Figuring Out Halloween as a Muslim - One Mother Shares Her Thoughts
Posted on Oct 29, 2019
By Danah Shuli
The leaves are changing color, the air is nice and crisp; apple picking, pumpkin patches and all the fall things are in full effect. This is my favorite season, but I can’t embrace the glorious fall season without also acknowledging the Halloween that comes along with it. Whether or not Muslims take part in or celebrate Halloween has been a hot topic over the past few years. Or, maybe I have just been paying more attention to it since having kids of my own.
So, let’s talk about it.
I want to start off by saying that if you are looking for a yes or no answer or a clear cut decision by the end of this post, that is not my intention. You will not find that here. I myself am conflicted about the topic, and this post is merely a space where I will air out my thoughts on Halloween as an American Muslim raising a family. Certainly there are Muslim families who embrace Halloween for the fun that it is, and there are those who do not partake in it. I don't intend to judge either side.
I grew up going to Islamic School and was raised in a pretty conservative community. The idea of going trick or treating didn’t really attract me personally, and I never felt left out of the festivities when I would see my neighbors going around. It just wasn’t important to my family or the community I was in. We were taught that this tradition is not part of Islam or our identity as Muslims, due to it’s pagan origins. I have distinct memories of my dad turning off all of the lights, and my sisters and I would peek through the blinds to watch the kids wearing their costumes go from door to door while skipping ours with a confused look on their faces, as it was the only dark house in the neighborhood on that night.
My husband, on the other hand, had a slightly different upbringing and therefore has different views than mine when it comes to this topic. Although he did not celebrate Halloween growing up, he went to public school and was not as heavily immersed in our conservative Muslim community as I was. Fast forward to today, with two kids and a family of our own, we are unsure on how to approach this holiday.
This becomes even more challenging when we have family members who take part in Halloween. I am still uneasy about the idea of taking part. Maybe it’s because of the holiday’s pagan origins or that I don’t like to just follow the crowd. Maybe it’s all the consumerism or all of the candy that I don’t want my kids to consume (yes, I’m THAT mom). My husband argues that the holiday has diverted so far away from its roots and is now all about collecting candy, dressing up as your favorite character and spending a fun night with family and friends.
While I do agree with his perspective, we have decided that for now while both of our children are too young to really notice Halloween, we will not take part. This is heavily influenced by the fact that we are both not ready to face the judgement we would get from our parents – yes, that is the reality of our situation in this nascent phase of parenthood!
Every time October comes around however, my husband reminds me that it won’t be much longer until our daughter, who is turning three this month, will start noticing that she is not going out in a costume and trick or treating, and that we will need to make a decision with legitimate reasons to back up that decision. More importantly, we will need to come up with reasons that convince us in either direction.
It seems that this divide in opinion is very much the norm in many American Muslim households and communities. After getting some feedback on a survey I conducted on my public Instagram account, motherofpearl91, I realized that many are in the same boat as my husband and I. The majority of my audience did not grow up celebrating Halloween and do not allow their kids to go trick or treating, although they do believe that the holiday has moved away from its pagan roots and is now a fun activity to do with loved ones. Granted, I’m going by those who responded to my Instagram survey. Surely there are many other opinions and practices around the subject of Halloween.
When it comes to controversial issues in Islam, or “gray areas,” the majority of Muslims tend to refer to the hadith that states:
The Prophet (saw) says when you are doubtful, "That which is lawful is clear, and that which is unlawful is also quite clear. Between these two is that which is ambiguous, which most people do not know. One who avoids the doubtful safeguards his faith and his honor." (Riyadh-us-Salaheen, Hadith 588)
I found that most of my followers felt that it is better to be safe than sorry and stay away from taking part in Halloween. Many of them referred to not wanting to follow the crowd and imitate those of different faiths based on the following hadith, “Whoever imitates a people is one of them.” Narrated by Abu Dawood (4031); classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Saheeh Abi Dawood.
The issue of identity confusion also came up in the responses. Many parents said their children often times would come home asking questions regarding Halloween after participating in Halloween activities at school or hearing about it, but not at home. Some parents raised the question of why do we as American Muslims or Muslim Americans not take part in American traditions the same way we take part in Muslim traditions? Still other parents stressed that they want to draw a distinct line between their children’s identities as Muslims and Americans, and that this identity should not be compromised for the sake of inclusion or blending in with American or Western culture.
Many people also mentioned that their local masjid holds a family fun night on Halloween to encourage the community to get together in a fun filled, Islamic environment instead of participating in a non-Islamic holiday.
While these shared opinions were the majority, I did get quite a few responses from parents who see no harm in taking part in Halloween and have the same stance as my husband. Many argued that because of the nature of Halloween today, let kids be kids and just go have fun! I found it interesting that some use Halloween as a way to engage in their neighborhood community and follow the sunnah of “being kind to your neighbors.” They argue that is a way to show that Muslims are not outsiders, live regular lives and can get involved and participate in school and community events.
Some people use this holiday as a way to spread dawah through actions and kindness by giving out treats to visitors even if they themselves may not be trick or treating. Although the concept is appealing, I personally think it would be confusing to children who may be helping pass out candy but are not allowed to go around and collect it with their friends. I feel like the idea would work best if the children are old, mature and grounded enough to understand the reasons why they don’t celebrate but still would like to take part in the sunnah of being kind to neighbors.
I really think there is no right or wrong answer when it comes to this topic. Every family dynamic is different, and as with many topics in Islam, Muslims practice religion on a spectrum and in different ways. We all are trying our best to do what is right for ourselves and our families, so if you come across someone who may not share the same views as you do on controversial topics, be kind.
We will not agree on everything, especially when it comes to religion, but that does not mean some of us are better Muslims or practice more correctly. Do your research, make an informed decision and leave the rest to God, Allah (S) knows best.
Danah is wife to Kareem and mama to two children. She was born and raised in Charlotte, NC, and loves all things food, fashion, photography and home decor. After having Kinzah, she created her blog, Mother of Pearl, where she shares a glimpse into her life as she navigates motherhood and hopes to build a safe space for other mamas to connect. You can follow her on Instagram.
The above photo of the hijabi in "joker" face paint is from Pinterest.