Unfortunately, I wasn’t really surprised to see Halloween decorations and event invitations being handed out today at a local mall in Karachi. The lack of my surprise primarily, because I have been witnessing the ‘western bug’ corroding our society for like the past few years now. The influence of the west is not declining but the values and beliefs of our society definitely are. It’s the ‘in’ thing of today; Halloween parties are not only ‘cool’ but are extremely fun as well. Let’s take a quick look at the origins of this festival and then decide for ourselves if we are on the right track or not.
The origins of Halloween lie in the ancient Scottish festival of Samhain, celebrated as the beginning of the winters and the first day of the New Year, when it was believed that spirits of the people who had died during the year were allowed to visit the earth and roam around freely. Hence this festival was celebrated in honour of the Sun god (thanking the Sun for providing them with a good harvest) and the god of the dead. The ritual of putting out food on the patio and doorsteps took birth from the belief that if food wasn’t provided to these dead spirits, they would cast a wicked spell. Additionally, it was believed that the spirits of the good people were sent to heaven, but those of the bad ones hovered somewhere between this world and the next. And on this particular day of Samhain, they came to earth expecting to be honoured with food, sacrifices and offerings that would satisfy them and thus, feel no need to cast an evil spell on the living.
The christians, however, celebrated the All Saints’ Day (All Hallows’ Eve) which was in honour of all martyrs, known or unknown and with time this festival went on to include the honoring of saints’ as well. On this Day, the God was glorified for all the saints’ , known or unknown. It was originally celebrated on May 13th, but the Pope Gregory IV moved it to 1st November(Evening of October 31st), to coincide with Samhain. When Christianity came to the British Isles , thus started the festival of Halloween which ultimately became a blend of the Samhain festival and the Saints’ day festival. The blend however, was very peculiar since one honors the evil spirits while the other honours the ‘saints’. The Christian church was unsuccessful in to stopping the people from celebrating the Samhain event of worshipping the Satan. Hence, they simply modified the traditions a little in accordance to their own beliefs and gave it the new name of Halloween. The Samhain traditions however survived and became entwined with the Christian festival. Some Christians rejected this festival once they realized that all the activities of Halloween (trick or treat, skulls and skeleton, images of witches and black cats, lighting of bonfires etc) were acts of worship for the devil and the evil spirits. They, thus, rejected the customs associated with Halloween and distanced themselves from this pagan festival. While many others like us enticed by the attractive activities of this festival began celebrating it with increased zeal and enthusiasm forgetting the significance of this event.
All of the Halloween traditions have been carried down from ancient pagan beliefs and customs and are a form of Idolatry (Shirk), the biggest sin of all. We got involved in the celebrations of this event because our friends are doing it without even understanding the origins of this festival. Our religion gives us amazingly beautiful festivals to celebrate which allow for fun and celebrations while at the same time keeping the spiritual and religious significance intact. The Halloween celebrations are at the peak this year as well, with private parties being held at different places and celebrations and events being held at certain malls. Before being tempted to join in these festivities let’s just spend a moment to ponder over the origins of these celebrations and ask Allah to give us the strength to abstain from all such activities which negate our Islamic beliefs especially activities that involve associating any other being to His worship.
The Quran says:
"Has not the time arrived for the believers, that their hearts in all humility should engage in the remembrance of Allah and of the Truth which has been revealed to them? That they should not become like those to whom was given the Book aforetime, but long ages passed over them and their hearts grew hard? For many among them are rebellious transgressors." (Qur'an 57:16)
I tried to keep the history of Halloween brief and to the point to get my point across while at the same time keeping the interest of the readers alive. May Allah guide us to the right path and enable us to use our intelligence to distinguish right from wrong, true from false. May He forgive us for the sins we committed knowingly and unknowingly. Ameen.