Every year, on the evening of October 31st, millions of children across North America paint their faces, dress up in costumes, and go door to door collecting treats. The adults often decorate their houses with ghostly figures, carve scary faces on pumpkins, and put candles in them to create “Jack-O-Lanterns.” Unfortunately, among the millions of North Americans indulging in this custom, many are also Muslims. This article will shed some light on the significance and origins of Hallow’een, and why Muslims should not participate in it.
Origins of the Hallow’een Festival
The ancient Celtic (Irish/Scottish/Welsh) festival called Samhain is considered by most historians and scholars to be the predecessor of what is now Hallow’een. Samhain was the New Year’s day of the pagan Celts. It was also the Day of the Dead, a time when it was believed that the souls of those who had died during the year were allowed access into the “land of the dead”. Many traditional beliefs and customs associated with Samhain continue to be practiced today on the 31st of October. Most notable of these customs are the practice of leaving offerings of food and drink (now candy) to masked and costumed revelers, and the lighting of bonfires. Elements of this festival were incorporated into the Christian festival of All Hallow’s Eve, or Hallow-Even, the night preceding All Saint’s (Hallows’) Day. It is the glossing of the name Hallow- Even that has given us the name of Hallow’een. Until recent times in some parts of Europe, it was believed that on this night the dead walked amongst them, and that witches and warlocks flew in their midst. In preparation for this, bonfires were built to ward off these malevolent spirits.
By the 19th century, witches’ pranks were replaced by children’s tricks. The spirits of Samhain, once believed to be wild and powerful, were now recognized as being evil. Devout Christians began rejecting this festival. They had discovered that the so-called gods, goddesses, and other spiritual beings of the pagan religions, were diabolical deceptions. The spiritual forces that people experienced during this festival were indeed real, but they were manifestations of the devil who misled people toward the worship of false idols. Thus, they rejected the customs associated with Hallow’een, including all representations of ghosts, vampires, and human skeletons – symbols of the dead – and of the devil and other malevolent and evil creatures. It must also be noted that, to this day, many Satan-worshippers consider the evening of October 31st to be their most sacred. And many devout Christians today continue to distance themselves from this pagan festival.
The Islamic Perspective
Iman (faith) is the foundation of Islamic society, and tauheed (the belief in the existence and Oneness of Allaah) is the essence of this faith and the very core of Islam. The safeguarding of this iman, and of this pure tauheed, is the primary objective of all Islamic teachings and legislation. In order to keep the Muslim society purified of all traces of shirk (associating partners with Allaah) and remnants of error, a continuous war must be waged against all customs and practises which originate from societies’ ignorance of divine guidance, and in the errors of idol worship.
Our beloved Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) issued a stern warning: “Whoever imitates a nation is one of them!” (Abu Da’oud). Muslims should heed this warning and refrain from copying or imitating the kufar in their celebrations. Islam has strongly forbidden Muslims to follow the religious or social customs of the non-Muslims, and especially of the idol-worshippers or those who worship the devil. The Prophet (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) said: “By Him in Whose hands is my life, you are ordered to enjoin good and forbid evil, or else Allaah will certainly afflict you with torments. Thereafter, even your du’a (supplications) will not be accepted.” (Tirmidhi). From an Islamic standpoint, Hallow’een is one of the worst celebrations because of its origins and history. It is HARAM (forbidden), even if there may be some seemingly good or harmless elements in those practises, as evidenced by a statement from the Prophet (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) “Every innovation (in our religion) is misguidance, even if the people regard it as something good” . Although it may be argued that the celebration of Hallow’een today has nothing to do with devil-worship, it is still forbidden for Muslims to participate in it. If Muslims begin to take part in such customs, it is a sure sign of weak iman and that we have either forgotten, or outrightly rejected the mission of our Prophet (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) who came to cleanse us from jahiliyyah customs, superstitions and false practises.
Muslims are enjoined to neither imitate the behaviour and customs of the non-Muslims, nor to commit their indecencies. Behaviour-imitation will affect the attitude of a Muslim and may create a feeling of sympathy towards the indecent modes of life. Islam seeks to cleanse the Muslim of all immoral conducts and habits, and thus paving the way for the Qur’an and Sunnah to be the correct and pure source for original Islamic thought and behaviour. A Muslim should be a model for others in faith and practice, behaviour and moral character, and not a blind imitator dependant on other nations and cultures.
Even if one decides to go along with the outward practices of Hallow’een without acknowledging the deeper significance or historical background of this custom, he or she is still guilty of indulging in this pagan festival. Undoubtedly, even after hearing the Truth, some Muslims will still participate in Hallow’een, send their kids “trick-or-treating,” and they will try to justify it by saying they are doing it merely to make their children happy. But what is the duty of Muslim parents? Is it to follow the wishes of their children without question, or to mould them within the correct Islamic framework as outlined in the Qur’an and Sunnah? Is it not the responsibility of Muslim parents to impart correct Islamic training and instruction to their children? How can this duty be performed if, instead of instructing the children in Islam, parents allow and encourage their children to be taught the way of the unbelievers? Allaah exposes these types of people in the Qur’an: “We have sent them the Truth, but they indeed practise falsehood” (23:10). Muslim parents must teach their children to refrain from practising falsehood, and not to imitate the non-Muslims in their customs and festivals. If the children are taught to be proud of their Islamic heritage, they themselves will, insha Allaah, abstain from Hallow’een and other non-Muslim celebrations, such as birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas, Valentines Day, etc. The Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) said: The Final Hour will not come until my followers copy the deeds of the previous nations and follow them very closely, span by span, and cubit by cubit (inch by inch). (Bukhari). Islam is a pure religion with no need to accomodate any custom, practise or celebration that is not a part of it. Islam does not distinguish between “secular and sacred;” the shari’ah must rule every aspect of our lives.
“You must keep to my Sunnah and the sunnah of the rightly-guided Caliphs; cling to it firmly. Beware of newly invented matters, for every new matter is an innovation, and every innovation is misleading.”
“When the people see a person committing a wrong, but do not seize his hand to restrain him or her from the deed, it is likely that Allaah will punish them both.” (Abu Da’oud, Nasa’i, Tirmidhi)
“Whoever imitates a nation is one of them.” (Abu Da’oud)
What to do on Halloween
We have established, beyond doubt, that the celebration of Hallow’een is absolutely forbidden in Islam. It is HARAM. The question arises as to what to do on this night. Muslim parents must not send their kids out “trick-or-treating” on Hallow’een night. Our children must be told why we do not celebrate Hallow’een. Most children are very receptive when taught with sincerity, and especially when shown in practice the joy of their own Islamic celebrations and traditions. In this regard, teach them about the two Islamic festivals of Eid. It must also be mentioned that, even Muslims who stay home and give out treats to those who come to their door are still participating in this festival. In order to avoid this, leave the front lights off and do not open the door. Educate your neighbours about our Islamic teachings. Inform them in advance that Muslims do not participate in Hallow’een, and explain the reasons why. (Give them a copy of this flyer if needed.) They will respect your wishes, and you will gain respect in the process. “A person who calls another to guidance will be rewarded, as will the one who accepts the message.” (Tirmidhi)
Finally, we must remember that we are fully accountable to Allaah for all of our actions and deeds. If, after knowing the Truth, we do not cease our un-Islamic practises, we risk the wrath of Allaah as He himself warned us in the Qur’an: “Then let them beware who refuse the Messenger’s order lest some trial befall them, or a grevious punishment be afflicted upon them!” (24:63). This is a serious matter and not to be taken lightly. And Allaah knows best. May Allaah guide us, help us to stay on the right path, and save us from all deviations and innovations that will lead us into the fires of Hell.