Every year Egyptians hear ultra-conservative Salafist clerics issuing “Fatwas” prohibiting Sham El Nessim festival asking them not to celebrate it or else they will be considered “atheists.”
The so-called Salafist clerics claim that celebrating the day means Muslims are celebrating a Christian feast, a thing that is not accepted according to their opinions because they insist that Muslims should only celebrate Muslim holidays. The celebration itself is Pharaonic and has nothing to do with religion, but this doesn’t change anything for Salafists who believe that our Ancient Egyptian civilization represents only atheism and paganism. In 2012, Salafist cleric Morgan Salem al-Gohary once called for destruction of the Pyramids and the Sphinx! In 2015, Salafist movement in Egypt distributed pamphlets saying that it is “Haram” for Egyptians to celebrate Sham El Nessim. This year, Salfist groups on social media called for same Fatwa and they went far as calling for boycotting Muslims who observe the day. Also Salfist Sameh Abd El Hamid issued a Fatwa prohibiting celebrating the feast, which made Members in the Egyptian Parliament heavily criticized him and calling for issuing a law that punishes unauthorized people who issue Fatwas with jail.
What’s “Sham El Nessim” that’s causing all this fuss?
“Sham El Nessim” is an Egyptian national holiday marking the beginning of Spring. The word itself literary means “Smelling the Zephyr”, and it is derived from the word “Shemu” Ancient Egyptians used to call the feast. The Sham El Nessim falls in the first day of the third and last season on the calendar used by Ancient Egyptians which was based on the 3 cycles of the Nile. When Christianity entered Egypt, the feast became associated with Easter, and is now celebrated the day after Eastern Christian Easter.
Ancient Egyptians believed that “Sham El Nessim” day marks the beginning of world creation; when “Ra” The Sun God sails with his boat in the skies and anchors on the top of the great Pyramid, a journey that symbolizes life and death. They made special preparations for the day, wearing their finest clothes and they went to temples holding flowers to present food to the gods. The feast was also celebrated with a special meal that consisted of colored eggs, Salted fish, onions and lettuce. This food symbolized the idea of creation of the world. Eggs refer to creation of life and Egyptians used to draw on eggs their wishes and prayers. As for onions, Ancient Egyptians believed that it keeps disease and evil spirits away, while they believed lettuce has a power in increasing fertility. Fish was in the daily diet of Ancient Egyptians since they glorified River Nile and they believed life on earth started in water, so Nile fish to them was symbolizing life and they used to eat salted fish in their important festivals.
The renewed Fatwa fails to have any effect what so ever on Egyptians. Although 5000 years passed and the religious meaning of the festival is no longer there but Egyptians nowadays are keeping the tradition and still celebrate the day the same way their ancestors did, by going out to gardens and parks spending the day enjoying beginning of the spring and eating the same meal Ancient Egyptians used to have, and the packed parks and
Happy Sham El Nessim to Everyone 😊