Islam, Muslims and Halloween
By Ebrahim Saifuddin
When one traces the history of Halloween, we find its origins in the ancient Celtic (Ireland) festival which marked the end of summer as well as the last day of their calendar. It was referred to by the name of Samhain. “Samhain” is to be pronounced as “sow-ane” where the word “sow” rhymes with the word “cow”. The Celts believed that the night before the end of summer i.e. the night between the last day of October and 1st November, the worlds of the living and the dead kind of merged together. These were purely superstitious beliefs that the Celts believed in.
According to the “Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry” the Celts believed that during this night the ghosts or spirits wandered around the land seeking bodies to possess or inhabit. Now as the people i.e. living people did not want to be hosts for these spirits and ghosts, they dressed up in costumes and would scream loudly in the streets in an attempt to create confusion or scare the spirits away.
Another source suggests that the Celts believed that these spirits wished to destroy the crops. However they believed that there was an upside to the situation. They believed that such a prominent presence of these spirits enabled the soothsayers to accurately tell people their future. The Druids would build a huge bonfire where all the people would gather wearing costumes in order to burn crops and animal as a sacrifice to the deities they believed in. Then they would tell each other their fortune.
Regardless of which version holds to be completely true, these beliefs are against Islamic teachings. Islam does not believe in a day where the world of the living and the dead merge together with the spirits roaming around looking to damage crops or inhabit bodies. Moreover the whole idea of fortunetelling is strictly forbidden in Islam.
Narated by Abu Mas’ud Al-Ansari: Allah’s Apostle forbade taking the price of a dog, money earned by prostitution and the earnings of a soothsayer. – [Bukhari Vol.3, Book 34, #439]
A belief that a human knows what lies in the future is a sinful belief according to Islam and the Bible. Both scriptures teach that the knowledge of the future i.e. unseen lies only with God and no one else. Following such traditions is not only against the Islamic teachings, they are also against the teachings found in the Bible:
When thou art come into the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not learn to do after the abominations of those nations.
here shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch.
Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer.
For all that do these things are an abomination unto the LORD: and because of these abominations the LORD thy God doth drive them out from before thee. – [Deuteronomy 18:9-12]
Later Romans started to conquer the Celtic lands and by 43A.D. they had taken control of the major part of the lands which belonged to the Celts. Some suggest that the Romans incorporated two of their festivals with the Celts’ Samhain. One of these was honoring Pomona. Pomona, according to Roman mythology was the goddess of trees and fruits and the symbol used for Pomona is an ‘apple’. Thus, some explain, the “bobbing for apples” game played often on this day originates from this belief of the Romans.
This bit, if true, is yet against the teachings of Islam as Islam does not believe in multiple gods and goddesses but only in One God who is the Creator of everything.
Say: He is Allah, the One and Only;
Allah, the Eternal, Absolute;
He begetteth not, nor is He begotten;
And there is none like unto Him. – [Quran 112:1-4]
Soon after when Christianity seeped into these lands, another celebration was incorporated into this day. This was the “All Saints’ Day”. This day was to time when Christians would honor all the saints. This was carried out by the orders of Pope Boniface IV in the 7th century according to some sources. Another name given to the “All Saints’ Day” was “All Hallows Eve” and this further gave rise to another custom where people would go from one door to another asking for cakes in return of prayers for the relatives of the house who were no longer with them in this world.
Then there is an Irish tale about a person called Jack who supposedly tricked the devil into climbing a tree and then marked the tree with a cross. As a result the devil was stuck in the tree and could not return back down. The devil then made a pact with Jack that if he would erase the mark from the tree, the devil would not allow Jack to enter Hell after he died. The story goes on that when Jack died he could as a result not enter Hell neither Heaven. As he had no place to go, he was as a result forced to wander on earth with a single candle which was placed in a turnip so that the candle would burn for a longer period of time. It is said that when the Irish came to the Americas during the 1800s, they adopted the pumpkin instead of a turnip and the face carved out in the pumpkin serves to represent and mock the wandering soul of Jack.
Thus we get to learn that Halloween is really a blend of pagan beliefs laced with superstitious beliefs and the traditions of the early Catholic Church. To follow such customs that are against the spirit of Islam are certainly forbidden by God. A Muslim is supposed to primarily apply Islam to their lives and later on consider any cultural practices. Cultural practices that are contrary to Islamic beliefs should be rejected by a Muslim.
We should not allow our children to dress up in costumes going door to door shouting “trick or treat”. It does not fit a Muslim to become a slave to cultural practices especially those that are based on paganism and superstition. Some Muslim parents might suggest that it is okay for their children to celebrate this occasion as it is harmless and only for fun. This line of thought is very incorrect and we as Muslims should try to install in our children Islamic values instead of allowing them to follow a tradition just because their peers are celebrating it and ‘oh it is only for fun’. God has blessed us with our religious days and a Muslim should give utmost importance to these days and celebrate them.
Those who witness no falsehood, and, if they pass by futility, they pass by it with honorable (avoidance). – [Quran 25:72]