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CHRISTMAS

Treating Christmas with Respect

by Abdul Malik Mujahid

Christmas is an annual Christian religious holiday commemorating the birth of Prophet Jesus, peace be upon him. For many Muslims who even do not celebrate the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, it becomes an issue of what stand they should take.

There have been a number of legitimate criticisms of the holiday from Muslims and non-Muslims based on theological and cultural considerations. However, this cannot be used to disregard the holiday as merely an exercise in ancient pagan practices, for instance, or excessive consumerism. Muslims have to remember that for practicing Christians, Christmas really is about Jesus.

Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, was so accommodating of Christians that according to the two earliest Islamic historians, Ibn e Saad and Ibn Hisham, the Prophet even allowed a delegation of 60 Byzantine Christians from Najran in Yemen to worship in his own mosque in Madinah. Lead by their bishop (Usquf), they had come to discuss a number of issues with him. When time of their prayer came, they asked the Prophet's permission to perform this in the mosque. He answered, "conduct your service here in the mosque. It is a place consecrated to God."

God expects us to stay away from mocking the religious beliefs of others, no matter how much we disagree with them. He says in the Quran: "And insult not those whom they (disbelievers) worship besides God, lest they insult God wrongfully without knowledge. Thus We have made fair-seeming to each people its own doings; then to their Lord is their return and He shall then inform them of all that they used to do" (Quran, 6:108).

We also have to remember that even if for many nominal Christians, the celebration is not really about participating in religious traditions, Christmas is a time for families to get together. In a number of cases it is the only time of year families get together, either because family members are scattered in different parts of the country or the world, because of communication and relationship problems, or because in America today, the family unit is becoming weaker and weaker.

Christmas is a great time to relate to our neighbors. We should not forget though, that "relating" does not mean "preaching". Dawa cannot be made in a rude manner. Allah says in the Quran: "Invite (all) to the Way of your Lord with wisdom and beautiful advice, and reason with them by ways that are the best and most gracious: because your Lord knows best, (those) who have strayed from His Path, and those who receive guidance " (Quran, 16:125).

In particular, when dealing with Jews and Christians, Allah says: "Do not argue with the People of the Book unless it is in the politest manner, except for those of them who do wrong. Say: 'We believe in what has been sent down to us and what has been sent down to you. Our God and your God is [the same] One, and we are Muslims before Him'" (Quran, 29:46).

This may not be an occasion to emphasis the differences as much as the commonality of our beliefs, unless someone is really asking you about them.

A starting point for a discussion about Christmas could be the Islamic belief in all Books revealed by Allah and all Prophets sent by Him. In this discussion, special emphasis could be made on Prophet Jesus. Non-Muslims are often surprised to discover that Muslims also believe in this noble Prophet and his great mother Mary (peace be upon her).

Remember that respect does not mean compromise. This article is not asking you to compromise anything. You have freedom of religion given by God to believe in what you believe in. But in a world where conflict is increasing, a Muslim should be a bridge- builder and a peacemaker. It was due to the Muslim practice of Islamic ideals of respect and tolerance that the key of the holiest Christian Shrine in Jerusalem, the church of the Holy Sepulcher, remains entrusted with a Muslim family, as it has been for over 1400 years.

These are the lessons which need to be learned by those extremists who attack Christians during their worship in Nigeria and those extremists who burn Masjids in the USA.



Your Comments

A.Aboobajer Sait., Mysore - wrote on 12/27/2011 11:07:47 AM
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Comment: @Abdul Malik Mujahid: Please mention the verification of the authenticity of the hadeeth that you have quoted from Islamic historians Ibn e Saad and Ibn Hisham.


A MUSLIM, LONDON - wrote on 12/23/2011 10:39:59 AM
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Comment: VERY GOOD IT IS PURE GENIUS :]


Sheikh Abduragmaan Alexander, Cape Town, South Africa - wrote on 12/23/2011 1:24:54 AM
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Comment: Masha-Allah. What an excellent article. Yes, I fully agree that in this ever-increasing hostile world, Muslims should be in the front to build bridges and extend their hand of friendship. The Qur'an and Ahadith abound in the importance of Tollerence and Respect for others, which will bring about peacefull and harmonious co-existence. May Allah reward and bless you and your loved ones and crown your efforts with resounding success, Ameen. Sheikh Abduragmaan Alexander Imam: Masjidul Quds, Gatesville, Cape Town, South Africa


Amir Talukdar, Mumbai, India - wrote on 12/22/2011 11:44:43 PM
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Comment: I totally agree with the article. We have so less time in our life for love and compassion how can we find time to hate and blaspheme. Being a true Muslim we should love all of humanity irrespective of their country, caste or creed. Yes there is provision to fight but it is to uphold the truth, peace and justice for humanity. Also respecting humans and their religion should no way be taken as compromising and accommodating false dogmas, practices and ways of life.


Mohammad Ali Rahman, - wrote on 12/22/2011 2:52:52 AM
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Comment: To "A Christian" Brother who "does not want to be killed". Dear brother, your comment is well taken. However, i believe such comments, like yours, should encourage dialogue instead of impoulsive reactions. Hence this is what i have to say with all due respect. The point of discussion in the article is basic philosophy and belief while what you refer to, as true or false as it may be, is an event, an incidence, based on the prevailing circumstances. If we follow your logic, then we have many examples where muslims have killed muslims and christians have killed christians and jews have killed jews. In such situations, how would you define of lable good or bad based on religion. The message in Islam is clear and that is, tolerance and co-existence. There is special emphasis on "the people of book". Hence, the event, if as true as stated by you, regarding killings, is equally unacceptable at this end as it may be at the end of a christian. If we refer to the basic philosophy and concept, i am a muslim and belong to a religion which ordains me to respect and love. Hence i send my prayers and love to you and all your loved ones. May you be blessed. Amen


Roger Colclough, Dimbulah - wrote on 12/18/2011 4:10:53 AM
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Comment: Many of us are born into a faith and have little choice in our spiritual path. I have faith in the existence of a unified 'creative principal' whether God or Allah. Unfortunately I must follow my own search as I see much hate and discord amongst the major religions. Would it not be beautiful if we could all be brothers and sisters regardless of our differing beliefs. I have utter faith that the Creator would cherish all who treat others with respect. Peace to all


Chuck"Jahan Abdul_Muid" , Silver Spring - wrote on 12/17/2011 1:41:28 PM
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Comment: This is an excellent article. I am a 41 year-old who is studying Islam and will most likely revert very soon. I have run the gamut of different faiths and philosophies. Islam seems to be the only one that offers me any peace. I am daily learning more and more. I do believe that Christmas should be respected by Muslims. I believe Muslims should give their Christian friends gifts during this time as well. It would be a beautiful world if Christians and Jews purchased Muslims prayer caps and prayer rugs for Ramadan and Jews received and gave gifts during the Festival of Lights. If we respected and participated in each others' respective holidays perhaps misunderstanding and bloodshed would soon end.


tahir, UK - wrote on 12/3/2011 3:43:05 AM
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Comment: assalamu alaykum, i am pleased that this article was made as it teaches respect in an islamic manner. I was not aware that the prophet (salalaahu alaihi wasallim) allowed chrsitians to pray in the masjid. i learnt something new.


.Debbie Al-Harbi, Chelmsford - wrote on 4/13/2011 10:12:33 PM
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Comment: I am a revert and I think all of us the people of the book should be respectful of one anothers religion because we are all praying to Allah who is God and we pray to the same God although there are differences in the religions we all strive to be good,kind,love thy neighbor as thyself. There is good and bad in every group.no one is perfect. They believe there religion is the right one. they are not being bad. They like us believe our religion is the right and best one. Islam,Muslims should set the example and be considerate of others of different faiths. Mohammad taught peace,love of God who is Allah,and how can you be Muslim and at the same time hate others. because they are not Muslim..fee aman Allah,Sister Debbie


.Debbie Al-Harbi, Chelmsford - wrote on 4/13/2011 10:11:44 PM
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Comment: I am a revert and I think all of us the people of the book should be respectful of one anothers religion because we are all praying to Allah who is God and we pray to the same God although there are differences in the religions we all strive to be good,kind,love thy neighbor as thyself. There is good and bad in every group.no one is perfect. They believe there religion is the right one. they are not being bad. They like us believe our religion is the right and best one. Islam,Muslims should set the example and be considerate of others of different faiths. Mohammad taught peace,love of God who is Allah,and how can you be Muslim and at the same time hate others. because they are not Muslim..fee aman Allah,Sister Debbie


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