Friday, October 31, 2008

People of Faith & Halloween

By Guest Blogger Irtiza Hasan

People of Faith Not Comfortable Celebrating Halloween

Trick or treating. Halloween parties. Dressing up like ghosts and goblins. Distributing candy to children from sunset to the later part of the night. Collecting bags full of candy and then stuffing yourself for days to come.
Children trick or treating on Halloween night.

Sounds awesome! Who wouldn’t want to participate in such a festival we call Halloween?

The issue is not so easy for many people of faith. Millions of American Christians, Jews and Muslims do not celebrate Halloween and I would like to explain why from a theological and historical perspective.

Halloween as we know it today actually has its origins in the ancient Celtic festival honoring Samhain, the lord of the dead. This was a celebration of the end of the harvest season and beginning of winter. It has been sometimes regarded as the “Celtic New Year”. The Celts believed that the spirits of the dead revisited their homes on that evening.

Historically, in Europe, Halloween preceded the Christian holiday of Hallowmas, All Hallows, or All Saints’ Day. This holiday was inserted by the church to offset Halloween, a day viewed as an evil, pagan celebration. We see clearly in history that Halloween was resisted and found objectionable by practicing Christians.

The superstitions connected with Halloween until this modern day originated among the ancient Druids, who believed that on Halloween night, Samhain called forth evil spirits. The Druids lit fires on Halloween, for the purpose of warding off these spirits. These beliefs are a mix of blatant superstitions and associating partners with Allah.

Many concerned people in the faith community ask, “How can Muslims, Christians or Jews believe there is a lord of the dead, and this lord calls forth spirits on this particular night each year?”

Frankenstein is one of the most popular Halloween costumes in America.

Halloween symbols tend to revolve around death, magic and monsters. Popular characters include ghosts, witches, black cats, goblins, zombies, mummies, skeletons, and demons.
In tradition we find strange beliefs including that single women were told that if they sat in a dark room and looked into a mirror on Halloween night, the image of their future husband would appear in the mirror. However, if they were destined for bad fortune or death before marriage, a skull would appear. This belief and practice has been recorded as late as the 19th century here in the US.

Halloween did not become a holiday in the United States until the 19th century, when there was an influx of Irish immigration. Prior to that Puritan tradition restricted the observance of many holidays and celebrations.

Idris Palmer, an American Muslim, wrote a few years back, “Halloween is a celebration originated by Celtic pagans and traditionally applied to the evening of October 31. It is completely based on rituals involving dead spirits and devil worship. Muslim commemoration of such a day is absolutely forbidden; as it involves the worst elements of disbelief.”

The Prophet Muhammad (s) reportedly has said: “Whosoever resembles a people is from them.” Many Muslims feel, in light of this warning, they must consider that any Muslim who participates in these celebrations, which involve clear disbelief, glorifying sorcery, magic and evil beings — may be asking for the wrath of Allah to descend upon them.

In the Quran Allah says: “And those who do not witness falsehood, and if they pass by some evil play or evil talk, they pass by it with dignity.” [Surah Al-Furqan, 25:72]

Many of the traditional scholars of Quranic exegesis explained that the word “falsehood” used in above verse refers to “the holidays of the pagans.” The scholar of the Quran, Al-Tabari explained: “It is not allowed for Muslims to attend their [the disbelievers'] holidays and festivals because they are a type of evil and falsehood.”

For many Muslims and people of faith celebrations are based on faith and religion. Some may feel that Halloween is a cultural holiday and that Muslims should not have a problem with a fun filled day centered around candy and dressing up.

The problem for Muslims and people of faith, is holidays and celebrations that have theological origins, especially one with wicked and dark beliefs such as Halloween. To this day we will find people from amongst practicing Christians and Jews condemn this holiday and speak against it. There are churches and faith based communities that hold programs in their churches to give youth an alternative to feeling the pressure of joining others in Halloween celebrations.

See this article by J Kerby Anderson’s, from Probe Ministries International, “Ten Reasons Christians Should Not Celebrate Halloween”

Please note that to many Muslims the prohibition of observing Halloween includes greeting people at the door and passing out candy to them. Islam does not prohibit eating or sharing candy! However, this sharing of candy comes as a ritual under the larger umbrella of a holiday that has heretical origins.

Many Muslims equate this to singing Christmas carols, participating in gift exchanges and decorating their houses during Christmas, which according to its theological origins is an celebration of the birth of the son of God, and we seek refuge in doing that.

Some Muslims, parents and children, take tough stances against Christmas, Easter and Valentine’s Day but view Halloween lightly. One plausible reason is that people are not aware of the origins and realities of this celebration. They fail to make the connect between Halloween and the festival of Samhain

Many Muslims feel that they should be educating their community and engaging in dialogue with other faith based communities about the origins of Halloween, and why it is unacceptable for them to celebrate or participate in related festivities. Muslims can use Halloween as an opportunity to talk about Islam and why Muslims do not participate in Halloween festivities and how we view the purpose of life.

All praise belongs to Allah who revealed to us clear guidance.


Affad Shaikh said...

that was a belief held by those individuals and yet the whole concept has been commercialized and has become something else, does that mean it still has "religious intent or belief" since it is not practiced as such.

Irtiza Hasan said...

actually Affad, you make a point that some contemporary jurists have raised.. that Halloween has drifted from its intended purpose and is now considered a non-theological celebration... I have been told that Dr Jackson has expounded on this issue..

The scholars of theology would continue to take the position that it is forbidden because they consider the intended purpose.. wallahu alim