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Naw-Ruz means a new day in Persian language. Naw-Ruz is the first day of spring in northern Hemisphere celebrated in several calendars including the Jalali Calendar and the Baha’i Calendar.
The Iranian calendars (Persian: گاه شماری ایرانی Gâhshomâriye Irâni) are a succession of calendars invented or used for over two millennia in Iran (Persia). One of the longest chronological records in human history, the Iranian calendar has been modified time and again during its history to suit administrative, climatic, and religious purposes.
In regards to Naw-Rúz: The Bahá’í New Year, John Walbridge writes; “Naw-Ruz (`New Day’) is the Bahá’í and Iranian new year, which occurs on the date of the vernal equinox, about 21 March. It is one of the nine Bahá’í holy days on which work is suspended.
Bahá’u’lláh adopted the Babi holy day of Naw-Ruz as the feast day following the fast and stressed that it is associated with the Most Great Name, bearing as it does Bahá’u’lláh’s own name.”
The celebration of Naw-Ruz in Baha’i history is associated with much suffering and joy bringing into mind the transforming powers of the New Day towards an ever advancing civilization. The Bab celebrated Naw-Ruz through six years of exile and imprisonment until His execution on July 9, 1850. Baha’u’llah and Abdu’l-baha spent most of their Naw-Ruz in Exile and imprisonment at the hand of the Ottoman and Persian Empires. At times early believers were fortunate to join them. It is curious to know if they had access to objects traditionally associated with celebration of Naw-Ruz in Iran, the seven objects beginning with the letter called seen.
Baha’is of all background celebrate Naw-Ruz as a religious holiday emphasizing on the spirit of renewal and philanthropy. After his release from prison Abdu’l-Baha, in a talk on the Feast of Naw-Rúz, in Alexandria, Egypt, in 1912, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá said:—
In the sacred laws of God, in every cycle and dispensation there are blessed feasts, holidays and workless days. On such days all kinds of occupations, commerce, industry, agriculture, etc., should be suspended.
All should rejoice together, hold general meetings, become as one assembly, so that the national oneness, unity and harmony may be demonstrated in the eyes of all.
As it is a blessed day it should not be neglected, nor deprived of results by making it a day devoted to the pursuit of mere pleasure.
During such days institutions should be founded that may be of permanent benefit and value to the people.
Today there is no result or fruit greater than guiding the people. Undoubtedly the friends of God, upon such a day, must leave tangible philanthropic or ideal traces that should reach all mankind and not pertain only to the Bahá’ís. In this wonderful dispensation, philanthropic affairs are for all humanity without exception, because it is the manifestation of the mercifulness of God. Therefore, 183 my hope is that the friends of God, every one of them, may become as the mercy of God to all mankind.
The Feasts of Naw-Rúz (New Year) and Riḍván, the Anniversaries of the Birth of the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh, and of the Báb’s Declaration (which is also the birthday of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá) are the great joy-days of the year for Bahá’ís. In Persia they are celebrated by picnics or festal gatherings at which music, the chanting of verses and tablets, and short addresses suitable to the occasion are contributed by those present. The intercalary days between the eighteenth and nineteenth months (that is, February 26 to March 1 inclusive) are specially devoted to hospitality to friends, the giving of presents, ministering to the poor and sick, et cetera.
The anniversaries of the martyrdom of the Báb and the departure of Bahá’u’lláh and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá are celebrated with solemnity by appropriate meetings and discourses, the chanting of prayers and Tablets.
The Baha’is of Iran have celebrated Naw-Ruz under many adverse conditions and with their perseverance and spirit of faith new chapters are added to the transformation of the celebration of Naw-Ruz. Since 1979 many Baha’i families had to reflect on how to celebrate Naw-Ruz and how to maintain its joyous and hopeful spirit. They turned to the Writings of their Faith for guidance and the example of the central figures of the Faith such as Abdu’l-Baha to transform the prison into a garden of Eden while their loved ones were spending their days in prison or awaiting execution.
Abdu’l-Baha, having suffered 40 years of imprisonment, teaches how to understand in real term the meaning of what Abraham alluded to in transforming the fire of hell into a heavenly garden.
Abdu’l-Baha in a talk about Joy and sorrow explains the way to real freedom:
Joy gives us wings! In times of joy our strength is more vital, our intellect keener, and our understanding less clouded. We seem better able to cope with the world and to find our sphere of usefulness. But when sadness visits us we become weak, our strength leaves us, our comprehension is dim and our intelligence veiled. The actualities of life seem to elude our grasp, 110 the eyes of our spirits fail to discover the sacred mysteries, and we become even as dead beings.
There is no human being untouched by these two influences; but all the sorrow and the grief that exist come from the world of matter—the spiritual world bestows only the joy!
If we suffer it is the outcome of material things, and all the trials and troubles come from this world of illusion.
For instance, a merchant may lose his trade and depression ensues. A workman is dismissed and starvation stares him in the face. A farmer has a bad harvest, anxiety fills his mind. A man builds a house which is burnt to the ground and he is straightway homeless, ruined, and in despair.
All these examples are to show you that the trials which beset our every step, all our sorrow, pain, shame and grief, are born in the world of matter; whereas the spiritual Kingdom never causes sadness. A man living with his thoughts in this Kingdom knows perpetual joy. The ills all flesh is heir to do not pass him by, but they only touch the surface of his life, the depths are calm and serene.
Today, humanity is bowed down with trouble, sorrow and grief, no one escapes; the world is wet with tears; but, thank God, the remedy is at our doors. Let us turn our hearts away from the world of matter and live in the spiritual world! It alone can give us freedom! If we are hemmed in by difficulties we have only to call upon God, and by His great Mercy we shall be helped. 111
If sorrow and adversity visit us, let us turn our faces to the Kingdom and heavenly consolation will be outpoured.
If we are sick and in distress let us implore God’s healing, and He will answer our prayer.
When our thoughts are filled with the bitterness of this world, let us turn our eyes to the sweetness of God’s compassion and He will send us heavenly calm! If we are imprisoned in the material world, our spirit can soar into the Heavens and we shall be free indeed!
When our days are drawing to a close let us think of the eternal worlds, and we shall be full of joy!
You see all round you proofs of the inadequacy of material things—how joy, comfort, peace and consolation are not to be found in the transitory things of the world. Is it not then foolishness to refuse to seek these treasures where they may be found? The doors of the spiritual Kingdom are open to all, and without is absolute darkness.
Thank God that you in this assembly have this knowledge, for in all the sorrows of life you can obtain supreme consolation. If your days on earth are numbered, you know that everlasting life awaits you. If material anxiety envelops you in a dark cloud, spiritual radiance lightens your path. Verily, those whose minds are illumined by the Spirit of the Most High have supreme consolation.
I myself was in prison forty years—one year alone would have been impossible to bear—nobody survived that imprisonment more than a year! But, thank God, during all those forty years I was supremely happy! 112 Every day, on waking, it was like hearing good tidings, and every night infinite joy was mine. Spirituality was my comfort, and turning to God was my greatest joy. If this had not been so, do you think it possible that I could have lived through those forty years in prison?
Thus, spirituality is the greatest of God’s gifts, and ‘Life Everlasting’ means ‘Turning to God’. May you, one and all, increase daily in spirituality, may you be strengthened in all goodness, may you be helped more and more by the Divine consolation, be made free by the Holy Spirit of God, and may the power of the Heavenly Kingdom live and work among you.
This is my earnest desire, and I pray to God to grant you this favour.”
Today the Baha’is in Iran who celebrate Naw-Ruz in prison share with us their transforming powers of love and faith in the poem bellow. They are speaking of another set of seven ornaments on their table of haft seen which are of spiritual nature.
By directing their thoughts towards the examples and love of The Bab, Baha’u’llah, Abdu’l-Baha and a history full of sacrificial examples of the early believers the Baha’i prisoners in Iran feel free as they transform the fire of hell into the garden of Eden with their spiritual insight and powers. The poem bellow is and expression of their creativity and ingenuity in assembling the seven symbols of celebrating Naw-Ruz
هفت سين در سجن طرحى ديگر است
چيد مانى بر تر و زيبا تر است
سين ا ول سنبل گيسوى يار
مست از عطرش شدن در نوبهار
سين دوم سيب سرخ روزگار
هر زمان چرخد به سويى بيقرار
سين سوم سرکه ى تند ستم
آ نچه عشاقش چشيده دمبدم
سين چارم سير بد بوى جفا
در مشام عاشقان مبتلا
سين پنجم هم سماق انتظار
روزهاى بس دراز پايدار
سين ديگر سبزه ى اميد او
ميدمد از خاک ما بى گفتگو
سبز مى گردد زمين زين سبزه ها
صلح اعظم در جهان گردد به پا
هفت سين را چون ملائک چيده اند
سين ديگر هم تدا رک ديده اند
سين خوشتر سر خوشى از عشق دوست
آ نکه عالم جمله از الطاف اوست
سين ديگر سوختن در راه عشق
پايدارى در اقامتگاه عشق
گر شما در راه عشقش سوختيد
بر جهان رسم وفا آ موختيد
در ره عشق بها زندان شدن
خوشتر از تسليم بيدينان شدن
Happy Naw-Ruz to all my Baha’i friends in the prisons in Iran. I am including their items of celebration on my Naw-ruz Table of haft seen.
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