By: Sr. Zahabiya Kapadia
We have just passed that time of year where candy is generously discounted and children of all ages flock into a band of chants and sugar induced giggles; I am of course referring to the annual festivities of the autumn holiday, Halloween. But the question lingering on many minds during this much anticipated season is, “Can there be such a thing as Halloween?” The answer to this question is not simply black and white, and must be analyzed not only from an Islamic perspective, but a practical one. To achieve this let’s take a little trip back in time to the era of the ancient Celtics.
In ancient Britain and Ireland, the Celtic Festival of Samhain was observed on October 31, at the end of summer. The souls of the dead were supposed to revisit their homes on this day and the autumnal festival acquired sinister significance, with superstitious/supernatural entities and demons of all kinds said to be roaming about. It was the time to appease the supernatural powers controlling the processes of nature. In addition, Halloween was thought to be the most favorable time for divinations concerning marriage, luck, health, and death. It was the only day on which the help of the devil was invoked for such purposes. (Ankerberg 2008)
A day commemorating the devil? On the surface it seems completely unacceptable from an Islamic moral standpoint, but many today will argue that this is not their intention. They will say “we’re just in it for the candy”, or “dressing up is fun, we don’t do it FOR anything let alone the devil”. Although this is true for most and Halloween may just be recreational-a time to spend with friends-its origins do matter.
We must remember Allah (swt) at all times and in everything we do, but this becomes difficult if we participate in a holiday with its roots buried in shirk. Allah declares is Surat Al-Hadid, "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)
Furthermore if we continue to treat Halloween by only what is apparent at the surface rather than through its innate beginnings, we will set a trend for our descendants and mold this holiday into one that can confuse culture with religion. To uphold our Iman, we must resist participating in seemingly harmless activities that may have great implications. At the same time we should have a balance, one that is given by our own holidays of Eid-ul-Fitr and Eid-ul-Adha. These holidays allow a release without compromising religion.
Too often, parents themselves are in the dark about the background of occasions and holidays like Halloween. Don't think this is a trivial matter. If parents take the time to discuss the origins of Halloween to their kids using correct information, the youth will be able to think about this problem from a rational perspective and may even agree to not participating in the ritual. Similarly talking about Halloween in the context of a fiery speech about how "these non-Muslims are so evil" will not help the youth see why they should not participate. Your histrionics will only blind them to reality. Instead, explain that every group or culture has its own celebrations, and we, as Muslims have our own. We should not condemn those who celebrate Halloween. Rather, explain its origins, why these origins are in relation to shirk, and give the youth time to process the information so they can make their own decision. Finally it is crucial to emphasize that being different is okay, and these differences are what set us apart in a world of excess. Ibn Umar (radi Allahu anhum) reported that the Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) said, “All of you are guardians and are responsible for your subjects. The ruler is a guardian of his subjects, the man is a guardian of his family, the woman is a guardian and is responsible for her husband’s house and his offspring; and so all of you are guardians and are responsible for your subjects.”
It is our duty as the Muslim ummah to draw a line between what is acceptable and what may cause unintended immorality. To do this we need to alter our thought processes and stop diluting the effects of participating in celebrations that have questionable beginnings. With strewn candy wrappers and closeted costumes, another Halloween has passed, but the long standing debate of a perceived “Halloween” is never fully resolved.
Ankerberg, John, and John Weldon. The Facts on Halloween.
Eugene, Or.: Harvest House, 2008. W