by: Shamsi Ali**
Every last Thursday of November of every year is a special day for Americans. It is a national holiday and is observed nationwide. It is called “Thanksgiving Day.”
Thanksgiving Day was observed for the first time by the Pilgrims (European Immigrants) after their first harvest in October 1621, which lasted three days and was attended by 90 Native Americans and 53 newly arriving European immigrants.
As a part of the American fabric society, American Muslims are taking part in that celebration. And so often times a question arises among the Muslims regarding Islamic rulings on such a celebration: Is it permissible or not in the religion?
Certainly this writing is not a fatwa (religious ruling). Instead, this writing is to share my personal view on the issue. I am fully aware of the existence of other views on it. And I highly appreciate the fact that Islam enables us to differ on on matters pertaining to the religion. It is indeed a richness of the faith.
I would like to begin by confirming that when Islam comes to any locality it doesn’t intend to change or abolish its positive cultures and social norms. For this very reason you will see a very deep diversity among the Muslims when it comes to cultures and social behaviors.
The more we travel around the world the more diverse faces of Islam we will see being reflected in the social and cultural lives of Muslim societies. On this part of the discussion we may say there are South Asian Muslims, Southeast Asian Muslims, Middle Eastern Muslims, African Muslims, European Muslims, Latin American and, of course, American Muslims.
This fact is based on what the Prophet (pbuh) himself declared: “I have been sent only to perfect the good character”. Which essentially means that the mission of the Prophet (Islam) is to perfect and confine (not to change or abolish) the positive values and cultural practices of the people.
Hence , Thanksgiving as a part of the American culture, and that includes American Muslims, is a culture that can be adopted and embraced within our own values and understanding. I call this type of thanksgiving “Shukr.”
Thanksgiving or “Shukr” is rooted in the Islamic teaching. The Quran for example reminds us: “Be grateful to me and be ungrateful not” (Chapter 2 verse 152).
The Quran also stated: “And if you are grateful I will give you more (my favors). But if you are ungrateful, truly my punishment is severe” (Ibrahim: 7)
The term “Shukr” which literally means “thankfulness, gratitude or appreciation” in this context can be referred to Thanksgiving celebrated joyfully and nationally by Americans.
While joining our fellow Americans in celebrating the Thanksgiving we would like to remind ourselves the following:
First, Thanksgiving in Islam must continue and must be done an on going basis. It is a life matter. As long as we live, we do thanksgiving. There is nothing wrong to doing it on the last Thursday of November. But we don’t limit ourselves to that particular day. Being thankful or celebrating Thanksgiving is an on going responsibility both towards our Creator and fellow human beings.
Second, there are three main important shukr (thanksgivings) to celebrate:
1) Thanksgiving to the Creator by acknowledging His unlimited kindness and blessings to us, by humbling ourselves in worshipping him with commitment and dedication. The Prophet Muhammad responded to his wife when she asked him about his dedication in his worship: “shouldn’t I be a thankful servant (of Allah?)”.
2) Thanksgiving to our parents. In Islam parents are next to Allah in term of love and respect. Several verses in the Holy Quran remind Muslims to be dutiful and respectful to their parents. To accompany their parents in this world with kindness and utmost respect.
3) Thanksgiving also means being grateful to fellow creations, particularly to our fellow human beings. Being kind to others is not only an act of social good. It is in fact a part of our thanksgiving for being a part of our human family. The Prophet even told us: “a person who fails to appreciate his fellow humans also fails to appreciate Allah”.
Sadly, these days Thanksgiving has shifted from it’s originally intended purpose and that is to appreciate God and to be kind to one another.
Thanksgiving has become more commercial and even has enhanced the tendency of being materialistic. The so called “Black Friday” is a clear instance of that. And I personally don’t like it.
For me a Blessed Friday is far better than a Black Friday. Don’t you agree?
Jakarte City, 25 November 2022
*Summary of a Friday Khutbah