The overwhelming majority of Muslim Americans participate in some form or another, either actively or passively, in the celebration of Independence Day on July 4th. Even the people who claim that they hate it and have nothing to do with it, accept the overtime pay, or the paid day off, or the discounted sale items in the stores on that day. So whether it is cooking out, taking off from work and getting paid, lighting or watching fireworks, having picnics, attending family civic, or cultural events on that day, taking advantage of July Fourth sales at the mall, or simply using it as a holiday where you close your business, stay at home and rest, there is hardly any Muslim who lives in the United States who does not take part, benefit, or some way observe Independence Day. There are people who use the day as a time of protest. Still they are observing the day and benefit from our independence..
Not all Americans make a big deal out of the day; after all its just one day of the year, and it has become part of our nature, for many people not to not make a big deal about such holidays. However there is an undertone of uneasiness on the part of some Muslims in that even though they participate in the events of the day, there is something unislamic about it. Other people condemn the holiday, and any Muslim that participates in it in any way. This is because of the many opinions circulating which prohibit any commemoration of Independence Day, condemning anything and everything that has to do with America or being American. There are Muslims who will bristle with indignation if you even refer to them as an American.
Can certain days of the year be considered haram?
It has become common for some people to declare this or that day haram without making any distinction between the day itself, and the activities that may occur or that has occurred on that particular day. Some muslim have gone as far to say that the Independence Day itself, is haram which makes no sense at all because it is not possible to make any day haram since all of the days on the earth belong to Allah sub’haanahu wa ta’ala, and regardless of whether one celebrates Independence day or not, or whether or not one even acknowledges Independence day, the truth of the matter is, that the United State of America was declared an independent republic on July 4th, 1776.
From the shariah point of view, days are decreed by Allah sub’haanahu wa ta’ala , and made subject to human beings to do in them as they will. “And He hath made subject to you the sun and the moon, both diligently pursuing their courses; and the night and the day hath he (also) made subject to you.”Thus, all of the days and all of the nights, all the weeks, months and years belong to Allah. Human beings will continue to have day and nights and handle their affairs therein, until Allah decides otherwise. Therefore when discussing what holidays are permissible or prohibited, it’s not the day itself which is in question; it’s the activity that one engages in on that particular day which desires a ruling.
The reasons why some of them say that celebrating Independence Day is prohibited
The problem is that a surprising number of religious edicts or fataawa rendered upon people, events and circumstances which occur in the United States are made by scholars who are qualified and astute in their own regard, but are woefully uniformed about the details and social-cultural minutia of life in the United States of America. Subsequently, many rulings are made that are faulty and harm the Muslim in areas of their faith rather than benefit them. This phenomenon is one of the causes of American Muslim moral dysfunction.This problem is further exacerbated when we see that in many Muslim countries, holidays other than the two Eids are celebrated with the consent of the scholars while some of the same scholars, render prohibitions against Muslims celebrating anything besides the two Eids here in the United States.Many fataawa are targeted specifically towards converts here in America while ignoring other Muslims who are not converts. Some of the same scholars who prohibit imitating the kuffaar, cooperating with them, and so on, have no problem coming here to live in our suburbs or for study, or sending their children to some of our countries top universities, or participating in cultural events held in our country.Thus, the many fataawa in circulation that prohibit the celebration or even the recognition of Independence Day, are rulings are made by scholars who are well intended in sha Allah, but are ignorant of American culture and uninformed of what separates religion from civics in our country. Failure to acknowledge independence day is ludicrous because it is indeed a real and annual occurrence in the United States; people get paid holidays, there are thousands of celebrations and commemorations held all over the country, and it a day that appears on every calendar. Whether or not a person acknowledges it or not is irrelevant; the fact of the matter is that it does exist.
Another reason is that they say that it forbidden is that they say it is a celebration of non-Muslims. That is another fallacy; Muslims have been on this land (the United States) since before it became a republic. An estimated 30% of the slaves who helped build this country were Muslim, and Muslims have been participants in July fourth celebration in one way or another for decades. American Muslims whether they have long lineage here in the United States or whether they are recent immigrants have just as much right to America as anyone else, and they are free to participate in the cultural affairs and norms of our country as long as they are not disobeying Allah and His Messenger (SAWS). There are no verses in the Quran or ahaadeeth of the Prophet (SAWS) which prohibit the celebration of one’s independence. The Prophet (SAWS) used to encourage the freeing of the slave and the eradication of tyranny. American independence was a step in that direction and therefore worthy of celebration.
Another reason some people make celebration of independence day prohibited is the hadith of the Prophet (SAWS): “Allah has given you better than those (feasts): Eid al-Adha and the ‘Eid al-Fitr”, However in this case, the Prophet (SAWS) replaced the pagan holidays that were practiced in Medina with the two Eids, and both, the previous jaahiliyyah practices, and the two Eids, had religious significance. However, the hadith is a statement (khabr) in the form of a command since both Eids are Fard kifaaya, and the hadith is in no way a prohibition (nahiy) of anything except that in abrogated the pagan holidays that existed at the time. There is no indication no indication in the hadith that the Prophet (SAWS) forbade Muslims from participating in other non-religious holidays, events or joyful occurrences, and this was not the understanding of the majority of the companions nor of the Salaf.
Another faulty fatwa states that anytime a non-Muslim is happy, then it is the obligation of the Muslim to be unhappy at the happiness of a non-Muslim. Unfortunately, I’m not making this up. Nevertheless, there is nothing in the Quran or in the authentic Sunna that indicates that a Muslim is required to be miserable anytime a non-Muslim is happy or in a good mood. If that was the case, then all of the Muslims in the world would be required to be perpetually miserable since considering that there are over 4 billion non-Muslims on the planet; it is assured that at least one of them would be happy on any given day.
The Ruling of why celebrating Independence Day is permissible.
The celebration of Independence Day is not a Christian, Jewish or Islamic celebration; it is an American celebration and anyone who is an American has a right to claim it. Celebrating Independence Day is a non-religious, national holiday and is permissible in Islam as there is no verse of Quran or authentic hadith of the Prophet (SAWS) or statement of a credible and informed group of scholars that conclusively prohibit it.
The overriding principle of usool al-fiqh (Islamic legal foundation) when it comes to haram (prohibition) and halal (permissibility) is that the non-religious affairs and actions of people are permissible unless there is conclusive proof to the contrary. If this were not the case, then every single action and statement of every single human being on the planet would have to be examined in detail to determine whether or not it is permissible. Such would be grossly impractical and extract an undue hardship upon the Muslims which is counter to the objective of the law as mentioned in the verse’ “verily Allah wants ease upon you and does not want hardship upon you”, and by the hadith; “The practice of religion is easy and whoever overburdens himself in his religion will be overpowered by it.”
Scholars in Saudi Arabia have upheld the celebration of Saudi National Day which commemorates the unification of Hijaaz and Najd in 1932, and scholars of Azhar in Egypt have upheld the permissibility of Egypt’s National day on July 23rd as well as other holidays. Many of the prohibitions leveled at July 4th Independence Day have been due to anti-American sentiment, and bias towards indigenous American Muslims, and not based upon Islamic law, or sound argument, and that is unacceptable. Furthermore, there has been no ijmaa (consensus) reached by the scholars that national holidays are prohibited. Therefore they remain in their original state as permissible.
American Muslims has more freedom than Muslims residing in most Muslim countries. Part of the significance of Independence day is that not only are people free to worship Allah sub’haanahu wa ta’ala, build masaajid, give charity, fast Ramadan, make Hajj, honor their neighbors, obey their parents, raise their children, and earn an honorable living; they are free to celebrate or not celebrate the Fourth of July as they see fit. So whether or not a Muslim makes a big deal out of celebrating independence day or not, every muslim should value our independence because by it, we are able to worship Allah, think for ourselves, be free of foreign control of our religious affairs, and act in our own best self-interest as Muslim Americans without being beholden to anyone’s brand of Islam.
Celebrating Independence Day has different meanings and involves different activities depending upon the person. For some it means simply having a paid or unpaid holiday from work, for some it means overtime pay, for others it means cooking out, picnics and barbeques, fireworks displays, and deeds and actions of patriotism, and for some it is all of the above or parts thereof. However, there is nothing in the Quran or in the Sunna that prohibit any of that.
If the celebration of Independence Day is accompanied by alcohol consumption, lewd behavior, criminal acts, recklessness, and endangerment such as not being careful with fireworks or camp fires, then the lewd, dangerous and wrongful acts, are prohibited like they are during any other day. However, the celebration of the day without engaging in the prohibited acts is permissible. Likewise, if a person wants to simply ignore the day, and not give it any thought, then he or he may do that also.
Whether it is success or failure, victory or defeat, goodness or evil, or sadness or joy, it is Allah sub’haanahu wa ta’ala who gives human beings these days and grants to them in them whatever He pleases; “Such days (of varying fortunes) We give to men and men by turns” 3:140
And Allah knows best.
Imam Luqman Ahmad