Can I Give Thanks & Throw Down on Some Turkey this Week?


Originally published in November 2010

Question

Can I celebrate Thanksgiving with my parents? I converted a few years back and it is very important to them. Things haven’t been great since my reversion. What are your thoughts?

Answer

There is a legitimate scholarly difference surrounding this issue. Those who hold such celebrations as forbidden do so contending that such celebrations are “religious in nature” and amount to imitating the religious rites of others. One of my teachers, Shaykh `Abdul Jalil al-Mezgouria told me, “There is nothing religious about this celebration.” In fact, I remember him giving a khutbah about it a number of years back.

Some Background

Those who contented that such celebrations are permissible, do so contending the opposite: such celebrations are not religious in nature and that the origin of things is permissible unless explicitly forbidden. Sheikh al-Qaradawi stated, concerning Mother’s Day, there is no way he considered it forbidden. He based his contention on the legal axiom: “Nothing is made forbidden except with a clear text.”

It is well known that al-Rajabiyah was a holiday observed by the Arabs before for the time of the Prophet ﷺ (peace be upon him) up until the third century A.H. and the jurist differed on its ruling. The Hanabalis considered it permissible, while the Malikis held it to be disliked.

Those who hold it permissible also note that the statement of the  Prophet ﷺ, “Our holidays are two” is not a prohibition to celebrate other holidays outside of the religious sphere.

The Indigenous Imperative

As a convert to Islam and based on my humble legal training, I agree with the second opinion. Many of us, those of us who have converted to Islam, can use these moments to share the beauty of our faith with our families and loved ones in an non-hostile environment. Perhaps, by giving gifts to our parents we can heal wounds, build relationships, and move forward. At the same time, such celebrations are based on the foundations of our faith: honoring one’s parents. Therefore, we should engage such holidays with the intention of fostering noble relations and spreading the beauty of our faith with others.

Allah knows best.

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113 Comments

  1. Atif says:

    Aswk

    Why do we require a holiday like thanksgiving or any other non-muslim festival to forge better relations with our non-muslim family? Allah SWT has given us other days in which we can invite them or go to their place to sit, talk and enjoy with them and hence improve our relationships and consequently invite them to Islam.

    JAK

    • GregAbdul says:

      I am no scholar like Imam Suhaib, but he did say, “a thing is permissible unless prohibited by a clear text.” I think that’s pretty clear. Too many of us want to be the haram police. We have to reach out to people and we have to reach out them in at least a little bit of the way and forum they used to bond. For example, I used to hear, “English is the language of the people of the fire….” So how is anyone who speaks “the language of hell supposed to learn about Islam? Even after we do get Islam as English speakers, how are we supposed to grow as Muslims, if our culture and even our language are ruled as haram? After I finish showing my relatives how I will not celebrate Thanksgiving with them, do you really think they will welcome me with open arms during the Eids? Islam is the middle path. Let’s stop the silly stuff. The tense moment we need guidance with is that they insist on praying at the dinner table. So the question is not whether we sit and dine with our relatives, but what our exact behavior should be when they insist on praying over the food. Let’s be grown up middle path Muslims and stop the extremism. We have enough problems just trying to reach out to people without creating unnecessary walls.

      • Josie says:

        I agree…. In Australia we don’t celebrate thanksgiving. But any occasion to share and care with our parents should be encouraged and treasured.

  2. Imam Bushawn Akhbar says:

    I concur in part. The original intent of this day is not was not to give thanks with a turkey or raoming chicken. Instead it was a day resulting from landing on a land that wa thought to be non-existent. those who landed were sentence to death on the seas for crimes against the spanish government. they happened on this new land a apeople their and in their joy decided to take some of them back home to prove their clain to the sentencing government. this acquisition almost certainly meant enslavement. Methods were devised which resulted in the contless loss of lives… thereafter, the day became a day misnomered Discovery and then of Thanks. So god has very little to do with this day, and i see no reason you should equate the two. eating then, is not only fine, but normal…

  3. Sumayyah says:

    If you look into the history of Thanksgiving day, you’ll find that the root of this day comes from a religious holiday. I don’t see how it is ok to take part in ANY celebration with the non Muslims! If you wanna give dawah or bond with the family, why not on the day of Jummah, the best day ever & it comes every week. Mother’s Day!? Really? As a Muslim woman & a Muslim mother, I find it an insult to pick one day out of 365 days to make me feel speceal considering Janna is under the feet of our mothers, SubhanAllah we mothers deserve much more!

    • Said Hasan says:

      Masha Allah. This is the true mindset of a Muslim.
      S/he prefers to please Allah in place of set of rules, cultures, system, etc.

      • Hala says:

        I understand your point of view brother but didn’t Allah command us to respect and love our parents? The people who want to celebrate this holiday with their parents are not doing so to put culture before Allah. In fact, they want to honor Allah by honoring their parents as He commanded. If you have ever witnessed Thanksgiving in a non-Muslim household you will find that, in most cases, it is simply a family gathering where a meal is shared.

        It is not fair to cast doubt on whether these Muslims have a “true” Muslim mindset as well. You do not know the struggles they are facing with their non-Muslim family and insha’Allah their intentions are in the right place. May Allah protect us all from that which is displeasing to Him and give us ease in that which pleases Him. May He accept the efforts of the reverts to His path, to honor their parents and may he open the eyes and hearts of their family to Islam.

        JAK to Imam Suhaib for this relevant topic and for showing both views and the supporting evidence. As the child of a revert I love all my family, my non-Muslim family included, for Allah’s sake. I had recently began wondering upon this topic myself so greatly appreciate this insight.

  4. Raymond Brock-Murray says:

    As-salaamu alaikum,

    Alhamdu lillah, let me first thank brother Suhaib for all of his hard work in supporting the Muslim ummah. I would ask him to speak to the following hadith and how it relates to the permissibility of celebrating non-Islamic holidays:

    Anas ibn Malik (ra) narrated: The Prophet (pbuh) came to Madinah during two days in which they played. The Prophet (pbuh) asked: What are these two days? They said: These are two days we used to play in, during the time of ignorance. The Prophet (pbuh) said: Allah has replaced them with two better days: Eid al-Adha and Eid al- Fitr.” (Abu Duwood, Ahmad and Ibn Hajar al-’ Asqalani)

  5. Fritz says:

    That Lincoln speech was pretty good. If he just readjusted he Aqidah a little it would a be a nice model text.

  6. Ridwan says:

    I would like to say that I believe that Imam Suhaib Webb did a great job in answering this question, and indeed Allah allows for some legitimate difference for people with different situations. But a point I wanted to make was in regards to the Thanksgiving narrative, which undermines the oppression done on Native Americans. The cultural aspects people may celebrate is fine, but some of the ideas that are spread regarding this holiday should not be accepted by muslims. Many times they teach that the pilgrims ate with the native americans and that they gave thanks, the reality is far from it and as people who care about issues of justice and oppression we should be wary of these ideas and counter them.

  7. O H says:

    Check the link below which is a fatwa by Dr.Salah Al-Sawy, who is the President of the Sharia Academy and the Secretary General for the Assembly of Muslim Jurists in America. I am sure he is well aware of the history of the holiday.

    http://www.amjaonline.org/fatwa-76988/info

    • Said Hasan says:

      JazkAllah khayr O H for introducing me to this wonderful scholar. His name seemed to be familiar with me and I thought: Is this the scholar who contributed to Jumuah Magazine Fatwa Section and surely he was after a Google search.
      This IS the real scholar that American Muslims should be taking Fatwas from not apologists.
      I respect alot Imam Suhaib but I would not agree with all of his Fatwas especially on controversial issues like this one.

  8. amani says:

    You guys have no idea what is like to be muslim in a Christian family! I thank ALLAH for enlightened, well educated scholars like suhaib webb.Subhanallah

  9. Said Hasan says:

    “The thanksgiving holiday’s history in North America is rooted in english traditions dating from the protestant reformation.” Wikipedia
    How can a Muslim who takes the middle path of moderation between extemists and apologists engage in celebrations other than the two Eids?.
    A Muslim may give in to desires and then soonafter asks for forgiveness from Allah but not to rituals or celebrations that are rooted in Kufr.
    A Muslim, individually prefers to please Allah instead of set of rules or systems that contadict Islam.

  10. Hamza says:

    Alhamdulilah for differing opinions. The prophet (s) said that differing opinions are a mercy for the ummah. We should accept the different opinions of the rightly guided scholars and the right to follow any one of them. We may not agree with each other but at least respect these rights.

  11. ushruf says:

    Salam all

    I would just like to point out that haram is not a bad word. So folks thinking it haram should not be chastised here in the comments in such a dismissive way. Also agree 100% that you need evidence to state that something is haram.

    Sheikh Suhaib said “There is a legitimate scholarly difference surrounding this issue.” That means that the view it is haram is accommodated within his view of what’s valid in Islam, though the details weren’t explicitly elaborated on.

    Sheikh Suhaib also stated “Those who hold it permissible also note that the statement of the Prophet ﷺ, “Our holidays are two” is not a prohibition to celebrate other holidays outside of the religious sphere.” That means that the ‘other side’ of the argument viewed this evidence as prohibiting additional holidays. Also, the context of this hadith was a celebration that was occurring in Madinah that was unfamiliar to the Prophet saws.

    Doesn’t need to be haram or halal to me, but let’s not dismiss the nuances because we take a view.

  12. Josie says:

    Well said Greg. As an Australian I do not celebrate thanksgiving, as we believe it is an American tradition. My family however, get together on set dates throughout the year (I have 9 siblings spread across Australia…. A huge distance to travel), we meet on the first Sunday of every season (and other times as well) to eat, talk and generally celebrate being together and the gift Allah gave us of our family.
    At Christmas the same thing occurs. Some members of my family attend church, others do not. Some celebrate “Jesus Birthday” others celebrate Turkey. All of us celebrate that God gave us a family to eat, sit and laugh with.
    If I were American I would celebrate with turkey and pumpkin pie (I learned to cook it to see what all the hype in American movies was about!) thanking Allah for my family.
    Thanksgiving, regardless of its origins brings families together. Thank Allah for that.

  13. Camilla says:

    Slm, denying visit your parents during their important festivals, because islam says so.. Now, there are differences of opinion regarding this, alhamdulilleh. Place yourself in your parents position, if you invited them on your festival and they refused – wouldn’t you be sad?

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