With the ubiquitous decorations, Santa Claus beckoning, and classmates anxiously awaiting their presents, your kids are probably wondering once again: what's the big deal about Christmas?
Some of them may have just accustomed themselves to the yearly celebration. Younger kids may be feeling curious, jealous even, of all of the excitement surrounding the event.
This is why it's critical to share the Islamic perspective on Christmas with your kids. Even if they know what it's about, they may feel left out, pressured, or even confused about it and where they stand as Muslims. Here are some ways to bring it up with them.
1. Call a family meeting
While you can talk about the issue individually, the benefit of getting everyone together is that they can find out how different age groups are handling it. Dealing with Christmas in the office is different from facing it in high school or elementary school.
2. Start with the recitation of the Quran
Begin with a recitation of Surah Al Fatiha, the first chapter of the Quran. Follow it up with a recitation of Surah al-Ikhlas, the 112th chapter of the Quran. Make sure the translations of both are read out loud. You can have each recitation done by a different family member.
3. Get to know the territory
Have everyone share what kids at school, coworkers at the office, or the neighbors have been saying about Christmas. Whether it's plans to go to church for Mass, visiting relatives, or getting lots of gifts under the Christmas tree, get as much information as possible so that each point can be addressed.
4. Discuss Muslim and Christian beliefs about Jesus, peace be upon him.
Knowing these similarities and differences will teach them to respect beliefs different from their own. Ignorance only fuels misunderstanding. It will be good for parents to read our article about similarities and differences in the Christian and Islamic belief in Jesus, peace be upon him.
5. Explain the need for multicultural understanding
The USA is a rich mosaic of colors, cultures and backgrounds. There are more than 80 million people of color in America. There are followers of Native American faiths, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, and Sikhs who live in the US and practice their faith, while the majority of people here are born into the Christian faith. Each religious group has its celebrations and festivals. Just as Christians have their Christmas, for instance, Muslims have their Eids. It's important for Muslims to know about Christmas, just as we expect people of other faiths to know about Eid.
6. Stress the importance of respect for other faiths in Islam
Share how Islam has taught us to respect others' beliefs and faith traditions, emphasizing that disagreement must never amount to disrespect. Use examples from the life of Prophet Muhammed, peace and blessings be upon him, to show how he gave the utmost respect to other religious groups by allowing them to pray in his own mosque and by instituting the freedom of religion and self-governence in the constitution of Madinah.
7. Emphasize the respect for Jesus and all Prophets in Islam
Explain how every Prophet in Islam is treated with dignity and respect. One example is how we say 'peace be upon him' after each of their names. Another is how they are highly praised by God in the Quran. Jesus, peace be upon him, is important because belief in him can serve as a bridge between Muslims and Christians.
8. Talk about gifts and decorations
You can't talk about Christmas without discussing these two elements of the celebration. Don't be surprised if your kids share feelings of longing for presents and pretty decorations. Ask them what would make Eid, their holiday, special for them. Gifts? A trip? This should lead to a lively discussion and great ideas that you can implement next Eid Insha Allah (God willing).
9. Respecting others does not mean compromising your faith
Islam is a unique faith which asks Muslims to believe in all the Prophets, recognize all the Scriptures given to them, respect all other faiths, and not force our faith on anyone else. But at the same time the Prophet Muhammed himself, Allah's peace and blessings be upon him, asked us to be firm about our faith and its practices. Respect for other beliefs never means compromising our faith. God given freedom to practice our religion is also embodied in the constitution of the United States which allows freedom of religion to all citizens. It is in recognition of this freedom and the celebration of diversity in the US that the post office issued the Eid Mubarak stamp as it did for other celebrations.
10. Make the meeting interactive
Family meetings should not be just lectures by an adult. Although the topics for this meeting are all serious, you can turn them into interactive sessions based on the age of the children attending. You may decide to do two meetings instead of one.
11. Putting this all into practice
When we tested this meeting concept and format in our editor's home, it went very well. The youngest participant was eight years old, was the most active and knew most of the stuff, thanks to the other meetings and the Islamic schools he attends. However, the meeting reinforced the messages which we wanted to come across and the evening ended with a storytelling session with all the lights off. It was fun!