Can Muslims celebrate Thanksgiving

Can Muslims Celebrate Thanksgiving?
Syed Saud Ashraf,MD
Member of Board of Directors, MCA

The following link gives a reasonable Islamic position regarding the celebration of Thanksgiving and I would encourage people to read it: http://imamluqman.wordpress.com/tag/can-muslims-celebratethanksgiving/

My personal understanding when faced with such issues is that it highlights a more deeper and fundamental problem, that being: that there is a continued crisis in the Muslim mind. There is a lack of clarity in Islamic thinking and vision as it ought to apply in our daily lives within the contemporary reality. In addressing such issues we routinely come across a missing dimension: common sense.

Culture and revelation are two distinct realities - both valuable and obviously necessary and are undeniable “facts of life” - religiously speaking, they intersect only when there are issues regarding Divine Existence and Attributes being confused with human traits and material existence. It is when we confuse the Divine and the human that theological guidance and clarification become absolutely necessary. As a logical corollary to this, is Ethics - the mu’amalat - the interrelationship between human beings and society. When the Ethics become inconsistent with the revealed theological outlook then it becomes a “fiqhi” matter - requiring human effort to extract and derive right course of action and give direction to proper conduct for the believing Muslim.

Thanksgiving is a cultural question with an American context. It is not a theological one.

If, however, we force the matter - into becoming a religious one - then, from within the Islamic “fiqhi” framework of 5 levels that extends from “completely allowable” to “completely forbidden”, I believe, this issue would be neither of these two definite positions - neither completely forbidden nor completely allowed; it could be considered “neutral”, “preferred” or “not preferred”. However, in this regard, I would suggest considering three core principles [of the Islamic vision of life in this world], as I see it:

1. everything is “halal” [lawful] unless declared “haram” [forbidden] by God (see Surah at-Tahrim, first verse)
2. ease is preferred over difficulty (”Allah desires ease, He does not desire hardship”)
3. cultural diversity is Divine Sunan and Hukm (see Surah Hujurat)

Having said that, whether I choose to celebrate “Thanksgiving” - as understood from within the American tradition - or not, is my cultural choice. For many, including myself, thanksgiving just does not come naturally. It feels foreign because I am originally not from here and the local customs do not have that psychological attachment for me. Some years I have been part of “thanksgiving”and some years I haven’t. Obviously for those born and raised here exclusively, it ought to be natural and naturally acceptable. After all, being a thankful human being is a quintessential part of the Islamic ethos.

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