"We don't celebrate Thanksgiving. You should always give thanks." A few years ago, that's what you'd hear around my house as Turkey day approached. (The same goes for Mother's Day, "We are Muslim. Every day is Mothers Day!")
Still, as our immigrant status developed into naturalized citizenship, so did our taste for American traditions, and halal turkey. Though this year, there will be more than just Turkey to have and be thankful for.
Thanksgiving falls during the Islamic month of Muharram, the first month of the Islamic calendar. After Ramadan, this is the most sacred month of the year, which marks a couple very important events in Islamic history.
After immigrating to the city of Medina, the Prophet Muhammad (peace upon him) observed the People of the Book (Jews and Christians) fasting on the tenth day of Muharram. They were fasting to commemorate Passover.
Recognizing the importance of this commemoration and the respect for Prophet Moses within Islam, he immediately adopted this practice and encouraged his community to also fast on the tenth day of Muharram and on the day before or after. It is said that fasting and giving charity on these days is equivalent to having fasted and given in charity for the entire year.
I will be especially grateful this year for the leadership and courage of Prophet Moses, and the piety and compassion of Prophet Muhammad. I will try to fast on Black Friday -- the 9th of Muharram (but this all depends on the severity of my food coma from the night before).
I will respect my Shi'a friends' observance of Ashura (also on the 10th of Muharram), which is a day of mourning for the martyrdom of Hussein bin Ali, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad. Though Sunni Muslims do not share in the practice of mourning, we recognize the day as a tragic event.
I will recall the practice of fasting established by the early 17th century New England Puritan immigrants. And take the opportunity to educate myself about this nation's religious history.
I will reflect on the darker side of Thanksgiving. November is Native American Heritage Month and for some, this holiday is a day of mourning. As important as it is to be thankful and rejoice with our families and community, we should also remember the lives lost at the founding of this nation.
This month has also seen a tragic loss of life in Gaza. With mounting reasons to mourn, it is especially important to educate ourselves about the crisis overseas. I will reflect on what's happening in the Middle East and pray for an end to the conflict. It takes much more than reading articles and praying to broker cease-fires in such convoluted political situations, but growing my knowledge is a good first step.
This Thanksgiving will be different -- it will be a time of fasting and feasting and learning about faith and foreign policy.