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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A little food for thought on Thanksgiving...

Then do ye remember Me; I will remember you. Be grateful to Me and reject not Faith. (Quran 2:152)

And remember! Your Lord caused to be declared (publicly): "If ye are grateful, I will add more (favors) unto you; but if ye show ingratitude, truly My punishment is terrible indeed." (Quran 14:7)

We bestowed Wisdom on Luqman: "Show (thy) gratitude to Allah." Any who is (so) grateful does so to the profit of his own soul; but if any is ungrateful, verily Allah is free of all wants, worthy of all praise. (Quran 31:12) 

When we eat, he told us that we should say: When the Prophet used to eat or drink, he used to say, "Thanks be to Allah Who gave us food and drink and made us Muslims." (Al-Tirmidhi 3379) 

Tomorrow marks the annual Thanksgiving holiday and some Muslims may be asking if celebrating popular American holidays such as this or personal milestones such as birthdays are things Muslims should be doing.  Are the American holidays (that aren't obvious Pagan or Religious celebrations) HALAL to participate in and/or celebrate??

Let's consider the following pieces:

Well, before we indulge into this topic, its important to note and acknowledge the pioneers who lifted the American flag while still not compromising their own Muslim identity and beliefs.  Imam W. D. Mohammed (may Allah have mercy on him) embraced an American Identity far before any of the popular American Muslim scholars that we see today.  We thank Allah for these pioneers.

With that said, let's further look at this holiday of Thanksgiving.  In principle, Giving-Thanks is part of Islamic Adaab (etiquette).  As Muslims, we celebrate our own thanksgiving days twice a year.  Our own holidays: Eid Al-Fitr and Eid Al-Adha.  One following the month of fasting, and one following the pilgrimage rites in Mecca.  Both involve congregational prayers, celebration, thanksgiving, and charitable contributions to the poor.

But if your like me, you are drawn to at least one more official day of Giving-Thanks.  For as long as I can remember I have been sharing Thanksgiving with my non-Muslim and Muslim family.  If you see wrong or something un-Islamic in embracing Thanksgiving Day, take the good from this American holiday and apply it to your own life.  If your not going to have a Thanksgiving dinner with your family and friends at least follow the example of the Prophet (saw) and GIVE your THANKS throughout your daily life.  This day, however, is ment to remind us of this duty and what better way to share in the Mercy and Blessings of Allah than with family. 

I think Dr. Muzammil H. Siddiqi, (vice chair of the Fiqh Council of North America and member of ISNA Shura Council) said it best,
"The National Day of Thanksgiving in America is a beautiful holiday. It contains a good spirit and noble message. It is not a holiday of any particular religion. It is not a Christian or Jewish holiday but it has many deeply religious and spiritual meanings. America at thanksgiving is America at its best. It is unfortunate that like many other moral and spiritual things this holiday is also turned nowadays into too much indulgence and commercialism. It is important that we remember and remind others about the spirit of thanksgiving."


Masake said...

Salaam Alaikum;

While the 'spirit of of giving thanks' is one that is commendable- I think that it is important to remember what the story of 'thanksgiving' the pilgrims celebrated means to the original inhabitants of this country/ it is a story of bigotry, hatred and genocide, nay extinction, if you look at it from a Native American perspective. As of such, I would have to disagree that it is something Muslims or any other group for that matter, should support. For many who have relatives who still hold on to it; I believe that Muslims should be the voices for the Native Americans in their families, acknowledging that the idea of gratitude is good but is this holiday something to be commemorated?

I believe that words and ideas are living- and thus never stagnant, and as such, the conception of what the thanksgiving holiday is and its historical legacy, I feel, must be taken fully into account. Thanksgiving, Columbus day and many other colonial or European settler related holidays cannot be isolated from what these entailed and still do. In fact, in elementary schools all over the country, Thanksgiving is definitely associated with Pilgrims, their early years and interactions with Native Americans. However, what they have done is co-opt the narrative and made one version the seemingly uncontested (especially at that level) version of events. This method, of emphasizing the good and to de-emphasize the atrocities is, according to Historian Howard Zinn, an ideological choice meant to unwittingly justify what was done.

"One reason these atrocities are still with us is that we have learned to bury them in a mass of other facts, as radioactive wastes are buried in containers in the earth."

That is precisely what goes on with Thanksgiving- the atrocities associated with the holiday are buried under these ideas of thanks, and turkey and family. All of which is seemingly good; but ideas are nothing without their manifestations- the legacy of the Thanksgiving holiday clearly not being halal, in mine own eye. Since we are talking about settlers, and we are Muslims, say for instance we were Palestinian and that on this day, the Israelis were celebrating the holiday in which they give thanks for arriving in Palestine, for being with their families, etc. Now as Palestinians, I'm positive we would not celebrate this day- in fact, it may very well be a day of mourning- the forced removals from our home, the killing of innocent civilians, the loss of our family and all our livelihood. No; even if we agreed with the rhetoric of the holiday, and we believed in it, we would refuse to commemorate this. If anything, we would choose this day to remind ourselves that injustice and oppression should never be allowed to be celebrated or embraced. The struggle against it must continue.

Verse 4: 75 :

"And how could you refuse to fight* in the cause of God and of the utterly helpless men and women and children who are crying, "O our Sustainer! Lead us forth [to freedom] out of this land whose people are oppressors, and raise for us, out of Thy grace, a protector, and raise for us, out of Thy grace, one who will bring us succour!"

Neither would the Jews commemorate any Nazi holiday, however righteous the rhetoric of that celebration is. While it is challenging to break from the tradition when so many engage in it and family members turn deaf ears, maybe labeling you the kill joy for bringing these issues up- someone still has to speak truth. Eventually, traditions will shift within families, and maybe there will come a day where people when it will be to a reminder of the legacy of greed, war and genocide and as a yearly renewed commitment to tangibly be in solidarity with the oppressed people of the world, even if it means making sacrifices or being uncomfortable.

Meanwhile, I recommend reading the first chapter from Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States.

Columbus, The Indians and Human Progress

Thank you for your blog post and for this blog in general, which I actually do follow :)/ keep posting and may your posts and the exchanges it generates be of benefit to you and to your readers. Amin.

Take care and Salaam Alaikum,


thelegacymaker said...

Wa Alaikum As salaam!

Thank you, Masake, for this well thought and written perspective. We should all be aware of the "true" story and history of America's origins and beginnings. To honor and celebrate the actions of a figure like Columbus while understanding the monstrosities that took place is a mistake that the school systems and American culture facilitates every year. As with the "story" that accompanies Thanksgiving is often one of false perception and misguided history.

I do believe, however, in seeing the SPIRIT of Thanksgiving, in its simplest form with its simplest cultural associations. The spirit of Thanksgiving is an Islamic spirit as well as an American spirit. And for many Muslims, it is these type of celebrations that will bring both non-Muslims and Muslims closer together. Yet, we will be accountable for not seeking and understanding the true story behind the Native American perspective (a parallel perspective as the early African slaves in the Americas) and for that I thank you Masake for this reminder!

thelegacymaker said...

Also, the wife and I would love to come to Senegal, are you still there?

Masake said...

Indeed I am; but fortunately/ unfortunately, I leave this month for the States, inshaAllah! However, rest assured that my family = me and if you ever make a trip they will be sure to spoil you and I could make arrangements for them to host you; so you would only have to worry about your plane ticket and other expenses. Send me a FB message with your or your wife's email information etc (in case I ever disable my facebook lol) so that we can stay connected.

I love that you too travel the world!

Masake said...

you two*, lol.

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