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 and learn some alternatives so that don't have to always feel left out. Yes, long ago perhaps in the good ole' days, the "haram, haram" label could send shivers down spines and snatch the breath right out of the lungs of many pious elders an their youth. But guess what? 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 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 to cope with. We have to recognize this hardship of our children and students and be ready to fortify them with love, attention, knowledge of Islam, and tangible 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 and rooting for Muslim youth. Muslim youth are resilient and full of grit, Alhamduleelah. Many Muslim youth persist and resist through such hard trials 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. This is the fitra of mankind and when we don't provide these necessities to Muslim youth --- someone or someone else will.
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 either. Ask Muslim youth questions about how they feel about these holidays like Halloween. Ask Muslim youth 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/ Muslim Youth 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? There are so many alternatives and ways to create fun time for youth, enshallah. Pull Muslim youth into the discussion and let them plan with you. But don't not do anything hoping that our youth won't notice that nothing is done for them.
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 guide them to a solution that will expand their minds about the topic.
If you must take something away, replace it with something better. Halloween is not a Muslim holiday. Islamically it is not proper to 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. Muslim parents and educators - it is your responsibility to help Muslim youth to navigate this world and build self-confidence in their Islamic identity!
Be proactive! Muslim youth are counting on you.