And Allah said:
ادْفَعْ بِالَّتِي هِيَ أَحْسَنُ السَّيِّئَةَ نَحْنُ أَعْلَمُ بِمَا يَصِفُونَRepel evil with what is better. We are most knowing of what they describe.Surat al-Mu’minun 23:96
It's that time of year again! You know, the beginning of the holiday season for non-Muslims. As a Muslim educator and/or parent, make no mistakes about it: It is your job to educate Muslim youth about these holidays and not only to avoid them - but why and how they should protect themselves from them. Yes, long ago perhaps - the good ole' "haram, haram" label could send shivers down spines and snatch breath right out of the lungs of many pious elders in their youth - and rightfully so. Sadly, times have changed!
Our Muslim youth live in a time where through social media they are able to see, learn, imitate and fraternize virtually. They don't even have to leave their rooms to engage in something haram. And truthfully - as many Muslim parents and educators suspect, many trends that pop up and become "lit" from the media to the styles of clothing to food to drinks to entertainment - might be rooted and founded in many things that certainly could be haram, or at the very least makruh (disliked). For some Muslim youth, especially those growing up in the West, the constant classification of everything that seemingly appears fun, cool, "harmless", and trendy as haram or forbidden can be heavy, overwhelming, depressing, and hard for them to cope with. We have to recognize this hardship of theirs and really help to fortify them with love, attention, knowledge of Islam, and solutions. We have to admit that Islamophobia is real and it is not easy for many Muslims (young and old) to face. No, it is not because they don't love Allah or because they have not accepted Tawhid for themselves. This is hardly the case. In fact, I am always hopeful for Muslim youth because those who persist and resist through these times, have been blessed with strong faith. But even those Allah has granted with strong eeman, need to feel at ease, comfortable, able to play, relax, fit in, and feel accepted.
It's important that we start opening up conversations and dialogues with the young Muslims that we are charged with. Lecturing is not always the best approach to teach with. Ask Muslim youth questions about how they feel about these holidays like Halloween. Do they want to partake and why? Is is just about hanging out with their friends and having some down time? Do they know the history behind Halloween? Do they know what shirk is? What are some ways that we can reconcile our desires if they are leading us to do something that Allah has forbidden? May be they can journal (make sure you sign up for my Ramadhan Journaling course) , paint or draw a picture about the clash between Muslim holidays and non Muslim holidays? May be the youth can put together a panel discussion or a night to volunteer at a food bank the night of Halloween.
It's also important that we move away from ultimatums and start helping our youth to create some solutions. Many teachers and parents will just throw out the haram label like a brick. It trumps (pun intended) everything and the conversation ends before it really started. We can not be afraid to talk with our children. Yes, some will fall out of bounds and some will overstep the limits - be ready to reel them back in. Be ready to model good communication skills. Be ready to listen more than you speak. More importantly, be ready to help and lead them to a solution that will expand their minds about the topic.
If you take something away, replace it with something better. Halloween is not a Muslim holiday. We cannot celebrate All Hallow's Day, the Celtics harvest festival, the Gaelic festival of Samhain, lighting candles for the dead, trick-or treating -- all of which is rooted in pagan ideas that are completely opposite of Tawheed (Oneness of God). But that doesn't mean we cannot talk to our youth about Halloween's history, past and present. It doesn't mean that we can't help Muslim youth create fun and safe alternatives. It is our duty to help Muslim youth to navigate this world and build self-confidence in their Islamic identity until forever! Guidance is always needed for everyone.