AQD035E: Chinese New Year Celebration from a Muslim’s Perspective

1. The Celebration 

“The Chinese New Year is now popularly known as the Spring Festival because it starts from the Beginning of Spring (the first of the twenty-four terms in coordination with the changes of Nature). Its origin is too old to be traced. Several explanations are hanging around. All agree, however, that the word Nian, which in modern Chinese solely means "year", was originally the name of a monster beast that started to prey on people the night before the beginning of a new year (Do not lose track here: we are talking about the new year in terms of the Chinese calendar).”

This is evidently clear of “false beliefs” contrary to the teachings of Islam as mentioned: “All agree, however, that the word Nian, which in modern Chinese solely means "year", was originally the name of a monster beast that started to prey on people the night before the beginning of a new year”.

2. Red papers and Fire-crackers 

One legend goes that the beast Nian had a very big mouth that would swallow a great many people with one bite. People were very scared. One day, an old man came to their rescue, offering to subdue Nian. To Nian he said, "I hear say that you are very capable, but can you swallow the other beasts of prey on earth instead of people who are by no means of your worthy opponents?" So, swallow it did many of the beasts of prey on earth that also harassed people and their domestic animals from time to time. 

After that, the old man disappeared riding the beast Nian. He turned out to be an immortal god. Now that Nian is gone and other beasts of prey are also scared into forests, people begin to enjoy their peaceful life. Before the old man left, he had told people to put up red paper decorations on their windows and doors at each year's end to scare away Nian in case it sneaked back again, because red is the color the beast feared the most.
From then on, the tradition of observing the conquest of Nian is carried on from generation to generation. The term "Guo Nian", which may mean "Survive the Nian" becomes today "Celebrate the (New) Year" as the word "guo" in Chinese having both the meaning of "pass-over" and "observe". The custom of putting up red paper and firing fire-crackers to scare away Nian should it have a chance to run loose is still around. However, people today have long forgotten why they are doing all this, except that they feel the color and the sound add to the excitement of the celebration.  

From this quote, we as Muslims are not to burn fire-crackers as it is an act very much associated to the belief that it helps scare away the monster, as advised by the immortal god. The same goes to red paper decorations. 

3. Spring cleaning 

It is popularly recognized as the Spring Festival and celebrations last 15 days. During this time people start buying presents, decoration materials, food and clothing. A huge clean-up gets underway days before the New Year, when Chinese houses are cleaned from top to bottom. This ritual is supposed to sweep away all traces of bad luck. Doors and windowpanes are often given a new coat of paint, usually red, then decorated with paper cuts and couplets with themes such as happiness, wealth and longevity printed on them.  

This proves that the Spring Cleaning tradition is related to the belief of getting rid of omen and bad luck, which opposes the Belief in the Decree of Allah. As mentioned:  “This ritual is supposed to sweep away all traces of bad luck”. It is even known as a ritual.

4. The Dinner 

Dinner is usually a feast of seafood and dumplings, signifying different good wishes. Delicacies include prawns, for liveliness and happiness, dried oysters ( ho xi), for all things good, fish dishes or Yau-Yu to bring good luck and prosperity, Fai-chai (Angel Hair), an edible hair-like seaweed to bring prosperity, and dumplings boiled in water (Jiaozi) signifying a long-lasting good wish for a family. It is customary to wear something red as this colour is meant to ward off evil spirits. But black and white are frowned upon, as these are associated with mourning. After dinner, families sit up for the night playing cards, board games or watching television programmes dedicated to the occasion. At midnight, fireworks light up the sky. 

Although having a meal is no harm in Islam as long as the food is halal and beneficial and not harmful, yet the belief that so and so food bring about fortune, prosperity and to attend the dinner wearing garment of specific colour to ward off evil are beliefs which contradict the Islamic Creed.   

5. The Red packets or “Hong Bao” 

On the day itself, an ancient custom called Hong Bao, meaning Red Packet, takes place. This involves married couples giving children and unmarried adults money in red envelopes. Then the family begins to say greetings from door to door, first to their relatives and then to their neighbours. Like the Western saying "let bygones be bygones," at Chinese New Year, grudges are very easily cast aside. 

Tributes are made to ancestors by burning incense and the symbolic offering of foods. As firecrackers burst in the air, evil spirits are scared away by the sound of the explosions. At the Festival, all traditions are honored. The predominant colors are red and gold. "Good Wish" banners are hung from the ceilings and walls. The "God of Fortune" is there to give Hong Baos. Lion dancers perform on stage continuously. 

Visitors take home plants and flowers symbolizing good luck. An array of New Years specialty food is available in the Food Market. Visitors purchase new clothing, shoes and pottery at the Market Fair. Bargaining for the best deal is commonplace! 

The colour “Red” again and “God of Fortune is there to give Hong Baos”, as mentioned earlier is directly linked to false beliefs.

6. Oranges 

Tangerines in Chinese language sound similar to the word "luck" and orange sounds like the Chinese word for "wealth". Through the play of words, the Chinese is associating the gift of orange and tangerine as having an abundance of happiness and prosperity. The bright orange color of the fruits also symbolizes 'gold'; hence it has an auspicious meaning to bring in good luck and wealth. This is a very important factor for the Chinese new year celebration. Hence, you will find tangerine and orange fruits, being displayed in houses, offices and shops as they believe it will usher in good fortune for the occupants. They are also served to guests as well as given as gifts to family members and friends.

Hence, it is very much intertwined with beliefs.

7. Chingay or “The Lantern Festival” 

Chingay or “The Lantern Festival” which marks the end of Chinese New Year. In China is a festival celebrated on the fifteenth day of the first month in the lunisolar year in the lunar calendar marking the last day of the lunar New Year celebration. It is not to be confused with the Mid-Autumn Festival; which is sometimes also known as the "Lantern Festival" in locations such as Singapore and Malaysia. The Chingay Parade is an annual street parade held in celebration with the birthdays of the Chinese deities or the procession of the Goddess of Mercy (Guanyin) as part of the Chinese New Year festivities. It was held to worship and enjoy with the deity. During the earliest procession in more than 100 years ago, the earliest English newspapers Echo in Malaysia adopted the word Chingay Procession for this special event. 

8. Greeting and Well wishes

Since we have understood clearly that this Celebration and the activities surrounding it, are opposing the teachings of Islam, a true Muslim, with all due respect to the elderly, will not commit any form of disobedience, worst when matters of shirk (false belief that negates one’s Islamic Creed) are concerned. A true muslim, adhering to the Quranic and Prophetic teachings, holding steadfast to the ways of the Righteous Predecessors and safeguarding his faith, will not get himself involved in these shirk activities. How can he/she even greet them and wish them well in committing acts of shirk which will not be pardoned by Allah, even if one is not participating?

9. The Do’s 

When it involves only strengthening ties of kinship and it is purely customary and not against Islamic values and teachings, with no relation whatsoever to any ritual act or places or occasion of rites, Wallahu a‘lam, only then it is permissible.

Explanation from True Scholars

The Prophet (SAW) made it very clear that in Islam there are two festivals or holidays. These are the Eid festivals. The celebrations and holidays of a people are from among the actions that most distinguish one people from another.

In a Hadith in Sunan Abu Dawud, The Messenger of Allah (SAW) said: 
"Whoever imitates (or resembles) a people is one of them." 
Therefore, it is not allowed for Muslims to participate in the holidays or celebrations of the non-Muslims. 

Shaikh al-Islam ibn Taimiyah (ra) wrote in Iqtidha al-Sirat al-Mustaqeem (vol.1, p.470), 
"There are a number of points that must be considered when discussing (the non-Muslims') festivals and holidays. First, festivals and holidays are from the wide range of laws, ways, and rites that Allah (SWT) describes in the verse, 
 `For every nation We have established rites that they follow,' [Al-Maa-idah:48] 
such as facing the Qiblah, prayer and fasting. There is no difference between joining them in their festivals and joining them in their other rites.  
Agreeing to their holiday is agreeing to infidelity (Kufr), and agreeing to some minor aspects (of their religion) is like agreeing to a branch of infidelity. In fact, the holidays and festivals are one of the major items that distinguishes their customs and laws, and are one of the most obvious of their rites. Agreeing to it is agreeing to one of the most specific of the acts of infidelity and one of the most blazon of their rituals. There is no doubt that agreeing to or being in accord with something of that nature can only lead to apostasy, in general, given its conditions…" 
Indeed, beyond that, the scholars have even stated that it is not allowed for Muslims to congratulate the non-Muslims on their holidays or festivals. 

Ibn al-Qayyim (ra) in Ahkam Ahl al-Dhimma (vol. 1, p. 205) writes, 
"Giving congratulations on the special events that are specific to the disbelievers, such as congratulating them on their holidays by saying, `Blessed holiday for you' or other similar greetings, is considered forbidden by the agreement of the scholars. Even if the one who states it is free from any aspect of apostasy, it is still a forbidden act and it is the same as congratulating them upon their prostration's to the crucifix. In fact, that is one of the greatest sins in Allah's (SWT) sight.  
That is a greater sin than congratulating them for drinking wine, having illegal sexual intercourse and so on. Many of them who are not very religious do such things and they do not know how evil what they are doing really is.  
Whoever congratulates another human for any sin, heresy, or act of apostasy has exposed himself to the punishment and anger of Allah (SWT). The pious people from the early scholars would avoid congratulating the oppressors when they received positions of authority or the ignorant when they were given judicial or teaching positions in order to avoid the punishment of Allah (SWT) and falling from His Grace. If a person would be compelled to go to such people to repel any evil that he expected from him, only to speak well to him and to ask Allah (SWT) to guide him, there is nothing wrong with that."

Ibn al-Qayyim (ra) has included a beneficial section mentioning the opinions of the scholars concerning this matter (Ahkam Ahl Adz-Dzhimma, vol. 2, p. 722). It shall be reproduced here with some abridgment:
"In the same way that is not allowed for them to publicly (celebrate their holidays), it is not allowed for the Muslims to assist them for the holidays or to help them or to attend (their ceremonies) with them according to the agreement of the people of knowledge. In fact, the jurists who follow the four legal schools have made this clear in their books. Abu al-Qasim al-Tabari wrote, `It is not allowed for Muslims to attend their (the disbelievers') holidays and festivals because they are a typed of evil falsehood. If the people of good mix with the people of evil without putting an end to what they are doing then they become like those who are pleased and influenced by the evil. And we fear falling into Allah's (SWT) anger because of their gathering.'  
Then he stated relying on Abu Hatim's narration, that Amir ibn Murra said about the verse, `Those who do not witness falsehood,' that `they do not assist the pope of idolatry in their idolatry nor do they associate with them.' 
And al-Baihaqi recorded with a Sahih chain that Umar ibn al-Khattab said,
`Do not learn the lingo of the foreigners and do not enter the polytheists' churches on the days of their holidays for (Allah's) anger descends upon them.'  
And he also recorded with a Sahih chain that Abdullah ibn Umar stated, `Whoever stays in the lands of the foreigners and celebrates their New Year's Days (of the festivals of the disbelievers) and behaves like them until he dies, he shall be resurrected with them on the Day of Resurrection.'"

And ibn al-Qayyim (ra) said,
"Ibn al-Qasim disliked for a Muslim to give a Christian a present during his (the Christian's) holiday; he considered this action as honoring his (the Christian's) holiday and assisting him in disbelief. In the same way, it is forbidden for Muslims to sell Christians anything they may use in their holidays of meat, blood, or clothing, nor should he loan him an animal to ride on, nor help him with anything concerning his festival because all of that would be a way of dignifying their idolatry and helping them in their Kufr. It is a must for the rulers to prevent Muslims from doing such deeds. This is the opinioin of Malik and others. And I do not know of any difference of opinion concerning this matter."
These are his words from al-Wadhiha. 

And in the books of the students of Abu Hanifa it states, 
"Whoever gives them a present, during their holidays, of a watermelon, meaning by that to honor their holiday has committed act of Kufr (apostasy)." 
Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah (may Allaah have mercy on him) said in his commentary on the aayah (interpretation of the meaning), “And those who do not witness falsehood [al-zoor]…” [al-Furqaan 25:72]:
As regards the festivals of the mushrikeen: they combine confusion, physical desires and falsehood, there is nothing in them that is of any religious benefit, and the instant gratification involved in them only ends up in pain. Thus they are falsehood, and witnessing them means attending them. 
This aaayah itself praises and commends (those who do not witness falsehood), which has the meaning of urging people to avoid taking part in their festivals and other kinds of falsehood. We understand that it is bad to attend their festivals because they are called al-zoor (falsehood).
It indicates that it is haraam to do this for many reasons, because Allaah has called it al-zoor. Allaah condemns the one who speaks falsehood [al-zoor] even if no-one else is harmed by it, as in the aayah forbidding zihaar [a form of divorce in which the man says to his wife “You are to me like the back of my mother”], where He says (interpretation of the meaning): “… And verily, they utter an ill word and a lie [zooran]…” [al-Mujaadilah 58:2]. And Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning): “… So shun the abomination of idols, and shun lying speech (false statements) [al-zoor].” [al-Hajj 22:30]. So the one who does al-zoor is condemned in this fashion. 
In the Sunnah: Anas ibn Maalik (may Allaah be pleased with him) said: “The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) came [to Madeenah] and they had two days in which they would (relax and) play. He said, “What are these two days?” They said, “We used to play (on these two days) during the Jaahiliyyah.” The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Allaah has given you something better instead of them: Yawm al-Duhaa [Eid al-Adha] and Yawm al-Fitr [Eid al-Fitr].” (Reported by Abu Dawood). 
This indicates clearly that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) definitely forbade his ummah to celebrate the festivals of the kuffaar, and he strove to wipe them out by all possible means. The fact that the religion of the People of the Book is accepted does not mean that their festivals are approved of or should be preserved by the ummah, just as the rest of their kufr and sins are not approved of. Indeed, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) went to great lengths to command his ummah to be different from them in many issues that are mubaah (permitted) and in many ways of worship, lest that lead them to be like them in other matters too. This being different was to be a barrier in all aspects, because the more different you are from the people of Hell, the less likely you are to do the acts of the people of Hell. 
The first of them is: The hadeeth “Every people has its festival, and this is our festival” implies exclusivity, that every people has its own festival, as Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning): “For every nation there is a direction to which they face (in their prayers)…” [al-Baqarah 2:148] and “… To each among you, We have prescribed a law and a clear way…” [al-Maa’idah 5:48]. This implies that each nation has its own ways. The laam in li-kulli [“for every”, “to each”] implies exclusivity. So if the Jews have a festival and the Christians have a festival, it is just for them, and we should not have any part in it, just as we do not share their qiblah (direction of prayer) or their laws. 
The second of them is: one of the conditions set out by ‘Umar ibn al-Khattaab (may Allaah be pleased with him) and agreed upon by the Sahaabah and by all the Fuqaha’ after them is: that those of the People of the Book who have agreed to live under Islamic rule (ahl al-dhimmah) should not celebrate their festivals openly in Daar al-Islam (lands under Islamic rule). If the Muslims have agreed to prevent them from celebrating openly, how could it be right for the Muslims to celebrate them? If a Muslim celebrates them, is that not worse than if a kaafir does so openly? 
The only reason that we forbade them to celebrate their festivals openly is because of the corruption involved in them, because of the sin or symbols of sin. In either case, the Muslim is forbidden from sin or the symbols of sin. Even if there was no evil involved apart from the kaafir feeling encouraged to celebrate openly because of the Muslim’s actions, how can a Muslim do that? The evil involved (in their festivals) will be explained below, in sha Allaah. 
Al-Bayhaqi reported with a saheeh isnaad in Baab karaahiyat al-dukhool ‘ala ahl al-dhimmah fi kanaa’isihim wa’l-tashabbuh bihim yawmi nawroozihim wa maharjaanihim (Chapter on the abhorrence of entering the churches of ahl al-dhimmah on the occasion of their New Year and other celebrations): From Sufyaan al-Thawri from Thawr ibn Yazeed from ‘Ata’ ibn Deenaar who said: ‘Umar said: “Do not learn the language of the non-Arabs, do not enter upon the mushrikeen in their churches on their feast-days, for the wrath (of Allaah) is descending upon them.” 
‘Umar ibn al-Khattaab said: “Avoid the enemies of Allaah on their festivals.” 
It was reported with a saheeh isnaad from Abu Usaamah: ‘Awn told us from Abu’l-Mugheerah from ‘Abd-Allaah ibn ‘Amr: “Whoever lives in the land of the non-Arabs and celebrates their New Year and their festivals, and imitates them until he dies in that state, will be gathered with them on the Day of Resurrection.” 
‘Umar forbade learning their languages, and even entering their churches on the day of their festival, so how about doing some of the things they do on those days, or doing things that are a part of their religion? Is not going along with their actions worse than learning their language? Is not doing some of the things they do on their festival worse than just entering upon them? If divine wrath is descending upon them on the day of their festival because of what they do, then is not the one who does what they do, or a part of it, also exposed to the same punishment? Do not the words “Avoid the enemies of Allaah on their festivals” mean that we should not meet them or join them on those days? So how about the one who actually celebrates their festivals?
‘Abd-Allaah ibn ‘Amr clearly stated: “Whoever lives in the land of the non-Arabs and celebrates their New Year and their festivals, and imitates them until he dies in that state, will be gathered with them on the Day of Resurrection.” 
This implies that the one who joins in with them in all of these matters is a kaafir, or that doing this is one of the major sins (kabaa’ir) that will doom one to Hell; the former meaning is what is apparent from the wording. 
He mentioned – and Allaah knows best – the one who lives in their land, because at the time of ‘Abd-Allaah ibn ‘Amr and the other Sahaabah, they used to forbid open celebration of kaafir festivals in the Muslim lands, and none of the Muslims imitated them in their festivals; that was possible only when living in the lands of the kaafirs. 
‘Ali (may Allaah be pleased with him) refused to even acknowledge the name of their festivals which were exclusively theirs, so how about actually celebrating them? 
Ahmad mentioned the meaning of the reports narrated from ‘Umar and ‘Ali (may Allaah be pleased with them) on this topic, and his companions discussed the matter of festivals. 
Imaam Abu’l-Hasan al-Aamidi said: the one who is known as Ibn al-Baghdaadi said in his book ‘Umdat al-Haadir wa Kifaayat al-Musaafir: “It is not permitted to attend the festivals of the Christians and Jews. Ahmad stated this in the report of Muhannaa, and his evidence for that is the aayah (interpretation of the meaning): ‘And those who do not witness falsehood [al-zoor]…’ [al-Furqaan 25:72]. He said: (This is) al-Sha’aaneen and their festivals. He said: The Muslims are to be prevented from entering upon them in their synagogues and churches.”
From Iqtida’ al-Siraat al-Mustaqeem Mukhaalifat Ashaab al-Jaheem, p. 183.

May Allah, with the Grace of His Mercy, guide us to the straight path, the path which He will be Pleased with us.

Prepared by: Ustaz Abu Mazaaya

Alhamdullilah. Allahu Akbar.
Jazakallahu khair akhi for explaining.






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