Thanksgiving Survival Manual

Being Muslim in a non-Muslim environment can present a number of challenges. From time to time, we are called upon to negotiate a space in which we are not the defining power. This happens with great frequency here in America, a non-Muslim majority environment. So when it comes to the holidays, many Muslims feel torn between upholding immutable values of their religion and not breaking the ties of kin [interestingly enough, another immutable value in Islam]. For those who already believe Thanksgiving to be haram, this discussion is not for you. I’m sure my blood is already halal to you. But for those who are of a mind that is trying to negotiate this space, I give you a little something to take with you to your families. Whether you’re a convert whose spending the evening with family or one who was born Muslim, but because of family ties, one may be staring down a turkey, this small supplication is for you. Share it with your families and let them know that Muslims also have a narrative, an opinion, a take on the duality of food and thanks.

الحمد لله الذي أطعمنا وسقانا وكفانا وآوانا سيدنا ومولانا يا كافي من كل شيء ولا يكفي منه شيء أطعمت من جوع وآمنت من خوف فلك الحمد. آويت من يتم وهديت من ضلالة وأغنيت من عيلة فلك الحمد حمدا كثيرا دائما طيبا نافعا مباركا فيه كما أنت أهله ومستحقه. اللهم أطعمتنا طيبا فاستعملنا صالحا واجعله عونا لنا على طاعتك ونعوذ بك أن نستعين به على معصيتك

“All praise belongs to God who has provided food, drink, and sustenance, as well as sheltered us. O’ our Lord and Master!, You who defend us from everything, none can change Your decree. You kept us from hunger, secured us from fear, therefore to You belongs the praise. It is You who has sheltered the orphan and provided guidance from error and it is You who has enriched from poverty, therefore to You belongs the praise, a praise that is plentiful, everlasting, good, beneficial and blessed. You are undoubtedly worthy and deserving of it. O’ God! You have fed us well so make us conduct ourselves well by it and through this, make us act obediently to You. We seek refuge in You should we use this blessing in disobedience to You.”

The above is from Hāmid Abu Muhammad al-Ghazālī, one of the great thinkers of Islam, who earned the title of hujjatul Islam – the Proof of Islam. May God have mercy on him.


6 Replies to “Thanksgiving Survival Manual”

  1. ASA,

    For about 25 years I refused to share my families annual Thanksgiving celebrations and one year was forced to take my mom because she did not have a ride. What a blessing, not only did I get to see family I had not seen in years, more importantly, I was asked and shared much information and discussed about Islamic things most of the time I was there.

    My family was quick to point out what I could not eat and curb conversations they thought should be taken into other rooms. A few came away feeling like they had learned something about Islam that they did not know before. As for me, I started to think differently about the day they choose to give a unified thanks. For years I felt like (and was told) sharing this day with my family was outside the bounds. It took a while but given more thought and once involved, I do not feel like I am compromising anything when I share a day of thanks with my family. I feel like I have grown a little more and Allah subhannah wa’ta ALA knows best. Allah is Great! Hajjah Fatima Abdul-Malik

  2. As-salaamu-alaykum, Thanks so much for sharing that beautiful du’a with us. InshaAllah our community will be a group that continues to praise Allah for all that we are blessed with 365.

  3. For those who already believe Thanksgiving to be haram, this discussion is not for you. I’m sure my blood is already halal to you.

    It was my hope that some of you may have known the above was a bit tongue-in-cheek. However, it came to my attention that some of you may not have taken it that way. I assure you, it was meant as a jest. A vehicle by means of which I might lighten the load around this topic.

  4. Wa ‘alaykum as-Salaam, sister Aaminah. I can certainly appreciate your comments and yes, many of us, including myself, can not only appreciate that opinion, but also have heritage from peoples of this part of the world. However, the jist of what I’m trying to get at here is to not be caught up in the politics [without abandoning it either!]. Essentially, I was writing to the fact that many of us have time off for this day, in which it is a cultural custom to spend time with family. And because many Muslims, especially indigenous and convert Muslims, are given an argument that may not necessarily be theirs nor be in their best interest — developmentally, emotionally, and otherwise — in the long term for their Islam. I am not calling for an Islamicizing of Thanksgiving, but rather taking advantage of opportunities when they knock at the door. For the purposes of this article, the opportunity is time. Time with the family. And like the Prophet [s], we should not let labels do all of our talking and thinking for us. Is Thanksgiving a Muslim holiday? No. And so what [rhetorically aimed at the community, not at you specifically!]? It is an opportunity to spend time with the family. And in a day and age in which many are tapped for spare time, it is an encouragement for Muslims to keep their blood and familial ties. Like the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah, the Prophet [s] did not let the labels do the talking for him, and thus, the numbers of Muslims that entered into Islam, post-Hudaybiyyah, grew exponentially. We should spend time with out family and loved ones so long as those opportunities do not explicably violate some mandate of the religion.

    Hope that clarifies my thoughts and I pray you have a pleasant time with your family!

  5. Bismillah

    Asalaamu alaikum.

    i have a difficult relationship with Thanksgiving as an indigenous person of this land, knowing what a huge lie the origins of the holiday are built upon. However, i firmly believe there is no such thing as too much gratitude and expressing it to Allah. As a Muslim of over a decade (alhamdulAllah), i have realized that while i may need to “take a stand” against other holidays with my non-Muslim family, there really isn’t any harm but much maintaining of family ties by attending Thanksgiving. And we do discuss the Islamic view of giving thanks, expressing gratitude. My parents have had long enough to be open to a halal menu in their home, and it is a pleasant experience for us with quiet daw’ah. Thank you for sharing this beautiful du’a. InshaAllah i will be printing it off on pretty paper so that as a family (we don’t celebrate with extended family anyway) it can be added to our before-meal prayers.

  6. Salaams Marc,

    Oh, i believe we are in complete agreement on this matter, mashaAllah! i agree with you that it isn’t an “Islamic” holiday and we don’t need to make a huge effort to turn it into an Islamicized holiday either. But it is an excellent opportunity to connect with family, as you say, and that is an Islamic value. The fact that we may have the opportunity to have an interfaith discussion of the concept of giving thanks is just an added bonus, alhamdulAllah, but it need not be forced on the gathering (especially not for those with an extensive family attending). i actually think that we do a disservice to our family if we refuse to spend this day with them unless there are very real problems for us to be able to do so. Perhaps we “take a stand” against Christmas and Easter celebrations. That is understandable. Others of us suck it up and attend those festivities too, and it is a difficult decision and difficult pattern of growth that we should respect where we are at in different stages of our lives as Muslims. But Thanksgiving… that’s about as Islamic as you can get for a non-Islamic holiday, LOL. And in my experience, families are much more ammenable to their Muslim members not attending Christmas Eve or Christmas day festivities if we do attend Thanksgiving and arrange another day near Christmas to spend time with family and strengthen those ties of kinship. Allahu alim.

    May you and Margari have an enjoyable day with your family as well! 🙂

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