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The Friday Message - Issue No: 342 - Celebrating Halloween

Salamun alaykum,
Trick or treat ?
Yesterday evening groups of children dressed in various clothing items such as skeletons, witches costumes of dark orange or black colours. Some of them were holding items such as lanterns, black cats, bats, brooms. The children were in the neighbourhood knocking at the doors with request for Trick or treat ?
For it was the 31st October. They were celebrating Halloween Day!

Do we celebrate Halloween ?
In response to this question it is essential to understand the history of this celebration.

Among ancient Pagans of the British Isles, such as the Gaelics, a celebration to mark the beginning of winter was held on 31st October. On this day it was believed that supernatural forces gathered together, barriers between human and supernatural world were broken. They believed that Spirits, souls of the dead visit the earth and roam around. On the eve of this day a festival for the sun god- Samhain and lord of the dead was held. 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.

Origin of the name ‘Halloween’: When Christianity came to the British Isles, the church tried to take attention away from the pagan ritual of celebrating festival for the sun god by placing a Christian holiday- the Feast of All Saints- on the same day. The term Halloween is Scottish shortening of ‘Allhallow-even’ meaning "Eve of All Saints” or the night before All Saints Day. Initially this Feast of all Saints was observed by the church on 13th May.

Change of Date: Later Pope Gregory III and IV supplanted the sun god festival with Christian holy day of All Saints day by moving the Feast of all Saints All Hallows evening from May 13th to November 1st where mass is held on the preceding evening on October 31st.

Customs and traditions: The custom or traditions of Halloween included donning costumes of devils, witches, skeletons, set up lanterns to drive off the evil spirits and demons. Images of bats, black cats, witches were displayed. These animals were believed to communicate with the spirits of the dead. People dressed in costumes would call on their neighbours for treats. (Trick or Treat). Often, they would play tricks on their neighbours. Blame for the resulting chaos was placed on the "spirits”. Other traditions included communication with the spirits of dead, divination/foretelling.

It can be seen that all Halloween traditions are based on ancient pagan culture or traditions that do not hold in Islam. Therefore, as Muslims, can our celebrations be activities that are based on pagan rituals and the spirit world?  
Shouldn’t any celebrations we indulge in as Muslims need to honor and uphold our faith and beliefs?
Holidays for Muslims are not excuses to indulge in reckless, meaningless activities. In Islam our holidays, such as Eid ul Fitr, Eid ul Adhha and wiladat occassions , while allowing fun, games, rejoicing, celebrations etc, they do retain their religious importance.

Having fun?
Many people commonly participate in these celebrations without even understanding its history and the pagan connections. Our children see their friends dressed up for Halloween and get tempted to join in. Many innocently join in with the crowd just because their friends are doing it.
In these moments should we not be careful to preserve our own traditions and not allow ourselves, especially our children, to be corrupted by this seemingly "innocent" fun?

Advice from Marja Taqleed:
Recently during Arbaeen ziyarah I had the honour to meet Marja Taqleed
Ayatollah al Udhama Sayyid Ali Seestani. In one of his advices he urged the parents to encourage and support their children in commemorating the festivals of Islam such as Meeladun Nabi, Eid ul Ghadeer and other events on the Hijri Calendar. He mentioned that such celebrations would serve towards bolstering their identity and strengthening faith

In the light of the foregoing advice what more needs to be done towards the upbringing of our children whilst living as a minority in the wider community?   
Let us make an informed decision for the best upbringing of our children as awladus salih –virtuous- and muminin.

Wa ma tawfiqi illa billah
With salaams and duas

Sheikh Fazle Abbas Datoo
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Resident Alim
Wessex Shia Ithna Asheri Jamaat