Answered by Ustadha Shazia Ahmad
My kids aged two and four attend the local kindergarten. Several cultural and partly religious events are celebrated, e.g. Carnival, Christmas, and Easter, that involve singing and doing related arts and crafts. Because of the religious elements in it, I don’t want them to participate yet this could result in them feeling excluded. Do you have any suggestions to figure this out?
Thank you for your question. Public schools generally spend most of the year using local holidays for the subject of their arts and crafts; I pray that Allah Most High can guide you to the best decision on this.
The core of the question is based on the following prophetic hadith: “He who imitates any people (in their actions) is considered to be one of them.” [Abu Dawud] If you are not venerating their religious beliefs, and the action in and of itself is not sinful (such as coloring) and the action is not particular to their religion, then you are not sinful for allowing your children to engage in the activities.
Please see the details here:
Context for the Hadith: Whoever Imitates a People Is of Them
I want to point out that the acknowledgment of other religious or cultural activities is not sinful, and is very different from students actually participating in specifically religious activity. Naturally, the latter would be prohibited.
If you wanted to ask that the children be exempt, there is respect for religious accommodation in most countries, and you might be able to work out a plan for your children to do something else. You certainly have a right to request it.
I don’t know of another practical way to exclude them from these activities because public schools spend a large chunk of the year basing their arts and crafts on these holidays, including Halloween, and Thanksgiving, as well as the ones you mention.
Other options that come to mind are to keep your children home until they must go to school, which is about 5 years of age when they can better discern what is correct and what is not. Homeschooling might work, especially if there is a homeschooling co-op in your community. Also, consider your local Islamic school or mosque school, where you might be able to apply for a discount. You may encounter other challenges with these options, but at least you won’t have to worry about non-Muslim holidays.
If you do plan to keep your children in public school, make sure that you supplement their Islamic education and solidify their Islamic foundation. Tell them daily about our beliefs and why we don’t believe in what they learn at school. You can even encourage them to gear their arts and crafts toward Islam, which is usually acceptable. For example, when they are asked to draw pictures about what they are thankful for at Thanksgiving time, they can be thankful for Allah, the Prophet, the Qur’an…etc.
Please see these links as well:
Choice of Schooling For My Child
Homeschooling: our parents want us to stay in public school
Most importantly, bear this prophetic hadith in mind and trust in Allah: “Verily, you will never leave anything for the sake of Allah, the Almighty, but that Allah will replace it with something better.” [Ahmad]
May Allah give you the best of this world and the next.
[Ustadha] Shazia Ahmad
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Ustadha Shazia Ahmad lived in Damascus, Syria for two years where she studied aqida, fiqh, tajweed, tafsir, and Arabic. She then attended the University of Texas at Austin, where she completed her Masters in Arabic. Afterward, she moved to Amman, Jordan where she studied fiqh, Arabic, and other sciences. She later moved back to Mississauga, Canada, where she lives with her family.