The Muslims And Black Friday, By Imam Murtadha Gusau

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In the Name of Allah, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful

All perfect praise be to Allah, The Lord of the Worlds. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allah, and that Muhammad (Peace be upon him), is His Servant and Messenger.

Dear brothers and sisters, know that Black Friday is an informal name for the Friday following Thanksgiving Day in the United States, which is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November. The day after Thanksgiving has been regarded as the beginning of the United States Christmas shopping season since 1952. The term “Black Friday” did not become widely used until more recent decades, during which time global retailers have adopted the term and date to market their own holiday sales.

Each year the famous sales weekend, which follows Thanksgiving Day and begins on November 27 this year (Yesterday), sees a significant amount of shoppers head to high street stores and online brands in attempt to find the best deals.

Many retailers have launched a range of offers, with discounts expected until Cyber Monday.

Yet, many people are unaware of the phenomenon’s history and are clueless about the use of the name before it became associated with the pre-Christmas shopping craze.

From post-football game chaos in Philadelphia to the people who coined the retail event’s name, here is the story behind Black Friday:

• How did Black Friday start?

The term “Black Friday” was actually first associated with financial crisis, not sales shopping.

Two Wall Street financiers Jim Fisk and Jay Gould, together bought a significant amount of US gold in the hope of the overall price soaring and in turn being able to sell it for huge profits.

On Friday 24 September, 1869, in what became referred to as “Black Friday”, the US gold market crashed and Fisk and Gould’s actions left Wall Street barons bankrupt.

It was not until later years that the post-Thanksgiving period became associated with the name.

• The history behind Black Friday

When shops in the US recorded their accounting details by hand, they noted profits in black and losses in red.

It is thought that many shops were “in the red” throughout most of the year but they later “went into the black” the day after Thanksgiving, when shoppers bought a significant amount of discounted merchandise.

In more recent years, an inaccurate rumour circulated, suggesting that Southern plantation owners could buy slaves at a discounted price following Thanksgiving in the 1800s.

• Who coined the name Black Friday?

Police officers in Philadelphia were first to link Black Friday to the post-Thanksgiving period in the 1950s. Large crowds of tourists and shoppers came to the city the day after Thanksgiving for the Army-Navy football game, creating chaos, traffic jams and shoplifting opportunities.

Police officers in the city weren’t able to take the day off and instead had to work long shifts to control the carnage, thus using the term “Black Friday” to refer to it.

As the name spread throughout Philadelphia, some of the city’s merchants and boosters disliked the negative connotations and unsuccessfully tried to change it to “Big Friday.”

Black Friday later became known in print, after an advertisement was published in The American Philatelist magazine in 1966. By the late 1980s, the term was commonly known across the nation and retailers soon linked it to their post-Thanksgiving sales.

Today, Black Friday is the USA’s biggest shopping event of the year, when many shops cut their prices on a range of products, in order to boost profits and officially kick off the festive season.

• Islamic position on Black Friday

People worldwide considered Black Friday as just a shopping day. In fact, Black Friday is not just a shopping day; rather, it is a festival (Eid) celebrated by non-Muslims. The Arabic word Eid is derived from “‘awd” meaning “come again.”

Shaikhul Islam Ibn Taimiyyah may Allah have mercy upon him defined Eid as follows:

“The Arabic word Eid means in the Arabic language what recurs of public events in a traditional manner; it may recur every year, month, or week or so. Therefore, the word Eid refers to a day that comes again like Eid-ul-Fitr, Eid-ul-Adha or Jumu‘ah, the gathering on that day and the acts done as acts of worship or traditions on that day. It may or may not be peculiar to a certain place. Any such gathering that takes place regularly can be called Eid.”

Therefore, Black Friday is considered one of the Eids of the non-Muslims. And participating in the celebration of the festivals of the non-Muslims by any given means involves committing religious violations, some of which were highlighted by Shaikhul Islam Ibn Taimiyyah may Allah have mercy upon him as he said:

“With regard to things that they use in their festivals, such as food, drink and clothing, the principles of Imam Ahmad and others suggest that it (selling such things) is disliked, but does disliked here mean that it is prohibited, as in the School of Malik, or that it is merely discouraged? The most likely and preponderant view is that it is disliked in the sense of being prohibited as in many similar cases according to Ahmad, because he does not allow the sale of bread, meat and herbs to the dissolute who will drink wine with them, because these things assist them to manifest the false religion and increase the numbers of people who will gather on their festival. This is worse than helping one particular person.”

Allah The Exalted says:

“And cooperate in righteousness and piety, but do not cooperate in sin and aggression. And fear Allah; indeed, Allah is severe in penalty.” [Qur’an, 5:2]

Based on this, it is impermissible for the Muslim to take part in this Black Friday Eid or help others celebrate it by partaking in any commercial promotion that is particularly targeting that day; rather, he should treat it like any other day of the year.

All praise and thanks are due to Allah alone, Lord of the worlds. May the peace, blessings and salutations of Allah be upon our noble Messenger, Muhammad, and upon his family, his Companions and his true and sincere followers.

Murtadha Muhammad Gusau is the Chief Imam of Nagazi-Uvete Jumu’ah and the late Alhaji Abdur-Rahman Okene’s Mosques, Okene, Kogi State, Nigeria. He can be reached via: [email protected] or +2348038289761

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