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Holidays and Celebrations in Islam (part 1)

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

(Friday Speech was delivered by Imam Mohamed Baianonie at the Islamic Center of Raleigh, N. C., on March 23,1990)

Every nation in the world has it’s own holidays and celebrations that are characteristics or landmark of that nation. This has been the case throughout the history of humanity, and it continues to be so in today’s societies.

Of course, there are reasons behind every one of these celebrations. And these reasons may differ from one to another. However, they all originated from either one of the following sources: The divine source or the human source.

The first refers to the revelation from Allah in its two known parts, the Qur’an the book of Allah and the sunnah the tradition and saying of prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.), and the second refers to the human made traditions and customs.

It is a sad thing, when we look at the situation of the Muslim ummah (nation) to see that there is a great mix-up between religious holidays and celebrations that have no Islamic foundation. These unauthentic celebrations were passed through generations of Muslims from the time of deviation from true Islamic beliefs. What makes things worse, is that some of these non-religious holidays take on a religious appearance, and sometimes use religious rituals, which made it very hard for the common Muslim to distinguish between what is authentic and what is not. And sometimes, Muslims think that these unauthentic holidays are an essential part of Islam.

Therefore, it is necessary that we provide a clear distinction between the two kinds of holidays using guidance and support from Qur’an and sunnah. It is also necessary to understand and learn the reasons behind such a mix in this part of the Islamic belief and to know why this controversy has been going on for such a long time.

One can attribute this phenomena to two main reasons: The first is the ignorance of Muslims of the essence and purpose of holidays and celebrations in Islam, and the second is the blind imitation of others without examination and supporting evidence.

The first reason is that many Muslims have forgotten that holidays in Islam are a form of ebadah (worship), and they are not like regular days we choose them as we wish or spend them as we like. It is very well known that the acts of ebadah (worship) in Islam are fully described in the revelation, and we are not supposed to invent a new forms of ebadah (worship). However, due to the absence of clear concept of ebadah (worship) in the minds of many Muslims, unauthentic celebrations have been introduced into our life.

We can tell that a celebration or a holidays is an act of ebadah (worship) in Islam by following and understanding the sayings of prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.): Imams An Nesa’i and Ibn Hebban reported an authentic hadith narrated by Anas that at the time when the prophet (S.A.W.) came to Madina and saw people have two days in which they celebrate. He said (the prophet) "Allah (S.W.T.) did replace these two holidays with better ones. The day of fiter (after the month of Ramadan) and the day of sacrifice (in the pilgrimage season)."

Thus, the acts of replacement eventually mean a total cancellation of pre-Islamic holiday and the introduction of celebrations that are acts of ebadah (worship).

These acts of ebadah (worship) can be observed in many Islamic holidays and celebrations some examples are the gathering of Muslims for Eid prayer and the following speech, forbidding fasting in these days, raising the voice with "Allah Akbar" and giving animal sacrifices in the day of sacrifice and above all, the determination of the days of Eid by sighting the crescent of the new month. All these, and many other things tells us that the acts of celebration are acts of ebadah (worship) and that the holidays are days of ebadah (worship). That’s why Muslim scholars say that Muslims participation in the non-Muslims celebrations is prohibited because it is an act of worship according to the methods of Unbelievers.

The second reason behind the mix-up in Muslim holidays, is the blind imitation of others without knowledge and evidence, considered to be a disease that effects nations and individuals when ignorance and innovations spread widely and knowledge and sunnah demolish. This, in fact, is a serious problem because it introduced in the deen of Islam many things that are not a part of it, and in some cases, they are not allowed by the deen, because many Muslims practice them without close examination of their religious validity, these acts later on, became a habit unknowingly mixed with other deen rituals, or sometimes Muslims carry on the habits and traditions they learned from their parents and other Muslim figures in their countries, and these habits are mostly treated as if they were from the revelation of Allah (S.W.T), while the prophet (S.A.W.) warned us in an authentic hadith reported by Imams Bukhari and Muslim "He who innovates something in our deen that is not part of it, will have it rejected." And in other narration by Imam Muslim "He who dose an act which is not in agreement with our deen, will have it rejected."

It needs to be clear in our minds that such practices are only a sign of deviation from the path of Islam, because it violates the principle of judging all kinds of acts according to the Islamic laws. The sources of legislation and the tools of weighing other issues in Islam are well defined and must be fully implemented when ever we come across a new practice or a foreign act, otherwise, we would become like previous nations which took their rabbis and monks a source of legislation with Allah or without Him.

Allah (S.W.T.) warned us not to be like the people who claim to be believers but they refuse to accept judgment from Allah and His Messenger in their life matters. In surat An- Nur, (verse 47 & 48), what can be translated as, "They say we believe in Allah and in the messenger and we obey, but even after that, some of them turn away, they are not really believers. When they are summoned to Allah and his Messenger in order that he may judge between them, behold, some of them decline (to come)."

And in the same surah Allah (S.W.T.) describes the true believers, "The answer of the believers, when summoned to. Allah and his messenger in order that he may judge between them, are no other than this: they say, we hear and we obey. It is such as these that will attain felicity."

Next Friday I will talk about common unauthentic holiday practiced widely by Muslims now a days: celebrating the birth of the prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.), celebrating the journey of the prophet, at night from Mecca to the "Aqsa Mosque" in Jerusalem, and then his ascendance to the 7th heaven, and celebrating the night of the middle of "sha’ban", which is the month that proceeds month of "Ramadan".

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