Muslims growing up in Western countries are privy to taking on the customs and practices of the country they are living in. As Muslims, our guiding light is the Qur’an and Sunnah, and it is necessary to know which cultural practices are permissible and which are not. As insignificant as some of these methods may seem to us, they may be large in the sight of Allah (SWT). One such example is Halloween. It may look like an innocent and fun celebration, but the history of the tradition is neither honest or fun. As Muslims, it is vital that we learn about the significance of other culture’s practices through a look into their history. Many Muslims are quick to point out the non-Islamic nature of cultural beliefs and practices of their country of origin/ancestry but forget to do the same for the traditions of the Western countries they are residing in. Let’s break down the history of Halloween to get an idea of why Halloween and Islam cannot go hand in hand.
History of Halloween and Islam
The origins of Halloween can be traced to ancient pagans of the British Isles. It originated as a Gaelic festival called the Eve of Samhain which was a celebration marking the beginning of winter and the new year (October 31st to November 1st). It was believed that supernatural forces gathered together on this day and that the barriers between the human world and the supernatural worlds were broken. As such, spirits from the other planets were able to visit and roam the earth. The pagans of the British Isles at this time would celebrate this by thanking the sun god and the lord of the dead. The sun god was given moral support for its upcoming “battle” with winter and was offered thanks for the year’s harvest. The pagans would make sacrifices of animals and crops to please the gods. It was also believed that the souls of the dead would reside in the body of animals. Thus, on October 31st, the lord of the dead gathered all the souls of the people who had died that year and would announce which form the souls would take for the next year.
Influence of Christianity
When Christianity came to the British Isles, the Church tried to replace these pagan rituals by placing a Christian holiday on the same day. They called this Christian festival the Feast of All Saints and put it on November 1 while November 2 became All Soul’s Day. The customs of Samhain remained however and were mixed with the Christian traditions. This combination of All Saints Day and All Soul’s Day ultimately produced the modern Halloween. Immigrants from the British Isles brought these traditions with them to the New World. Halloween and Islam
Halloween Customs and Traditions
“Trick or Treat”
It is believed that during the Samhain festival, people would go door-to-door often reciting verses in exchange for food. The costumes may have been a way of imitating or disguising oneself from the supernatural. During the Feast of All Saints, peasants went from house to house asking for money to buy food for the upcoming feast. Additionally, some people would dress in costumes to play tricks on their neighbors. Blame for the resulting chaos was placed on the ‘spirits and goblins.’
Images of bats, black cats, etc.
These animals were believed to communicate with the dead. Black cats were thought to house the souls of witches.
Games such as bobbing for apples
The ancient pagans would often use divination techniques to foresee the future, and this was a common practice on the Eve of Samhain. Some of these divination techniques have now become games to be played on Halloween, such as bobbing for apples.
This tradition also has its origins with the Gaelic pagans and the Eve of Samhain where vegetables such as turnips, gourd, etc. with a light placed on them. These lanterns were said to represent the spirits or supernatural beings or were used to ward off evil spirits. People would place them outside their homes to keep harmful spirits or to frighten people (such as an unwary traveler) away. In Christian tradition, it has been suggested that it originally represented Christian souls in purgatory as Halloween is the eve of All Saints’ Day and All Soul’s Day. The Irish brought this tradition with them when they immigrated to the New World.
Halloween and Islam
Islam is a monotheistic religion. Muslims believe and submit only to One God. We believe in the unseen and know that angels and Jinn exist. But we just ask Allah for protection and security. From the origins of Halloween, we can clearly see that Halloween and Islam are incompatible. The traditions stem from pagan practices, and Islam is staunchly against all forms of polytheism. Indeed, shirk is the most significant sins in the sight of Allah. It may be that something seems insignificant to you but is excellent in the sight of Allah, and I think Halloween is an excellent example of this. It may appear to be a night of fun tricks, but the meanings behind such traditions are undoubtedly impermissible in Islam. As Muslims, we have our celebrations: Eid ul Fitr and Eid ul Adha as Allah has prescribed, and we do not need to add or participate in other festivities. Remember Allah’s saying in the Qur’an, “This day I have perfected for you your religion and completed My favor upon you and have approved for you Islam as religion” (5:3). Halloween and Islam
May Allah (SWT) protect us from falling into illegal practices and grant us guidance throughout our lives. Ameen.