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Islam, Muslims and Thanksgiving!

     Islam accepts “The other” very tolerably and graciously; that is evident in all aspects of worship

     Islam accepts “The other” very tolerably and graciously; that is evident in all aspects of worship and life.  Islam being “The Last Message from God to humanity”, there should be tolerance concurrent with resoluteness. That being said; Muslims have to deal with all other religions, beliefs and convictions of the rest of the world to the end of time. So, there must be “Resilience” along with “strict governing rules and rulings”.  

In order to tackle this subject, we need to cover three major ideas:

  1. What is Thanksgiving?
  2. Muslims’ idea of Thanksgiving Day.
  3. What, and why do Muslims legally celebrate?
  4. How do Muslims celebrate their festivities?

So, let us start our journey,

What is Thanksgiving Day?

Linguistically, it is the expression of gratitude, especially to God.

Macmillan Dictionary states; “The word thanksgiving dates back to the 1530s and is formed by combining the noun ‘thanks’ — taken from the Old English ‘þanc’ — meaning ‘grateful thought’, and the present participle of the verb ‘give’. This is from the Old English ‘giefan’ meaning ‘to bestow or grant’”.

Technically, it is an annual national American/Canadian holiday marked by religious observances and a traditional meal.

Nowadays; traditional Thanksgiving Day festivities include parades, American and Canadian professional football games, and families and friends gathering for a meal of roast turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie.

The story goes, that the first Thanksgiving dates back to 1621 – which took place in October and lasted about three days – when a group of English pilgrims in present-day Massachusetts of USA shared a feast with a tribe of Native Americans to celebrate a plentiful harvest.

The exact date of Thanksgiving varied from state to state until, the third of October in 1863, Abraham Lincoln finally declared it a national holiday across the whole of the USA. In 1941, Roosevelt issued a proclamation in 1942 designating the fourth Thursday in November (which is not always the last Thursday) as Thanksgiving Day. Meanwhile, Canada’s Thanksgiving celebrations are on the second Monday in October.

Thanksgiving is also celebrated in various Caribbean islands and even the UK has its own version of Thanksgiving, although it is not widely observed.

To conclude, Thanksgiving is an “Innovated day of festivities” that has no bases (evidence) in Christianity or any other religion for that matter, and the only relation it has with religion is that “thanks” being given to God; which originally must be given at all times for all the graces He has bestowed upon us.

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Muslims’ idea of thanksgiving:

     In Islam thanks and thankfulness to Allah are integral aspects of a Muslim’s relation with His Lord.  thanks and thankfulness to Allah are done both verbally (by utterance) and actively (by obedience and by using every grace in the way of Allah and to His pleasure).

The very First chapter of Qur’an; after naming The Almighty; starts with Thankfulness to God,

“[All] praise is [due] to Allah, Lord of the worlds –”    [Quran.com/1/2]  

This chapter is recited in each unit of each prayer on each day; that is at least seventeen times per day every single day in obligatory prayers alone (not counting voluntary prayers).   

The word “[All] praise is [due] to Allah” has been mentioned in Qur’an twenty three times. Moreover the messenger of God has commanded Muslims to maintain thankfulness at all times, as it’s a way to Please The Lord and to summon His continuous Grace.  Allah says in Qur’an,

“And as your Lord has notified (you), “Indeed in case you thank (Him), indeed I will definitely increase you…” [Quran.com/14/7]

Muslims’ thanksgiving is not only to God, but to people as well.  Abu Hurayrah (a companion) Narrated:

The Prophet (PBUH) said: “He who does not thank the people is not thankful to Allah.”    [Sunan Abi Dawud]

So, saying thank you to a person is being thankful to Allah.

To conclude, thanksgiving is an Islamic way of life and worship.

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What, and why do Muslims legally celebrate?

     The “What?”… is that Muslims have two annual days of festivities; Eidul-Fitr, and Eidul-Adha; and a weekly day that is every Friday.  

It was narrated that Anas bin Malik (a companion of Muhammad PBUH) said:

“The people of the Jahiliyyah had two days each year when they would play (days of festivities). When the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) came to Al-Madinah he said: ‘You had two days when you would play, but Allah (SWT) has given Muslims something instead that is better than them: the day of Al-Fitr and the day of Al-Adha.'”   [Sunan an-Nasa’i]

Those two feasts are uniting Festivals of all Muslims all over the world, as well as Fridays, decreed by God.  No Muslim should or could innovate a day of festivities that was not decreed by Allah or allowed by His messenger, nor should or could he celebrate it.  And, that’s the “Why”; simply because it’s invalid or illegal in Islamic perspective.

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How do Muslims celebrate their festivities?

    Celebrations in Islam have external appearances and internal aspects. Festiveness in Islam translates to being happy while; keeping and maintaining times and forms of worship acts, remembrance of Allah, ordaining good, negating evil and strengthening family ties.  In fact, feasts are usually associated with so many acts of obedience that Muslims offer which are mentally-conditionally-associated with happiness and festivity. That does not mean not to have fun. Here is the evidence;

`A’isha reported:

“… and it was the day of `Id (Eid) and the black men were playing with shields and spears. (I do not remember) whether I asked the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) or whether he said to me if I desired to see (that sport). I said: Yes. I stood behind him with his face parallel to my face, and he said: O Banu Arfada, be busy (in your sports) till I was satiated. He said (to me): Is that enough? I said: Yes. Upon this he asked me to go.” [Sahih Muslim]

Human souls need recreation, that’s a fact, which is recognized by Islam.  Muhammad peace and blessings be upon him has commanded his companions to dress their best, use perfume, sacrifice the best animals possible, glorify Allah on the roads (say Allahu Akbar) and walk in tranquility and dignity. On the other hand, being happy does not entail committing sins, or evil acts.  

Giving thanks to God can be done in so many ways, for example: performing acts of obedience (remembrance of Allah, prayers, animal sacrifice, charity, strengthening family ties, bringing happiness to fellow Muslims, volunteer fasting, and other acts of worship), ordaining good, forbidding evil and using all God’s blessings for His pleasure.  

Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported:

Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said, “… And the most beloved thing with which My slave comes nearer to Me is what I have enjoined upon him; and My slave keeps on coming closer to Me through performing Nawafil (prayer or doing extra good deeds besides what is obligatory) till I love him. When I love him I become his hearing with which he hears, his seeing with which he sees, his hand with which he strikes, and his leg with which he walks; and if he asks (something) from Me, I give him, and if he asks My Protection (refuge), I protect him”.    [Al- Bukhari]  

To conclude, Muslims do not celebrate Thanksgiving Day because in Islam, thanksgiving is at all times. It’s not only during times of easement and luxury, but also during hardship; which brings blessings and ease. Thanksgiving is by doing what God has enjoined upon us, it’s that easy.  If one desires higher status in this life and in Heavens then, he volunteers extra deeds to show gratitude submission and summon God’s pleasure and love.  

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