Brace yourselves. The Halloween Facebook statuses are coming. Snapchat teenagers prepare for nights of candy or for nights of partying with a, God-forbid, Miley Cyrus costume. Recent reverts compile hours of vigorous Google research on the oh-so-pagan origins of this controversial holiday. Children fantasize about how much candy and chocolate they are going to stuff in their face while brainstorming tactics to hide their hard earned candy from their siblings. Mosques struggle to be culturally relevant by creating cheesy “Halaloween” events.
Let’s agree to disagree. Muslims all over North America have different ways of expressing their celebration or refusal of celebration of Halloween. Why can’t we all agree on this topic, get along, hold hands and sing Tala’ al Badru ‘Alayna. I don’t even think we can agree to do that. What we can do and what I will try to do, is have an honest look at the history of this tradition, understand the different experiences and expressions and ultimately offer a super-fresh perspective.
What Halloween means to Muslims in North America
“Yo dawg, tonight we’re going to get turned up still at the Halloween Jam. I’m going to dress up like one of those arab sheikhs yo”
The Recent Revert
“Auzubillah! Celebrating a pagan ritual with the kuffar? Y’all are wack. I’m making hijrah ASAP”
“You want to go outside where it’s dark where people get kidnapped, dress like the shaytaan just for candy? You want candy? I’ll give you candy! *Slaps child with hand full of candy*
“Mom, Dad can we go trick-treating please? I want candy. I JUST WANT CANDY” *Evil snarky child goblin voice* + *Starts to stomp their feet*.
“Brazers. Zisters. We know, za Halloween is a coming soon. So we talk to the youths and we make Halal’oween. Blease, just you come with your kids. And if you can, bring your own candy okay? Okay.”
Quick History of Halloween
“If you don’t know history, then you don’t know anything. You are a leaf that doesn’t know it is part of a tree. ” – Michael Crichton. Pretending the history of halloween doesn’t exist doesn’t mean it’s no longer there. The decisions we make for our families, communities and country should always be informed by as many perspectives as possible including but not limited to history. Let’s do a quick rundown of how Halloween all started.
Is the history of Halloween rooted in ideas and beliefs that have little to do with Islam? Yes. Do people celebrate Halloween NOW because they think some spirit thing is coming from the ground to terrorize them and so they dress up in a costume to hide from it? No. The evidence shows that Halloween is no longer the pagan tradition it once was. So what the fitna is Halloween in the 21st century?
Halloween is a social event expressed through consumption and influenced by themes of paganism. It’s a social event because people participate not to directly celebrate death, but simply to gather and socialize with friends. It’s expressed through consumption because in order to participate in this social event, you need to purchase some sort of Halloween artifact such as candy or a costume. It’s influenced by themes of paganism which can be seen in the expressions of death, darkness, and evil. But let’s talk more about that consumption part.
Candy loves Capitalism
Muslims always talk about how Halloween is pagan and satanic, but how many of us look into the business behind this festive holiday? It turns out the numbers behind the spending that goes into Halloween is a bit alarming. It seems to be more of a business then a pagan/satanic holiday. Let’s take a look*.
*According to the 2013 Halloween Consumer Spending Survey from the National Retail Federation (NRF), the world’s largest retail trade association.
So, what do we do now?
You need to make your own decision based on what you are comfortable with, including research on the origins, experience, and current day reality of Halloween. Some people just want to spend some time with their friends getting candy. Some people would rather avoid Halloween, because they feel the need to protect the dignity of their tawheed. Some parents don’t want their children to feel excluded and just want to see a smile on their face. I can’t tell you what’s right or wrong, but I can tell you that you need to do research and respect the different opinions people have. Today you might not understand their opinion but tomorrow you might. Who knows. Personally, I don’t participate in Halloween but I respect the opinions of others who decide to. Here are some questions to think about.
Think outside the box:
Did you know that in Oman (a Muslim Majority country) there is an event on the 14th night of Ramadan called Garangoa where children dress up in traditional clothing going to door-to-door singing songs to receive nuts and candy?
Can we create an authentic intergenerational cultural event that offers an opportunity for children, families and young people to participate in fun activities with themes of Islam?