This post covers a few issues to do with the whole Christmas topic. First, as Muslims, is it OK to partake with the festivities to some capacity?
First off, as humans, we can do whatever we like. We all know this. But there are somethings that are good and are to be encouraged, and others that are bad and to be discouraged. However, as Muslims – that is, to be (good) Muslims – surely, there are certain parameters that govern these moral notions? We are, for instance, judged by Allah (Most High) according to our right conduct and wrong conduct and things inbetween.
So, coming right to it: Can we, as Muslims, partake with the Christmas festivities?
الحمد لله والصلاة والسلام على رسول الله
All praise is due to ALLAH and peace and blessing upon His Messenger
بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
In the Name of ALLAH, The Most Gracious, The Most Merciful
After seeking advice, face-to-face, with a sheikh I know to be knowledgable in matters of deen, he explained the following:
a) Your lust, ambition, desire actually has more power than shaytaan to affect you. Shaytaan only whispers (‘wis-was’), but has no real power over you. So we must first, question our desires and opinions.
b) To be a sincere slave to our Master (ALLAH, Most Exalted) was always the jihad (struggle for ALLAH [God]) of the prophets – which is a sign of our submission, our sujuud to His Way. So, we must ask, how are we trying to devote ourselves to Him, alone?
Even Junayd al Baghdadi said (paraphrase): ‘All roads are closed. But Prophet Muhammad’s (peace be upon him) road is open.’
So, we ought to consider how the Prophet, peace be upon him, did not go down a road that may lead us astray from the straight path (i.e. by NOT partaking in the Christians’ (alleged) day for ‘Isa, peace be upon him).
c) Consider the plight of many Muslims nowadays. The story of the bus no 35 and the bus no 53, comes to mind (click on the link to find out more).
d) Unawareness (i.e. ghafla) – heedlessness – leads to shirk! Without towfiq (Specific guidance from ALLAH, Most High) we are nothing.
See the Qur’an, surah Baqarah, 2:253:
“Those messengers – some of them We caused to exceed others. Among them were those to whom ALLAH spoke, and He raised some of them in degree. And We gave Jesus, the Son of Mary, clear proofs, and We supported him with the Pure Spirit. If ALLAH had willed, those [generations] succeeding them would not have fought each other after the clear proofs had come to them. But they differed, and some of them believed and some of them disbelieved. And if ALLAH had willed, they would not have fought each other, but ALLAH does what He intends.”
That is, the way of the Christians is a test on themselves – since ‘clear proofs’ came to them – but they – the Christians – are also a test on us. So if we partake in their ways (which have been proven false), what does this say about us?
e) Amongst the prophets, there was always difficulties (i.e. tests), like with Musa, Muhammad and ‘Isa (peace be upon them all).
See surah al-Kahf 18: v 1-8:
- [All] praise is [due] to ALLAH , who has sent down upon His Servant the Book and has not made therein any deviance.
- [He has made it] straight, to warn of severe punishment from Him and to give good tidings to the believers who do righteous deeds that they will have a good reward
- In which they will remain forever
- And to warn those who say, ” ALLAH has taken a son.”
- They have no knowledge of it, nor had their fathers. Grave is the word that comes out of their mouths; they speak not except a lie.
- Then perhaps you would kill yourself through grief over them, [O Muhammad], if they do not believe in this message, [and] out of sorrow.
- Indeed, We have made that which is on the earth adornment for it that We may test them [as to] which of them is best in deed.
- And indeed, We will make that which is upon it [into] a barren ground.“
So, the ayah is telling us to avoid this clear falshood (i.e. a lie) as it is a grave sin (of shirk) for yourselves and your families – that is, save yourselves from the hellfire. The verse tells us to call the people (instead of to this lie) to what is right: this is a good sign of sincerity to ALLAH.
‘Please the people’ or ‘please ALLAH, subhana wa ta’ala’?
f) Our problem is knowledge or a lack thereof – and then what to do with that knowledge. So, first, gain knowledge. And knowledge means we comprehend the priorities of our deen; we must ensure we know our Aqeedah (first principles) as a first priority (Click HERE to comprehend the significance of Aqeedah). To be a scholar, we must first ‘Fear ALLAH’ (i.e. have ‘taqwa’).
Abdullah ibn Masud once said (paraphrase):’If you see a man who has fear of ALLAH, call him someone knowledgable [i.e. a scholar]’. That is to say, this is the minimum level of being a scholar (or someone knowledgable): to Fear ALLAH.
Imam al-Jawzi said (paraphrase): ‘People of that time (the first generation) had more knowledge of ALLAH subhana wa ta’ala – but also had more fear [and love] of ALLAH.’
Nowadays, we seem to have lost all fear of ALLAH and prefer to do as we please. It is a whim of ours to partake with the festivities when we ought to – at the very least – be a little bit more cautious.
2] What is the false tradition of Christmas?
And then when we research Christmas, we discover its pagan roots. If you are a Christian and you want to partake in your own traditions, well that is the Christians’ perogative and it is not for a Muslim to decide the practice of another (Christian) person. Obviously.
“To you, your religion; to me, mine.” (Qur’an, 109:6.)
However, I would have thought the pagan associations of Christmas to be troubling for people interested in Truth and ought to be even more of a reason, for Muslims, not to partake with it – and this despite the fact that it is a Christian tradition! (And we must note, here, the difference between ‘Christian’ to mean the true religion revealed to ‘Isa (peace be upon him) – that is to say ‘Islam’ – and ‘Christian’ to mean the traditions of the current Christians; there is a massive difference. See HERE for more on that topic.) The warning here for Muslims is not to repeat the mistake of the Christians: we are Muslims i.e. submitters to Allah’s Deen as revealed to the Last Prophet (peace be upon him) and not submitters to the traditions of current Muslims (many of whom enjoy very imaginative opinions about the deen, which is often nothing to do with the religion of the Prophet himself (peace be upon him). (See HERE to understand what is a Person of Opinion and HERE to see how following our opinions with matters to do with Deen is a dangerous thing to do for our souls.)
The Hidden History of Christmas:
Drunken, Pagan History of Christmas:
Vikings and Christmas:
‘Nuff said, right? Er… Nope.
3] The Muslim Christmas Tree
Excerpt: “When I was growing up, I always wanted a Christmas tree in our family home but unfortunately for me, this was an idea my parents staunchly resisted. Once, I even offered to make a homemade one but my parents wouldn’t entertain the idea because “we were Muslim.”
We weren’t very strict Muslims, but we were practicing, and a Christmas tree was seen as a contradiction to our religious values back then. I wasn’t alone either; most of my Muslim friends have a similar story to tell. Fast forward years later, and the same parents are now gifting Christmas presents to their grandchildren.” LEARN MORE >
Al-Muwahideen Al-Islam COMMENT: This article (above) is good in identifying a more plausible alternative to the traditional pagan/Christian idea of the Fir Tree to be the best fit for a Christmas tree. That it ought, really, to be a date palm tree is intriguing. But actually, this is mere sophistry. If this is used to justify that we keep the notion of a Christmas tree, we haven’t really addressed the problem; the issue pointed out above, about the relationship between a (known) false tradition and Islam, still stands.
Moreover, the anecdotal nature of the article is sociologically interesting, but says nothing about the rightness or the wrongness in the action itself. Indeed, the implication of a ‘morality based on experience’ is very frustrating – as 1) it mirrors the incorrect, non-Muslim way of ‘doing morality’ – and 2) because we are witness to practicing Muslims spouting ideas contrary to Islam (i.e. specifically ‘don’t worry about partaking in Christmas’) and claiming them not only to be ‘Islamically fine’ – but for one to even contemplate ‘the probability of its incompatibility with Islam’ as being somehow incoherently weird! Well, this is a bigger problem.
The default position for Muslims ought to be, at best: ‘Doing Christmas as a Muslim is pretty problematic.’
4] Leave the People of the Book, alone.
“The fact that the prophet didn’t question the validity of the Jews claim that they were fasting on day Moses saved his people from Pharaoh shows us the we shouldn’t question the celebration of Jesus’s birth. It is well known that this sort of history isnt an accurate science. the amount of changes to the Jewish calendar make it impossible to know with a great deal of accuracy Even the date of the prophets birth peace be upon him is not certain. To dismiss Christmas as a pagan festival and that true Christianity only existed at the time of the prophet peace be upon him is blatantly untrue, The establishment of the 25th December was established a good two three hundred years before our prophet. Those who say the bible refers to “the Shepard watched their sheep by night” and claim it would be impossible for shepherds to watch the sheep in December are just wrong. There is a good point that we make that according to the quran Jesus was born under a palm tree and ripe dates fell to Maryam. So according to normal proceedings that should be in late summer. But we must also remember that Maryam alay hi salaam was not a normal woman and the Quran tells us she received fruits even when in a locked room. The appearance of a spring under the palm tree tells us this was a miraculous event. therefore it could have happened at any time of the year. but all this is beside the point really . In the absence of an accurate date the early church appointed a day to celebrate , for us to pontificate about this being a pagan innovation i feel invalidates the certain status the Quran gives to the Christian religion.” By Abdul Kareem C Stone
Al-Muwahideen Al-Islam COMMENT: What I take from this is as follows:
The notion that the tradition that became the Christian tradition (from pagan roots, or not, or both) is irrelevant, given that by the time of our prophet (peace be upon him), the Christians were protected as ‘People of the Book’. Their traditions need to be respected – not as true – but because the Qur’anic tone, safeguards it. Yes, to a certain extent we should leave the People of the Book alone.
So, overall? Yes and no. Yes – in that – “to you, your religion; to me, mine” (Qur’an 109: 6) as already stated, above – yes, this is true, no doubt. But no, in that we ought to be free to critique it (the allegedly false tradition) when discussing the historicity of its customs (in order to comprehend the truth) – so long as it does not come to needless dispute and outright hatred (i.e. in a polite way). And no, if it means that we as Muslims find ourselves, justifying our partaking in false religious celebrations. Surely, this is the point of the discussion: to demarcate the false from the true; the non-Islam from Islam.
- And to warn those who say, ”ALLAH has taken a son.”
- They have no knowledge of it, nor had their fathers. Grave is the word that comes out of their mouths; they speak not except a lie.
(surah al-Kahf 18: v 4-5)
5] Sheikh Assim al Hakeem: Saying, ‘Merry Christmas,’ is a sin
6] Sheikh Suhaib Webb and the European Fatwa Council
“The European Fatwa Council; made up of 20 of the worlds greatest Muslim Jurists, stated that it is permissible to greet people on these days (exchange gifts even) as long as it does not involve approving any creedal differences between us, or open evil (drinking and so on). In other words, a simple happy holidays is not a sin or going to take that person out of Islam. It is reported with authentic chains that Ali (ra) celebrated the Persian New Year, even eating ice cream with Imam Abu Hanifa’s relative. Many of the fatwa quoted by sincere folks are rooted in an age of empire and war (the crusades) or a social reality that does not fit ours in the West. Most importantly, a person should ask those who use words like “haram” “kufur” “Halal” and “encouraged” about their religious training. Yelling and over blown emotionalism does not equal training and scholarship. Allah knows best”
Al-Muwahideen Al-Islam COMMENT:
Is the comparison (that is to say, the religious significance) of the Persian New Year equivalent to Christmas? Probably not.
Is the age of neo-empires and neo-crusades against Islam and Muslim-lands under the guise of a ‘war on terror’ (and its associated struggle for power and resources) nowadays a social reality that does not fit ours? Something to ponder…
“Yelling and over blown emotionalism does not equal training and scholarship.” Agreed.
7] Sheikh Mohammad Danniel’s response to Sheikh Suhaib Webb
Excerpt: “Analysis of the Sanad (chain of transmission)
Every novice student of Usool al-Hadith (Principles of Hadith) learns that there are two main reasons that cause a narration to be rejected and they are:
The Saqt (break/gap) in the Sanad (chain of narration)
The Tayn (aspersion) regarding the narrator of the hadith.
With that in mind, if we look at this narration we find that it contains numerous defects that encompasses both of the criteria above.
Saqt (break in the sanad)
The clearest defect is the clear break in the Sanad between Imam al-Dhahabi and Mukaram al-Qadi who passed away at least 325 years before Imam al-Dhahabi was born…
…Tayn (aspersion) regarding the narrator of the hadith
From the beginning of this Sanad we find that the narrator is Ismail ibn Hamad ibn Abu Hanifah (RA) and he is regarded as ‘weak’ and ‘someone who cannot be trusted’ owing to some of his actions and statement.” LEARN MORE >
Further comments can be found in Ummah Forum
8] Sheikh Bin Bayyah’s fatwa on Muslims congratulating non-Muslims on their holidays
Excerpt: “…What is the position of Muslims in relation to non-Muslims who are peaceful with them, do not sow enmity against them, do not fight them in their religion, and have not driven them out of their homes nor have supported ones who try to do so?
The Quran has established a basis for the relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims in two verses from the Book of God the Exalted, which were revealed in relation to polytheists:
“God does not forbid you to deal kindly and justly with anyone who has not fought you for your faith or driven you out of your homes: God loves the just. But God forbids you to take as allies those who have fought against you for your faith, driven you out of your homes, and helped others to drive you out: any of you who take them as allies will truly be wrongdoers.” [Qur’an 60:8-9]
So the two verses distinguished between those who are peaceful with Muslims and those who are not…
Moreover, the permissibility of congratulating non-Muslims on their holidays is more confirmed in the case that they also congratulate Muslims on Islamic holidays. We have been commanded to return good with good, and to respond to a greeting with one that is better than it, or at least the same as it. The Exalted said:“But [even in battle] when you [believers] are offered a greeting, respond with a better one, or at least return it.” [4:86]
So it is not befitting for a Muslim to be less generous or have a lower status of good character than others. A Muslim is supposed to be the one who is most kind and having the noblest character…
The Prophet ﷺ had a noble character and a generous in relationship with the polytheists of Quraysh despite their harm towards him and gathering against him and his companions.
[Lastly] the usual words used to congratulate during these occasions do not entail acceptance or adopting of non-Muslim creed. They are simply words of courtesy that are customary during these occasions. There is also no deterrent from accepting gifts from them and rewarding them with gifts in return, because the Prophet ﷺ accepted gifts from non-Muslims, with the condition that these gifts are not that which would be impermissible for a Muslim, such as alcohol or swine meat.
[It should be mentioned] that we are not for Muslims celebrating the religious holidays of polytheists or People of the Book. We see some heedless Muslims celebrating Christmas the same way they celebrate Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Ad’ha, or even more. This is not permissible because we have our religious holidays and they have their religious holidays. But we do not see harm in congratulating people on their religious holidays for those who have social relationships with them. LEARN MORE >
9] Dr Mohammad Ghilan response to Sheikh Bin Bayyah’s fatwa
Excerpt: “…Some Muslims find it sad that such a fatwa is needed, claiming that it is a “small issue” and we have “bigger issues” to deal with. This is not to mention the discontentment of others who found it troubling that we need a fatwa to “be nice.”
What many have missed is that a fatwa decreeing it permissible to congratulate non-Muslims on their religious holidays is not about giving Muslims permission to practice basic human decency or to be nice. It is an evaluation of an action against the core values of Islam. It may outwardly seem to be a “small issue”, but it is on these small issues that principles at play become evident…
…Imagine you decide to open up a clothing store as a new business in which you have put all your life’s savings and knowledge into. On opening day you have family congratulate you. Rightfully, you would expect your best friend to also come and congratulate on the big event. A year later your best friend also decides to open up a store. It naturally follows that you also are expected to come on opening day and congratulate them. It is the Golden Rule in action: do unto others as you want done unto you.
However, what if your best friend’s store happened to be in the business of selling pornography and liquor? Would you have the same response as if it was a clothing store? Based on conventional Western “human decency” it would be considered “nice” to congratulate your friend and wish them well and quite rude to not say anything let alone even advise your friend to shut this business down, which in that case would be considered “crossing the line”.
This thought experiment illustrates a point. It is that “being nice” is not really a foundational moral principle. It is a virtue nonetheless, but it is not a moral principle that governs interactions with others. “Being nice” is governed by the individual’s core values, which means there are circumstances when “being nice” is restricted if it contradicts with one’s principles. The fatwa on the permissibility of congratulating non-Muslims on their religious holidays is not a fatwa about “being nice”. It is about whether the current customary convention declaring a particular action as “nice” is congruent with an understanding of an objective source of values, i.e., the Quran and Prophetic Tradition (Sunnah).” LEARN MORE >
10] Mufti Menk on Christmas
And to clarify – not wishing, ‘Merry Christmas,’ does not mean Muslims must insult the Christians. Obviously:
“During the seventeenth century, as now, Christmas was one of the most important dates in the calendar, both as a religious festival and as an important holiday period during which English men and women indulged in a range of traditional pastimes…
…Such long-cherished activities necessarily often led to drunkenness, promiscuity and other forms of excess. In fact the concept of ‘misrule’, or a ritualised reversal of traditional social norms, was an important element of Christmas, and has been viewed by historians as a useful safety-valve for the tensions within English society. It was precisely this face of Christmas, however, that the Puritans of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century England found so objectionable…
…The celebration of Christmas thus became just one facet of a deep religious cleavage within early seventeenth-century England which, by the middle of the century, was to lead to the breakdown of government, civil war and revolution. When the Puritans took control of government in the mid-1640s they made a concerted effort to abolish the Christian festival of Christmas and to outlaw the customs associated with it but the attempt foundered on the deep-rooted popular attachment to these mid-winter rites.” LEARN MORE>
Al-Muwahideen Al-Islam COMMENT: So… what does this say about Muslims wanting to celebrate it?
12] Christians who DON’T celebrate Christmas (United Church of God)
“I soon learned that the Bible didn’t teach Christmas. I also found that its origins have nothing to do with the Bible. It was an important lesson about things I’d long assumed to be true.
Just because some 2 billion people—roughly 1 billion Catholics and another billion in Protestant faiths—observe Christmas, does that make it right? Does it really matter one way or the other?” LEARN MORE >
“I cannot find Christmas in the Bible nor can I find that Jesus Christ told us to observe Christmas. Santa Claus is a lie that some people teach their children every year. For that matter, Christmas is false since it has nothing to do with Christ or His birthday.
“Beyond this, business people, who make most of their income during this time of the year, have increasingly promoted Christmas. Well-meaning people go in debt during Christmas time to give gifts to other people, which in turn motivates other people to give gifts to them. It makes no sense to keep a religious holiday that is not biblical, that Christ never sanctioned, that promotes lying to children, that puts people in debt and that blinds people to what Christ really taught.” LEARN MORE >
Al-Muwahideen Al-Islam COMMENT: So… what does this say about Muslims wanting to celebrate it?
13] END NOTE
In Islam it is forbidden to lie.
“And do not say that of which you have no knowledge.” (Quran 17:36)
Narrated Sufyan ibn Asid al-Hadrami: I heard the Apostle of Allah (peace be upon him) say: It is great treachery that you should tell your brother something and have him believe you when you are lying.
(Sunan of Abu-Dawood – Book 41, Hadith 4953)
Whereas Christmas is a celebration that says it celebrates the birth date of the Prophet ‘Isa, we are not certain this is the case; it focusses on the nativity of his birth, but there are varying depictions of his birth story in the bible, so we are not certain this is the actual case; it entertains the notion of Christmas trees, Santa Claus, and elves making presents – which is clearly a complete fantasy. And we accustom ourselves to partake in the lying to our kids, encouraged by such a celebration. Or at least, we mimic those that follow a tradition based on untruths. Moreover, it is, in any case, a distinctively Christian celebration, so what business is it of ours?
For Muslims, who must tell the truth, we ought to at least keep silent – but certainly do not partake – and at best, avoid. Our celebrations are the Eid – one to mark the end of Hajj (evidenced by the actions of Ibrahim, may peace and blessings be upon him) and the other marks the end of Ramadan; and there is plenty of evidence that the Last Prophet himself celebrated both (peace be upon him). Ours is not based on any need to lie on any level.
Conclusion to the Muslim:
Speak the truth that Islam demands and stop Telling Christmas Tales!
سبحان ربك رب العزة عما يصفون وسلام على المرسلين والحمد لله رب العالمين والصلاة والسلام على رسول الله محمد وعلى اله وصحبه أجمعين
Exalted be your Lord, the Lord of Glory, above what they attribute to Him, and peace be upon the Messengers, and all praise be to ALLAH, the Lord of the Universe. And the peace and blessing upon prophet Mohammed and his relatives and all his companions.