Muslims, the Turkey, & the Thanksgiving Day Question

Cross-posted over at Muslim Matters

After I realized that the tooth fairy, Santa Claus, and the Easter Bunny were not real, celebrating holidays and even my birthday began to recede in their importance for me. Back when I was in high school, my dad always said, he really liked how my turkey turned out. A large turkey is a hard bird to cook well (unless its smoked, then it’s much easier). The key is to keep it moist and well-seasoned so it does not turn out bland after all those hours of hard work. However, I didn’t object to receiving gifts or cash. And back in the day, when my siblings and I shared a paper route, the onset of the holidays brought an expected cash windfall of hundreds of dollars in tips and gifts from our clients, which was very much appreciated it.

So after I became Muslim, I was exposed to the discussions of the permissibility of celebrating and indeed even acknowledging celebrations that did not originate within Islamic teachings. Eager in my new convert zeal to do what seemed to be the prevailing mood in my community, circle of friends, and among the fatawa websites and Islamic activists that I listened to, I avoided celebrations like Thanksgiving Day, the Fourth of July, Halloween, the Nigerian Independence Day celebrations, and of course Christmas and Easter among other days. I became wary of accepting invitations from my family to share in the holiday meal. I wasn’t sure how to handle accepting cards and gifts from them on my birthday and on Christmas. For awhile, I stopped eating the main meal with my family on those days. I remember a number of very sincere discussions at the masjid with other sisters where we debated whether or not to eat the turkey or to sit at the table with our families while they ate the traditional holiday meal.

So often, in the discussion points the issue of the hadith about the “two eids” was raised but rarely was the issue of joining ties with our families raised. One might say, this oversight could be in part due to the fact that many of the people we listened to, only had Muslim family and were not born and raised here in the States. Many of us had this feeling that the imported scholars and students of knowledge fresh from their studies over there and the fatawa from there was “real Islam.” And this feeling left many of us rejecting our culture, even parts that did not contradict the shariah from our names to our clothing to our  food to our habits that were perfectly acceptable cultural variations. But where’s the daleel, there is some discussion about the origins of the holiday and its supposed halal-ness or haram-ness over at Suhaib Webb’s blog.

A few years ago, as I began to question and cast off some of the interpretations I had accepted and promoted almost as gospel, I began to question my faith. What happened? Was I slipping? How did I go from not even acknowledging Thanksgiving and refusing to eat the meal with my family to happily (although, not really) but comfortably eating with and looking forward to being with them on a day like this? For awhile, I was shy to admit that I enjoined ties with my family and sat down to enjoy a meal with them on this day. It was kind of like wearing the “I voted” sticker around the masjid. You gotta be tough to weather the evil looks, smirks, stares, side comments, and character assassination that often accompanies such discussions among a certain segment of our community, although much less now than before.

This is not only an issue for converts but born Muslims also face these issues, which are rarely talked about in our communities. Much like so many of the important issues that get swept under the rug as we put our collective heads in the sand and pretend like they don’t exist. I can understand and respect the arguments of those who wish to dissociate from Thanksgiving Day as a matter of faith and principle but I can also understand and respect the arguments of those who take the opposite view. I’ve had both in my journey in Islam and I’m thankful for the blessing of Islam this day and every day.

Since many of us have this day off, how are you using it? I’ve noticed an uptick in Islamic courses and lecture events today and throughout the weekend. My aunt just had her first child last week, so my family is gathering over at her house.

Among the the things, I love about these holidays here in a non-Muslim country is the happiness and feeling of community it brings to so many, who then share that emotion with those around them. And the peace and quiet in the morning. I stayed up after fajr and was awestruck by how quiet the normally bustling weekday morning was outside my windows. Beautiful.

May Allah, subhanhu wa ta ala, guide us to that which pleases him. Ameen.


  1. Yes, maintaining the family ties is one of the principles of Islam.
    Also, being grateful, even when things are difficult, is a principle of Islam.
    I hope that you enjoyed some of those things for which you are grateful today.

    1. Indeed, I did. There was no turkey but plenty of other food. I was able to give my family some of the goat meat from the Eid slaughter and they appreciated it because they had intended to make a traditional stew with it but didn’t have any goat meat.

      It was nice getting to meet my ten day old cousin, yesterday and just chillin’ with my family.

      I hope you also had a lovely day.

  2. Bismillah.

    Shaykh al-‘Allaamah Muhammad bin Saalih al-Uthaymeen:

    [Ruling on celebrating non-Muslim holidays and congratulating them]

    Can a muslim celebrate a non muslim holiday like Thanksgiving?

    Praise be to Allaah.

    Greeting the kuffaar on Christmas and other religious holidays of theirs is haraam, by consensus, as Ibn al-Qayyim, may Allaah have mercy on him, said in Ahkaam Ahl al-Dhimmah: “Congratulating the kuffaar on the rituals that belong only to them is haraam by consensus, as is congratulating them on their festivals and fasts by saying ‘A happy festival to you’ or ‘May you enjoy your festival,’ and so on. If the one who says this has been saved from kufr, it is still forbidden. It is like congratulating someone for prostrating to the cross, or even worse than that. It is as great a sin as congratulating someone for drinking wine, or murdering someone, or having illicit sexual relations, and so on. Many of those who have no respect for their religion fall into this error; they do not realize the offensiveness of their actions. Whoever congratulates a person for his disobedience or bid’ah or kufr exposes himself to the wrath and anger of Allaah.”

    Congratulating the kuffaar on their religious festivals is haraam to the extent described by Ibn al-Qayyim because it implies that one accepts or approves of their rituals of kufr, even if one would not accept those things for oneself. But the Muslim should not aceept the rituals of kufr or congratulate anyone else for them, because Allaah does not accept any of that at all, as He says (interpretation of the meaning):

    “If you disbelieve, then verily, Allaah is not in need of you, He likes not disbelief for His slaves. And if you are grateful (by being believers), He is pleased therewith for you. . .”
    [al-Zumar 39:7]

    “. . . This day, I have perfected your religion for you, completed My favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islaam as your religion . . .”
    [al-Maa’idah 5:3]

    So congratulating them is forbidden, whether they are one’s colleagues at work or otherwise.

    If they greet us on the occasion of their festivals, we should not respond, because these are not our festivals, and because they are not festivals which are acceptable to Allaah. These festivals are innovations in their religions, and even those which may have been prescribed formerly have been abrogated by the religion of Islaam, with which Allaah sent Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) to the whole of mankind. Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):

    “Whoever seeks a religion other than Islaam, it will never be accepted of him, and in the Hereafter he will be one of the losers.” [Aal ‘Imraan 3:85]

    It is haraam for a Muslim to accept invitations on such occasions, because this is worse than congratulating them as it implies taking part in their celebrations.

    Similarly, Muslims are forbidden to imitate the kuffaar by having parties on such occasions, or exchanging gifts, or giving out sweets or food, or taking time off work, etc., because the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Whoever imitates a people is one of them.” Shaykh al-Islaam Ibn Taymiyah said in his book Iqtidaa’ al-siraat al-mustaqeem mukhaalifat ashaab al-jaheem: “Imitating them in some of their festivals implies that one is pleased with their false beliefs and practices, and gives them the hope that they may have the opportunity to humiliate and mislead the weak.”

    Whoever does anything of this sort is a sinner, whether he does it out of politeness or to be friendly, or because he is too shy to refuse, or for whatever other reason, because this is hypocrisy in Islaam, and because it makes the kuffaar feel proud of their religion.

    Allaah is the One Whom we ask to make the Muslims feel proud of their religion, to help them adhere steadfastly to it, and to make them victorious over their enemies, for He is the Strong and Omnipotent.

    Majmoo’ah Fataawa wa Rasaa’il al-Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen, (3/369)

  3. Ibn al-Qayyim (may Allāh have mercy upon him) said: it is not permissible for the Muslims to attend the festivals of the mushrikīn, according to the consensus of the scholars whose words carry weight. The fuqahā’ who follow the four schools of thought have stated this clearly in their books… Al-Bayhaqī narrated with a sahīh isnād from ‘Umar ibn al-Khattāb that he said: “Do not enter upon the mushrikīn in their churches on the day of their festival, for divine wrath is descending upon them.” And ‘Umar also said: “Avoid the enemies of Allāh on their festivals.” Al-Bayhaqī narrated with a jayyid isnād from ‘Abdullāh ibn ‘Amr that he said: “Whoever settles in the land of the non-Arabs and celebrates their new year and festival and imitates them until he dies in that state, will be gathered with them on the Day of Resurrection.” (Ahkām Ahl al-Dhimmah, 1/723-724).

  4. Wa salaam alaykum Slave of Allah,

    May Allah reward you for your efforts here and on the crosspost on MM. I think I mentioned this in the article that there was a time in my life where I perhaps like you took my religion solely or mostly from books, lectures, and online easy to copy/paste fatawa but this is inadequate for so many reasons chief among them being the lack of contextualization. And for this context and understanding to develop, we need the aid of real, living, people of knowledge. Anyone can read or parrot a text but it takes someone of keen intellect and firm grounding in the religion to look at situation, look at the evidences and goals of the shariah to come to an practical understanding that one can then implement that affirms the principles of our religion.

    The goal of this piece was not to enter into a discussion of holidays in general, but of Thanksgiving Day, in particular. And not so much on the permissibility of the day as from among the people of knowledge that I learn from are those who take both opinions and both groups have their evidences. So we need not try to force others to agree with us nor bash them for disagreeing with us.

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