Halloween!!! Should Muslims celebrate?
Halloween is upon us, and scores of children dressed up as everything imaginable will soon hit the streets, Every year, on the evening of October 31st, millions of children across North America paint their faces, dress up in costumes, and go from door to door in order to collect treats. The adults often decorate their houses with ghostly figures, carve scary faces on pumpkins, and put candles in them to create ‘Jack-O-Lanterns.
The questions are
- Do Muslims celebrate Halloween?
- How is Halloween perceived in Islam?
Muslims have two celebrations each year, ‘Eid al-Fitr and ‘Eid al-Adha. The celebrations are based in the Islamic faith and religious way of life. There are some who argue that Halloween, at least, is a cultural holiday, with no religious significance.
To make an informed decision, we need to look at and understand the origins and history of Halloween.
Pagan Origins of Halloween
Halloween originated as the Eve of Samhain, an ancient Celtic (Irish/Scottish/Welsh) Festival, a celebration marking the beginning of winter and the first day of the New Year among ancient pagans of the British Isles.
On this occasion, it was believed that supernatural forces gathered together, that the barriers between the supernatural and human worlds were broken (Day of the Dead). They believed that spirits from other worlds (such as the souls of the dead) were able to visit earth during this time and roam about. At this time, they celebrated a joint festival for the sun god and the lord of the dead. The sun was thanked for the harvest and given moral support for the upcoming “battle” with winter. In ancient times, the pagans made sacrifices of animals and crops in order to please the gods. They also believed that on October 31st, the lord of the dead gathered all the souls of the people who had died that year. The souls upon death would dwell in the body of an animal, then on this day the lord would announce what form of an animal these souls would take for the next year.
Then there is Roman festival Pomona Day, named for their goddess of fruits and gardens, was also around Nov. 1 and was brought to Britain after the Roman conquest. Pomona Day and Samhain were eventually melded into one holiday
Then came Roman Catholicism, which made November 1st, “All Saints’ Day” also called All Hallows. The church tried to take attention away from these pagan rituals by placing a Christian holiday on the same day. The Christian festival, the Feast of All Saints, acknowledges the saints of the Christian faith in much the same way that Samhain had paid tribute to the pagan gods. The people, however, did not abandon their old customs, and on the eve of All Hallows, Oct. 31, they continued to celebrate Samhain and Pomona Day. The customs of both pagan holidays would become mixed and intertwined into the Christian holiday, into what we now know as Halloween. These traditions were brought to the United States by immigrants from Ireland and Scotland.
Halloween Customs and Traditions
- “Trick or Treating”: It is widely believed that during the Feast of All Saints, peasants went from house to house asking for money to buy food for the upcoming feast. Additionally, people dressed in costumes would often play tricks on their neighbors. Blame for the resulting chaos was placed on the “spirits and goblins.”
- Images of bats, black cats, etc.: These animals were believed to communicate with the spirits of the dead. Black cats especially were believed to house the souls of witches.
- Games such as bobbing for apples: The ancient pagans used divination techniques to foresee the future. There were various methods of doing this, and many have continued through traditional games, often played at children’s parties.
- Jack-O’-Lantern: The Irish brought the Jack-O’-Lantern to America. The tradition is based on a legend about a stingy, drunken man named Jack. Jack played a trick on the devil, then made the devil promise not to take his soul. The devil, upset, promised to leave Jack alone. When Jack died, he was turned away from Heaven because he was a stingy, mean drunk. Desperate for a resting place, he went to the devil but the devil also turned him away. Stuck on earth on a dark night, Jack was lost. The devil tossed him a lighted coal from the fire of Hell, which Jack placed inside a turnip as a lamp to light his way. Irish children carved out turnips and potatoes to light the night on Halloween. When the Irish came to America in great numbers in the 1840’s, they found that a pumpkin made an even better lantern, and this “American tradition” came to be.
Eemaan (faith) is the foundation of the Islamic society, and Tawheed (monotheism) is the essence of this faith and the very core of Islam. The safeguarding of this Eemaan, and of this pure Tawheed, is the primary objective of all Islamic teachings and legislations.
Islam accepts the cultural traditions of a people as long as those traditions agree with Islamic values. Thus, blue jeans, baseball caps, hot dogs, and other quintessential American items are wholeheartedly accepted by Islam. A similar argument can be made about such holidays as Mother’s or Father’s Day. Honoring our parents is so strongly stressed in Islam; Muslims should have no problem commemorating such holidays. As Muslims, our celebrations should be ones that honor and uphold our faith and beliefs. Virtually all Halloween traditions are based either in ancient pagan culture, or in Christian holiday. From an Islamic point of view, they all are forms of idolatry (shirk). Therefore how can we worship only Allah, the Creator, if we participate in activities that are based in pagan rituals, divination, and the spirit world?
Many Muslims participate in these celebrations without even understanding the history and the pagan connections.
So what can we do, when our children see others dressed up, eating candy, and going to parties? While it may be tempting to join in, we must be careful to preserve our religious teaching and not allow our children to be influenced by what appears to be “innocent” fun. Therefore when tempted, remember that Halloween traditions came from pagan origins, and ask Allah to give you strength. Save the celebration, the fun and games, for our ‘Eid festivals. In Islam, our holidays retain their religious importance, while allowing proper time for rejoicing, fun and games.
Guidance From the Quran and the Prophet
On this point, the Quran says:
“When it is said unto them, ‘Come to what Allah has revealed, come to the Messenger,’ they say, ‘Enough for us are the ways we found our fathers following.’ What! Even though their fathers were void of knowledge and guidance?” (Qur’an 5:104)
“Has not the time arrived for the believers, that their hearts in all humility should engage in the remembrance of Allah and of the Truth which has been revealed to them? That they should not become like those to whom was given the Book aforetime, but long ages passed over them and their hearts grew hard? For many among them are rebellious transgressors.” (Qur’an 57:16)
Prophet Muhammad said:
“The Final Hour will not come until my followers imitate the deeds of the previous nations and follow them very closely, span by span, and cubit by cubit (inch by inch).” [Al-Bukhaari]