Festive spread for Navroz.
Photo: Mahdi Ayat
On 21 March, Ismaili Muslims worldwide observe Navroz (Nowruz), a festival celebrated in many Muslim communities and cultures, particularly those belonging to the Shia. For many communities, it marks the beginning of a new year and the first day of spring. More generally, it signifies a time of spiritual renewal and physical rejuvenation, as well as the spirit of gratitude for blessings and an outlook of hope and optimism towards the future.
The festival of Navroz commemorates a centuries-old, agrarian custom that over time was integrated into various cultures and faith traditions. Today, Navroz is celebrated in many parts of the Middle East and Central and South Asia, particularly among peoples influenced by Persian and Turkic civilisations. In countries such as Iran, Iraq, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan, Navroz is observed as a public holiday.
In Surah Ya-Sin of the Holy Qur'an, Allah says:
- Let the once dead earth be a sign to them. We gave it life, and from it produced grain for their sustenance. We planted it with palm and the vine and watered it with gushing springs, so that men might feed on its fruit. It was not their hands that made all this. Should they not give thanks?
– Surah 36, Verses 33–35
Ismailis across the globe celebrate Navroz with the recital of devotional poetry in the form of ginans, qasidas, and manqabas. Dried fruits, nuts and grains are distributed among Jamati members, symbolising blessings of abundance and sustenance. Navroz is also a time of family gatherings and celebratory meals, thus strengthening family bonds and fraternal ties.