Not seeing the forest for the trees
If you live in Pakistan and do online shopping, there is no way you have missed this. In the last few years Pakistanis have seen a rise in online and brick-and-mortar outlets offering crazy sales similar to what you see in the US following the thanks-giving holiday. Nobody minds a great sale however a vast majority of folk are having issues with the name.
I, as any other sincere Muslim, would never be okay with any negative association with the blessed day of Friday. However, I feel many are not seeing the forest for the trees. We, the Pakistani Muslim consumers, are putting far too much emphasis only one aspect and missing the bigger picture completely which is a far graver problem.
What the outrage seems to be about
I believe much of the outrage I see is because black is considered either a color of evil, of mourning, or of something ‘manhoos’ (ominous). We Muslims obviously do not want this association to be made with the blessed day. However, please correct me if I am wrong but I feel that this association of the color black with only negative characteristics, and the belief that there is something inherently wrong with some colors, is cultural, imported and is not from Islam.
Christians wear black on their funerals and black cats are considered bad luck or evil because of association with witchcraft. Noticed those black rags hanging on the back of some cars ? Do black rags have some magical ability to ward off evil? Shirk. Inherent connotations associated with the color black also form the foundation of racism where white is considered pure and superior whereas black is impure and inferior.
On the other hand, the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ chose to wear a black turban when he entered Mecca after its conquest. Certainly a joyous occasion for Muslims.
Jabir ibn Abdullah Narrated: RasulAllah (ﷺ) entered Mecca. Qutaybah stated that he entered Mecca in the Year of Victory, wearing a black turban, but not wearing the Ihram. -Sahih Muslim
Narrated Aisha, Ummul Mu’minin: I made a black cloak for the Prophet (ﷺ) and he put it on; but when he sweated in it and noticed the odor of the wool, he threw it away. The narrator said: I think he said: He liked good smell. -Sunan Abi Dawud
RasulAllah (ﷺ) and the Muslim army had a black flag. The flag of the army of Imam Mehdi will be black. The cloth of the Kaaba, the Kiswah, has been green, red and white even after the advent of Islam but has been black ever since the time of the Abbasids.
If anything, black has been associated with modesty, hence the color of the burqa. (Side note: Some folks may associate the black of the burka with oppression, but who cares what they think.)
To me at least, it is sufficiently clear that in Islam colors, especially black, has no inherent connotations. Colors are colors. End of story. Allah knows best.
What the outrage should be about
The fact that we are eager to follow the west in their national, cultural and religious tradition should trouble us far more. Calling it white Friday (I also saw a Golden Friday) doesn’t change the fact that we are emulating a phenomenon deeply rooted in American culture. This sale takes place following ‘Thanks Giving’, which is a US national holiday and not a religious one. The sale kicks off the holiday season where people buy stuff for themselves and others for Christmas roughly a month away. What do either of these two occasions have anything to do with us?
Pakistani businesses promoting these sales are unable to see their own double-standards and hypocrisy: Unnecessarily emulating and promoting an American cultural phenomenon with zeal and on the other hand debating how it should be white and not black because Fridays are never black. Am I the only one who finds this hypocritical ?
Dear businesses: Stop trying to hide your blind following of the west with a veil of religiosity. If you want to hold massive sales like the ones you are doing now, do that before Eid. Do that during Ramadan so people can shop for their loved ones with ease. But wait, doesn’t another segment of our society hoard their stock during and before Ramadan resulting in a price hike every year? I hope I have made it sufficiently clear as to where our outrage should be directed at.
Finally, there needs to be some introspection by the consumer. Watch how folks behave at black Friday sales in the US. So what if you don’t get that towel set with a 60% discount? So what if you don’t get that new TV when you have the one from last year? Fighting with your fellow human over a bunch of toilet rolls? Seriously?
A closer look at home shows us what happens when we emulate others. Utter shamelessness, greed, vanity, selfishness, and lack of dignity.
I sometimes give some milk and food to a bunch of stray cats that hangout outside my window. I have noticed numerous times how patiently other cats wait for their turn when one of them is eating from the bowl. Often, the bigger cat takes a bite and then backs off letting the smaller kittens eat and joins in later. This may indeed not be typical cat or animal behavior but it does show that we humans can either be higher than angels when we are able to rein-in our nafs or lower than animals when we let our animal instincts get a better of us.
May Allah SWT help us recognize and see the big picture and help us address graver issues within ourselves as opposed to being distracted by what just may be inconsequentials by the shaitan.
The author is not an Alim or a scholar of Islam. Just a concerned individual trying to navigate the times.