Are You Being Tricked, A Treat? Halloween In Islam.

That title is cleverer than you actually thought by the way. The pause at the comma is obligatory. The inflexion applied to the last two words in the same sentence is a must. The understanding of “Treat” to mean “very well” or “significantly” is essential. After all that is done, this entire article is encapsulated by that first sentence. But you guys already worked that out right?

Anyway.

So a friend of mine asked me, “What do I tell my kids about Halloween in Islam?”

To which I responded, “I haven’t got a clue!”

“But you teach classes on raising kids!”

“Yeah, but that doesn’t mean I like them or understand them or know how to turn Halloween into a halal bedtime story!”

After that shocking admission, let me also admit that I have no idea how to explain to a Halloween-obsessed world full of adults let alone kids why you would have to be absolutely stark raving bonkers as a Muslim to either celebrate it, or partake in it, or think it is something nice and simple.

As you can imagine, any scholar trying to educate Muslims about Halloween is going to come in for a hiding to nothing. People have changed. Muslims don’t have that same self-respect that they were so well-known for. As a community, we have become far more liberal than we ever should have, an understandable reaction to the increase in folks going the other way: radical extremism. But an unprecedented level of feeling inferior to others – especially the wider society that we are part of in the West – means that our new found liberalism leads to us often going to great lengths to find excuses for things, to wash away facts, paper over the cracks and ignore matters which go against the very root of the Qur’an and Sunnah that we stand for.

If you were to try and explain the Islamic ruling on Halloween, the only thing people read is: “this guy wants to say kids going Trick or Treating for sweets is haram lol” – and therein lies the problem. Are we even mature enough as a community to discuss things like this? Are you willing to question those things you considered to be so innocent and innocuous, and put yourself in awkward positions trying to explain a different perspective to your kids, or neighbours, or colleagues?

Let us rewind a little so that I can mention a few things about Halloween:

  • There are enough historical and religious facts about the origins of Halloween to shock even the most sceptic of academics, and keep even the most talented of scholars busy.
  • Halloween is a Pagan festival, originating in Samhain. Those who denied this, said it has purely Christian roots. Note: that doesn’t make it much better.
  • At its core, Halloween’s rituals involve the warding off of demons, devils and anything else evil you can draw at school.
  • The concept of “Trick or Treating” today, is a later addition and doesn’t necessarily have a Pagan or religious origin per se.

I think pretty much everyone knows these few things about Halloween, or has seen a lecture or two somewhere about the same. It leads virtually all Imams to rule that concerning Halloween, the partaking in, or celebration thereof, or the preparation for, is all impermissible and contradictory to Islamic principles. I have no problem adding my voice to that, with a few caveats which I might mention later, but I think there is something of greater value here to explore.

See, from a scholarly angle, the ruling on the celebrating of Halloween is a far more complex issue than meets the eye, and requires a very detailed and holistic study of some of the following questions:

  • For a celebration to be considered impermissible, does it have to be religious in nature or is it sufficient to be anything which is celebrated or remembered regularly as the word ‘Eid in the hadith suggests? And what would be the dhawābit or parameters of “regular”?
  • Those celebrations or festivals which are religious in nature, with specific reasons: if their reasons for celebration change, does the ruling also change?
  • If so, how would we measure that there has been enough of a change in perception or reasoning behind a celebration? To what measure is ‘urf the decider, and what if there are outliers in that ‘urf which would suggest the exact opposite. For example, if all kids on the planet see Halloween as a chance to get free sweets, but a small minority practice their modern version of Satanism and other Pagan rituals on that night, who is given priority from an usūl point of view, and what is the evidence? And what if a majority in terms of numbers see a festival such as Christmas to be a national Capatilist holiday, yet the media market it as a religious one? Who is given the greater weight in determining the change in perception, for the sake of the Islamic ruling on the issue?
  • How actually important is one’s intention in these matters? Can one’s intention to partake in something impermissible, for the sake of not looking out of place or awkward in a neighbourhood, ever overcome the apparent ruling on the matter?
  • What are the dhawābit for the concept of “celebration”? Do greetings and words carry the full connotation of celebration? Is it actions which are to be taken into account?
  • Is there still a place to try and solve these issues from an usūl perspective as opposed to just using a more lazy approach and citing dharūrah and fatwas (i.e. for the “sake of necessity”) associated with that? Or seeing ourselves in a paradigm of fiqh al-aqalliyyāt or “laws pertaining to a minority living amongst a non-Muslim majority”, or interacting with non-Muslims who are not mukhātab bi’l-furū’ and thus don’t come under Islamic rules and allow our full interaction with them on that basis.

These are reflections that might need their own research paper for each question! And this is why I always told my students that it won’t be a Faqīh who will solve this issue for us, but an Usūli, someone who can work with the principles of jurisprudence in a very comfortable and deep way to help us understand the mechanics at hand. The more you study these questions, the more you realise that modern day scholars largely skirt around the detail concerning them, because not only is there no consensus, but there is actually little agreement and scant evidence.

I often discuss this issue with my colleagues and we all admit that it requires further study and tahqīq, and it is for that reason why we will leave these for now, and just stick to an almost second-rate approach to fiqh and temporarily judge by what it looks like from the outside, in order to give the Muslims general guidance in the short-term.

So when it comes to Halloween, you’d have to be blind to not see that “outside” looking pretty crazy. People celebrating magic, the dark arts, dressing up as everything evil and celebrating the macabre and death itself etc etc.

But sometimes, it’s not even necessary to have to study a particular issue in detail such as what Halloween is, or was, or what it entails, or what it will lead to etc. Sometimes, if you have the right glasses on, you can step back and survey the field, and see a potential, more insidious danger for future (and this?) Muslims generations.

Reflect on this: how did we allow evil to become so sweet? Naughty but nice, right? Think of all the adverts: the devil either comes across as a charming, lovable rogue, or something so horrific and plastic, that it can only be a fake latex mask. Meaning: we’ve allowed evil to hide its identity very efficiently, and that cannot bode well. It’s either too nice to hate, or too crazy to be real.

“So what??” you might say. “Shall we ban Harry Potter movies now and stop kids watching Dynamo and not take opportunity of the cheap price of chocolate this week LOL??” you might argue.

Well, I don’t know. I will tell you something though: when I watch the eyes of children as they watch magic spells being cast by Harry, and then later hear them speaking amongst themselves about how they will summon the power of the xyz to do blah blah blah (fill in the gaps as you wish), it does make me wonder. When I see kids talking about Dynamo as a hero, I think to myself that if Shaytan offered these children the same power as Dynamo, would they take it, or would they feel enough fear to reject it outright without hesitation? At what point does child’s play, become a semi-belief taken into adulthood, and then left to linger as it mixes in your heart with pure iman?

If you are a believer, you should take those last few sentences above very, very seriously. Muslims believe in the Dark Side. And it is kufr to summon that Dark Side. This isn’t a joke or a movie trailer. This is Qur’anic and Prophetic fact and teaching.

So when I hear of Muslims – yes Muslims – amongst so many others, dabbling in Ouija boards and trying their hand at the dark arts, I wonder what was the role of the modern day movie culture in all that? What is the role of Halloween in that, if any? What is the role of celebrating escapism of this dunya in those things which are not Jannah-based, but Jahannam based? See, every industry will always rubbish these kind of associations with their product and teachings to protect their brand, but what about when that industry is Capitalism itself? What about when it has a $6 billion Halloween product to lose just in America?

There are many things that if you think upon them deeply, you will realise we have become desensitised to. And when one becomes desensitised, we often fall into it ourselves.

Nudity is the easiest example to think of, both at the observational level and at the level of individual practice as well. Many of us don’t bat an eyelid anymore if we see a near-naked girl walk by. Shock is old hat. Get with the times. But bring someone from the Sālihīn to visit, and they will be literally having a heart-attack on the streets. As for young girls themselves, then psychologically when everyone around you doesn’t cover, then to cover yourself becomes even more difficult. Likewise sexuality. Likewise ethics and values. Likewise evil. And likewise the Devil and all of his realm. The more innocent and natural and fun and normal it all becomes and it is sold as, the more easier it will be for us to fall into his game and no longer take him as the open enemy that Allah commands us to do.

Now you understand why I called this article “Have we been tricked, a treat?” ya‘ni, was it that easy for us as a community to have the wool so blatantly pulled over our eyes when it came to the realities of this dunya and evil and bid‘ah and kufr and its effect on our hearts and iman? But hey, you knew that already.

Reflect also on this: why have we failed to give our children and families and communities, enough reason to enjoy and celebrate good, healthy, pure, innocent reasons to celebrate and have fun? Why do we always have to go looking outside and genetically modify those acts which are anything but pure in their origin or their current reality, and use those instead? What are we saying about ourselves and our identity? Are we that weak and insecure? I don’t mean by this to pursue an isolationist policy within our community, but instead I would love for us to be proud of our own ethical and religious filter which removes those things objectionable to our theology and principles, and yet still live happy, fulfilling, beneficial and patriotic lives in our countries.

I think people give up far too easily on this. I certainly never had a problem living a fully Western and yet Islamic life, and neither should you. I never missed out on being authentically British despite never getting involved one iota in Halloween all my life, and neither will my kids, and neither should you. We sometimes exaggerate the impact of being different and are scared to make a change to the way we live our lives, or even perceive our lives. Well, you shouldn’t be so scared. And yes, sometimes that impact of being different is a significant one and might actually benefit you. In both worlds.

And so, for all those folks who just got bored silly with the last few pages of philosophy and just clicked on this article to read a few do’s and don’ts and get their fatwa, then let me save you all the research that is needed and all the evidences that should be quoted and say in the best of scholarly traditions:

  • It is not permissible to dress up at Halloween time in those costumes associated with this festival. It is even more haram to dress up as a clown at this time because suicide is not permissible whatsoever.
  • It is not permissible to intentionally do things different in your normal routine because of Halloween. And if you feel ashamed of what the neighbours will think because you never bought extra sweets to give out to everyone, then just bottle it and don’t open the door. Or go to Blackburn Sharif for a few days. You won’t find any folks knocking for jack diddly squat there…well, other than TJs knocking on for gasht but then we pretend we’re not home when they come anyway so that’s cool.
  • If one is buying a normal box of chocolates or a latte as per usual, but now it’s Halloween-themed, or pumpkin-spiced, it is permissible for that to be purchased and taken.
  • It is not permissible to give celebratory greetings for Halloween. If it is coincidentally a national holiday, it is permissible to wish folks a happy holiday or happy break etc.
  • It should be obligatory upon all parents as a counter to the prevalent culture to use this opportunity and explain to their children the true nature of Shaytan, the Jinn, magical powers, and the entire Dark side, and inculcate in them instead a love for the pure, the human, the limited, the normal, as well as the Angelic realm.
  • It is impermissible to partake in bonfires as some sort of celebration or event as part of Halloween itself. However if you decide to do a bonfire at the same time for the sole reason of burning rubbish to save on rubbish-tip costs under the cover of the fact that everyone is burning bonfires for Halloween, then not only is that allowed but you Sir are a genius and I would like to shake your hand.
  • You should not let your children go “Trick of Treating”, neither for social, safety or religious reasons. However, if someone knocks on your door and you’re silly enough to open the door and they ask for a treat, it is permissible to give something. But of course it is better to hide behind the curtains with the lights off and threaten anyone at home with death if they make a single sound.

Okay, maybe not that last one then.

And Allah knows best.

21 Comments

  • salalite8@yahoo.com' Bayo says:

    Well highlighted are those hard questions we are scared to talk about. We as a community are in dire need of these brutally honest and probably awkward discussions. JazakAllah khayran for this platform. Looking forward to that Xmas special, that’s gotta be special, right? (wink)

  • adebisialag@yahoo.com' Sikirat Alagabi says:

    ‘JazakAllahu Khairan for the article AE, i really enjoyed it & hope our community at large in western society will open their heart to the Quran and Sunnah. Ok, in my kids Arabic class, they are organizing what they call “Halal-oween” on the halloween day, where they want us to come to the masjid with the kids and have lots of fun by playing games, pizza and lots of candy. But they specified not to come in costumes or face painting. they said this will allow the kids not to be left out in the Halloween event, but have a nice Halal time with other families. Whalahi, for me, I don’t think it is necessary cos I have a 6yrs old daughter and she even knows muslims don’t celebrate halloween so she’s not hyped about the whole thing. but now for the modrassa class to come up with this event? i don’t know what to do. Is it permissible to attend these events.? please enlighten me more.

  • hira.manzoor@gmail.com' Hira says:

    Jzakallah Khair for the article. I have a three year old and even here in the UAE they’re ‘celebrating’ Halloween in schools disguised as a ‘costume party’.. but your article has got me scared on a whole new level. I now realize the various cartoons I let my son watch thinking they’re okay content wise also portray magic and magicians as something nice from time to time and it’s very hard to filter them out because they are not the main characters in the cartoons. Any good Muslim cartoons with an equal dose of firemen and trucks and what not to keep my three year old interested?

    • nada.1409@yahoo.com' Amatullah says:

      Assalamualaikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh Dear Sister Hira!

      You can check out this channel..they have nasheeds and islamic cartoons
      https://www.youtube.com/user/wwwone4kidsnet

      nasheed
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vzFRwp5VoDc&list=PL30420DC0DB4B29CC

      I think one main thing we need to do with kids is to keep them entertained with activities…you may google for different indoor and outdoor activities…there are many ideas out there Alhamdulillah! 🙂

      if your child is three i guess you can get him kinetic sand…inshAllah i might get it when my son turns 3…i checked the video…it seems to be very entertaining and mess free stuff 🙂
      may AllahSWT grant us all the tawfiq to raise our kids in the best manner pleasing to Him! and ofcourse we need to make dua and dua for our kids..and AllahSWT is the One Who protects..
      Assalamuaalikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh!

  • mail@wakasmir.com' Wakas Mir says:

    This has to be one of the most amazing pieces on Halloween.. thanks Shaykh 🙂 May Allah swt bless you.

  • nadianordin@gmail.com' Nadia says:

    At least in Malaysia it is not much of an issue but unfortunately the culture is slowly creeping in and I see many Muslim Malays getting involved with the celebration. May Allah protect my family and future generations from this element.

    Witty piece Sheikh AE SubhanAllah.. I like the last advice hehe

  • f.sh4ikh@gmail.com' Fshaikh says:

    Salams to all,
    A very interesting read ma shaa Allah .
    I have 4 grown up children all adults now but even as children we never had issues with Halloween or. Christmas. We just taught them that it’s not part of our beliefs. We had celebrations for them when they completed their first Quran ect.
    I think it’s no big deal as many people non Muslims included do not agree with opening doors to strangers or encourage children to go door to door. More from a safety point of view than religious.
    We live in UK and apart from the commercial side of it I personally don’t think it plays a huge part in society.

    • rabbia.qaswar@gmail.com' ummehoney says:

      Assalamu alaikum brother. What about non Muslim religious activities at school? How do you keep your children out of them without offending the teachers? JazakAllah

      • tayyiba_irfan@hotmail.com' Tayyiba Irfan says:

        That’s a good question sister. MY kids were in the US during their early school years. I just explained to the teachers from our religious point of view and would just bring them home for the afternoon session, when they would be having parties in theIr respective classes for such events like Christmas, Halloween or Valentines.
        And this was 20 years ago.
        Now I live in Pakistan and see this happening here. Unfortunately valentine’s is being celebrated for several years now and Halloween has just begun being celebrated in top notch hotels and within the elite class.
        So how do we explain to this society where majority are Muslims and adults are partaking in these events.

  • Tamer.rafai@gmail.com' Tamer Rafai says:

    Asalamu aalaykum Abu Eesa very delihtful article I thoroughly enjoyed it from beginning to end.
    I have an important question in your conclusion that you did now make a ruling on.
    What about Halloween candy that goes on sale after Halloween that is dirt cheap. Is it permissible to purchase said sweets for my indulgence and natural glutinous/gluttony cravings? In other words, I am going out of my way to purchase discounted, slightly expired Halloween themed treats in bulk to tame my sweet tooth, mainly because I am cheap. Is that okay?

  • kamal.umar@gmail.com' Umar says:

    ASA sheikh,
    Jzk for the great article. I have a two followup questions regarding Halloween, which I would appreciate if you could answer.
    Here in America, around Halloween time, farms open with activities like hay rides, petting farms, and apple picking. Invariably, these places also include pumpkin patches.
    In your scholarly opinion, do you think it permissible to go to these places? In some regards they are “fun activities of the fall”, but there is definitely an underlying Halloween theme if you look close enough .
    Along the same lines, a lot of young muslims now days get pumpkins to carve, but make sure to only carve shapes and characters not associated with Halloween (like their initials, or characters from The Minions movie, etc. ). From your article, am I right to assume that this practice is impermissible as well?
    Jzk. Thank you again for your article.
    -Umar

  • rashid_patch@yahoo.com' Rashid says:

    Halloween has been called a pagan religious celebration by fearful Christians for 17 or 18 Centuries. There is no reason for Muslims to make the same mistake.

    The day is actually the commemoration of an event recorded in the Lebor Gabála Érenn (first written down in the 11th Century, but dating from several thousand years earlier).

    The event commemorates a solemn treaty made between Manannán mac Lir of the Tuatha Dé Danann, and Amergin of the Milesians, the people of Golam Míl Espáine.

    Lebor Gabála Érenn tells that all mankind descended from Adam through the sons of Noah, and that a man named Fénius Farsaid (descendant of Noah’s son Japheth) was the forebear of the Gaels. Fénius, a prince of Scythia, was one of 72 chieftains who built the Tower of Babel. His son Nel wed Scota, daughter of an Egyptian pharaoh, and they had a son named Goídel Glas. Goídel crafted the Goidelic (Gaelic) language from the original 72 languages that arose after the confusion of tongues. Goídel’s offspring, the Goidels (Gaels), left Egypt at the same time as the Exodus of the Israelites with Moses (a.s) and settled in Scythia. After some time they left Scythia and spent 440 years wandering the Earth, undergoing a series of trials and tribulations akin to those of the Israelites, who spent 40 years wandering in the wilderness. Eventually, the Goidels reached Iberia by sea and conquered it. There, Goídel’s descendant Breogán founded the city of Brigantia, and built a tower from the top of which his son Íth was able to see the island of Ireland.

    Íth sailed to the island with a group of men, and was welcomed by its three kings: Mac Cuill, Mac Cecht and Mac Gréine of the Tuatha Dé Danann, who ruled Ireland at the time. Íth was then killed by unnamed attackers, and his men returned to Iberia. The eight sons of Íth’s brother Míl Espáine (whose given name was Golam), lead an invasion force to avenge Íth’s death and take Ireland. After they landed, they fought against the Tuath Dé and made for Tara, the royal capital. On the way, they were met on three mountains by Banba, Fódla and Ériu – the Queen of Ireland’s three king-consorts. Each Queen said that the Gaels would have good fortune if they named the land after her. One of the Gaels, the bard / prophet Amergin, promised that it would be so. At Tara, they meet the three kings, who defended their claim to the joint kingship of the land. They asked that there be a three-day truce, during which the Gaels should stay a distance of nine waves from land. The Gaels agreed, but once their ships are nine waves from Ireland, the Tuath Dé conjured up a great wind that prevented them sailing back to land. However, Amergin calmed the wind with an inspired recitation. The surviving ships returned to land and the two groups parleyed, to avoid a destructive battle.

    To prove the greater honor and generosity of the Tuatha Dé Danann, they offered to give a free gift of half the land of Ireland to the Milesians. The Milesians, knowing that much of the island was bog and fenland, asked, “Which half?” Again, the proud Dé Danann, to enhance their honor by excess of hospitality, replied, “Take the half you choose!” The Milesians said, “Then, we’ll take the half above the ground!”

    The Dé Danann were a bit taken aback, but they were bound by their solemn word. The traditions say that from that day, “they turned sideways to the sun, and cast shadows no more.” Their people entered the Hidden World – the Alam al-Ghaib – and ever after, made their homes in the sídhe, the ancient burial mounds that dot the Irish landscape. They themselves became know as the Folk of the Sídhe, and then, just as the Sídhe; though they are often only named indirectly, as the Good Folk, or the Other Folk.

    However, by the terms of the treaty, the Sídhe retained an easement, to appear and travel on the land above, at the quarters and cross-quarters of the year. So on the 2 solstices and 2 equinoxes, and on the 4 festival days which fall midway between those corners of the year: Imbolc, Lughnasadh, Samhain, and Yul, they may travel about where ordinary humans may encounter them.

    Now, in all the ancient calendars, the day starts at sunset – not at dawn. (This is still the case with the Jewish and Muslim calendars.) Samhain is the darkening of the year; the end of harvest, the onset of the winter season. So Samhain marks the New Year of the ancient Celtic calendar; and the New Year starts with the night.

    As the festival of harvest, Samhain is the great time for feasts and visiting relatives, so there is much travel at that time, more than the other corners of the year. lso, by their treay and ancient custom, any crops standing in the field unharvested as Samhain Eve falls, belong to the Sídhe; so that night, a great many of their folk are about on the surface of the land.

    Since the Sídhe have lived in the Hidden World for thousands of years, they have had long affiliation and relations with the Djinn, and many intermarriages. So, earthly folk who do encounter them often perceive them as spirits – djinn or ifrits. And while most of the Sídhe are not hostile to earthly folk, like any other people, some of them can be mischievous, prone to cruel tricks – or angry and violent. So they are feared.

    Islam considers that the Djinn are real, and they are NOT demons. Qur’an commands us to study – and remember – the histories of the peoples who came before. The Sídhe are not demons or devils, and the occasion of Samhain is the commemoration of their treaty with ordinary humankind – lest we forget, for they will not – and not a pagan worship.

    Now – Krampuslauf – that’s another story altogether…..

    • aekazem@gmail.com' Enosh says:

      interesting points Rashid,

      i do not know Haloween history at all – so some historians could help this out refutations anyone?

  • aekazem@gmail.com' Enosh says:

    Salam bhai,

    what about the Nike symbol? – the Nike symbol has pagan/Greek god origins… so is it permissible to wear it and pray in it? what if the nike symbol has lost all religious connotations amongst the masses but a few in Greece still bow down and worship the symbol? – what then about Halloween if it has also lost all religious connotations by the mass public?

    JAK

  • adil.m.patel@gmail.com' Adil says:

    ASA Sheikh,

    Very well written mA. Very pertinent points. One very interesting point was that you mentioned we should educate our children on the matter of Jinns etc. Problem I find is that not many people are informed on these topics themselves. Maybe AE can write something or do a video on it for parents. Or maybe someone can link something here.

    May Allah preserve you and keep you smiling.

  • Mnadeemasi@gmail.com' Nadeem says:

    Wonderful…..excellent tone and very informative…..thank you

  • sanaa_shakir@yahoo.om' sanaa says:

    Well, I decided to allow my kids to join the Halloween. Lets not forget what we enjoyed when we were children.
    In every muslim country, we do similar to this tridition in different time of the year. Its opportunity for kids to be out in night time, under our suppervision. It develope their manner with strangers and give the neighbours the sense of community.
    The children have to give a joke or answer a question ( pazzle) before they get treat.
    My 5 years old son had a Gilatine from one door. He knock the door and told the man: “this is not Halal So please change for me”. Or my friend 6 years old daughter said to a neighbour: ” Please give me Veg sweets only”

    Look to this learning! Don’t close the doors on your kids to protect them. You need to equipe them with principles and watch how they behave when they expose to other communities.

  • munawar@munawarali.com' Munawar says:

    In our Masjid in canada we make a point of celebrating as many Islamic events as possible – everything from Isra Miaj to Eid and everything in between. We feel we’ve closed the gap and our kids do not complain of a boring religion.

  • yamiedragon123@gmail.com' yamie says:

    Good article. As a huge potterhead, just want to point out that Harry Potter doesn’t deal with anything satanic whatsoever.

  • zohrasidat@yahoo.co.uk' Zo says:

    Completely agree with you on the ruling for Halloween, but what’s your opinion on Bonfire night? You only mention it briefly above as impermissible if held in connection with Halloween. However, it’s a separate event, which started as the celebrating of the failure of the gunpowder plot and may have moved on a bit since then. Personally, I don’t much care about the history of it and who is being represented by the bundle of clothes sitting atop the woodpile. I do enjoy the display though, the social buzz, the candy floss, toffee apple, roasted chestnuts, being wrapped up warm and the smell of the woodsmoke. All things that happen but one weekend of the year… can we partake?

Leave a Reply