Please note: The answers on Hawramani.com constitute friendly advice rather than fatwas. Where relevant, we translate the opinions and fatwas of respected scholars and present them in our answers.

Can Muslims celebrate Valentine’s Day and Halloween?

I’m asking bc Halloween and I think Valentine’s Day have pagan beginnings and I wasn’t sure if it would mean you are participating in paganism

In my opinion the origins of these celebrations does not matter. What matters is what the celebration means today. A hundred of million Iranian Muslims, Sunni and Shia, celebrate Nowruz (the spring festival) despite it having originated before Islam, and the majority of scholars have no issue with it.

It is easy for Arab scholars to issue fatwas saying celebrating Nowruz is forbidden because it has pagan origins since it has no relevance to their own culture. But when it comes to Sunni Kurdish and Iranian scholars, the majority would not issue such fatwas because they know this celebration has some importance for the people and has no pagan element the way it is celebrated today. It is just an occasion for celebrating the national history and the coming of spring. Here is a fatwa by a union of Kurdish Islamic scholars saying the Nowruz celebration is permitted.

When looking at Valentine’s Day or Halloween, it is not the pagan or Christian origins that matters. What matters is how people today believe about these celebrations and how the celebrate them. There is nothing religiously harmful in using Valentine’s Day to express love for your wife or mother by buying them flowers or chocolate. While to an Arab living in Saudi Arabia this looks like copying the non-Muslims and watering down one’s religion, a Swedish convert to Islam who has always celebrated Valentine’s Day will be abandoning part of his culture if they had to give it up because they are now Muslim.

So the main question is whether Islam is a replacement for culture or whether it can live side by side with culture. My view and the view of the Sunni Kurdish and Iranian scholars is that Islam should not be thought to conflict with culture because this only harms Islam. It causes people to think Islam is a foreign and hostile element that is opposed to their way of life. It is much better for Muslims to confidently live within their culture without rejecting it, only working to avoid those things that are truly harmful and immoral.

To a Sunni Kurdish or Iranian scholar it seems incredibly ignorant and churlish to reject Nowruz and issue fatwas forbidding its celebration since it will cause anger against Islam in the population without achieving anything positive. Going on a picnic on Nowruz does not do anyone any harm and there is no reasons why Muslims cannot celebrate it in a way that also celebrates Islamic values.

The same applies to Halloween. Today it is just a silly celebration for children that involves candy and scary objects. There is nothing in it inherently opposed to Islam. Letting your children carve pumpkins, play with Halloween stickers, and listen to Halloween songs about monsters and vampires is neither Islamic nor un-Islamic. It is cultural thing that neither harms their religion nor promotes it. A parent who is concerned with teaching their children Islamic values can make it an occasion for teaching their children prayers that one recites when they feel afraid, or they can use other creative ways of helping their children feel both Muslim and part of their local culture.

Personally I have never cared much about these celebrations, and I see no problem with a person avoiding such celebrations out of respect for Islam. But I see no good in condemning them and making them an occasion for expressing hostility and showing people that Islam is opposed to their cultures. Islam is not a replacement for culture or an enemy to it. It is a reformer that can live side by side with it.

Since there is no clear evidence from the Quran and hadith that such celebrations are forbidden, scholars use their own reasoning to judge whether such celebrations are permitted or not. And their reasoning changes based on their culture. A principle of Islamic law is to promote the common good and to choose the lesser evil when faced with two evil choices. Even if we are not perfectly comfortable with the history of Valentine’s Day and Halloween, the lesser evil is to tolerate them rather than fight them, leaving to each person to decide for themselves whether they celebrate them and to what degree.

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