Thanksgiving is a holiday celebrated across the United States. On Thanksgiving, people give thanks and partake in a large meal which includes its signature dish, turkey. This article will examine the permissibility in celebrating and partaking in Thanksgiving, the history of Thanksgiving, and the Islamic way of giving thanks (shukr).
History of Thanksgiving:
The history of Thanksgiving goes back to the Plymouth settlers, known commonly as the Pilgrims, who migrated from England to North America in 1620. After they settled in America, the Native Americans who were already living there discovered the settlers. The tradition of Thanksgiving was already accustomed by the colonists as they used to celebrate Thanksgiving after military victories or after the end of a drought. The main Thanksgiving occurred in 1621, when the Pilgrims got their first harvest on the colonized land and celebrated with the natives. It is said that 90 Native American (Wampanoag) people and 53 pilgrims attended the ceremony. After this, Thanksgiving was continually celebrated by the American people. In 1863, Abraham Lincoln proclaimed that Thanksgiving was to become a national holiday and from then it was observed annually in the United States.
These practices of Thanksgiving are impermissible to practice as they imitate the traditions of non-believers. Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) said,
من تشبه بقوم فهو منهم
“Whoever imitates a nation will be from amongst them.” i.e he will be raised on the Day of Qiyamah from amongst that nation.
Therefore, we must not celebrate such practices of non believers lest we become from amongst them.
How to give thanks in Islam:
In Islam, Shukr (Thanks) should be done all the time for the sake of Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) for his uncountable blessings. Allah Ta’ala commands us to do Shukr to him as stated in the Qur’an,
فَٱذْكُرُونِىٓ أَذْكُرْكُمْ وَٱشْكُرُوا۟ لِي وَلَا تَكْفُرُونِ
“So remember me and I will remember you, and thank me and do not be ungrateful.” (Al-Baqara:152)
In this verse, Allah Ta’ala commands the people to do Shukr to him with no specification of time, emphasizing the need for Shukr at all times, not just one day. Another verse explains this further,
وَذَكِّرْهُم بِأَيَّىٰمِ ٱللَّهِ ۚ إِنَّ فِى ذَٰلِكَ لَـَٔايَـٰتٍۢ لِّكُلِّ صَبَّارٍۢ شَكُورٍۢ
“And remind them of the days of Allah, indeed in this are signs for those who are patient and those who are grateful.” (Ibrahim: 5)
The Tafsir works mention that the word “Ayyaamillah” can mean the blessings of Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala), which Allah Ta’ala states in the Qur’an,
وَإِن تَعُدُّوا۟ نِعْمَةَ ٱللَّهِ لَا تُحْصُوهَآ ۗ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ لَغَفُورٌۭ رَّحِيمٌۭ
“If you tried to count the blessings of Allah, you will not be able to, Indeed Allah is the all-forgiving, all-merciful.” (An-Nahl: 18)
Therefore, this versealso shows that Shukr is to be done all the time for the blessings of Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) which can be found everywhere. Allah Ta’ala also prescribes many virtues in doing Shukr to him, in the Qur’an, Allah says,
وَإِذْ تَأَذَّنَ رَبُّكُمْ لَئِن شَكَرْتُمْ لَأَزِيدَنَّكُمْ ۖ وَلَئِن كَفَرْتُمْ إِنَّ عَذَابِى لَشَدِيدٌۭ
“And remember when your Lord proclaimed, If you are grateful, I will certainly increase you and if you are ungrateful, indeed my punishment is severe.” (Ibrahim: 7)
This verse shows both the harms of not doing shukr and the benefits of it. The one who does shukr will be increased in front of Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) and the one who does not do shukr and is ungrateful for the uncountable bounties of Allah, his punishment is severe. Therefore, it is necessary for us to do Shukr all the time and not just for a single day, but for all the uncountable blessings that Allah Ta’ala has given us.
To conclude, it is necessary for believers to stay away from the actions of disbelievers and we should always do Shukr to Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) for his uncountable blessings regardless of when. May Allah Ta’ala give us the ability to do Shukr to him according to his right. Amin