Ibn Taymiyyah on Participating in the Festivals and Annual Celebrations of the Unbelievers

It is reported from Imām Ahmad bin Hanbal (rahimahullāh) that it is not permissible for Muslims to witness (or participate) in the annual festivities of the Jews and Christians. And he (rahimahullāh) used as proof the saying of Allah concerning the believers:

وَالَّذِينَ لَا يَشْهَدُونَ الزُّورَ وَإِذَا مَرُّوا بِاللَّغْوِ مَرُّوا كِرَامًا -25:72

“And they are those who do not witness falsehood, and if they pass by some evil play or evil talk, they pass by it with dignity.” (Al-Furqān: 72) Imām Ahmad said: Meaning the unbelievers on Palm Sunday and their annual festivals.

Abdul-Malik bin Habeeb from the companions of Imām Mālik (rahimahullāh) stated: “Do not help them with anything that is related to their festivals because that honours and venerates their polytheism and aids them in their unbelief. And it is upon the ruler to prohibit the Muslims from that, and that is the saying of Mālik (rahimahullāh) and others.” I do not know any differing [among the scholars] concerning this matter. And eating the slaughtered meat from their festivals enters into this prohibition ― and this is something agreed upon, rather I hold this (i.e. eating the food from their festivals) to be even worse. (See Majmoo’ Al-Fatāwa of Shaikhul-Islām Ibn Taymiyyah, 25/326)

It is not permissible for the Muslims to imitate the unbelievers in anything that is particular (or specific) to their celebrations and festivals―not in their food, or clothes, or in their bathing (for an event they are celebrating), or in their lighting of fires or candles―and it is not allowed for a Muslim to change his habits of work or life or worship or other than that on the day of their celebration. It is not allowed to organise a food event (party or waleemah), or to exchange gifts, or to sell items that aid their festivals (e.g. Christmas trees, Birthday cards, etc). Do not send children and so on to participate in play that is related to the festivals of the unbelievers, and do not beautify yourselves due to it being the day of their festival.

And in general, it is not allowed for the Muslims to single out anything special on their days of annual celebration from their symbolic acts. Rather, the days of their annual events is like any other day for the Muslims―the Muslims do not do anything special or different in resemblance of the unbelievers [on these days].

And if the Muslims resemble them deliberately, then a group of scholars from the early and later times expressed their dislike (and prohibition) of that. As for imitating them in that which is specific to them in the examples that have preceded, then there is no difference among the scholars concerning that. Indeed, a group of scholars regarded it to be unbelief (kufr) to imitate the unbelievers in those matters that venerate the symbols of unbelief. (See Majmoo’ Ar-Rasā’il wal-Masā’il of Shaikhul-Islām Ibn Taymiyyah, 1/-3/237)

Just some of the celebrations that are to be avoided by Muslims

April Fools’ Day

Also called All Fools’ Day, in most countries the first day of April. It received its name from the custom of playing practical jokes on this day—for example, telling friends that their shoelaces are untied or sending them on so-called fools’ errands. Although the day has been observed for centuries, its true origins are unknown and effectively unknowable. It resembles festivals such as the Hilaria of ancient Rome, held on March 25, and the Holi celebration in India, which ends on March 31. (Ref: Encyclopaedia Britannica)

Mother’s Day

Holiday in honour of mothers that is celebrated in countries throughout the world. In its modern form the day originated in the United States, where it is observed on the second Sunday in May. Many other countries also celebrate the holiday on this date, while some mark the observance at other times of the year. During the Middle Ages the custom developed of allowing those who had moved away to visit their home parishes and their mothers on Laetare Sunday, the fourth Sunday of Lent. This became Mothering Sunday in Britain, where it continued into modern times. (Ref: Encyclopaedia Britannica)

Halloween

Contraction of All Hallows’ Eve, a holiday observed on October 31, the evening before All Saints’ (or All Hallows’) Day. The celebration marks the day before the Western Christian feast of All Saints and initiates the season of Allhallowtide, which lasts three days and concludes with All Souls’ Day. Halloween had its origins in the festival of Samhain among the Celts of ancient Britain and Ireland. On the day corresponding to November 1 on contemporary calendars, the new year was believed to begin. That date was considered the beginning of the winter period, the date on which the herds were returned from pasture and land tenures were renewed. During the Samhain festival the souls of those who had died were believed to return to visit their homes, and those who had died during the year were believed to journey to the otherworld. People set bonfires on hilltops for relighting their hearth fires for the winter and to frighten away evil spirits, and they sometimes wore masks and other disguises to avoid being recognized by the ghosts thought to be present. It was in those ways that beings such as witches, hobgoblins, fairies, and demons came to be associated with the day. The period was also thought to be favourable for divination on matters such as marriage, health, and death. (Ref: Encyclopaedia Britannica)

Easter

Easter, Latin Pascha, Greek Pascha, principal festival of the Christian church, which celebrates the Resurrection of Jesus Christ on the third day after his Crucifixion. The earliest recorded observance of an Easter celebration comes from the 2nd century, though the commemoration of Jesus’ Resurrection probably occurred earlier. (Ref: Encyclopaedia Britannica)

Valentines Day

Valentine’s Day, also called St. Valentine’s Day, holiday (February 14) when lovers express their affection with greetings and gifts. The holiday has origins in the Roman festival of Lupercalia, held in mid-February. The festival, which celebrated the coming of spring, included fertility rites and the pairing off of women with men by lottery. At the end of the 5th century, Pope Gelasius I replaced Lupercalia with St. Valentine’s Day. It came to be celebrated as a day of romance from about the 14th century. Although there were several Christian martyrs named Valentine, the day may have taken its name from a priest who was martyred about 270 CE by the emperor Claudius II Gothicus. According to legend, the priest signed a letter “from your Valentine” to his jailer’s daughter, whom he had befriended. (Ref: Encyclopaedia Britannica)

Christmas

Read this article: The Pagan Roots of Christmas — How Muslims treat Christmas?

The Birthday of the Prophet and Birthdays in General

Read this article: The Origins Of The Prophet’s Birthday Celebration and also: The Prophet’s Birthday — Are the Eid Milad Celebrations from Islam and the Sunnah?

Thanksgiving Day

Thanksgiving Day, annual national holiday in the United States and Canada celebrating the harvest and other blessings of the past year. Americans generally believe that their Thanksgiving is modelled on a 1621 harvest feast shared by the English colonists (Pilgrims) of Plymouth and the Wampanoag people. The American holiday is particularly rich in legend and symbolism, and the traditional fare of the Thanksgiving meal typically includes turkey, bread stuffing, potatoes, cranberries, and pumpkin pie. (Ref: Encyclopaedia Britannica)

Holi (in Hinduism)

Hindu spring festival celebrated throughout North India on the full-moon day of Phalguna (February–March). Participants throw coloured water and powders on one another, and, on this one day only, license is given for the usual rankings of caste, gender, status, and age to be reversed. In the streets the celebrations are often marked by ribald language and behaviour, but at its conclusion, when everyone bathes, dons clean white clothes, and visits friends, teachers, and relatives, the ordered patterns of society are reasserted and renewed. Holi is particularly enjoyed by worshippers of the god Krishna. Its general frivolity is considered to be in imitation of Krishna’s play with the gopis (wives and daughters of cowherds). (Ref: Encyclopaedia Britannica)

Imitating the Celebrations of the Unbelievers

Islam forbids imitation of the practices of other religions, and to participate in the festivals of those religions. The Disciple, Anas (may Allah be pleased with him) stated that when the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) migrated to Madinah, he saw that the people celebrated two specific days annually. Some scholars have stated that they were the holidays of the Persians. So the Prophet asked, “What are these two days?” They informed him that these were days of celebration of festivals from before the advent of Islam (i.e. from the era of jāhiliyyah). So he said,

إِنَّ اللَّهَ قَدْ أَبْدَلَكُمْ بِهِمَا خَيْرًا مِنْهُمَا يَوْمَ الأَضْحَى وَيَوْمَ الْفِطْرِ

“Indeed Allah has replaced these days with days better than them: the Day of Adhā and the Day of Fitr.” (Abu Dāwūd, no. 1134) The Day of Adhā is the ‘Eid celebration after the annual Hajj pilgrimage, and the Day of Fitr is the ‘Eid celebration after the fasting month of Ramadān. Islam does not allow for newly introduced practices borrowed from other religions because it considers those religions to be either manmade or a distortion of the messages of previous prophets as is clearly the case with the Christian religion and its celebration of Christmas.

So integration into any society should never entail a Muslim contradicting the commands of the Messenger, nor his guidance. When a Muslim seeks to resemble the non-Muslims in such matters it shows that he is not confident about his own religious identity and seeks the favour and approval of other faiths— and he attains that through imitating their religious practices. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said,

مَنْ تَشَبَّهَ بِقَوْمٍ فَهُوَ مِنْهُمْ

“Whoever resembles a people is from them.” (Abu Dawūd, no 4031) The more a person resembles a group of people, the more he counted among them. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) informed the Muslims, “You will surely follow the ways of those who came before you, handspan by handspan, cubit-length by cubit-length such if one of them enters into a lizards hole, you too will enter it.” They asked the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), “Do you intend the Jews and Christians?” He replied, “Who else?” (Bukhārī and Muslim) 

It is obligatory for a Muslim to avoid gathering at the non-Muslim places of worship and where they hold mass. The Prophet’s Companion, Abdullah Ibn ‘Amr (may Allah be pleased with him) said, “Whoever settles in the lands of the non-Muslims, then he celebrates their festivals of Nayrūz and Mahrajān (of the Persians), and he imitates them and then he dies whilst in that state, he will be gathered with them on the Day of Resurrection.” (Sunan Al-Kubrā of Al-Bayhaqī, 9/234, Ibn Taymiyyah stated that its chain of narration is authentic in Iqtidā As-Sirāt Al-Mustaqīm, 1/457)

Similarly, the Companion, ‘Umar Ibn Al-Khattāb (may Allah be pleased with him) said, “Do not visit the polytheists in their churches on the days of their celebrations because that is when Allah’s anger descends upon them.” (Sunan Al-Kubrā, 9/234, Abdur-Razzāq in Al-Musannaf, no. 1609, Ibn Taymiyyah stated that its chain of narration is authentic in Iqtidā As-Sirāt Al-Mustaqīm, 1/455).

Ibn Taymiyyah after his citation of several narrations in this topic stated, “So if the anger of Allah descends upon them on the day of their festival due to their practices, then whoever joins them in their practices or in some of their practices, then is he not also subject to the same punishment?” (Al-Iqtidā, 1/458) He proceeds to explain that the texts prove that the greater one’s participation in the religious celebrations of the non-Muslims, the more he exposes himself to Allah’s anger.

And all praise is for Allah, Lord of all creation.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply