Trick or Treat? Not All Fun and Games
Can I celebrate Halloween? Should I allow my kids to dress up in Halloween costumes? Is this permissible in Islam? These are some of the common questions most striving Muslims ask around this time of the year. Understanding the origin of Halloween is important in answering these questions.
History of Halloween
The origins of Halloween date back to the time of the Celtics or ‘Celts’ who celebrated a festival called Samhain on October 31st (the Celtic new year’s eve). This celebration was supported by the belief that the ghosts of the dead roamed the earth. Priests (‘Druids’) were believed to be able to communicate with these ghostly spirits and they would build large fires on this night where people gathered to burn crops and animals as sacrifices to the Celtic deities/gods. During the festival, they wore animal heads and skins as costumes.
The Priests would also go from house to house on this day and demand specific types of food (to offer to the spirits to calm them). If their demands were not met, it was believed that the people and their homes would be cursed with trouble, sickness, and death. Prosperity was promised to those who generously donated (hence the phrase, ‘trick or treat’, implying a demand for treats or else a certain consequence would have to be given).
What does this mean for us as Muslims?
Halloween is essentially a celebration that rejoices in all things magical and evil. In the Quran, Allah says that magic only harms and brings no benefit (Surah Al-Baqarah, V.102).
This season can undoubtedly be challenging for Muslim parents as they struggle with excluding their children from activities especially when other kids in the class or neighborhood are partaking in Halloween activities.
Parents tell themselves it's harmless and just child's play, hoping that they will be able to stop their kids when they're older. However, what typically happens then is that as the children get older, they would have formed a habit of engaging in these activities and it becomes hard to disengage them.
Rather, following from the Prophet’s (SAW) examples on prophetic parenting, it's better to educate children early and give them a good foundation of what is permissible and find clever ways to help them understand that you’re not trying to be mean but rather protecting them from that which will not benefit them in the dunya or Akhira.
A few years ago, a sister shared a story about her sons experience with Halloween at school which we can draw lessons from. She received a text message from her son’s school teacher apologizing to them. The message stated that the teacher hadn't meant to make her son feel out of place and that the teacher would be more conscious of class topics in the future. She didn’t quite understand what the text message was about, but figured something must have happened in school that her son had not yet informed her about. So, she reached out to his teacher to get more clarity. The teacher shared the following with her...
The teacher had assigned a class activity, instructing all the children in the class to draw/write about their Halloween costumes. Her son approached the teacher and requested a different topic for the class activity. He explained that he didn't celebrate Halloween as it went against his beliefs and wouldn't be able to complete the assignment as initially assigned. The teacher understood his reservations and gave him a different topic for his class activity.
What can we learn from this story?
She and her husband have clearly been able to raise a child that’s confident in his Muslim identity. This can only be achieved from home. Here are some tips on raising kids who are confident in their Muslim identity:
- Foster a strong sense of identity: This starts from an early age as those formative years lay a foundation for our children as they grow older. Make their faith a source of comfort, love, and inspiration. Share positive stories of Muslim role models who have shown courage and stood for their beliefs. This will help them fully embrace their Muslim identity without discomfort or resentment, In Sha Allah.
- Do not raise them from a place of fear: Often, we scare our children, thinking this is the best way to keep them under control. However, this often leads to raising children who are frightened or develop resentment towards us, thus hampering their growth as they lack that important parent-child connection. We need to raise fearless children who are only scared of Allah and nothing else – this will result in them doing the right things even at the most difficult times.
- Teach them to speak up and stand for Justice: Encourage your children to speak up and share their views in a courteous and respectful manner. Provide a safe and healthy home environment where your children are free and confident to ask questions, share their views, and engage in discussions with adults. Encouraging this will not only boost their confidence but also encourage learning. Always encourage them to stand for what is right using the Quran and Sunnah as a guide. This can be nurtured through their interactions with siblings, extended family, and friends. Reward them when you see an act of courage.
As they grow into adults, holidays like Halloween are not the only confusing decisions they’ll be faced with, but raising them using some of these steps would In Sha Allah prepare them for anything and provide them with a solid foundation in their decision making.