By Sadaf Afshan
Can Muslims celebrate Halloween ? How is Halloween perceived in Islam? There are some who argue that Halloween is a cultural holiday, with no religious significance and hence it’s ok to join in the “fun”. To make an informed decision, we need to understand the origin and traditions of this festival.
Halloween: Pagan Origins
Halloween originated as the Eve of Samhain, among ancient pagans of the British Isles. It was a celebration marking the beginning of winter and the first day of the New Year. On this occasion, they believed that spirits from other worlds (such as the souls of the dead) were able to visit earth 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. 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 they were to take for the next year.
When Christianity came to the British Isles, 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 customs of Samhain survived anyway, and eventually became intertwined with the Christian holiday. These traditions were brought to the United States by immigrants from Ireland and Scotland.However, even today there are a number of God fearing Christians as well as Jews who object to Halloween, seeing it as more than a costume and candy day of fun for kids (and adults). They connect their disapproval to the pagan and Satanic origins of Halloween.
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 “spirits and goblins.”
Bobbing for apples and other games: 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 park.
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.
Jack-O’-Lantern: The Irish brought the Jack-O’-Lantern to North 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. Since that day, he has traveled the world over with his Jack-O’-Lantern in search of a resting place. 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.
Thus, we see that all Halloween traditions are based either in ancient pagan culture, or in Christianity. From an Islamic point of view, they all are forms of shirk. As Muslims, our celebrations are the two Eids that honour and uphold our faith and beliefs. How can we worship only Allah, the Creator, if we participate in activities that are based in pagan rituals and the spirit world ? Many people participate in these celebrations without even understanding the history and the pagan connections, just because their friends are doing it, and because “it’s fun!”
As parents, 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 own traditions and not allow our children to be corrupted by this seemingly innocent and harmless fun. When tempted, remember the pagan origins of these traditions, and ask Allah to give you strength.
Make the Eid celebrations a special time for fun and games. Try to engage children in other activities on Halloween Day so that they don’t feel that they are missing out on the fun. Some scholars state that if kids come to your house and ask for candies and you happen to have a treat, you can give them something and wish them a safe night. This is not a form of celebration in their opinion, rather it is good manners to not let those knocking on our door leave empty handed, and it makes us more accepted and trusted by our neighbors.
If you have young kids and feel that they might be tempted by looking at all the trick and treaters, it’s recommended that you shut off the lights in your front porch and keep yourself away from all such activities. And Allah knows best.
About the author:
Sadaf Afshan is an editor at MuslimMoms.ca
What is your opinion about celebrating Halloween ? Please share your views in the comments section below.