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Origins of Now-Ruz (New Year), the Nissanu and the 365 Day Year


To investigate the origins of the Iranian Nowruz (literally New day, New Year), one is compelled to go back a great deal in time, well beyond 3000 years in fact. The date of today’s Nowruz may have its origins in the Babylonian Lunar Year, known as the Nisannu.

The Nissanu – The Babylonian Year

Although not generally acknowledged, it was the Babylonians who, since the beginning of recorded civilization, have devised techniques for measuring the passage of time, namely day, night and year. The day was viewed as lying between the onset of two consecutive evenings. The Babylonian calendar month was defined as that time when the full moon appeared. There were tow problems with this of course. First, is the problem that the moon’s visibility could be limited by factors such as cloud thickness or density. The second problem is that the Babylonian lunar system is out of synchrony with the solar year and the regular seasons. Today, it is generally acknowledged that the earth takes approximately 365 ¼ days to revolve around the sun. Therefore, the solar system is eleven days longer than the twelve full moons of the Babylonian system. As a result, the Babylonian system was asynchronous with the earth’s natural seasons. To rectify this problem, the Babylonians responded by adding an extra month from time to time, to their twelve full moon (lunar) months.
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Persian influence on Arabic


In the early days of the Prophet’s mission, there were only seventeen men in the tribe of Quraysh, who could read or write. (Professor Edward Browne, A Literary History of Persia, Vol. I, p. 261)

It is said that Mo’allaqat, the seven Arabic poems written in pre-Mohammedan times and inscribed in gold on rolls of coptic cloth and hung up on the curtains covering the Ka’aba were selected by the Iranian Hammad who seeing how little the Arabs cared for poetry urged them to study the poems.

In this period, Hammad knew more than any one else about the Arabic poetry. Before the advent of Islam, the Arabs had a negligible literature and scant poetry. It was the Iranians who after their conversion to Islam, feeling the need to learn the language of the Qur’an, began to use that language for other purposes.

The knowledge of Arabic was essential and indispensable for religious worship, and the correct reading of the Qur’an was impossible without it. In the first century of Islamic ascendancy, the Arabs did not produce anything of literary value. If any poetry was composed, it was on the old pagan models and celebrated the poets’ amatory adventures, in stereotyped fashion, rather than the victories of Islam.

They adopted the pattern of the Sassanians for the administration of their state. They took the postal system of the Sassanids, and with these adoptions went many Farsi (Persian) terms into the day-to-day vernacular of the Arabs and they were arabicized. In time, they were unrecognizable. Farsi (Persian) words abounded everywhere. Inside the houses as outside they had to make use of "Persian means of comfort" and with them went the Persian terms for them. (The Legacy of Persia)
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