Allah Almighty has given us two holy days for celebration, worship and full. These are the days of Eid al-Adha (at the culmination of the hajj) and Eid al-Fitr (at the end of the fasting month of Ramadan).
Anas ibn Malik (ra) narrated: The Prophet (pbuh) came to Madinah during two days in which they played. The Prophet (pbuh) asked: What are these two days? They said: These are two days we used to play in, during the time of ignorance. The Prophet (pbuh) said: Allah has replaced them with two better days: Eid al-Adha and Eid al- Fitr.” (Abu Duwood, Ahmad and Ibn Hajar al-‘ Asqalani)
It is clear that the Prophet (pbuh) did not allow them to continue their play and celebration because it was a custom of the pagan Arabs of Madinah. Instead, he told them: “Allah has replaced them”, meaning that you must leave what was replaced and go with that which replaced them.
From the above narration, we can easily see that the Prophet (pbuh) did not allow his Companions to celebrate and play on these days since it was part of another religion.
This ruling extends to the celebration of all holidays with religious backgrounds, including Christmas, Diwali, Easter and Halloween. It is not permissible to join in the celebration of any such holiday, even if it has lost its religious significance. This is because its roots are in shirk, and as Muslims, we cannot glorify shirk.
This prohibition extends to the celebration of birthdays, since that is an ancient pagan custom with its roots in Greek mythology. It also falls into the category of celebrations of ignorance.
Umar ibn al-Khattab (ra) said: “Keep away from the enemies of Allah on their holidays.”
Similarly, such innovated celebrations as mawlid (the Prophet’s birthday) and ‘urs (the anniversary of someone’s death) are also prohibited. This is not because they are celebrations, but because they are religious innovations with no basis in the Quran, the Sunnah, or the teachings of the early righteous generations.
Contrary to the belief of some Muslims, it is permissible and encouraged to celebrate and to enjoy permissible forms of fun on the days of Eid. Some Muslims claim that we should spend these days in worship only, but the Sunnah proves otherwise.
First of all, fasting on the days of Eid is prohibited. If these days were intended for worship only, then why would this great form of worship be prohibited? Secondly, the word ‘Eid’ itself means a happy occasion or a holiday.
A major proof that it is permissible to have fun on the days of Eid is the following famous hadith, which was mentioned previously:
It has been narrated by ‘A ‘ishah (ra), the wife of the Prophet, that once the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) came home, and at that time, two little girls were singing songs about the battle of Bu’ath. The Prophet (pbuh) lay down on the bed and turned his face away. Then Abu Bakr (ra) came and scolded her, saying: These musical instruments of Satan in the house of the Prophet of Allah (pbuh)! Prophet Muhammad turned to him and said: Leave them. In the words of ‘A’ishah (ra):
When Abu Bakr got busy in other matters, I told the two girls to leave, and they left. That was the day of Eid. The Abyssinians were playing in the mosque with shields and lances. Then either I asked the Messenger (pbuh), or he himself said: Do you want to have a look? I said yes, so he let me stand behind him, with my cheek against his cheek, and said: Carry on, Banu Arfidah. When I became bored, he asked: Is that enough for you? I said yes. He said: Then you may leave.” (Sahih Bukhari)
That is the ruling regarding religious celebrations. As for other celebrations that are not of a religious nature – such as celebrating a special achievement like a child memorizing the Qur’an or getting good grades at school- these are permissible as long as they do not include anything haram. It is known that the Prophet (pbuh) encouraged the celebration of marriage with a wedding banquet hosted by the groom.