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


Anonymous said...

Lovely post :) And I like the drawing of the wild turkey. We have ten wild turkeys roaming around the area here, and they are really fun to watch as they eat acorns, chase each other, and march along.

Ya Haqq!

Anonymous said...

Masha Allah, very well (and gently) written.
Want some beads? Seriously. I do not see myself laying hands on them anytime in the near future.
Don't be shy ;)
Love and Peace,

A. said...

I don't know why American Muslims in the US make such a big deal about not being thankful on Thanksgiving. When I was Muslim I did and it wasn't a big deal. It's not like you are worshiping a turkey or anything.

If Muslims don't want to be anything like non-Muslims, why do they want to live in a kafir country?

Just my 2 cents from a former Muslimah.


Anonymous said...

Not-Muslim-Anymore-Anisah, Since practicing Muslims pray five times a day(atleast) and they give thanks through out the day for all their blessings and trials from God, it is a gross misstatement to say they would not be thankful on Thanksgiving. I certainly did not "turn off" my thanks last Thursday :)
For those that would like to live in a Muslim majority country, do you have any suggestions?

Safiyyah said...

Hello Anisah:

Welcome to my blog!

As the post suggests, it is the celebration of non-Muslim holidays that is the issue, not being thankful on this day or that.

The word "kafir" is a word that has come to have a very negative meaning among Muslims. It is a word that is over-used and has taken on another definition of its own.

Some countries that claim they are Muslim countries actually do things that are against Islam and Sharia.

Islam is for all people, no matter where they live. So, perhaps it is the person that is in a state of disbelief (Kafr) vs. the country where they live.

The practice of Islam and living in America do not have to be in conflict with each other as long as the American Muslim sticks close to Quran and Sunnah.

One cannot insert culture into Islam. That's where the problems arise for some.

Thanks again!

A. said...

Brooke, no I have no suggestions. I am proud of the fact that in the US Muslims can practice their religion (or not!) more in the US than even in many "Muslim" countries. Women have sued and won for the right to wear hijab, and men in the police have sued and won the right to wear beards (the last one was in Jersey City, New Jersey). My ex is from Egypt, and they arrest men who go to the mosque "too much". So what does that say about "Muslim" countries if they have more freedom to be Muslim in a non-Muslim country? I speak out against Muslims being treated badly, I don't agree with prejudice against them. If my kids decide they want to be Muslim when they grow up, that's their option. I won't have a problem with what they believe, as long as they are not saying everyone else is going to hell because they are not Muslim.

But if Muslims want to be so separate, I just wonder why they are in western countries. I have a friend (Egyptian but raised in the US) who complains about the US all the time. One of these days I am going to say to her why don't you go live in Egypt? She's here because life is better for her. She won't get disability in Egypt, nor will they be strict about making her ex pay child support, and there's no food stamps over there. The public schools in Egypt (from what I have been told) aren't very good.

Safiyyah, honestly I think much of Islam IS culture. You say that Islam is perfect, it is just the Muslims doing all this stuff. But if the majority of the Muslims are treating women badly and such, then to me it becomes a part of the religion.

I think Muslims focus too much on the little stuff, like what hand to eat with or what foot to enter the bathroom with. To me it's more important being a good person and treating others well. I don't think God expects us to do a bunch of little stuff to "please him".

Is your story of how you came to Islam from Judism in your blog? I'd love to read it. Thanks for visiting my blog too! I enjoy reading yours.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for approaching this topic. It is one of those things that needs repeating year after year until it sinks in. Muslims should be thankful everyday, not just on designated holidays. May Allah guide us all on the straight path.

Happy Muslim Mama said...

Hope you are well inshallah. Thank you for this useful post and the timeley reminder. I have this problem at the mo with my daughters infant school going into Christmas overdrive and offering xmas panto, xmas turkey lunch and the school nativity play. I wasn't sure how strict to be as the school are so accomodating. They taught the children about Eid, offer halal school-dinners and allow abstention from PE during Ramadan if required. So the points made are very relevant to me.
Will have to do some gentle explaining to my little one in a way that doesn't encourage her to disrespect other religions, but still prefer hers. Maybe its good that Hajj and Eid-al-Adha are approaching just before Xmas to distract her inshallah.

Amira Mohamed said...

Asalam Alaikum
MashaAllah sis wonderful blog. It is so easy to fall into celebrating these holidays.

Ella said...

Very interesting writing. Write with your heart. It will take you there.