Do Muslims Celebrate Thanksgiving?

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.

 

Giving Thanks after a Fruitful Harvest 

 

Thanksgiving, thanksgiving day, Islam, Muslims


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” [1].

 

 

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.


What does Islam Say about the celebrations in different cultures?

 

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” [2].

 

 
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” [2].

 


What do Thanksgiving and Islam have in Common?

 

Thanksgiving, thanksgiving day, Muslims, Allah, give thanks

 

  • Giving Thanks

 

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 [3] and also thanking other people for what they did for us, is one of the encouraged manners in Islam. 

 

 

  • Family Gatherings 

 

Also, Thanksgiving is a chance to gather with family and relatives and enjoy their company which is very much recommended in Islam. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) 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.” [4]. The family is one of the most significant blessings of Allah to us, so we should give thanks to Allah for this precious blessing.

 

 

  • Helping the Needy

 

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 [5]. 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. 

 

 

  • Having Fun

 

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].

 
 

6 Points to make the most of Thanksgiving as Muslims

 

Thanksgiving, thanksgiving day, Muslims celebrating thanksgiving

   

 1. Allah should be the ultimate one to whom you give thanks

 

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 [6].  

 

       2. Always be thankful

 

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.

 


        3. The chance to give thanks is a blessing 

 

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). 

 


       4. Giving thanks will increase your Allah’s blessings to you

 

The more we are thankful, the more blessings will rain down on our life [7]. 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). 

 


       5. Give thanks even for small things

 

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. 

 


        6. Give thanks both in speech as well as action

 

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 [8]. Also, helping others and giving away to the needy are other ways of appreciating your privileges [9].

 


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. 

 


Notes:

[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 [10].  
[ii] Quran (29:20)
[iii] Quran (5:87)

References:

[1] http://www.history.com/topics/thanksgiving/history-of-thanksgiving 
[2] https://salamislam.com/content/can-you-celebrate-halloween-muslim/4 
[3] Quran (2:172)
[4] Shaykh al-Kulayni, “Al-Kafi”, vol. 2, p. 151. 
[5] http://www.thanksgiving.org.uk/thanksgiving-day-practices.html 
[6] Mizan al-Hikmah, vol.5, p.9583.
[7] Bihar al-Anvar, vol.71, p.42.
[8] ibid, p.52.
[9] Ibn Babawayh , Oyoun Akhbar Al-Ridha, vol.2, p.162.
[10] ibid, p.169.