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Including Our Children in the Halloween Discussion – By Hina Khan-Mukhtar

Sister Hina Khan-Mukhtar shares some practical advice and tips that other parents can implement when discussing tricky issues such as Halloween with their children.

From a young age, we taught our children some simple rules in the practice of our religion. Serendipitously, some of those rules then went on to later frame our family’s discussion around Halloween.

Rule 1

We don’t make fun of death. We treat the topic — which includes the grave and our eventual reduction to bones — with reverence and contemplation since it is a reality that we will all eventually face and since the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) told us to think about it (i.e. death) at least twenty times a day.

Rule  2

The unseen world — which includes demonic forces and the dark arts — is real, and we don’t make light of Satan, our avowed enemy. As the saying goes, “The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.” In our worldview, Iblis is not a fictitious cartoon character meant for our amusement. Instead, he is seen as a constant reminder that this world is an abode of danger, and we must remain vigilant and focused until our very last breath.

Rule 3

Frightening people or deliberately causing them any grief or anxiety is prohibited for Muslims.

Rule  4

We cleanse our homes of all things ugly and unclean (including bones and cobwebs and dirt) so that we attract angels and the Divine Light into our lives. It is part of a human being’s fitra, or primordial nature, to want a home environment that is pure and pleasing to the eye and to the soul. A healthy human nature is attracted to light instead of darkness.

We never said anything trite like “Halloween is Shaytan’s birthday” or “trick-or-treating is like begging” or “candy is bad for you.” We only tried to get our children to look at the world around them with “the eye of discernment.” Once they had this perspective, it was no longer necessary to have to explain why we chose not to celebrate Halloween. They were able to differentiate between right and wrong, truth and falsehood, fun and heedlessness for themselves. A parent’s greatest task is not necessarily teaching their children what to think; rather, it’s teaching them how to think.

Having said all of that, when the kids were younger and more likely to care about these types of culturally popular events that were rooted in tradition and celebration, we did make sure that they got tons of candy, a fun outing called November’s Eve on October 31 (we didn’t call it a “Halaloween”), and discounted costumes (the non-spooky kind) the day after. Understanding that there is an allure to dressing up, our homeschooling co-op organized a Costume Day for the kids to enjoy during another month. 

For our November’s Eve event, we gathered on a friend’s ranch with other families and had a potluck dinner, face painting (nothing morbid or macabre), inspirational and amusing story-telling, nighttime hayrides, pony rides, anasheed (devotional songs)-singing around a bonfire, and hot chocolate and roasted marshmallows on sticks. We returned to our neighborhoods long after the local trick-or-treaters had retired to their own homes for the night. A wise teacher once told us, “For every haraam (prohibited act) that you stop your children from, you have to give them two halals (permissible acts) that they can enjoy.” That particular philosophy requires a lot of creativity and hard work on the part of the parents (especially in the early years), and November’s Eve was just one example of that philosophy in action. 

When my eldest son started attending public high school, I asked him if he ever felt that maybe he had missed out on something fun and crucial in his childhood by not participating in Halloween while growing up. He thought about it for a moment and then replied, “If we hadn’t had November’s Eve to enjoy, then maybe yes, I might have felt that way. But we always had somewhere fun to go on October 31st. When other kids asked me what I was going to do that evening, I was always able to tell them that we were going somewhere fun and we were going to have a good time too. In the end, that’s all that mattered anyway.”

This is a crucial reminder that most children aren’t interested in proselytizing to or lecturing other people about their beliefs, even if they are sincere in the practice of their faith. They simply want to fit in. Young people just want acceptable alternatives for the things they are being told that they can’t or shouldn’t do. It’s the responsibility of the adults to provide those alternatives and to include their children in the discussion of what kinds of alternatives are acceptable for all.

Rule  5

And the last rule we taught our children was that no one should be contemptuous of those Muslims who do choose to celebrate Halloween. The attitude we tried to teach was that we should be hard on ourselves but easy on others. Nothing is more off-putting than a self-righteous and judgmental “religious” person. Our job is simply to try to protect our own hearts and souls while also setting a good example and praying for the safety and success of everyone else for whom we feel any care or concern. “Wish people well while sticking unapologetically to your own principles” was the mantra in our home. Alhamdulillah.

Can I Attend My Nephew’s First Birthday Party When There Is Alcohol Being Served?

Answered by Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil

Question: My non-Muslim family often have events where alcohol is the main feature of parties and get togethers. Most recently my brother is having a first birthday party for his son with alcohol on tap.

What should I do? We are often put down for our beliefs and feel like outsiders.

Answer:Assalamualaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

I pray this finds you well. May Allah reward you for seeking out an answer which pleases Allah, and heal the rifts within your family.

Non-Muslim family

This is delicate situation. A gathering in which alcohol is present is not a place for a believer. However, they remain your family, and it is important to keep family ties in a manner which pleases Allah.

I would suggest that you apologise and explain that you are not comfortable being at events where alcohol is served. Instead of attending your nephew’s first birthday party, offer to take them all out for a meal, or a picnic at a park. Provide an alternative setting for them to enjoy your company. Be steadfast on this, and ask Allah to grant them understanding.

Boundaries

Boundaries are important in facilitating harmonious family ties. Make it known to them, calmly and respectfully, that you do not expect them to agree with your religious beliefs, but you do expect them to treat your Muslim family with basic respect.

If you do not stand up to them respectfully, they will continue to think it is acceptable to put all of you down. Your dignity as a believer is sacred. Be an example for your children to follow. Being assertive takes practice, and if you need to, see a counsellor, life coach or psychologist to help you.

Good character

‘Amr ibn Shu’ayb reported from his grandfather that the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) said, “Shall I tell you about who among you I love the most and the one who will be seated closest to me on the Day of Rising?” The people were silent, so he repeated that two or three times. Then the people said, “Yes, Messenger of Allah.” He said, “The one among you with the best character.” [Al-Adab Al-Mufrad]

As challenging as it can be with your non-Muslim family, try your best to have good character when you are with them. Treat them with kindness, be patient with their shortcomings and make dua for Allah to guide them. The wheel of life is constantly turning, and it is not difficult for Allah to guide your entire family, if He wills.

Be assertive when you need to be, and always follow it up with acts of love and kindness. InshaAllah, through your patience with your family, your heart is being constantly polished. May your interaction with your family grant you a heart which pleases Allah, on the Day you meet Him.

Please refer to the following links:

Is Christmas Haram? Being Muslim in a Non-Muslim Family
What Are Some Prophetic Supplications That Can Help Me Deal With Trials in My Life?
A Reader on Patience and Reliance on Allah

Wassalam,
Raidah

Checked & Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Photo: Joey Gannon

Is Christmas Haram? Being Muslim in a Non-Muslim Family

Every year, the Is Christmas haram? debates happen full force. Whether you’re a convert to Islam or not, we hope you find the following resources helpful.

Is Christmas Haram? What about Thanksgiving and Other Festivals?

Friendship, Kinship and Family ties

Beliefs & Customs

Death and the Afterlife