Thursday, November 22, 2007

Festivals & Celebrations in Islam - Imam al-Jibaly

Hand colored, engraved print, published in 1834 - Wild Male Turkey

Muslims all over America are celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday today.

"What does it hurt?" some say. What's wrong with getting together with family over a nice meal to express thanks and gratitude for the blessings we enjoy.

"It's not a religious holiday," others claim. "What's wrong with observing a secular holiday? It will help our children feel more like a part of America."

Yet others claim that the values of Thanksgiving are compatible with Islamic values.

But who is it that we are thanking for our blessings? Who are Muslims expressing gratitude to while observing Thanksgiving?

When I was a child, we celebrated Thanksgiving. My father was Jewish and my mother was Catholic. So, we celebrated the religious holidays of both faith traditions. We also celebrated the secular holidays of America.

But most traditional Orthodox Jewish people do not celebrate holidays such as Thanksgiving. They do not observe any non-Jewish holidays. It is perceived as imitating the "Gentiles" and their customs, a prohibition found in Leviticus 18:3. Some Jews do not consider it to be Halakhic (acceptable according to Jewish law). Read more at

In Islam, it is also encumbered upon Muslims to differ from the non-Muslims.

Imam Muhammad al-Jibaly covers this topic thoroughly in his book, Festivals & Celebrations in Islam, 2nd Edition. He explains that differing from the non-Muslims is a religious requirement.

"Adhering to the way of the believers helps a Muslim maintain a distinctive Islamic personality and avoid dissolving in the beliefs and customs of un-Islamic cultures," al-Jibaly explains, "even in matters that may be thought unimportant, such as personal demeanor and attire." He goes on to cite other examples of commands issued by the Prophet (saw) such as "sparing the beard, trimming the mustache, dying the white hair, keeping the wife's company during her menses, eating a pre-dawn meal (suhur) before fasting, cleaning the houses and courtyards, and so on."

If we fail to differ from the non-Muslim, we are in danger of becoming one of them.

Ibn Umar (ra) reported that the Messenger (saw) said: "Whoever imitates a people is one of them." (recorded by Abu Dawud, Ahmad, and others. Verified to be authentic by al-Albani)

Imam al-Jibaly also states that Muslims do not gain dignity by imitating non-Muslims:

"Muslims are blessed with the BEST guidance. The Guidance from the Lord of lords - Allah (swt). This gives them true dignity and honor that no other people can claim. Allah (swt) says:

'Honor belongs to Allah, to His Messenger, and to the Believers.' (Al-Munafiqun 63:8)

Therefore, a Muslim is required to have a distinctive Islamic identity that makes him stand out honorably among followers of other religions.

Unaware of this, some Muslims, presuming that Islam permits resembling the non-Muslims and acting in complete harmony with them, are afraid of exhibiting a distinctive Islamic identity or proclaiming Islam openly."

The only holidays condoned by Islam are the religious occasions of the weekly id every Friday, and the two annual ids - al-Fitr and al-Adha. Al-Jibaly also tells us that "in addition, the day that precedes Id al-Adha (i.e., the Day of Arafah) and the three days that folow it were named by the Prophet (saw) as id days because they supplement Id al-Adha in regard to hajj and sacrifice."

Given the above, can we Muslims really ask ourselves, "what does it hurt" to celebrate non-Muslim holidays such as Thanksgiving? Is this what we want our children to be a part of?

Allah (swt) has answered this for us in An-Nisa 4:115:

"If a person opposes the Messenger, after guidance has become clear to him, and follows other than the path of the believers, We will give him what (consequence) he chose and admit him into Hell - what an evil destination!"

(To learn more, read Festivals & Celebrations in Islam, 2nd Edition, by Muhammad al-Jibaly, Al-Kitaab & as-Sunnah Publishing. It can be obtained at

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Approval Received!

I spoke with our Facility Chaplain Director today. She told me that she received approval to proceed with my contract to be our Muslim chaplain.

Now it should just be a matter of formalizing the contract, Insha Allah!

I am so excited. It is beyond my wildest dreams to receive this opportunity from Allah (swt).

Keep saying dua for me!

Monday, November 12, 2007

10 And A Wake-Up!

Alhamdulillah for another 3-day weekend (Veteran's Day). I didn't do too much; have been enjoying my much-needed rest.

Retirement is on the horizon, Insha Allah!

This week I have 4 working days. Next week I have 3 working days. The following week will be my last week at work as a full-time substance abuse counselor. That week will be 4 working days because I am scheduled to attend a training on Islam and addiction that Friday.

So, "10 and a wake-up" as the inmates say!

I still haven't heard anything about the chaplain contract. But "no news is good news" right? What I mean is that I probably would have heard by now if there was an objection in Harrisburg (main office). Just waiting on government bureacracy to play out.

My colleagues are planning a retirement party for me. I am very touched by this kindness. I will truly miss providing direct clinical services in the addiction field. I have had the opportunity to work with some of the best in the field in my career.