What is Halloween?
Halloween is a holiday celebrated on the night of October 31st. On this night,children dress up in different costumes and go door to door asking for candies (also known as trick or treating). Other activities that also take part in this custom are bonfires, costume parties, visiting haunting houses, playing pranks on one another, watching horror films and other Halloween related festivals. Pumpkins are carved out for Halloween with faces and homes are decorated with ghostly and other evil images.
The first Halloween event dates back to the time of the Celtics or ‘Celts’. They were a group of people occupying the area that is now Ireland, the United Kingdom, and Northern France about 2,000 years ago.
The Celtic year began on November 1st with the festival of Samhain (sow-in). This day not only marked the end of summer and harvests, it signaled the beginning of the cold, dark winter, which was often associated with death.
They believed that on New Year’s eve, October 31st, the earth came into closest contact with the spirit world and that ghosts of the dead returned to the earth on that night. They also believed that the presence of these spirits facilitated the druids (their priests) in predicting the future, which served as a source of comfort for them during the long, dark winter.
To commemorate the night, the Celts built large bonfires at which crops and animals were burnt as sacrifices to their deities. They wore costumes to these bonfires, consisting mostly of animal heads and skins, so that the roaming ghosts would mistake them for fellow spirits and not harm them.
By the year 43 AD, the Romans had conquered the majority of Celtic territory.
They ruled over these lands for a period of 400 years, during which time two Roman festivals were combined with the festival of Samhain:
• Feralia: a day in late October when the Romans commemorated the passing of the dead.
• A day to honour Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit and trees. It is said that this explains the tradition of bobbing for apples, as the apple was the symbol of Pomona.
How Halloween came into Christianity
By the 800s, the influence of Christianity had spread into Celtic lands. In the seventh century, Pope Boniface IV designated November 1st as All-Saints’ Day, a time to honor saints and martyrs. It is believed today that this was an attempt to replace the Celtic festival of Samhain with a similar yet church-sanctioned holiday.
All-Saints’ Day was also knows as All-Hallows or All-Hallowmas (from Middle English Alholowmesse meaning All-Saints’ Day). The night preceding it became known as All-Hallows Eve, and eventually, Halloween.
In A.D. 1000, the church designated November 2nd All Souls' Day, a day to honor the dead. It was celebrated similarly to Samhain, with big bonfires, parades, and dressing up in costumes as saints, angels, and devils. Poor citizens would beg for food and families would give them pastries called “soul cakes” in return for their promise to pray for the family’s dead relatives.
Note: The word Halloween does not appear in the bible at all. Jeremiah 10:02 clearly warns, “Do not follow the ways of other heathens (pagans).”
• This started off as a legend associated with a man of Irish origin named Jack who supposedly enjoyed playing pranks on the Devil
• The legend states that after his death, Jack did not go to Heaven or Hell and therefore, had to wonder the earth carrying a lantern, providing him with some light to see where he was going
• Pumpkins that were hollowed out and had candles lit inside were symbolic of this legend.
• These pumpkins were also used to scare away evil spirits (that is why odd looking faces are carved into the pumpkins).
The Celtics believed that the spirits thronged about the houses of the living, they were thus greeted with a feast.
• At the end of the feast, villagers disguised themselves as souls of the dead and paraded to the outskirts of their
villages in order to lead the spirits away. This was dome to avoid any calamities the dead might bring.
•Another way the villagers tried to appease the dead was by setting out bowls of fruit and other treats so the spirits would partake of them and leave them in peace.
• Later when the belief in ghosts and spirits declined, youths dressed themselves as ghosts and the like as a threat to play tricks on those who failed to be generous with treats (hence the phrase, ‘trick or treat’, implying a demand for treats or else a certain
consequence would have to be given).
These animals were believed to communicate with the dead. It is also believed black cats were able to house the souls of
The present day Halloween is a combination of all these customs.
Every year people spend billions of dollars on candy and costumes at this time of the year.
Big Research conducted a survey for the National Retail Federation in the United States, and found that over 50% of consumers planned to buy a costume for Halloween in 2005, spending over $38 billion on average. In a world stricken with poverty and malnutrition in many underprivileged countries, this amount seems rather ridiculous to be spent on candy and costumes.
Average consumer planned on spending $48.48 on merchandise. $18.07 was spent on sweets. In 2003, the major pumpkin producing states in America produces an estimated 805 million pounds of pumpkin, valued at $81 million
United Nations World Food Program:
- More than 800 million people go to bed without food everyday - One child dies every 5 seconds in the world from hunger and other related diseases.
Although it may be argued that today’s celebration of Halloween has no religious significance, it is still forbidden for a Muslim to participate in it due to the extreme shirk and kufr that were in its origins. The Prophet (saw) was sent to cleanse us of these misguided, false and superstitious practices.
In order to save one self from falling into and following the practices of a society, one must have firm knowledge of the teachings and rulings of ones own religion and belief system. Clearly all that deviates from the Sunnah of the Prophet (saw) and
leads to wrong practices is contrary to the beliefs of Islam.
“You must keep to my Sunnah and the Sunnah of the Rightly Guided Caliphs; cling to it firmly. Beware of newly invented matters, for every new matter is an innovation, and every innovation is misleading” (al-Bukhari)
Halloween is a celebration that rejoices in all things magical and evil. In the Quran, Allah says of magic that it only harms and brings no benefit. (al-Baqarah:102]
“The final hour will not come until my followers copy the deeds of the previous nations and follow them very closely, span by span, and cubit by cubit” (al-Bukhari)
“Whoever imitates a nation one of them” (Abu Dawud)
It was the Sunnah of the Prophet (saw) to differ from the non-Muslims, particularly in those matters that were specific to non-Muslims. In Sunan Abi Dawud, Anas ibn Malik says that when the Prophet (saw) came to Medinah, there used to be two festivals in which the people engaged in playing sports. So the Prophet (saw) asked, "What are these two days?," they replied, "We used to play sports during these in the jahiliyah (time period before Islam).
" The Prophet (saw) then said, "Verily Allah has given you two better days, the Day of Adha and the Day of Fitr."
This not only shows that the Prophet (saw) did not acknowledge the nonMuslim's days, but also demonstrates that Allah has dignified the Muslims with days which are pleasing to Him and superior in merit. Indeed, the glorious Companions understood this principle and applied its ruling with the fullest extent.
For example, Abdullah ibn 'Umar (ra) said, "One who settles in the lands of the non-Muslims, celebrates their New Year's Days, and behaves like them until he dies, will be raised with them on the Day of Resurrection."
How to Deal with Halloween?
Many people participate in these celebrations without even understanding the history and the pagan connections, just because their friends are doing it, their parents did it ("it's a tradition!"), and because “it's fun!”.
And when it is said to them, "Come to what Allāh has revealed and to the Messenger," they say, "Sufficient for us is that upon which we found our fathers."
Even though their fathers knew nothing, nor were they guided? [al-Maidah: 104]
What To Do
As a Muslim what should I do?
- Educate yourself and others about the reality of Halloween
- Refrain from belief in any of the superstitions of Halloween.
- Refrain from supporting the customs of Halloween financially by not purchasing costumes, decorations and Halloween candies.
Refrain from participating in any of the rituals of Halloween, including trick-ortreating, Halloween parties, etc.
- This includes handing out treats to other children as well; instead, keep the porch lights off and do not open the door.
- Although to avoid people ringing the bell it is better to have porch lights off, one could put a box/holder with copies of ‘The Reality of Halloween’ handout at/near the front door and put a sign that reads…