The Friday Message - Issue No: 428 - Trick or Treat ?

The Friday Message - Issue No: 428 - Trick or Treat ?

Salamun alaykum,

Trick or Treat?

As I was doing my regular shopping at the Super store, I noticed that a seperate area with dim lighting had been set up where various items such as clothes, skeletons, lanterns, black cats, bats, spiders, brooms, witch costumes, all in dark orange or black colours had been stocked. I couldn’t fail to notice the piles of round, bright orange pumpkins displayed for sale. This alerted me that Halloween was near. It’s next week on Tuesday 31st October!

Halloween: does it have anything to do with Muslims?

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, 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 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 Samhain -the sun god- by placing a Christian holiday on the same day. It is called the Feast of All Saints- 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.

Halloween customs and traditions:

The custom or traditions included to don 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.

Thus, it can be seen that all Halloween traditions are based on ancient pagan culture or traditions that do not hold in Islam. 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?

Just 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. Will you join the train?
Shouldn’t we careful to preserve our own traditions and not allow ourselves, especially our children, to be corrupted by this seemingly "innocent" fun.
Let us save the celebrations, the fun and games for our festivals on the Islamic calendar. Holidays for Muslims are not excuses to indulge in reckless, meaningless activities. In Islam our holidays, such as Eid ul Fitr and Eid ul Adhha and wiladat occasions while allowing fun, games, rejoicing, celebrations etc, they do retain their religious importance.

Advice from Marja Taqleed:

Recently during Ashura ziyarah I had the honour to meet our Marja Taqleed Ayatollah al Udhama Sayyid Ali Seestani. In one of his advices, he urged the parents to encourage their children in being aware of the Islamic dates and support 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 supporting their identity and strengthening faith.

In the light of the foregoing advice shouldn’t one pay greater attention on the influences that pagan festivals may have towards the upbringing of our children whilst we are living as a minority in the wider community?

Wa ma tawfiqi illa billah.

With salaams and duas,

Sheikh Fazle Abbas Datoo
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Resident Alim
Wessex Shia Ithna Asheri Jamaat