A very good article by Shaykh al-Islam, Mufti Taqi al-Uthmani, on April Fool’s day. (Shared by Shaykh Muhammad Yasir al-Hanafi)
By Mufti Taqi Usmani
The love of blindly following the west has given currency to several of their customs in our society.
One of them is the tradition of celebrating April fool. To play a prank on another, or to poke fun at him by deceiving him with a lie is not only considered acceptable on the first of April, but is also admired as a commendable act and a mark of excellence. He who deceives more people than others, and deceives them with more flair and finesse and with more gall and grace has taken full advantage of the custom of April fool. He is considered worthy of praise for having done that.
This taste of trick playing, which can rightly be called a tasteless fun seeking, has brought on financial and physical harm to many unsuspecting victims. In fact, some have lost their precious lives as a result. They were deliberately given false news about a tragic event involving their near and dear ones; news that some frail and feeble folks could not bear, and succumbed.
Based on a lie, a deception, and a desire to laugh at the innocence and ignorance of unsuspecting folks, this custom is obviously quite low on the scale of morality and ethics.
But even the historical basis of it is quite shameful and appalling at least for those who hold the person of Prophet Essa (alaihis salaam) sacred and holy in some way.
How did this tradition begin?
Historians seem to have varying opinions about it. Some say that before the dawn of the seventeenth century, the New Year in France used to begin on the 1st of April instead of the 1st of January. Romans worshipped a goddess called Venus and used to hold the month of April holy because of its association with the Goddess Venus. The Greeks translated the word Venus as Aphrodite in their language. The month April is so named because of its association with Aphrodite. [Britannica 15th edition page 292 v 8]
Some writers have concluded that the 1st of April being the first day of the year according to their calendar, and also being considered holy as a day associated with their idol goddess, was celebrated as a feast of joy. The lighthearted amusement and poking fun at each other was part of that feast, and it gradually progressed into the form of April fool. Some historians say that on that feast of joy people were accustomed to exchanging gifts. Perhaps on one such occasion someone pulled a prank on another in the name of a gift. The practice caught on and gradually became entrenched as their cultural tradition.
Britannica mentions one other reason for this custom. Seasons begin to change on the 25th of March. These changes were interpreted by those folks as pranks and jokes played by Mother Nature upon her helpless subjects. (Ma’aaz Allah) Gods were fooling them, they thought. Therefore people too began the custom of making fools of each other. [Brittanica page 496 vol 1]
It is still unclear whether people started this tradition with the purpose of emulating nature and its prank seeking power and prowess, or was it their way of visiting revenge upon nature.
The famous Larousse Encyclopedia has narrated a third reason, and declared it more authentic. According to the traditions narrated by the Christians and the Jews, 1st of April was the day when Hazrat Essa (alaihis Salaam) was made the butt of jokes and the victim of mockery by the Romans and the Jews. The so-called Gospels presently found with the Christians provide the details of the incident. The following are the words of Luke:
Now the men who were holding Jesus mocked him and beat him; they also blindfolded him and asked him, “Prophesy! Who is it that struck you?” And they spoke many other words against him, reviling him. Luke 22:63-65
The gospels also carry a narration of how Hazrat Masih (alaihis salaam) was also harassed by being bounced around from court to court. He was first charged and tried in the court of the Jewish elders and jurists, the Sanhedrin. But it merely transferred his case to the court of the Roman governor, Pilate, who sent the case back to the Jewish king Herod. Finally from the court of King Herod, he was taken back to the court of the Roman governor, Pilate, for decision.
The Larousse Encyclopedia opines that the very purpose of sending Hazrat Masih (alaihis salaam) from one court to another was to highlight his helplessness, to ridicule and deride him, and to subject him to mental distress.
That incident, they say, took place on the first of April, and the tradition of April fool was in fact started in memory of that very shameless incident.
The victim of the custom of April fool, the person who is tricked and fooled is called ‘poisson d’avril’ in French. In English, it would be ‘April Fish’. [Encyclopedia Brittanica page 496 V1]
So the person who has been tricked and made a fool of is like the first catch of the season, the fist fish that has been netted in the beginning of April, the New Year. In support of its opinion, the Larousse Encyclopedia claims that the French word ‘poisson’ translated into English as ‘fish’ is actually a degenerated form of another similar French word, ‘poison’ which means to ‘cause distress’ and to ‘inflict torture’.
This tradition, they say, was actually selected to refresh the memory of the incidences of insult and torture which according to the Christian traditions Masih (alaihis salaam) had to endure on the 1st of April.
According to another French writer the word is indeed ‘poisson’ but it is an acronym. It is a composite of the first letters of five other French words that are when arranged sequentially: Essa, Masih, Allah, son and ransom.
According to that writer, too, the origin of April fool is an attempt to memorialize the ridicule and distress inflicted upon Hazrat Essa (alaihis salaam).
If true (and Larousse Encyclopedia seems confident that it is, and they have many evidentiary proofs of it) it is more likely that the Jewish community started that custom and gave it currency probably with the intent and object of hurling ridicule upon Hazrat Essa (alaihis salaam). Yet it is amazing that the custom which the Jews initiated to disparage Hazrat Essa (alaihis salaam) was not only accepted by the Christians with cold calmness, but they also joined in the celebration and helped spread the custom. May be the Christian folks were unaware of the origin of this custom, and may be they began celebrating it without giving it much thought in a vacant absent-minded manner. Yet the approach of the Christians and their mental outlook concerning such matters is rather odd, to say the least. As a general rule, the cross upon which Hazrat Eesa was crucified in their opinion should have acquired a hate-worthy status in their eyes, because it was employed as a means of torturing and ridiculing Hazrat Masih (Alaihis Salam). But amazingly, they declared it sacred and today it is the holiest symbol of the Christian faith.
However, one thing emerges as a certainty from the above mentioned details. Regardless of whether the custom is associated with the goddess Venus, or began as a reaction to pranks playing prowess of Nature, or in memory of hurling insults at Hazrat Masih (alaihis salaam), its origin is despicable. It is rooted in idolatry, superstition, or a rude and insolent concept of ridiculing a prophet of God. According to the Muslims it consists of the following worst sins:
1) to lie
2) to deceive
3) to inflict pain upon others
4) to celebrate the memory of an incident the origin of which is idolatry, or superstition, or an insulting and a`rude joke against a messenger of God.
Now the Muslims must decide for themselves whether this custom is worth celebrating in the Muslim society? Should it be adopted and given prevalence here?
Thank Allah that in our society this custom of April fool is not celebrated much. Yet we still hear about some incidences of people celebrating it. Without thinking or being aware of its origin some people participate in it. If they seriously reflect upon its reality, its origins and its results, then surely, Insha allah, they will realize the importance of avoiding it.
14 shawwal 1414 AH
27 March 1994
Indeed Allah – Subhanahu wa Ta’ala- has commanded in His Book to be truthful and honest. He ordered that one should adhere to truthful people.
Allaah Ta’ala said, “O you who have believed, fear Allah and be with those who are true.” [Surah Tawbah: 119]
The Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) prohibited lying and regarded it as being from the major sins.
He (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) said, “And beware of lying, indeed lying leads to evil deeds. A man continues to lie and is not careful about lying until he is written with Allaah as a liar.” [Collected by Bukhari and Muslim]
Therefore, if this is the case, then it is obligatory upon the Muslim that he fear Allah concerning himself, and adhere to the command of his Lord. The Muslim should obey Allaah’s Messenger -(sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) and he should indeed warn against lying, since lying is prohibited in all its colours and forms. The severity of its prohibition increases if it is done to make people laugh.
What we know about this matter [April Fool’s Day] which…has become widespread amongst the Muslims in recent times, is that regretfully the source of this is the Jews and the Christians, and the lands of the west and the east from all of these people together. Indeed they lie like this to make the people laugh, or so that the people remember the one who lies, and that he becomes famous by that lying, and that he is written in to the world of celebrities.
As for us, the Muslims, then the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) said, “Woe to the man who lies to make the people laugh, woe to him, woe to him.”
It is obligatory upon all of us that to be wary of this lying. This issue…is concerning lying on April Fool’s Day (the 1st of April) and it is prohibited, due to two points:
The first is that it is lying and we have all heard the statement of the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) when he said, “And beware of lying, indeed lying leads to evil deeds, and indeed evil deeds lead to the Fire. A man continues to lie and is not careful about lying until he is written with Allaah as a liar.” [Collected by Bukhari and Muslim]
So this is one matter.
The second matter is that the seriousness of the forbiddance of lying and the reason for its prohibition, in addition to it being principally prohibited is that it is a matter of imitating the kuffar (non-Muslims). These non-Muslims lie and they carry out such false matters, and perhaps they bring a great lie, and mention a great calamity, which they circulate and propagate especially using modern day media. This news spreads from the east to the west and it terrifies a lot, then later on it becomes known that there was no basis for that news.
Likewise, a Muslim lies to frighten his brother Muslim and causes him to become scared and due to that he becomes terrified, and perhaps he might even become afflicted with an illness.
For example it is said to him, that such and such died from those who are beloved to you like a father, brother, son or daughter, or like if someone says your house has been robbed, or your house has burnt down, etc. from these great matters, which probably cause a person to lose his mind and intellect. Perhaps he becomes sick, then what occurs from this lie is the responsibility of the liar.
So this lying done on April Fool’s Day is even more prohibited due to the great evil which involves imitating the kuffar in this aspect.
Therefore, it is obligatory upon the Muslims to strictly warn against lying, and not to take the disbelieving enemies of Allah has an example, indeed Allaah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala ordered them to be with the truthful.
Allah said, “O you who have believed, fear Allah and be with those who are true.” [Surah Tawbah: 119]
The Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) said, “The Muslim is he from whom the Muslims are secure from his tongue and hand.”
If a person lies to frighten the people then the Muslims are not secure from his tongue.
I ask Allah that He grant us all the understanding of the Deen and insight into it, and to follow the Messenger of Allaah (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) and be cautious of imitating the disbelievers from those of the east and the west, and to be cautious of following the ways of the Jews and the Christians. This is what the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) informed us about, so it is not something strange that will occur in the Ummah of Islam. They will take the Jews and the Christians as examples, and follow them identically, and they will walk behind them hand span for hand span, and forearm by forearm even if they were to enter a lizard’s hole we would enter into it.
I ask Allah that He grant all of us the following of Allaah’s messenger and to be cautious of what our Lord – Tabarak wa Ta’ala is displeased with, and that is by being away from these things and not to resemble the enemies of Allaah, the disbelievers. That we adhere to the path of Islam which is correct, and the straight way of Allaah, indeed He is The Bestower of Goodness, The Generous.
May Allah send Praise, Peace and bless His slave and His Messenger, our Prophet Muhammad and upon his Family, his Companions and those who follow him in goodness.