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Celebrating Thanksgiving as a New Muslim – OK?

Thanksgiving is a celebration observed on the fourth Thursday of November in the United States and the second Monday of October in Canada. The celebration is about giving thanks for the blessing of the harvest and of the preceding year.

Though it started as a Christian tradition, the current form of celebration is a culture holiday for all people of all faiths. The celebration is marked by family gatherings, cooking food, being thankful, watching football matches…

A Sense of Gratitude

Muslims give thanks to God all the time. Giving thanks to Allah and showing gratitude are not limited to a certain time of the year. Actually the life of a Muslim is all about thanksgiving and gratitude.

A Muslim thanks Allah for creating him in the first place; he thanks Allah for guiding him to the right path of Islam. He thanks Allah for bestowing on him many blessings such as the blessing of health, money, having a good wife…

We read in the Quran:

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So remember Me; I will remember you. Be thankful to Me, and never ungrateful. (2:152)

Allah promised that if we thank Him, He will give us more. This is a divine promise and we believe that Allah never breaks His promises.

He says what gives the meaning of:

Remember that He promised, “If you are thankful, I will give you more, but if you are thankless, My punishment is terrible indeed. (14:7)

These are the things that we should thank God for:

It is God who brought you out of your mothers’ wombs knowing nothing, and gave you hearing and sight and minds, so that you might be thankful. (16:78)

Thanksgiving and Family Ties

New Muslims might find it an opportunity to meet their parents and family members whom they do not see usually.

Meeting parents and family members will strengthen the family ties. It will give them a sense of belonging. And it will give them a feeling that their son or daughter is still a member of the family and he is not detached from them. It will also be a good opportunity to explain to them how Muslims thank God and they do so.

Islam places great emphasis on maintaining family ties. We read in the Quran:

… Beware of severing the ties of kinship, God is always watching over you. (4:12)

The Prophet (peace be upon him) urged Muslims to keep their family ties when he said:

Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, let him maintain the bonds of kinship. (Al-Bukhari)

Do’s and Don’ts

When attending such gatherings, please note that your attendance will be judged according to your intention. The Prophet said:

Actions are judged by intentions. (Al-Bukhari)

Don’t participate in any activity that is against the teachings of the Quran and the Sunnah such as eating pork or drinking alcohol. Do not compromise the basic teachings of Islam.

You as a Muslim, should explain to them that thanking Allah is not limited to that day. Muslims thank Allah on all other days of the year.

Celebrating Thanksgiving as a New Muslim - Ok?

When offering prayer, a Muslims is thanking Allah. And when helping the poor, a Muslim is thanking Allah. When offering fasting, a Muslim is thanking Allah. And when making hajj, a Muslim is thanking Allah.

The Prophet used to thank Allah when he ate, drank, dressed new clothes, mount on his camel, etc. Therefore the whole life of a Muslim is about thanksgiving from an Islamic perspective, i.e. thanking Allah for His blessings.

It is permissible for a Muslim also to thank anyone who does him a favor. The Prophet is reported to have said:

Whoever does not thank people, does not thank Allah. (At-Tirmidhti)

You are allowed to thank your parents, friends, people next to door, etc.

About thanking parents, we read in the Quran:

We have commanded people to be good to their parents: their mothers carried them, with strain upon strain, and it takes two years to wean them. Give thanks to Me and to your parents– all will return to Me. (31:14)

It’s About God’s Blessings

What is unique about Allah is praising Him, i.e. saying Alhamdullilah.

New Muslims should understand that celebrating thanksgiving is not the sixth pillar of Islam or the seventh article of faith. If you decide not to participate, it is up to you. We are talking about cases in which you are invited to a family gathering.

I would like to invite everyone to sit back, relax, reflect for a moment and count blessings of God on him. You will find countless blessings. God tells us:

… If you tried to count God’s favors you could never calculate them: man is truly unjust and ungrateful. (14:34)

Think of how you are going to thank God for all that. The least you can do is to recognize His infinite mercy on you and declare His Oneness and that He is the only one worthy of worship. God is the most worthy of our thanks, praise and gratitude.

We should note that God does need our thank. It us who benefit from offering thanks to God:

… Be thankful to God: whoever gives thanks benefits his own soul, and as for those who are thankless–God is self-sufficient, worthy of all praise. (31:12)

(From Discovering Islam archive)

About Dr. Mohsen Haredy
Dr. Mohsen Haredy holds a PhD in Hadith literature from Leiden University, the Netherlands. He is the former Executive Manager and Editor-in-Chief of E-Da`wah Committee in Kuwait, and a contributing writer and counselor of Reading Islam. He graduated from Al-Azhar University and earned his MA in Hadith literature from Leiden University.