Carnival / Immodesty Unmasked

All praise is due to Allah Who has blessed us with a complete way of life and has given us directives on how to maintain firm faith in order to safeguard ourselves from sins.
Islam is a religion of serenity and peace; of good morals and ethics; of sincerity and truthfulness. When the Prophet Muhammad (SA) was given the mantle of prophethood, the world was sunk into the abyss of darkness and rebellion. Besides the small number of those from the Ahlul Kitaab who still remained on truth, most had already forgotten their purpose in creation and were following the temptations of the rebellious Satans. Barbarism and immorality was the order of the day and women were held as objects of material possession and folly. In the midst of such vile and base practices and values, the nuur (light) of revelation and prophethood came with such teachings which illuminated the darkness of ignorance and replaced them with worth and value. The lives of those who truthfully believed and accepted this message brought by the Prophet (SA), were transformed into an embodiment of morals and virtues.

Respected readers, as time advances and the apparent claim of intellect and civilization advance, there is a progressive deterioration of values and morals, as though the age of darkness is again returning at a rapid pace. Man has gone to the moon and has looked into the vastness of the universe, yet, he has not looked at the value of his own body. He has built computers with such capability which may compute tremendous data in nanoseconds, but yet, cannot calculate the worth of life. In an instance, one can know what is happening live, at the other side of the globe, but has spent a lifetime not knowing what is happening to his heart. Therefore, as technology increases, man is becoming more immoral. The season for the moral degeneration has once again returned.

The celebration of Carnival has officially begun, and in February, the events will climax with two days officially given off to engage in immorality and sin.

We need to know about this celebration, it’s origin and how we should respond towards it. The word ‘Carnival’ stems from the word ‘carnevale’ or ‘canboulay’. Regarding the word ‘carnevale’ which means ‘to put away the meat’, it originated from the followers of the Catholic religion in Italy who used to hold a wild costume festival before the first day of Lent – a time when they are not supposed to eat meat. With time, this festival became very popular in Italy and quickly spread to France, Spain and all the Catholic countries in Europe. When the French, Spanish and Portuguese began to take control of the Americas and the islands in the West, they brought with them the festival of Carnival. The celebration then took an African flavour because of the presence of the African slaves in the Caribbean. Parading and moving in circles through villages in costumes and masks, was believed by the Africans, to bring good fortune, to heal problems, and pacify angry relatives who had died and passed into the next world. Carnival traditions also borrow from the African tradition of putting together natural objects (bones, grasses, beads, shells, fabric) to create a piece of sculpture, a mask, or costume — with each object or combination of objects representing a certain idea or spiritual force. Feathers were frequently used by Africans as a symbol of soaring into another world to be reborn and to grow spiritually. Stick fighting, chanting and the beating of drums accompanied the processions.

It has also been mentioned that it stems from ‘Cannes Brulees’ (French for burnt canes). When a fire broke out in the cane fields, the slaves on the surrounding properties were rounded up and marched to the spot accompanied with blowing of horns and hitting of shells. This also would be practiced when there were slave revolts. After the emancipation of slavery, this celebration was called Canboulay, then Carnival, which was mixed with African ideologies and superstitions, and continued as a festival of gathering and singing, dancing, stick fighting, cracking of whips, beating of bamboo and drums, costumes, etc.. The Carnival which is being celebrated in our time has mutated to a more ‘vulgar’ version of the origin celebrations.

As Muslims, we see that this celebration is not part of our religion, but rather has originated from an innovation of the Catholics in Italy. Furthermore, the African slaves imputed into the celebration, aspects of shirk (ascribing partners to Allah), superstitions, and other unlawful practices according to the Shariah of Islam.

Carnival celebrations in our time have taken a new dimension. It is filled with indecency, immorality and immodesty. There is flagrant nakedness and visible insolence in all aspects of its celebration. Shamelessness is the order of the days leading up to its celebration and reaches a peak on the two days given off. During this time there is an increase of adultery, fornication, homosexuality, lesbianism and rape. Statistics have shown that the level of unwanted pregnancy is greatest in the period following Carnival. Likewise, the rate of single parents (father not known) is greatest in the nine months following Carnival. It is also a season for the spreading of AIDS and other venereal diseases. Alcohol and drugs also become rampant in usage during these times, which only promote more crimes and transgression. The lyrics of the songs, calypsos and chutney compositions are vulgar, lewd and disrespectful. People are skimpy dressed. They rove the streets, chanting shameless songs and dancing promiscuously in front of children and strangers alike, a thing which they would ordinarily dislike for themselves and others at other times. It appears as though it is a legal stripping and unveiling of shame and decency.

Islam is not in need of any additions for completion. Allah has made Islam complete, as the Quraan informs us: “This day I have completed for you your religion and have completed for you my favors and I am pleased that Islam be your way of life (Deen).” (5:3) Allah has blessed us with two auspicious and spiritual celebrations – Eid ul Fitr and Eid ul Adhaa. These celebrations are based on becoming closer to Allah, His mercy, His forgiveness and His pleasure. Muslims must submit to these and become contented since to consider that there is a real need for another celebration is to claim the imperfection of Islam. Therefore, to adopt a celebration from another religion or way of life is not permissible.

Part of our religion is modesty and shyness. In a Hadith, Abu Hurairah (RA) narrated that the Messenger of Allah (SA) said: “Faith has over seventy branches or over sixty branches, the most excellent of which is the declaration that there is no God but Allah, and the lowest of which is the removal of what is injurious from the path, and modesty is a branch of faith.” (Muslim)

Salim (RA) reported on the authority of his father that the Prophet (SA) heard a man instructing his brother about modesty. Upon this, the Prophet (SA) remarked: “Modesty is an ingredient of Iman (faith)”. (Muslim)

These Ahadeeth indicate that if a believer does not display modesty in his life, then his faith as a Muslim is lacking. He does not have complete faith.

The Messenger of Allah (SA) also said: “Every deen (religion) has an innate character. The character of Islam is modesty.” (Muslim)

Innate character indicates an integral part of a thing which is one and the same as that thing. Therefore, to be modest is a part of our faith which one cannot do without. The Prophet (SA) has said: “For that person who does not have shame, then let him do whatever he wants.” (Bukhari) Not having shame indicates that he is not displaying the character of a Muslim and can do as he likes. A Muslim on the other hand would indeed consider actions before engaging in them.

Again, the Prophet (SA) emphasised the importance of having a moral and modest disposition. In a narration reported by Imran ibn Husain, he said that the Prophet (SA) said: “Modesty brings forth nothing but goodness. …” (Muslim) It would also be correct to say that immodesty brings forth nothing but evilness. For example, a woman dressing immodestly, like what happens at Carnival, is only opening the doors for molestation, rape and assault. Contrary to this, those who act modestly are shown respect and honour.

Modesty is of such an important part of faith that cannot be put aside even upon trying conditions. Thabit ibn Qays narrated: A woman called Umm Khallad came to the Prophet (SA) while she was veiled. She was searching for her son who had been killed (in the battle). Some of the Companions of the Prophet (SA) said to her: ‘You have come here asking for your son while veiling your face?’ She said: ‘If I am afflicted with the loss of my son, I shall not suffer the loss of my modesty.’ The Apostle of Allah (SA) said: “You will get the reward of two martyrs for your son.” She asked: ‘Why is that so, Apostle of Allah?’ He replied: “Because the people of the Book have killed him.” (Abu Dawud)

During the time of Carnival, the moral fabric of the society is broken down at all levels. Those who conform to the activities of Carnival are actually following the temptations of Satan. The Quraan informs us: “He (the Satan) only commands you with evil and immodesty and that you say concerning Allah that which you do not know.” (2:169) On the other hand, Allah forbids immodesty. Allah says in the Quraan: “Certainly Allah commands you with justice and goodness and He forbids you from Fahshaa (immodesty) and transgression, and He warns you that you may take heed.” (16:9)

The teaching of Islam has made all such actions of Carnival which are immodest or leads to immodesty, Haraam (prohihibited). The Quraan mentions in Surah A’araaf verse 33: “Say, My Lord has made prohibited Fawaahish (all aspects of immodesty), what is open of it and what is hidden.” Likewise, we are commanded not to even come close to it. Allah commands: “Do not come close to Fawaahish, what is open from it and what is hidden.” (6:151) Therefore, everything which leads up to immodest actions would also be forbidden. These would include supporting Carnival financially or by words. Similarly, looking at nakedness on the streets, television, magazines, newspapers, posters, brochures, etc. and listening to music, calypsos, chutney, ex-tempo, de-manche gras, comedy festival, etc. on stage or via the various media will also be in violation of the command of Allah.

A believer should develop a dislike towards sins, and transgression just as he dislikes being thrown in the fire of Jahannam. This brings about a sweetness and pleasure in Imaan (faith). The Prophet (SA) said: “Three (traits), whoever possesses them would experience the sweetness of faith. That person for whom Allah and His messenger is more beloved to him than any other; that person who loves his brother only for the sake of Allah; and that person who dislikes returning to disbelieve (engaging in acts of disobedience/ kufr) just as he dislikes being thrown into the fire.” (Bukhari and Muslim)

The Prophet (SA) has also said: “When anyone of you sees a wrong, then let him change it with his hands; if he is unable, then let him change it by his tongue; if he is unable, then by his heart, and that is the weakest of Imaan.” (Muslim) The term ‘by his heart’ means that he dislikes and feels displeased when he sees a sin being committed, and realises he cannot do anything else to stop it. This condition, the Prophet (SA) referred to as the weakest of faith. How much sin is committed during this time?

The consequence of immodesty is that it draws the punishment of Allah. Let’s consider the incident of the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, who were the first to engage in the heinous and indecent act of homosexuality. The Quraan mentions: “Are you approaching immodesty (homosexuality) such that it has not been preceded with anyone before from the world. Certainly, you approach men with lustful desires instead of women. You are indeed a people who have gone beyond the limits.” (7:80) They even advanced towards the angels who came to Prophet Lut (AS) in the form of men. Allah disgraced them and sent down his punishment. The Quraan mentions: “So when Our command came to pass, We turned their habitations upside down and rained on it stones of hard clay, one over another. Marked from your Lord. And it is not far from the transgressors.” (11:82-83)

On the other hand, the story of Hazrat Yusuf (AS) teaches us that when one controls himself in the face of immodesty, Allah elevates him. He (AS) was tempted and allured into committing Zina by the wife of the Minister. He refused and consequently preferred the prison instead of this immodest act in disobedience to Allah. Allah took him out from the depts of the dungeon to the height of prophethood and power. Allah says: “And thus We gave Yusuf (AS) power in the land. He could settle in it wherever he wished. We extend Our mercy to whomsoever We will, and We do not let the reward of the righteous people to go to waste. And the reward of the Hereafter is surely better for those who believe and constantly observe Taqwa (piety, self restraint).” (12:56-57)

Which example should we follow, the people of Lut (AS) or the example of Yusuf (AS)? We have been given freedom of choice by Allah Ta’aala. On one hand, Allah destroyed the people of Lut and their punishment will continue in the Hereafter, and on the other, He elevated Yusuf (AS) in this world and the Hereafter. We should not consider ourselves immune from the punishment of Allah.

Respected readers, the increase of Faahisha (immodesty) and the propagation of it in our time is a sign from the signs of the approach of the Last Day (Qiyaamah). Among the many signs which have been mentioned from the Ahaadith of the Prophet (SA), which can be related to Carnival and its activities, some are listed as follows.

– Adultery will be prevalent.

– Intoxicants, drinking of wine and alcohol will be common and open.

– Immodesty and lewdness will be prevalent.

– Homosexuality and lesbianism will increase.

– Women will wear garments, yet will appear naked.

– Singing girls will be kept as mistresses.

– Music and musical instruments will become very common.

– Men will dress and resemble women and women will dress and resemble men.

We should reflect and consider which of these do not take place during the Carnival times? In fact, we would all agree that all the above vices and sins take place to a greater extent. These things would definitely take place as they were prophesised by the Prophet (SA). However, we should not be part of these negative portents of the Final Hour.

Respected readers, following Carnival, there would also be a concert which would involve singing, dancing and other indecencies. Muslims must be vigilant and not become entrapped again in another ploy of Satan. Parents must also ensure that their children are not part of such gathering. It is Haraam to take part or support it in any way. Instead, we, along with our families should engage in virtuous and permissible activities. We should also seek forgiveness from Allah for our errors and that he does not punish us for our negligence. The Quraan says: “And those who engaged in immodesty or transgressed their own souls (should) remember Allah and seek his forgiveness for their sins.” (3:135)

Allah Ta’aala also promises goodness for those who abstain: “And that which is with Allah is better and more everlasting for those who believe and upon their Lord they trust. And (the same will be for) those who abstain from great sins and immodesty.” (42:36-37)

We pray that Allah keep us on the light of Imaan and Islam as taught by the Prophet (SA), and that He protect us and our generation from the darkness of sins and immodesty.