Converts Hot Topics Islamic Law

Holidays Free of Religious Overtones

by Dr. Abdullah Bin Bayyah

The holidays which are forbidden [for Muslims] to observe are those with religious overtones, such as Christmas and Easter,1 not the festive gatherings people observe due to certain events. Therefore, people are allowed to celebrate wedding anniversaries, birthdays or any occasion as such celebrations are not related to religious holidays. It is imperative that we work to remove the confusion surrounding this misunderstanding and the doubts that have affected many people [regarding this issue]. [Because of this misunderstanding] people find hardship and difficulty in their religion. Especially when a religious minded person holds [such non religious celebrations] to be from the major sins or rejected acts when, in fact, they are not.

Understanding an Important legal maxim [The origin of things is permissibility unless there is a text to the contrary]

The origin of things is permissibility so there is no problem with you attending such an event. The school of Ahmed [Hanabliah] allowed the celebration of al-’Atirah which was a sacrifice, during the month of Rajab, observed by the people who lived prior to the advent of the Prophet [may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him]. Although the school of Imam Malik [Malikis] considered it disliked, since it was a practice from those days, the school of Ahmed allowed this practice since there was no text [from the Qur’an, Sunna or Consensus] that explicitly forbade it. Thus, this practice remained upon its original ruling, permissibility [here the sheikh is showing us how the scholars utilized the legal maxim mentioned above]. So, if people gather together to sacrifice there is no objection for them to congregate, celebrate, enjoy themselves and commemorate the independence of their country. Therefore, there is no hardship in celebrating such occurrences.

With regards to the statement [of the Prophet may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him] that “Allah [The Exalted] has given you better than those (feasts): Eid al-Adha (Sacrificing) and the ‘Eid al-Fitr”, then “those feasts” were those with strict religious over tones: one a Christian holiday and the other a pagan one. In addition, the Prophet [may the peace and blessing of Allah be upon him] mentioned that the Islamic holidays were two: ‘Eid al-Fitr and ‘Eid al-Adha. But it is not understood from this that he [may the peace and blessing of Allah be upon him] forbade people from gathering and celebrating [other non-religious occasions]. Even if a person considered [such gatherings] disliked there is no need for him to bother others by making things difficult that were not prohibited by the Qur’an, the Sunna, the consensus [of the scholars] and where no agreement was reached within the schools of Islamic law.

This is because ease in matters [such as these where there is no prohibition and the origin is that of permissibility] is a must, and those statements that create hardship and burden [related to such matters], that are not based on explicit texts [that prohibit them], are weak. Thus, there is nothing that prohibits us from facilitating such matters for the people and giving them some breathing room because ease and facilitation are from the foundations of Islam: Allah says, “And He did not make any hardship for you in religion.” [Surah al-Hajj 78] and “Allah wants to lighten your burdens.” [Surah al-Nisa V. 28] and “Verily, with hardship there is ease. Verily with hardship there is ease.” [Surah al-Sharh V. 5-6]. The Prophet [may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him] said, “Facilitate [things] and do not make things difficult. Give glad tidings, and do not cause others to flee.” In closing, we reiterate that the foundation of Islam is ease and the independent interpretation of the legal sources [ijtihad of scholars] is respected but is not [equal to] texts from the Shari’ah [Qur’an and Sunna].”

  1. According to the Maliki school it is disliked to offer congratulations to other faiths during their religious holidays. Thus, it is a permissible act. See Sharh al-Saghir of Sidi Ahmed al-Dardir and Fiqh al-Malikiyyah wa Adilatuhu by Habib Tahir.

About the author

Suhaib Webb

Suhaib Webb

Suhaib Webb is a contemporary American-Muslim educator, activist, and lecturer. His work bridges classical and contemporary Islamic thought, addressing issues of cultural, social and political relevance to Muslims in the West. After converting to Islam in 1992, Webb left his career in the music industry to pursue his passion in education. He earned a Bachelor’s in Education from the University of Central Oklahoma and received intensive private training in the Islamic Sciences under a renowned Muslim Scholar of Senegalese descent. Webb was hired as the Imam at the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City, where he gave khutbas (sermons), taught religious classes, and provided counselling to families and young people; he also served as an Imam and resident scholar in communities across the U.S.

From 2004-2010, Suhaib Webb studied at the world’s preeminent Islamic institution of learning, Al-Azhar University, in the College of Shari`ah. During this time, after several years of studying the Arabic Language and the Islamic legal tradition, he also served as the head of the English Translation Department at Dar al-Ifta al-Misriyyah.

Outside of his studies at Al-Azhar, Suhaib Webb completed the memorization of the Quran in the city of Makkah, Saudi Arabia. He has been granted numerous traditional teaching licenses (ijazat), adhering to centuries-old Islamic scholarly practice of ensuring the highest standards of scholarship. Webb was named one of the 500 Most Influential Muslims in the World by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center in 2010.


  • Jazallahu Khair for THIS brother. Masha-Allah. This should DEFINATELY be in the book you are compiling. Subhan-Allah what a fitna it was for so many years, missing out on the mini family reunions on Thanksgiving.

    May Allah have mercy on us for the hardships we create for others out of our ignorance – Ameen.

  • assalam alaikum

    What about the issue of imitating non-Muslims.

    When the Prophet (peace and prayer be upon him) went to madinah he canceled two old celebrations and replaced them with Islamic Eids. Were those celebrations religious or cultural?

    Please clarify

  • Thank you very much for this post. I truly love Shaykh Bin Bayyah! His gentalness and openess always streathens my Iman.

  • Salam

    Dont birthdays have religious roots. Were they not first practiced by pagan Greeks who believed that the smoke of the candles when blown out would reach their false gods?

    According to birthdays are not allowed:

    why are there differences in opinion between scholars in the middle east and scholars in north america?


  • Asslamalaikum,

    Religion, comes from a root latin word ‘religio’ meaning something you are attached to, physically or emotionally. In this sense all humans beings have a ‘religion’, I agree with Kayvee in that the root of such actions can be derived at what we call religion linguistically, hence thanksgiving, halloween and even independence days can be considered religious. If one takes their ideology of nation as ‘god’, which in today’s nation-state world the attributes of ‘god’ are given to a nation subconciously. When do such celebrations stop as they are created over time?


  • I have the same question as Kayvee. Holidays that do not necessarily have religious links NOW but have a pagan or that sort of origin can also be celebrated, do they? Like in my country we have a new year celebration that has its roots linked with other people’s religious practices but Muslims observe it. Is this permissible? Utterly confused!

  • In the name of Allah
    Most Gracious, Most Merciful

    All praise is due to Allah and we ask that He send the best benedictions and peace upon His beloved. To proceed:

    It appears that no one has commented on this in years but I still see it as necessary to mention that despite what the namesake of this web site or anyother person of knowledge has to say, thanksgiving is also a religious holiday that is unlawfull for Muslims to celebrate.

    I am only adding this because whether or not people are commenting, it is clear people are still visiting this page and reading it…and ago there should be clarity.

    I will not touch the non-religious days as these are other matters completely…birthdays being a great example. (it depends whether or not one takes into account the asl of a thing). But concerning thanksgiving…we must be very clear on this matter! It is not lawfull.

    May Allah preserve you all and guide this ummah aright…ameen.

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