idrīs (d. 598/1201) in Al-Sarā’ir , then Yaḥyā b. Sa‘īd (d. 589/1201) in Al-Jāmi‘ li al-Sharā’i‘ , and after him Shahīd Awwal (d. 786/1384) in Al-Qawā’id al-Fawā’id , as well as in Al-Durūs , Al-Bayān , Al-Dhikrā , and Al-Lum‘a have pointed out to the observance of such decorum.

Similarly, Ibn Fahd (d. 841/1437) in Al-Muhadhdhab al-Bāri‘ , Muḥaqqiq Karakī (d. 940/1533) in Jāmi‘ al-Maqāṣid , Shahīd Thānī (d. 966/1558) in Al-Masālik and Sharḥ al-Lum‘a , Muḥaqqiq Ardabīlī (d. 993/1585) in Majma‘ al-Fā’ida wa al-Burḥān , Shaykh Baḥā’ī (d. 1030/1620) in Jāmi‘ ‘Abbāsī and Al-Ḥabl al-Matīn , Fāḍil Hindī (d. 1137/1724) in Kashf al-Lithām , Shaykh Yūsif Baḥrānī (d. 1186/1772) in Al-Ḥadā’iq al-Nāḍira , and Kāshif al-Ghiṭā’ (d. 1228/1813) in Kashf al-Ghiṭā’ , Narāqī (d. 1245/1829) in Mustanad al-Shī‘a , Ṣāḥib Jawāhir (d. 1266/1849) in Jawāhir al-Kalām , and Shaykh Anṣārī (d. 1281/1864) in Kitāb al-Ṭahāra , et al have given fatwā concerning such Nawrūz decorums.

Also, in the contemporary books of fatwā and fiqh such as Al-‘Urwa al-Wuthqā , Jāmi‘ al-Madārik , Al-Mustanad , etc. legal judgments are found on these decorums.

As mentioned before, Nawrūz decorums are pointed out in ḥadīth collections such as Miṣbāḥ al-Mutihajjid, Wasā’il al-Shī‘a, and Biḥār al-Anwār; likewise, there are traditions related in Al-Kāfī, Man lā Yaḥḍuru al-Faqīh, and Da‘ā’im al-Islām which have implicitly approved Nawrūz.

Perhaps this multiplicity of legal judgments and narrations has prompted the author of Jawāhir to say:

The ghusl (major ablution) in Nawrūz is popular among the later generations; however, I did not see any opposition to him.

Apart from this, the endeavor by the ḥadīth scholars and jurists to answer the opponents' viewpoint is also noteworthy. ‘Allāma Majlisī, in his Biḥār al-Anwār, has made the most efforts in this respect and responded to the opponents' misconceptions. In a part of his detailed criticism of Shahrāshūb's narration (disapproving Nawrūz), he wrties:

This ḥadīth is in contradiction to the narrations related by Mu‘allā b. Khunays and signifies the lack of any status for Nawrūz in religious law; however, Mu‘allā's narrations are stronger in sanad and better known with the companions.

On the other hand, it can also be said that this is a ḥadīth of taqiyya (dissimulation); since, there are certain issues brought up in "Manāqib" which essentially necessitate taqiyya.

After him, other scholars have also proceeded to give brief or detailed responses. Shaykh Anṣārī says the following in criticism of Manāqib:

The ḥadīth related in Manāqib may not contradict the aḥādīth related by Mu‘allā, because Mu‘allā's narrations are better known to the companions and the narration related in Manāqib is likely to have been uttered in taqiyya.

Similarly, the author of Jawāhir defends the narrations related by Mu‘allā and criticizes the ḥadīth related in Manāqib:

Mu‘allā's narrations leaves no room for dispute in sanad and signification, as the ḥadīth related in Manāqib can not contradict it; since, with the infirmness obvious in it, taqiyya is probable in it.

It is worth mentioning that ascription of taqiyya to the ḥadīth related in Manāqib is not to be ruled out, because the Sunnīs regard the fasting on the day of Nawrūa as makrūh (objectionable). Thus, in respect the contradiction in the narrations of Mu‘allā and "Manāqib", Mu‘allā's narrations tend to be preferable.

Except for these, other treatises and books have also been composed approving the excellence of Nawrūz and Mu‘allā's narrations, some of which have been published and others remained in manuscript.

Three: Final Assessment

As mentioned earlier, this writing is exploring Nawrūz from the viewpoint of ḥadīth and tradition; and examining that part of history, comparative chronology, and jurisprudence that somehow relates to the ḥadīth and tradition and would be helpful in criticizing or accepting that ḥadīth.

Now, some remarks are made about these narrations so as to proceed next to a final summation.

First: we presented four traditions in criticism of Nawrūz. These traditions are by no means sound and reliable, because:

1. The first and fourth tradition have a similar content, the first of which has been mentioned in the Shī'a sources and the second in the Sunnī sources. The Shī‘a tradition is attributed to Quṭb Rāvandī (a scholar from the 6th/12th century), which is related by Ḥājī Nūrī (d. 1320/1902) in his Mustadrak al-Wasā’il. Apart from not being available in the old sources, this tradition can not be confirmed in the content, either; for, how would it be possible for two ancient Persian feasts to have been common in Arabian Peninsula in the early Muslim years so that the Prophet (S.A.W.) would have abrogated it with ‘Īd al-Fiṭr and ‘Īd al-Aḍhā?! Nawrūz and Mehrgān are undoubtedly among the Iranians' ancient rituals, which after the Arabs relationship with Iranians became popular in Arabia; not being so popular among the people so that the Prophet (S.A.W.) would have abrogated by means of the Muslim feasts.

The other tradition is that which is related by Ālūsī in which there is no mention of such terms as Nawrūz and Mehrgān, and the transmitters of ḥadīth have added them to the tradition by presumption (rather than certainty). Thereby, after relating the ḥadīth, Ālūsī says" "It is said that they are Nawrūz and Mehrgān." It is worth mentioning that some authors have attributed this addition to Ālūsī who had included it to the ḥadīth:

Ālūsī relates in Bulūq al-‘Irab (vol. 1, p. 364, Cairo, 1925) that the companions presented the feast of Nawrūz and Mehrgān to the Apostle of Allah (S.A.W.). His Holiness said: "The Almighty Allah has given me the better than that (Al-Fiṭr, Al-Aḍhā).

As we mentioned before, Ālūsī's tradition is as follows:

"The Prophet (S.A.W.) entered Medina. The people of Medina used to have two feasts in which they engaged in amusement and fun. The Apostle of Allah (S.A.W.) asked: 'What are these two days?' They said they were two memorials from the Jāhiliyya (paganism). The Prophet (S.A.W.) said: 'Allah has substituted them with better than those: the days of Al-Aḍuḥā and Al-Fiṭr.' It is said that those two days have been Nawrūz and Mehrgān."

2. Apart from being mursal (incomplete in chain of transmission) and quoted by the term "it is said that", the tradition related in Manāqib is not clear by whom it is said so, nor the source of transmission is Ibn Shahrāshūb.

3. The Bukhārī's tradition relating that ‘Alī (A.S.) rejected the Nawrūz present is not only in contradiction with his other traditions [stating] that ‘Alī (A.S.) used to accept presents, but also in contradiction with many other Shī‘a traditions in this regard and can not be relied on.

Second: regarding the assessment of the sanad of agreeing narrations, the following may be stated:

1. Kulaynī's narration enjoys an authentic sanad.

2. Although Shaykh Ṭūsī's narration related from Mu‘allā is without a sanad, the latter's book is validly documented in Al-Fihrist.

3. In his Zād al-Ma‘ād, ‘Allāma Majlisī says: "It is related by reliable sanads from Mu‘allā b. Khunays, who is the elect among Imam al-Ṣādiq (A.S.) that…" Then, he goes on to relate a ḥadīth whose ending is similar to the ḥadīth that Shaykh Ṭūsī has related in his Miṣbāḥ.

4. Transmission of these narrations in such ancient sources as: Al-Kāfī, Man lā Yaḥḍuru al-Faqīh, Miṣbāḥ al-Mutahajjid, and Da‘ā’im al-Islām, can be an evidence to their validity.

Accordingly, it can be said that by summing up the twelve traditions it can be implied that the Iranians' conduct in honoring the Nawrūz has been viewed and witnessed by the religious leaders who not only did not oppose it, but also encouraged and showed good grace toward it and part of its implicit behavioral.

Yes, we believe that, on the basis of these traditions alone and without other historical evidence, the features mentioned in them can not be proved, nor may the historical references made in them be approved. In contrast, it is not either possible to weaken or ignore this entirety due to the existence of some ambiguous historical points in it.

Third: A study of the ancient sources indicates that Nawrūz, as an Iranian ritual, has been common in the culture of the Muslims and Shī‘as.

Now we recount the evidences of this issue as apart from the aforementioned narrations:

1. According to some experts of comparative chronology, the newly Muslim Hurmuzan was present in the 2nd Caliph's consulting session for setting the calendar. He explained the Iranian calendar to the audience and the Caliph accepted that calendar for the government affairs and land taxes and it is apparent that Nawrūz is a part of the Iranian calendar.

2. Najāshī, in his biography of Abū al-Ḥasan Naṣr b. ‘Āmir b. Wahab Sanjārī, has written that he is one of the trustworthy among the Shī‘as and has several books, including: the book called Mā Ruwiya fī Yawm al-Nīrūz (What is related on the Day of Nawrūz). Similarly, Ibn Nadīm has reported that Ṣāḥib b. ‘Abbād has written Kitāb al-A‘yād wa Faẓā’il al-Nīrūz (The Book of Feasts and the Merits of Nawrūz). During the Safavid rule many poems have also been composed on Nawrūz by the scholars.

3. Land taxes were levied on the basis of Nawrūz during the Abbasid rein.

4. The Umayyad Caliphs would accept Nawrūz gifts; they even ordered to have them brought to them. It is worth-mentioning that in some regions, the Sunnī rulers had forbidden both receiving the Nawrūz gifts and holding Nawrūz ceremonies.

5. Nawrūz has been widely present in the poems of the Arabic and Persian writers up to the present, which is evidently attesting to the presence of Nawrūz in the culture of the Muslim Iranians.

With respect to these evidences and others of the kind, considering Nawrūz as the Magian ritual in the Islamic era is an incorrect utterance; nor it is true to presume it as promoting the Fire-Worshipping Rites. Apart from these, merits of Nawrūz are also mentioned in the Islamic narrations and by the Muslim jurists and as Al-Bīrūnī put it: "The Magians are not obliged to fast, and whoever fasts is [in fact] committing a sin."

Supposing that the above had been true concerning Nawrūz in the past; but once that state of affairs was abrogated in the Muslim Iranian convention, there remained no blame to it. In the same sense, Imam Khomeini gave the fatwā that playing chess, if not used as gambling tool, is not legally forbidden. Similarly, Ustād Muṭaharrī declared sculpturing as permissible, since the philosophy of its prohibition has been retracted due to the distancing from the idolatry era; to name but a few.

Uṣūlī scholars have a rule that applies here. They maintain that if some rituals and customs are common among the people and rooted deeply into their hearts and souls, and if religious law does not show good grace toward them and wants to reject them, it should present clear and strong evidence tantamount to the sīra; otherwise, it can not be said that lawmaker despises and rejects it. In other words, firm and consistent sīras can not be turned down with weakly founded proofs and generalities; rather, the deterrent and restraining proof has to be as strong as the sīra itself.

Accordingly and considering what was stated about the Nawrūz and its past having been rooted among the Iranians, there remains no reason at hand for forbidding and restraining it by the religious law since the specific proofs – as pointed out – are weak and the generalities are not able to challenge in such instances.

Fourth: If we accept that the agreeing narrations are not trustable and no judgment or ruling can be demonstrated on their basis, as the second group of the traditions can not be relied on, in this assumption the judgment about Nawrūz is to be demonstrated by the first principle and the general religious rule.

As pointed out at the outset of this article, Islam is a universal religion that calls all people to unity and, as is its cosmopolitan nature, has never challenged national traditions, rituals and customs, except when the promotion of falsehood leading to superstitions is involved or they end up to legal prohibitions.

Nawrūz ceremony has been performed by the Islamic Iran for centuries and the Muslims have viewed it not as promotion of a Magian ritual but as a national rite, not mentioning that this custom has been practiced in Iran before the advent of Zoroastrianism.

On the other hand, Nawrūz is not a false superstition incompatible with religion and does not contain any legal prohibitions by nature. However, if any one contaminates it with what Allah has prohibited, it is just like defiling other permissible or even legal practices with legal prohibitions, which naturally does not mean defilement or contamination of those permissible or legal practices; rather, the perpetrator is to blame and to be reproached.

Again, many of the decent conducts like cleanliness, elegance, traveling, interchange of visits, largesse, consolation, and giving presents, etc. are pursued in these rituals which are praiseworthy in view of the religious law and religion.

Thereby, resistance against national rituals is not well-documented from the viewpoint of the law and religion and should not be fuelled.

Fifth: What is approved or restrained is what is called Nawrūz in the public convention of the Iranians. If over time changes have been made in it, as long as this same convention approves them, no failing is accrued in this approval or the non-restraint by the religious law.

Accordingly, the objection that some jurists and authors have raised to this issue (that the unknowing of the day of Nawrūz or its change may impair its legality) is not acceptable.


1. The narrations related in opposition to Nawrūz are by no means valid or approvable.

2. It can be said that the Nawrūz ritual is permitted and confirmed in agreeing narrations in terms of the above evidences; the features mentioned in the narratio0ns can not be confirmed, though.

3. As the Nawrūz rite has been common among the Iranians in the Islamic era and has continued as a public mode of life, its rejection and restraint by the lawmaker can not be accepted with general rules or feeble arguments; rather, restraining such modes require specific and strong arguments.

4. If we concede that neither the agreeing nor the disagreeing arguments are trustworthy and approvable, the general religious rules deem the non-opposition to Nawrūz as expedient.

Hadith Tags :   National Feast
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