On the last days of the year, we usually look back at what we did and what were the things we gained in that 365 days that passed. Sometimes, we would regret the times that were wasted or the opportunities that were lost, but at the end of the day, we feel grateful for what we achieved and for having the chance to enjoy the rest of our lives.
Thanksgiving is one of those opportunities that make us stop for a moment and look closer at our life, embracing what has been given to us freely, that is the love and support of our family, and be grateful for what we have gained so far.
Let’s have a quick glance at the history of Thanksgiving and Islam’s attitude toward celebrating it.
Thanksgiving roots back to some traditions held during English Reformation in Britain. However, in 1621 the first Thanksgiving day was held by “the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians” in North America, after a successful autumn harvest. However, “It wasn’t until 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, that President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day to be held each November” .
Whatever be the history of this day – having some explicit or implicit negative points aside from its positive aspects -, Islam holds a positive attitude toward the concept of thanksgiving. In what follows we will have a brief look at this view of Islam.
As we said in the article on Halloween, Islam is not against celebrating and having fun. There are four points that we, as Muslims, should observe in any tradition or celebration that we intend to take part:
1. It should not be harmful to ourselves and others, physically and mentally. A superstitious ceremony which is not based on any logical reason, and has no benefit for our mind and soul is not considered a proper kind of celebration according to Islam.
2. It should not result in ignoring our Islamic duties. Meaning that participating in a celebration should not lead us toward doing what we are not supposed to do as Muslims (e.g., drinking alcohol, eating Haram food, wearing immodest clothes, etc.) or forgetting what we must do as Muslims (e.g., praying, fasting, etc.).
3. It should not be a worthless and aimless pleasure that would only waste our time. “Islam always recommends us to be aware of what we are doing and think about our intention before any action. Even when we are having fun, there should be something behind it that makes it worthwhile. When enumerating the characteristics of a faithful person in Quran, Allah also mentions those who avoid vain actions (23:3); i.e., those activities that have no use for us and would only waste our time” .
4. Participating in that celebration should not make us like atheists or those who are against the belief in one God. That is to say, “A Muslim’s life should mirror his beliefs in every aspect. So, if an action even in appearance, represents what is against Islam or far from its teachings, then it should be avoided by Muslims” .
Thanksgiving is one of those celebrations that are very close to Islamic teachings. Being grateful to the creator for the blessings He had bestowed upon us  and also thanking other people for what they did for us, is one of the encouraged manners in Islam.
Also, Thanksgiving is a chance to gather with family and relatives and enjoy their company which is very much recommended in Islam. Prophet Muhammad (PBUHHP) said that: “I command all the people of my followers (Umma), whether present or not, and those generations which are to come … to maintain family kinship even if they live at a distance of a year's journey.” . The family is one of the most significant blessings of Allah to us, so we should give thanks to Allah for this precious blessing.
As a way to thank for God’s blessings, some people would give charity to those who are less privileged or are under financial pressures . This is one of the most praised actions in Islam and is highlighted in many narrations [i] as well as verses of the Quran: “You will never attain piety until you spend out of what you hold dear, and whatever you may spend on anything, Allah indeed knows it.” (3: 92). Thus, Allah would consider helping others as an act of gratitude.
Some American families would watch football games together, and some would play football together. Some others would pack up and go on a journey. Islam always recommended having fun, playing sports and traveling [ii]. Muslims should not keep themselves from enjoying Halal and lawful activities [iii].
As Muslims, we should keep in mind that whatever we have is granted by Allah. Thus the ultimate one to whom we give thanks is Him. That is the least we can do in return for Allah’s blessings. According to Imam Ali (AS), those who worship Allah as a way to appreciate His favors, are the most free-spirited ones, comparing with others who worship Allah with other purposes .
Thanksgiving Day is only a reminder. We should always thank Allah, in every breath and every moment of our lives. A Muslim knows the reason that he/she is alive, and is enjoying all kinds of opportunities and blessings is only Allah. Therefore, every day is a Thanksgiving Day for a Muslim.
Not everyone is lucky enough to have the opportunity to be thankful for what they have. Sometimes we find more things to complain than to be grateful. While if we consider what we have instead of what we don’t, our life would be much happier and more satisfactory. So, giving thanks is itself a blessing that Allah bestows upon the ones who believe in Him. Thus He says in the Quran, “And few of My servants are grateful” (34:13).
The more we are thankful, the more blessings will rain down on our life . A simple Physics formula that every action will have a reaction. The result of our thankfulness will be Allah’s favor on us. Therefore, Allah says: “If you are grateful, I will surely increase you [in favor]” (14:7).
Being thankful is not limited only to significantly great things. Even small or seemingly insignificant favors should be appreciated. Sometimes what we consider small or insignificant is far more important than what we think. Like having the chance of embracing our parents, kissing our kids, finding the nature’s beauties, being healthy or even breathing clean air. When we appreciate these favors and much more that are less seen by others, we realize Allah’s great love and care that includes every living creature, especially us.
It is not enough only to say you are thankful. You should show it in your actions as well. Whether it is God that you are grateful or your fellow human beings, you should do something that represent your thankfulness. Knowing that all we have is from Allah and not participating in sinful actions with the use of Allah’s blessings are only two ways of showing your thankfulness . Also, helping others and giving away to the needy are other ways of appreciating your privileges .
Having said that, don’t forget that expressing your gratitude in words is cherished by Allah and there are many recommended and specific manners in doing so. For instance praying to Allah, performing a two Rak’aa prayer (Salat) with the intention of giving thanks to Allah, repeating some Zikr (short Islamic phrases for praying; e.g. Alhamd-u-lillah (praise be to Allah), Shukr-an-lillah (Thanks to Allah), Allah-u-Akbar (Allah is the greatest), Subhan Allah (Glorious is God)), etc.
[i] Imam Reza (AS) stated in a narration that after having faith in Allah and his messengers, there is no better way of thanking Allah than to help your fellow human beings in their worldly matters .
[ii] Quran (29:20)
[iii] Quran (5:87)
The one who converts to Islam or someone who has just decided to know more about Islam, you may have come across this dilemma as to which books are better to study and which would give you a fuller and more comprehensive view of Islamic matters.
In what follows we have suggested some of the most significant Islamic books which are essential for anyone who is interested in Islam or is looking for answers to his/her questions. The books in this list include basic pillars of Islam, the most important obligatory practices, as well as ethical, historical and philosophical matters related to the religion of Islam.
The intellectual miracle of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), the Quran is the holy book of Muslims which includes many historical, ethical, spiritual and social matters brought through a unique, cohesive and capturing language. This book offers anyone who is in search of the truth with revealing and thought-provoking information and is a must-read book for converts to Islam.
Nahjul Balagha includes a series of sermons, letters, and sayings by Imam Ali (AS) and compiled by Allamah Sharif Razi which deal with many a wide variety of topics including our existence, our relationship with God, Islamic codes of ethics in all aspects of life whether personal or social. Reading this book helps you realize the deep moral concerns of Islam and the wisdom that lies behind this religion.
Written by an influential German scholar, Annemarie Schimmel provides us with unbiased, simple and introductory information about the religion of Islam. This book approaches Islam with a more historical attitude through which the pre-Islamic time, the emergence of Islam, the figure of Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUHHP) as the messenger of this religion and the process of Islam’s expansion are explained. It also includes some information about the Quran, the Islamic law, and tradition, the philosophy of Islam, different Islamic sects, mysticism, etc. It can be a very helpful guide for converts to Islam.
This brief e-book provided by Salam Islam explains the three significant steps before the action of converting to Islam. These include the belief in one God (Monotheism), belief in the prophets (Prophethood) send by God and the belief in the afterlife (Ma’ad).
This book, written in a relatively simple language, presents a summary of the teachings of Islam to provide some information for those who are not able to examine Islamic matters deeply and in a specialized manner. The book starts with a general reflection on the concept of religion and belief, explains the pillars of Islam and finally gives an insight into the practical principles of Islam.
This book is an attempt to bring a clearer understanding of the concepts that are mentioned in the Quran which is very helpful for converts to Islam. It starts with the ways the Quran can be understood, and it comprises of two main parts: Understanding the Quran analytically and Reason in the view of the Quran. Very thorough and interesting work.
Have you ever wondered about your existence? Why have you been created? What is the purpose of your life? This book discusses the goal of life from the viewpoints of the Quran and various schools of thought. The topics discussed throughout this book include the goal of creation, the basis of individual and social ethics, faith, schools of thought and world vision, Islamic faith, and human perfection, and the summary of Islamic monotheism.
This book offers a timely presentation of the core spiritual and social values of Islam: peace, compassion, social justice, and respect for the other. Seizing this unique moment in history to reflect on the essence of his tradition, Seyyed Hossein Nasr seeks to "open a spiritual and intellectual space for mutual understanding." Exploring Islamic values in scripture, traditional sources, and history, he also shows their clear counterparts in the Jewish and Christian traditions, revealing the common ground of the Abrahamic faiths.
Why do we need religion? What is the benefit of believing in a particular religion? This book written by one of the most significant Muslim scholars offers an in-depth discussion on the philosophy behind the concept of religion and how it shapes our lives toward perfection and happiness.
10. What is Hajj (the holy pilgrimage) and Why Do We Perform It? By Salam Islam
The ritual of Hajj or the Islamic holy pilgrimage is one of the most important occasions in the Islamic calendar. During this period Muslims from all around the world gather in the holy city of Mecca to perform certain rituals. In this e-book, you will get familiar with the basic rituals that must be performed during Hajj and know more about the philosophy behind these rituals.
Hijab in Islam is a common term that represents a range of personal and social codes of behavior and addresses women specifically while requiring specific actions on the part of men as well. In this e-book Hijab and modesty in Islam will be explained through six facts that reveal different aspects and reasons regarding this concept.
What are the rules and regulations that Muslims should observe in their eating habits? This e-book provides the converts to Islam with a brief and straightforward guide to the kinds of foods and drinks Muslims are allowed to use and those that are forbidden to them.
Why do Muslims perform the prayer (Salat)? What are the spiritual and mental benefits of this action? What are the secrets that lie behind the disciplines of Salat? This book offers a great insight into one of the most important obligatory practices of Muslims, prayer (Salat), and help new Muslims and converts to Islam to have a better understanding of this action.
Written by one of the converts to Islam, this book illustrates common challenges and issues faced by converts, the reasoning behind the conversion, analysis from a Western view of many controversial or misunderstood topics in Islam, and basic information needed by new converts.
Please note that here we have attempted to name a few most significant books that can give you a better insight into the religion of Islam and help you in your path toward converting to Islam. However, there are many other helpful and great books that approach Islamic matters sophisticatedly many of which you can find in Salam Islam’ s library and other online Islamic libraries.
“Among the faithful are men who fulfill what they have pledged to Allah. Of them are some who have fulfilled their pledge, and of them are some who still wait, and they have not changed in the least” (33:23). On the 21st night of the holy month of Ramadan, the followers of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) and his successors experienced another great suffering after the prophet’s death. When the first Imam, Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib (AS) was martyred after he received the fatal injury over his head on the 19th of Ramadan.
But what was the reason behind deep oppositions against this pious and god-fearing man and the true successor of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP)? Why would anyone intentionally decide to deprive him of his rights, spread lies against him, harm him, or take his life? Who was Ali ibn Abi Talib (AS)?
He was the first male person who heard our dear Prophet’s recitation of the revealed words of Allah on the 27th of Rajab, known as Mab’ath Day, and accepted him as the Almighty’s true last and greatest messenger wholeheartedly when he was only ten years old.
When the Prophet (PBUH&HP) gathered the Quraish tribe to announce his message of monotheism publicly, it was the young Ali (AS) who openly testified to the Oneness of God and the mission of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP), when all the others remained silent and did nothing but giving blank looks. This sowed the first seeds of evil sentiments in the hearts of polytheist Arabs against the Commander of the Faithful. They would hatch any plot against the Holy Prophet (PBUH&HP) including the bid to assassinate him in Mecca.
Again, there was no one but Ali (AS) who saved his leader’s life by sleeping on his bed that very night so that the ones who had surrounded them would think that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) was lying in bed; as a result, the Prophet safely left Mecca. The Arab infidels also imposed several wars upon the Prophet at Badr, Uhud, Khandaq, Hunayn, and Khaybar. Thanks to the flashing blade of Imam Ali (AS), the Zu’l-Feqar, all these plots were aborted as well.
Not only did Imam Ali (AS) excel on the battlefields, but he also displayed other merits, such as knowledge, prudence, wisdom, piety, courage, and generosity. It was Ali (AS) who gave his ring as alms (Zakat) while in genuflection during the ritual prayer, which brought divine approval for the Imam as the 55th verse of Maedah chapter bears testimony:
“Your guardian is only Allah, His Apostle, and the faithful who maintain the prayer and give the zakat while bowing down.” (5:55)
The feelings of hostility towards the Most Virtuous Believer, Ali (AS), reached its climax among his enemies when on God’s express command Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) publicly proclaimed Imam Ali (AS) as his successor at the historic assembly of Ghadir Khum on 18th Dhu al-Hijjah 10 AH.
“Today I have perfected your religion for you, and I have completed My blessing upon you, and I have approved Islam as your religion.” (5:3)
But Imam Ali (AS) was deprived of his true right of political leadership for a quarter of a century. In 35 AH, when Ali (AS) took up the political rule at the desperate Muslims’ insistence, he only abode by the Holy Quran and the Prophet’s teachings (Sunnah). However, for his very insistence on spreading justice and observing the true rights of each individual, his enemies, the seditions, the pledge-breakers, and the Renegades (Khawarij) declared hostility and war against him, which later on became known as The Battle of Jamal.
The renegades, just as ISIS in our time, were appeared to be devoted to God to the extent that from their long and incessant prostrations their foreheads were covered with calluses, while they were ignorant of Islam’s truth and were unable to distinguish between right and wrong.
Finally, the Supreme emblem of Justice was struck on the head on the 19th of Ramadan, the first of the three grand nights of Qadr (Laylat al-Qadr) in prayer and worship, in the Grand Mosque of Kufa by the poisoned sword of the renegade, Ibn Muljam al-Moradi.
Despite the severity of the wound, the first phrase that came to the lips of the Commander of the Faithful was: “Fuzto wa Rabb-il-Kaaba.” It means by the Lord of the Kaaba I have succeeded.
So, the pledge made to God by Imam Ali (AS) decades ago was fulfilled in the early hours of the 21st of Ramadan as his soul flew towards the ethereal heavens. After he embraced martyrdom, the poor and homeless never again saw the man who in the middle of the night, bring food and water for them.
The orphans of Kufa could not find anyone who would kindly listen to and sympathize with their pain. When he left this earthly life behind, no ruler ever came to power who could surpass him in justice and in observing the rights of all the people, rich or poor, equally. No man ever set foot on earth who, like him, was endowed with the infinite and divine knowledge of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
Prophet once said “I am the city of knowledge and Ali (AS) is the gate to this city. Anyone who is willing to enter this city must first pass the gate.” Such was the man whom we lost on the second night of Qadr.