Of all Bahá’í holy days Naw-Rúz on the 21st of March is the one I love the most. The historical roots of Naw-Rúz (or ‘New Day’ in Persian) are in the ancient Iranian New Year festival, which apart from being celebrated in Iran itself is also marked within the broader sphere of Persian cultural influence. This includes parts of the Middle East, West Asia, Central Asia, South Asia, North Western China and the Caucasus. As well as being sacred to Baha’is Naw-Rúz is also a holy day for Alawites, Alevis, Ismaili Muslims and Zoroastrians. I also note with interest that the Vernal Equinox is also marked by Pagans- for example as the ‘High Feast of Ostara’ sacred to the Norse Pantheon. Occurring as it does on the Vernal Equinox I associate the festival of Naw-Rúz with both spiritual and physical renewal. Indeed `Abdu’l-Bahá describes the revelation of God as the ‘Sun of Reality’ bringing life to a spiritually dead world.
Furthermore, just as the solar cycle has its four seasons, the cycle of the Sun of Reality has its distinct and successive periods. Each brings its vernal season or springtime. When the Sun of Reality returns to quicken the world of mankind a divine bounty descends from the heaven of generosity. The realm of thoughts and ideals is set in motion and blessed with new life. Minds are developed, hopes brighten, aspirations become spiritual, the virtues of the human world appear with freshened power of growth and the image and likeness of God become visible in man. It is the springtime of the inner world. After the spring, summer comes with its fullness and fruitage spiritual; autumn follows with its withering winds which chill the soul; the Sun seems to be going away until at last the mantle of winter overspreads and only faint traces of the effulgence of that divine Sun remain. Just as the surface of the material world becomes dark and dreary, the soil dormant, the trees naked and bare and no beauty or freshness remain to cheer the darkness and desolation, so the winter of the spiritual cycle witnesses the death and disappearance of divine growth and extinction of the light and love of God. But again the cycle begins and a new springtime appears. In it the former springtime has returned, the world is resuscitated, illumined and attains spirituality; religion is renewed and reorganized, hearts are turned to God, the summons of God is heard and life is again bestowed upon man. For a long time the religious world had been weakened and materialism had advanced; the spiritual forces of life were waning, moralities were becoming degraded, composure and peace had vanished from souls and satanic qualities were dominating hearts; strife and hatred overshadowed humanity, bloodshed and violence prevailed. God was neglected; the Sun of Reality seemed to have gone completely; deprivation of the bounties of heaven was a fact; and so the season of winter fell upon mankind. But in the generosity of God a new springtime dawned, the lights of God shone forth, the effulgent Sun of Reality returned and became manifest, the realm of thoughts and kingdom of hearts became exhilarated, a new spirit of life breathed into the body of the world and continuous advancement became apparent.
Yet another worrying development. On Tuesday, March 10, 2009, Iran Press News reported:
In a continuation of hostilities towards the Baha’is of Iran, a Baha’i woman in the town of Sari was arrested by agents of the Ministry of Intelligence and taken to the prison in the Kachui district of the same town.
Mr. Samimi was arrested on January 21, 2009, on the charge of “activities against national security”. He was released after nine days of interrogation. After repeated threats, his wife, Mrs. Furughian, was also arrested last Sunday.
According to reports received from Sari, Mrs. Shirin Furughian (Samimi) was taken into custody on Sunday, March 8, 2009, by agents of the Intelligence Ministry and taken to the Ministry’s prison in Kachui.
It should be noted that in the beginning of August 2008, agents of the same Ministry closed the shop of her husband, Adel Samimi. Shortly after this occurrence, their home was searched [by Ministry of Intelligence] and personal property such as their computer, satellite dish, pictures, and Baha’i books were confiscated.
[Source: http://www.iranpressnews.com/source/055917.htm. Translation by Iran Press Watch.]
The purpose of religion as revealed from the heaven of God’s holy Will is to establish unity and concord amongst the peoples of the world; make it not the cause of dissension and strife. The religion of God and His divine law are the most potent instruments and the surest of all means for the dawning of the light of unity amongst men. The progress of the world, the development of nations, the tranquillity of peoples, and the peace of all who dwell on earth are among the principles and ordinances of God. Religion bestoweth upon man the most precious of all gifts, offereth the cup of prosperity, imparteth eternal life, and showereth imperishable benefits upon mankind. It behoveth the chiefs and rulers of the world, and in particular the Trustees of God’s House of Justice, to endeavour to the utmost of their power to safeguard its position, promote its interests and exalt its station in the eyes of the world. In like manner it is incumbent upon them to enquire into the conditions of their subjects and to acquaint themselves with the affairs and activities of the divers communities in their dominions. We call upon the manifestations of the power of God—the sovereigns and rulers on earth—to bestir themselves and do all in their power that haply they may banish discord from this world and illumine it with the light of concord.
It seems that extremists have declared war upon their own history and culture. The BBC reports that the grave of a 17th Century Sufi poet ‘Rahman Baba’ has been destroyed and the shrine building severely damaged. Thankfully no casualties are reported. Apparently extremists had warned that the shrine would be bombed if women continued to visit and worship. Abdul Rahman known affectionately as ‘Rahman Baba’ is considered the most widely read poet in Pashto speaking regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan. He has been described in the following terms-
Abdul Rahman grew to be a man of great character, and charisma. God’s blessings made him understand the true way of life was to be found through his religion, Islam. Rahman lived a life of solitude and honored God through his prayers and the writing of his magnificent poetry.
I am saddened to read that discrimination against Baha’i students in Iran continues unabated.
Three students at the medical school of Sahand University were expelled on the grounds that they were Baha’is.
Yesterday, March 3, three students at the medical school of Sahand University in Tabriz were told by school officials that for unknown reasons the nationwide Organization for Assessment had closed their scholastic file and prohibited them from registering for the forthcoming semester.
The three expelled Baha’i students are: Sina Dana, Sama’ Nurani and Faraz Vazirzadeh. So far, the efforts of these students to follow up about their situation with the authorities have only been met by stonewalling and hanging up the phone.