Nawroz and Social Cohesion
By: AbuMoslim Khorasani
Human society is full of social, religious, and political symbols and rituals, which are of great importance as intergroup truths in the structure of society. Symbols and rituals are the foundations upon which human societies are built and have endured for years, drawing in thousands of people. The celebration of Diwali in India, the Christmas ceremony among Christians, Eid al–Adha of the Muslim nations, and Nawroz (annually celebrated in some countries in the realm of civilization) are each a symbol and ritual. Each of these is viewed from different perspectives and beliefs and has distinct definitions and philosophies of existence. However, there is one thing that they all share, and that is the gathering of people based on a belief and the formation of social cohesion in society. The role of the widespread connection of symbols and rituals such as Nawroz is amplified in multi–faceted countries like Afghanistan, which also suffers from violence and division.
The celebration of Nawroz and the honoring of spring as a social rite have always been held in high regard by the masses. In recent years, however, religious groups with their Salafist views have attempted to remove the sanctity of Nawroz and label it as heretical, yet people still continue to celebrate and cherish this day. From a social perspective, symbols and practices cannot be so easily dismissed. One of the unique characteristics of symbols and practices is their eternal presence in the annals of history. Even though discourses may change, narratives may differ, and relationships with symbols and rituals may fluctuate, they do not disappear and remain in the hearts of people. For example, the magnificent Salsal and Shahmama of Bamiyan, which the Taliban tried to destroy, still remain. Similarly, despite the media–religious propaganda, Salafist groups, and the Taliban‘s political power, Nawroz and its connection to nature cannot be eliminated.
Examining social phenomena through the lens of the functionalist paradigm, one must first consider the functions and effects of the phenomenon before delving into its roots and essences. Émile Durkheim, a prominent sociologist and thinker of the functionalist school of sociology, sought to identify the religious functions in society before attempting to uncover the origins of religious symbols. He demonstrated that religion can create social cohesion. This article follows in Durkheim‘s footsteps, not seeking to uncover the historical roots or ceremony of celebrating Nawroz, but rather to emphasize the importance of Nawroz as an archetype that can create cohesion and the necessity of its celebration and respect in a fragmented and diverse Afghanistan, where divisions in society are increasing and bio–social correlation patterns are weakening.
Despite all historical, political, and religious perspectives, Nawroz is a social event with a social purpose. The social perception of Nawroz can free this ancient celebration and symbol of respect for nature and renewal from ethnic, religious, and group limitations and make its presence more and more prominent. Now that all the characters and rituals are labeled ethnic and local, Nawroz can break down the small circles and emerge as a unifying model in Afghanistan. This model has its heart connected to nature and its greenness and freshness reaches all people, regions, and tribes that revere spring and nature. They believe in respect and beauty. In societies, unifying narratives and correlational patterns are formed from such phenomena because these phenomena are inclusive, which leads to the gathering of large numbers of people and facilitates the spaces and spans of greater recognition. One of the factors for the lack of social unity is the disregard of gathering around a particular element or a special day such as Nawroz, which originates from nature.
Cohesion and correlation are essential for progress in human society. Therefore, Afghans are obligated to form connections and establish patterns for gathering, and Nawroz can be a great opportunity to do so. Hossein Bashiriyeh, an Iranian sociologist and writer, defines the harmony between the constituent parts of a whole system as correlation. Despite the fact that the social system of Afghanistan is highly fragmented and diverse, Nawroz can inspire a unifying model that people can believe in and come together to celebrate the arrival of spring. This gathering can lead to understanding and correlation among people. Part of the reason for fragmentation in Afghanistan is due to a lack of familiarity or incomplete recognition, which has resulted in hatred and a toxic atmosphere. Although there are numerous causes of this hatred, we can say that just as there are reasons for social divergence, there are also more reasons, patterns, and symbols for unity and correlation. Unfortunately, since these patterns are rarely discussed, they remain hidden.
Several sociologists have classified correlation into different types. Emphasizing the importance of Nawroz celebration, which is a general value, can create a cultural correlation. Additionally, the ways and behavior associated with its celebration are relatively the same among cultures and people, leading to a normative correlation. Furthermore, it encourages people to celebrate and gather, which increases social awareness and facilitates communication. Finally, people‘s encounter with Nawroz, travel, tourism, and going to the heart of nature creates a functional correlation. People generally do similar things in the spring and New Year seasons, such as going to the heart of nature, having fun, and celebrating. Although there may be slight differences in the ceremony, people in the north, south, west, and east face Nawroz in a similar manner. This strength is a factor of correlation and an opportunity to search for more patterns among culture, people, and history, thus connecting us.
Symbols have a lasting quality, having been created and embedded in the minds and hearts of people over thousands of years. Symbols and rituals are intertwined with life and society, making them difficult to remove, fade, or lose their durability. Nawroz is a prime example of this, having withstood hundreds of years of opposition from different forces and political powers, and remaining strong. These symbols and rituals also have social value, providing a unifying function that is often overlooked. All social groups should recognize and appreciate the positive functions of symbols and rituals, as without interdependence, internal cohesion, trans–ethnic narratives, and social justice, our broken ship will not reach the shore. In a time where hatred and obscurity are prominent, and Talib has taken away much from the people by increasing ethnic divergence, Nawroz can be seen as a symbol of harmony, respect for nature, human beings, and everyday life.