TweetWhile holidays like Christmas, New Year's Day, and Valentine's Day have names which indicate either the holiday's origin or its significance, Easter stands out. Most people have no idea what the name Easter means. It turns out that Easter is a corruption of Austre, the name of the ancient pagan Scandanavian goddess of life and fertility.
Many holidays celebrated today represent a synthesis between Christian doctrine and pagan ritual. The basis for most of these "holy" days revolve around natural phenomena such as the autumnal equinox, vernal equinox, summer solstice, and winter solstice. With regards to the spring season and the vernal equinox, pagans, especially the pagans of cold, northern Europe, celebrated the renewal of life, as was demonstrated by the budding of the leaves, blooming of the flowers, return of the birds, and the re-emergence of many mammals previously in hibernation. These celebrations often utilized symbols of fertility and life such as the egg, the baby chick, and the rabbit.
The use of these same symbols in present day celebrations of Easter is quite obvious. Decorating eggs, Easter egg hunts, and the Easter bunny are all familiar icons. These things have carried over from pagan traditions via a synthesis with Christian doctrine. In particular, the worship of the sun god has been incorporated into the once monotheistic Christian teachings. The vernal equinox represents a time in which the hours of daylight equal the hours of night. The days following the vernal equinox mark an increase in the number of hours of daylight over the night. This time, then became viewed as the time of sol invictus or the unconquerable sun, demonstrating its supremacy by conquering the night.
The synthesis with Christian ideas was simple. Just as the sun conquered the night, the son conquered death. Thus, the pagan holidays of fertility and life were replaced with the Christian concept of the resurrection of Jesus (peace be upon him).
"The Church adopted spring equinox celebrations as Easter. As this time had already been one of celebrating the sun?s resurrection and return to prominence, celebrating the resurrection of the son of God required no great change in understanding. In fact, the Easter celebrations were so similar to earlier celebrations - particularly those which recognized the resurrection of the Babylonian Adonis, the Greek Apollo, and the Roman Attis - that a bitter controversy arose with pagans claiming that the Christian Easter celebration was a spurious imitation of the ancient traditions. Vernal equinox bonfires, originally prohibited by the Church, found their way as Easter fires into the official liturgy of Rome by the ninth century. Fertility symbols associated with spring, such as the egg and the incredibly prolific rabbit, survived as well."(Ellerbe p.148)
In fact, the very symbol of the cross is derived from pagan fertility practices. It is known by many that the symbol of the cross was utilized by many civilizations prior to the emergence of Christianity. The ancient Egyptian symbol of the ankh, then, deserves mentioning for its connection to fertility. The ankh is a symbol which resembles the Christian cross, except that it has a loop at the top. Some sources indicate that this symbol derives its shape from ancient Egyptian studies of human anatomy. The loop, it is said, represents the gravid (pregnant) uterus, while the arms of the cross represent the Fallopian tubes. And the base of the cross serves as the vaginal canal. The ankh, then, serves as the ultimate fertility symbol. In support of this theory of the derivation of the ankh, the fertility dolls of many African peoples, in particular the Ashanti, are shaped like the ankh. The animated graphic to the right illustrates the similarities.
The pagan roots of holidays celebrated in the name of Christianity testify to its having been altered. Christianity, as it exists today, does not represent the message of Jesus, the son of Mary (may peace be upon both of them). And this is not merely a Christian issue. This is an issue for all God-fearing people. We, as Muslims, must be aware of the pieces that make up the puzzle that is Christianity, first to protect ourselves and our families, then to warn others and to call them to the right way.
The Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said, "You (Muslims) will follow the ways of those nations who were before you, span by span and cubit by cubit (i.e., inch by inch) so much so that even if they entered a hole of a lizard, you would follow them." We said, "Oh Allah's Apostle! (Do you mean) the Jews and the Christians?" He صلى الله عليه وسلم said, "Who else?" [Sahih Al-Bukhari, Narrated by Abu Said Al Khudri رضي الله عنه]
Regarding participating in Easter or any of the other holiday celebrations of the kuffaar: It is not permissible for a Muslim to celebrate any of these. The clear evidence of the Quraan and Sunnah and the consensus of the early generations of this ummah indicates that there are only two festivals in Islam: Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha. Any other festivals that have to do with a person, a group, an event or anything else are innovated festivals, which it is not permissible for Muslims to observe, approve of or express joy on those occasions, or to help others to celebrate them in any way, because that is transgressing the sacred limits of Allaah سبحانه و تعالى, and whoever transgresses the sacred limits of Allaah سبحانه و تعالى has wronged himself.
There is no "good fun" in displeasing Allah, the Most High. So, we must provide alternative activities for our children; camping trips, sporting events, halaqaat, field trips, etc. We should do our best to avoid television, year-round. And if we find this difficult, we should at least avoid it during these "holidays". If we have non-Muslim family members that celebrate these days of bid'aa and shirk, then we should avoid their homes at these times.
Most importantly, however, we should study our deen and we should surround ourselves with those who do. We should seek righteousness among the righteous. We should seek the pleasure of Allah سبحانه و تعالى among those who please Allah سبحانه و تعالى. The Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said that whoever imitates a people is one of them. Let us imitate those who are on the straight path, not those who have gone astray.
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