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Tuesday, September 28, 2004

HISTORICAL ORIGINS OF HALLOWEEN

With the Name of Allâh, the Merciful, the Bestower of Mercy

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 and yards with ghostly figures, carve scary faces on pumpkins, and put candles in them to create “Jack-O-Lanterns”.

Unfortunately, among the millions indulging in “Halloween” are many Muslims. This article sheds some light on the significance and origins of Halloween, and warns the Muslims against taking part in its satanic practices.


HISTORICAL ORIGINS OF HALLOWEEN

Ancient Celtic Pagans

For many centuries before Christianity, the pagan Celts in ancient Britain and Ireland celebrated the eve and day of their New Year, called the Samhain, on October 31st. In the Celtic language, Samhain (or Samain) meant “End of Summer”.

During Samhain Eve, it was believed that the world of the gods became visible to mankind, and that they played many tricks on their mortal worshipers; it was a time loaded with danger, fear, and supernatural episodes. The Celts made sacrifices and offerings to ward off the perils of the season and the anger of the deities.

Samhain was also the Day of the Dead. During it, it was believed that the souls of those who had died during the year were allowed access into the “land of the dead”.

Furthermore, the ancient Celts believed that on that evening the Lord of the Dead called forth hosts of evil spirits, and the souls of the dead were believed to revisit their homes. Thus, Samhain acquired sinister significance, with spirits, ghosts, witches, hobgoblins, black cats, fairies, and demons said to be roaming about. Huge bonfires were set on hilltops to frighten away evil spirits.

In addition, being the last evening of the year, Samhain Eve was regarded as a most favorable time for examining the portents of the future. Divinations were performed concerning marriage, luck, health, and death; and the devil’s help was invoked for such purposes.


Romans and Early Christians

After the Romans conquered Britain, they added to Samhain features of the Roman harvest festival, held on November 1st in honor of Pomona, goddess of tree fruits.

The pagan practices influenced the Christian festival of Halloween (Hallow-Eve), celebrated on the same date (October 31st), and elements of the Samhain festival were incorporated into it. Hallow-Eve (or All Hallows’ Eve) is the Christian festival of the night preceding All Saints’ (Hallows’) Day, celebrated on November 1st in the Western churches.

In some parts of Europe, the people continued to believe that on this night the dead walked among them, and that witches and warlocks flew in their midst. Thus, bonfires were lit to ward off those malevolent spirits.

Therefore, most historians consider Samhain the predecessor of Halloween, which has preserved many of the practices and beliefs of its precursor: Samhain.


Contemporary Europe and America

By the 19th century, witches’ pranks were replaced by children’s tricks. Immigrants to the U.S., particularly the Irish, introduced Halloween customs that became popular in the late 19th century. Boys and young men performed mischievous acts on this occasion, often causing severe damage to properties.

Halloween thus gradually became a secular observance, and additional customs and practices developed, many of which turning to games played by children and young adults. In recent years, the occasion has come to be observed mainly by small children; they go from house to house, often in costume, demanding “trick-or-treat”. The treat, often candy, is generally given, and the trick is rarely played.

Many traditional beliefs and customs associated with Samhain, however, continue to be practiced on the 31st of October. Most notably, the practice of leaving offerings of food and drink (now candy) to masked and costumed revelers, and the lighting of bonfires. A common symbol of Halloween is the jack-o-lantern, which is a hollowed-out pumpkin carved in the appearance of a demonic face and with a lighted candle fixed inside.


Satan Worship

Since Halloween was largely based on rituals involving dead spirits and devil worship, it now represents, among other things, a most sacred day for the devil worshipers.

Because of this sinister nature, many devout Christians condemn the Halloween festival. They realize that the spiritual forces that some people experience during this festival are indeed real, but are manifestations of Satan. Thus, they reject the customs associated with Halloween, including all symbols of the dead (ghosts, vampires, and human skeletons), the devil, and other malevolent and evil creatures.


THE ISLÂMIC STANDPOINT

Islâm Is the Perfect Dîn

By Allâh’s blessing and grace, Islâm contains the complete and perfect guidance for humanity:

«This day I have perfected your religion for you, have completed My favor upon you, and have chosen for you Islâm as your religion.» [1]

Islâm does not neglect any information that the people need to achieve happiness and avoid harm, in all aspects of their lives. It directs them to all that would save them from the Fire and admit them into the gardens of Paradise. This was the mission of all of the prophets, including the Final Messenger () who said:

‹There is nothing that would bring you closer to Jannah and farther from the Fire but it has been clarified [by me] to you.› [2]

Because of this, it is a major atrocity to seek guidance (whether partially or totally) in any religion other than Islâm. Allâh says (what means):

«He who seeks a religion other than Islâm, it will not be accepted from him; and he is among the losers in the Hereafter.» [3]



The Islâmic Concept of Festivities

Part of the perfection of Islâm is the Islâmic festivals. The Muslims have only two annual festivals: al-Fitr and al-Adhâ. They are both Allâh’s choice for this Ummah. Anas t reported that once the Prophet () said:

‹When I came to al-Madînah, its people had two days that they celebrated from the times of Jâhiliyyah; indeed, Allâh has substituted them for you with two better days: the day of Sacrifice and the day of Fitr.› [4]

This indicates that festivals are religious occasions that Allâh granted for the Muslims. Furthermore, Allâh alone has the right to prescribe festivals and set their dates and the manner of celebrating them. Thus, festivals and their celebration in Islâm carry a special meaning and spirit. They are totally different from the celebrations of other nations and cultures.



Differing from the Non-Muslims

A true Muslim associates with the believers and adheres to their ways. He strives to be distinctive and different from the non-believers. The Messenger () said:

‹Differ from the Jews and the Christians.› [5]

‹Differ from the disbelievers› [6]

‹Whoever imitates a people is one of them.› [7]

The Muslims are blessed with the best guidance. The disbelievers are misguided, and their ways are based on wrong views. Their actions frequently reflect their deviant views. Why, then, would one wish to imitate them? Yet, sadly, some Muslims imitate them, even in meaningless acts! The Messenger () said:

‹You will follow the ways of the nations who preceded you so closely that even if they entered a lizard’s hole you would enter it.› [8]

Indeed, outwardly resemblance leads to harmony of the hearts. Resembling the disbelievers is Satan’s first step in leading the Muslims to behave and believe like them. The worst form of imitation of the non-Muslims is in practices that involve shirk or are based on their deviant religious beliefs.


Differing from the Non-Muslims in Celebrations

A true Muslim holds a correct Islâmic understanding regarding celebrations. He only celebrates the festivals that have been legislated by Allâh. Festivals are religious occasions characteristic of every nation’s religion or beliefs. Thus, it is compulsory on the Muslims to avoid imitating the disbelievers in their festivals or join in any of the practices that are associated with them. This includes answering their invitations, congratulating them, giving them presents, displaying their symbols, or doing any other act, regardless of how small it might appear, that indicates approval of their festivals. Allâh says (what means):

«And those (the servants of Allâh) who do not witness falsehood, and when they pass by vain practices, they pass with dignity.» [9]

Many of the companions and scholars of the salaf explain that “falsehood” in the above âyah refers to the holidays of the disbelievers. A Muslim should never join the non-Muslims in their celebrations, particularly those that involve clear shirk and kufr. Knowingly doing this subjects one to Allâh’s anger and punishment. `Abdullah Bin `Umar ® said:

“One who settles in the lands of the non-Muslims, celebrates their festivals, and behaves like them until he dies, will be raised among them on the Day of Resurrection.”



Celebrating Halloween Is a major Sin

Since Halloween carries a strong pagan symbolism, observing it is an endorsement of its historical diabolical origin. Furthermore, the Halloween’s seemingly innocent practices still carry a good deal of its pagan roots.

Therefore, taking any part in celebrating it is greatly prohibited in Islâm. It is worse than joining with sinners in their sins or congratulating them for drinking wine, fornication and so on. Celebrating Halloween is similar to celebrating Christmas or Easter, or congratulating the Christians for their prostration to the crucifix. The Muslim parents should caution their children and prevent them from participating in any of its practices. Despite its clear prohibition, it is sad to see some Muslims participate in Halloween, purchase and wear silly Halloween costumes, and send their kids “trick-or-treating”. They try to justify this by that they want to make their children happy. But what is the duty of the 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’ân and Sunnah? Is it not the responsibility of the 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 Islâm, their parents allow and encourage them to follow the ways of the unbelievers? If the children are taught to be proud of their Islâmic heritage, they themselves will abstain from Halloween and other non-Muslim celebrations, such as birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas, Valentines Day, etc. Islâm is a pure religion with no need for accommodating any custom, practice or celebration that is not a part of it. The question arises as to what to do on Halloween night. The Muslim parents must not send their kids “trick-or-treating”. Our children must be told why we do not celebrate Halloween. Simplifying the above material may be very suitable for this purpose. Most children are very receptive when taught with sincerity.

It must also be noted that, even the Muslims who stay home and give out treats to those who come to their door are thereby participating in this festival. In order to avoid this, they should leave their front lights off and should not open their door. Furthermore, they should educate their neighbors about the Islâmic teachings and inform them in advance that the Muslims do not participate in Halloween. Finally, we must remember that we are fully accountable to Allâh for all of our deeds. If we insist on rejecting the Truth and joining Halloween or other non-Islâmic practices, we would be liable to Allâh’s anger, as He warned in the Qur’ân:

«Let those who reject his (the Messenger’s) command beware lest a tribulation or a severe punishment be inflicted upon them!» [10]

May Allah guide us, help us to stay on the right path, and save us from all deviations and innovations that would lead us into the fires of Hell.

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