When I began my search for the truth, I was a 16 year old who attended Christian school my entire life but I had my doubts. As I began to study the Bible more, I noticed how pagan holidays were simply replaced or absorbed by the Church in order to increase its following. I knew that whatever my search led me to, it had to be free of these things and stand on its own.
Studying the life of Malcolm X, I ended up sifting through elements like the Nation of Islam (Min. Farrakhan and/or Elijah Muhammad) until I finally came upon information about the Seerah of Prophet Muhammad (sws). I began to study more and more and after reading Surah Ikhlas, I accepted Islam. Upon accepting Islam, I threw every holiday I ever participated in, religious, secular or otherwise in the trash and decided I’ll do my best to follow the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (sws).
I began to explore the principles of Islam and saw many of them as universal; such as respecting relatives, giving gifts, being nice to parents even if they are not Muslim, being tolerant of others beliefs, arguing in a kind manner and so much more. I noticed some Muslims participating in Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners with their families which confused me at first. I used to celebrate those holidays by getting together with relatives, eating and visiting prior to becoming a Muslim and I took a strong stance against participating because it was from ‘jahiliyyah’ and I remembered how Christianity blended the pagan rituals and practices into their religion so I was on guard.
I’m not qualified to give fataawa but I felt that this area at best was a gray area because I came across an authentic hadith in Abu Dawood that says;
“Anas bin Maalik (radi Allahu anhu) said: “The Messenger of Allah (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) came to Madinah and the people had two days when they would play and have fun. He said, ‘What are these two days?’ They said, ‘We used to play and have fun on these days during the Jaahiliyyah (Days of Ignorance). The Messenger of Allah (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) said, ‘Allah has given you something better than them, the day of (Eid) Adhaa and the day of (Eid) Fitr.’”
I noticed that the days in the above hadith the Arabs used to celebrate as a holiday were not religious in nature, similar to Thanksgiving, Mother’s Day, and other materialism driven holidays so I opted out of acknowledging any of them and to be safe in my deen, to only acknowledge the two ‘eid’ holidays Muslims have and to make them memorable for my children.
There are those who note that this time of year is when relatives get together and it’s a sunnah to visit your relatives and be nice to them which is true. Over 99% of my relatives are non-Muslims who have no interest in Islam, I pray Allah guide them. I’m not saying to not visit your relatives and rack up blessings. I’m simply saying that for my family, it works best to stay away from relatives when they are celebrating their holidays which usually include some type of food that tends to always have haram present. All types of pork, alcohol, vulgarities, shirk prayers and other inappropriate things tend to be present which at minimum makes the practicing Muslim uncomfortable.
As the husband and father who is responsible for the direction of my family, I felt that the harm in such activities far outweigh any good that may come from it. My relatives are usually around for a few days as the holiday weekend is extended and I can visit should I choose or I can choose to have some relatives to my home during this time to visit and extend kind relations to them.
I also take the time to educate my children on the basis of their holidays whenever their days come up. Most people blindly follow the conditioning society serves up while we know that Islam is for thinking people and encourages us to think and ponder on the creation of Allah. Explaining the genocide, rape, enslavement of Africans and government sanctioned murder of indigenous people who kindly extended a helping hand to these new people are all a part of tarbiyyah and education. I know many non-Muslims who refuse to participate in celebrations where history is whitewashed and in reality a commemoration of terror and horror that was inflicted on other human beings whether Columbus Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving, etc…
We are encouraged to follow a sunnah to fast on Mondays and Thursdays and since Thanksgiving falls on a Thursday every year, it is an easy sunnah to observe while many others choose to do different. We also discuss things like materialism, social conditioning, holidays effects, health and fitness, discipline but most of all, we discuss the beauty of Islam. Islam doesn’t make us perfect people, but we are grateful that it does give us a perfect path.
بَدَأَ الإِسْلاَمُ غَرِيبًا وَسَيَعُودُ كَمَا بَدَأَ غَرِيبًا فَطُوبَى لِلْغُرَبَاءِ
Islam began as a something strange and it will return to being strange, so blessed are the strangers.