Thanksgiving and Muslim Heritage

Category: Americas, Featured, Life & Society Topics: American Muslims, Thanksgiving Views: 7524

As American Muslims, should we stand with the Pilgrims or the Indians?

Since Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation in 1863 in the midst of the Civil War, Americans have celebrated a November Thursday as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise. Since 1970, a Native American group in New England has observed this same day as a National Day of Mourning. They are descendents of the indigenous Wampanoag Indians who encountered the Pilgrims that landed at Plymouth Rock. Each year at Plymouth Rock itself, the group - along with hundreds of allies - mourn the theft of their lands and food by the Pilgrims, and the enslavement and subjugation of their ancestors. At the same time, they also look forward to an America filled with justice and freed of brutality.

So, should American Muslims give thanks and praise the Creator, or should we mourn on this day? We should both give thanks and remember the past. We should stand in earnest compassion with the Pilgrims and in genuine solidarity with the Indians, helping each in their needs. As the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, said: "A person should help his brother whether he is the oppressor or the oppressed. If he is the oppressor he should prevent him from doing so, for that is his help; and if he is the oppressed he should be helped against oppression."

As Muslims, we should always be thankful and truly grateful for all that we have. Although things could be better, things could also always be much, much worse. We should be mindful of the distance we need to go ? as individuals, as a community and as a country. As America marks a Day of Thanksgiving, let American Muslims also commit ourselves to both an unfailing gratitude and to the struggles for racial and economic justice and peace.

Let's make this a day of thanksgiving and remembrance of our heritage as American Muslims. Let's recount the good and the bad, so we can better understand our role in America in these remarkable times.

This Thanksgiving, let's remember the Muslims who arrived in America in the hulls of slave ships after crossing the Middle Passage. After all, Malcolm X did say, "We didn't land on Plymouth Rock; Plymouth Rock landed on us!" Historians estimate that a quarter of African slaves brought to America were Muslim. When Alex Haley traced his Roots, he traced them through Kunte Kinte to a Muslim village in West Africa. Historian Sylviane Diouf has eloquently described this experience in her book "African Muslims Enslaved in the Americas". Let's give thanks for those lifted out of slavery, and for the dignity in struggle of the late Rosa Parks and her generation.

Let's remember the vision of religious pluralism of our Founding Fathers. According to James Hutson, chief of the Library of Congress' Manuscript division, the Founding Fathers - especially Thomas Jefferson & George Washington - "explicitly included Islam in their vision of the future of the republic". Thomas Jefferson was more proud of his effort to pass Virginia's landmark Statute for Establishing Religious Freedom in 1786 than he was of his presidency. (Some say a future president would be similarly more proud of his stint as the manager of baseball team in Texas.) In his Autobiography, Jefferson praised the Virginia Statute's "mantle of protection," which included "the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan, the Hindoo and the Infidel." Let's give thanks for the religious freedoms we enjoy.

Let's remember the hand of friendship extended by the Sultan of Morocco, who made Morocco the first country to recognize the independence of the United States. Isn't it amazing that it is a Muslim land that has that honor? The 1787 Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation between Morocco and the United States stands as the basis for the longest unbroken treaty relationship between the US and any foreign country in the history of the Republic. Let's give thanks for those sincere efforts at peacemaking and bridge building in our time.

Let's remember the great American landmark, the Washington Monument on the Capitol Mall in Washington, DC. It was completed in the 1880s in part with the gift of funds from the Ottoman sultan in Istanbul, who as Caliph was also the figurehead leader of all Muslims. The Sultan's subjects included the populations of today's Middle East hotspots: Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, and Saudi Arabia. If you go to the Washington Monument, you can see the Sultan's commemorative plaque inside the Monument, which features a specially commissioned calligraphed poem in the Arabic script for the American people. Let's give thanks for wisdom, foresight, and small kindnesses in our leaders, communities, and families.

Let's remember the first American colonial conquest and occupation in the Muslim world which occurred during the Philippines-American War in the early 20th century, a war in which about 1.4 million Filipinos died. General Pershing accomplished in 10 or so years what the Spanish couldn't in 400 years. Fresh from fighting the Sioux at Wounded Knee, Pershing helped conquer the Muslim Moro peoples of the southern Philippines. The Colt .45 Gun, which was the standard issue handgun of the US Armed Forces until 1985, was invented specifically for the conquest of the Muslim Moro peoples. In one fateful siege, the Battle of Bud Bagsak, American troops killed 2000-3000 Muslim men, women, and children. Let's give thanks for those Muslims and Christians in the Philippines and around the world who are today breaking barriers and working for a new dawn free of oppression, exploitation and hate.

Let's all remember our own shortcomings, and give thanks for the infinite mercy, forgiveness, and love of our Creator.

Let's give thanks. Let's pray and work for a future of peace, justice, and nonviolence.

 

Mas'ood Cajee, a board member of the Muslim Peace Fellowship, lives in San Joaquin County, California. He is currently researching the stories of Muslim rescuers during the Nazi genocide. He welcomes comments at [email protected].


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  10 Comments   Comment

  1. Babandi A Gumel from U.K

    Masha Allah is it the new modern bidia or what shall we call it?.As

    far as I am concerned we should always be Thanking our Rabb all the

    times for the innumerable Blessings that He has been giving them to

    us that cannot be quantified or counted.

  2. Amatullah from USA

    As-salaamu-Alaikum,

    Being am American Muslim indigenous to this country by birth, ethnicity and culture,

    reconciling my values as a Muslim with my culture is not always easy. The question

    of celebrating Thanksgiving is difficult as it is entrenched in a misconception that

    pilgrims came with good intentions and were fair to the truly indigenous peoples of

    this country. However, the idea of being thankful and able to spend that time with

    ones family is extremely important. In a perfect situation, here in the US we would

    all have Eid off and be able to spend considerable time traveling to be with

    extended family. My family and I take off work and school for Eid and try to travel to

    spend time with our family. However, because the majority of our family is not

    Muslim we don't get to experience this day with them in the same manner as we do

    on the day of Thanksgiving. Our family tradition is to educate our children about the

    true nature of Thanksgiving, the history behind the struggle of First Nation peoples

    with the colonizers from Europe. We also explain that this is an opportunity to be

    with family and give thanks to Allah (swt) for being Muslim, being able to spend time

    with our families (our relatives and our Muslim family meaning those who are not

    related by blood or marriage) and reminding them we are not thankful only on one

    day a year, not even only on Eid but to be thankful each day for all we have and the

    mercies from Allah(swt). If I am wrong for this, I ask Allah (swt) to forgive me and

    to guide me to what is right. But as I said before, being an American Muslim is not

    always easy and those do not share the same culture as I, may not be able to fully

    grasp what it means to be American and Muslim.

  3. ana from USA

    Alsalaam alaykum

    take it easy brothers and sisters, this brother is simply trying to bring awareness to the fact that as American Muslims, we must face the traditional events and celebrations that this country offers. That does not mean to particularly take part in it, but to recognize it and decide on how we should handle it as Muslims.

    What I got from this article is the point that "thanksgiving day" may generally be celebrated once a year in America, but as Muslims, we must always be in constant appreciation of all that we have and all that we are, regardless of what day it is. This article brings up a good point about history as well. What do Americans truly celebrate this time of year? Fact is, the Native Americans were stripped of their properties and most enslaved, so there's no real celebration.

    so what side do we choose?

    neither. as the brother said, "We should both give thanks and remember the past.".. as what Muslims should always do no matter the time of year.

    it just so happens that some of us need reminding, and what better time to do it than the day that most ppl call "thanksgiving". "thanksgiving" should be our everyday.

    salaam

  4. Esa Abdullah from USA

    It's amazing how some people are always trying to be friend those who are killing muslims. Thanksgiving is not a holiday of the believers. The Prophet told us that our holidays are Eid Al Fitr and Eid Al Adha.

  5. James from USA

    Thanksgiving? Are this people true muslims at all. Any Muslims that celebrate Thanksgiving instead of fasting or focus on Eld or mixing Thanksgiving and Eld is commiting sin. This article is not really conveying the real truth behind Thanksgiving either. Allah mentions only two festivals or holidays in the Quran. A muslim must reject Tagoot even if they pratice non islamic holidays in his or her country. It's absolutely wrong for a muslim to take part in Thanksgiving or Chrismass. Muslims must learn to to hate only for the sake of Allah and to like something for the sake of Allah. This publication is misguiding. Soon they will embrace Chrismass which CAIR have been doing actually. Look me up on FaceBook as "Islam Empire" to see what I had to say on muslims that take part in Thanksgiving. We already thank Allah everyday through our 5 daily prayers and other voluntary service to Allah. The muslim leaders in USA are misleading their followers. We urge you to reject Tagoot. Enjoing what's right and forbid evil.

    Wasalam alaikun

  6. James Stewart from USA

    Thank you God for Biblical Christianity.

    HAPPY THANKSGIVING (-:

  7. Jill Lyn Hudeihed from USA

    Thank you so much for this wonderful article about our country's history and about Islam's remarkable contributions to the nation's growth. I believe that you struck the correct balance between supporting those that the US oppressed during its creation and evolution and to be thankful for the gifts that the religious freedom of our country grants us. I am a Christian married to a Muslim and our household is peaceful, accepting and pluralistic. We give thanks everyday that we can live and love in a community in the US that is accepting and supportive of our growing family. Other nations perhaps would not be so supportive. Yet, driven by our faiths we still strive to promote a more integrated, equitable and peaceful society that we know the US could become. If enough people started to love peace and gave up their desire for power and wealth a great change could happen in our land.

  8. aftab bacchus from usa

    assaal-u alaikum! a beautiful article-timely and balanced.I will use for a khutbah on this thanks-giving occasion as it is relevant and highly informative.

    looking forward to more such articles.

    jazak Allah!keep up the good work on behalf of the muslim community and as Dawah to non-muslims.wasalaam!

  9. Akhbar from Singapore

    Assalamu'alaikum.

    As American Muslims, should we stand with the Pilgrims or the Indians? The answer is neither.

    Muslims should thank Allah swt and help the needy(Muslims and non-Muslims) everyday and not restrict it to a particular day.

    Thanksgiving Day is not part of the many revered occasions in Islam which were observed by the Prophet saw. Therefore, Muslims should not be observing or celebrating this day. However, we should not stop or criticise the non-Muslims from practising what they believe in.

    If Muslims observe Thanksgiving Day, where are we going to draw the line? How about exchanging of gifts during Christmas, etc.

    Many Muslims are not aware of the true teachings of Islam. Let's not complicate matters by including Thanksgiving Day, etc as part of the occasions Muslims should be involved in.

    We don't need one day to be thankful or helpful. As Muslims, this is a daily affair. By doing so, you will appreciated by your community and project the correct image of Islam.

    Wassalam.

    Akhbar