Treating Christmas with respect

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.

 

Comments

Assalam u Laikum Warahmatullah wabarakatuhu. May peace mercy and blessing be on all of you. In the above description Abdul Malik Mujahid has picked up some of verses from the Holy Quran to explain clearly that what he thinks is right. But he fails to understand that there are few other verses of The Holy Quran which will not abide by his thinking. The fatwa that Rabia Tariq has provided is extremly true and this Fatwa is Fatwa #83628 on www.Islamweb.net. Every body can read it from there. Abdul Malik Mujahid in his comment has failed to clear for us the real meaning on Christmas. He has hid the real meaning so that his point could not be cross questioned. But in the Fatwa and the comment given by Rabia Tariq it is quite clear to all and I think every human is intelligent enough to judge between right and wrong. " Truth has been made clear from Falsehood", The Holy Quran.

Location

Lahore

All that is provided above is extremly true but we fail to know the fact that in Islam there is a meaning for everything. Just like we are told to refer to others with Salam because there is a meaniing for such a greeting. Other greeting like Hello, Hi don't have any proper meaning and as per the Oxford Dictionary they are nothing but forms of greeting. Likewise we can not get involved in Hindu traditions of Diwali e.t.c beacuse there Idol worshipping is going on. By just saying that it is just a happy moment is not a part of Islam. We have to make sure what is this moment for? Why it is being celebrated? How it is celebrated? so on and so forth. Likewise a true Muslim would not attend Bear parties, alcohol parties by just saying "O' it is just a celebration". Now coming to the point, Christmas every one is aware of people of every religion. But if we see here how many number of people ever try to find out the real meaning of it? Do we actully know which religion celebrates it, whose religion is this culture, what is its background and most importantly why is it celebrated? Not many people try to find out. Infact every religion tries to jump in to it and even Muslims joyfully. Just hold on a moment do these Chistians ever jump in to our Eid-ul-Azha, our Eid-ul-Fitr, our Muharam, our Shab-e-Barat? You know why because they know the verse from the Quran:" If you follow people of a particular religion, i.e The Jews, The pagans e.t.c on the day of Akhira you will be raised from among them". This is a warning to us Muslims too!!!Now coming to the real point actully Christmis is a day Christians celebrate on 25th of December to Acknowledge the Birth of The Christ(Hazrat esa) as son of God. They believe that on this day Allah gave birth to Hazrat Esa (noazubillah) because the real date of Birth of Hazrat Esa is not 25 th December rather birth of some Son of God that these Chrstians believe in( Dr. Zakir Naik Peace Tv). But this fact is unknown to many because Christians are very careful about their religion and would never want to convey the Truth. They would rather like each and every person to do as per they and so come to their religion. As pe Quran"the Jews and Christians would never be satisfied from O' Prophet(pbuh) lest you come to their religion". So if a Muslim says Merry Christmis just like the Christians then He too is Acknowleging the fact that Hazrat Esa is the son of Allah(naozobillah)....Beware!!!

Location

Lahore

*** This response is for Michael ***All religions believe that their truth is the ultimate truth. That is the reason they are different religions. Christianity believes that as well. However, in Islam there is a built in accommodation of other faiths. We believe there is no special God for Muslims and other people. There is only One God who created all. Islam asks its believers to believe in all the Prophets and all the books and respect them despite the fact God has told us that their teachings have been distorted over a period of time.Quran also asks believers to have a special closer relationship with the “people of book.”Islam also makes no different which faith you are in, when it comes to justice, neighborly relations, poverty and social justice. People of all faith are equal when it comes to these important areas.These are the ideals which allowed followers of Islam to develop inclusive, pluralistic societies through out its 1,000 year long history of leading civilization in Baghdad, in Spain, in Timbuktu, in Istanbul and in India where Muslims and non-Muslims together built ideals societies which contributed to human growth and development. Of course ideals are something for us to strive for. Sometimes we are closer to these ideals and some time we fall short. May God forgive our shortcomings when some of us end up hurting others and may He bless us to strive for the best of the ideals which He has given us.

Location

US

In your article you say:"You have freedom of religion given by God to believe in what you believe in."This is a fundamental truth. Yet this truth is not what Islam teaches. For Islam, there is only one religious belief, all other religious beliefs are not accepted as having any real validity equal to Islam.

Location

Birmingham

Relations with non-Muslims is thoroughly explained in Islam via the rights that Allah has set forth for human beings and other living things. The Messenger of Allah said; "Show mercy to those on earth so the One in Heaven will show mercy on you". A bit of study will teach the Muslim how merciful Islam is to all living things. The Messenger of Allah said; "if your neighbor is hungry add water to the soup". He did not specify the belief of the neighbor. Understanding Islam will teach the Muslim how to treat all human beings. Yet, when we begin to 'skate on thin ice' as some Muslims have begun by going deep into "interfaith" activities that often place the Muslim in situations that are questionable Islamically. The Messenger of Allah was the best of all human beings and his treatment of disbelievers is still our guiding principle in relations with non-Muslims and spreading the message of Truth, yet he never, ever, came close to seemingly accept any practices akin to kufr or otherwise. We as Muslims must hate what Allah hates and dissaproves of and love what Allah loves and approves of. This is Wala wa Bara, one of the essential elements of the our belief. There is absolutely no respect for acts related to disbelief. That said, that does not mean being rude or disrespectful. On the contrary, practicing Islam from authentic sources with wisdom, knowledge and "fair preaching" is closer to Islam than what we see today in many instances of "prayer vigils" and the like.It does not matter that x-mas or any other holiday is important to non-Muslims. What is important is treating all human beings with the respect that Allah has granted them in this life, without making them equal in any way, shape or form in our beliefs. The peace we seek is through the submission to Allah and obedience to Him and His Messenger. If we follow authentic sources of knowledge and not do as the disbelievers do by cutting and pasting their religion then we will, Insha Allah be successful in giving the Message to to them, which is part of the mission of being a Muslim, not seeing cooperation to the extent that some people believe we are "cousins" , believing in the same God, so, why become a Muslim.

Location

Dhahran, Saudi Arabia

Great article to discuss at this time of the year, thanks to all that have contributed. Yes, respect does not mean compromise to emulate lessons from the life of great prophets, these creatures respect and do no criticise, they tried to win souls with everything they have including good characters and conduct. It's necessary to be kind and respectful and at the same truthful and faithful. Believer of Jesus christ (AS)should emulate from his life and teaching, so also believer of Prophet Muhammed (SAW) should act according to his teachings. Then there would be no time for all these critiscim about christmas which a lot of them are now money making strategies. Allow our children to know who is this jesus christ be muslim or christian in a non dogmatic manner. It is very important to accomodate, respect and tolerate ourselves especially where we are today without compromising our faith. Every religion preaches "do unto others what you want for yourselves" The two noble prophets in question were too busy helping and saving others than what some believers are doing today. Thank you

Location

St. Louis

I'm glad to see this article and see it make its way around the world.In this day and age there is so much trying to separate us from our Christian and Jewish brothers and sisters.I call them brothers and sisters because they, like us, have the core of their faith focused on the One God. Yes, Christmas is FULL of pagan tradition.Yes, Santa Clause is a fictional character (actually a combination of about a dozen fictional characters and at least 4 real historical figures).Yes, Jesus (AS) was actually born in late April rather than in December.So what?Christians don't use the pagan concepts to worship Pagan dieties. The focal point is the Virgin Birth of Jesus (AS) which we as Muslims also believe in.The secondary focal point is a commemmoration of family and tradition; although for non-Christians in the USA this is the primary focus.It is hard for those outside the USA to comprehend the phenomenon that occurs during the holiday season and how, as Americans, the celebration of Christmas is very different from elsewhere in the world.In the Philippines, for example, where I've been living for a few years, the Christmas celebration is still very pagan and downright creepy at times. It wierds me out in a lot of ways.However, I know that when i return to the USA and go to my parent's house (who are also Muslims) that we'll have our own commemmoration of Christmas along with our Christian family members. We decorate the same tree every year with ornaments which bear Qur'an verses referring to Jesus (AS) and we read the story of Mary (RA) as outlined in the Qur'an. This is one time a year when our Christian friends and family members are willing to hear about Islam through these channels.We don't have piles of gifts under the tree like we did back in the days when we were Christian; we give gifts of food to each other, family, friends and strangers.We don't sing carols or have a nativity scene; but we do keep everything in context.In becoming Muslim, we feel that we became better Christians as we know Jesus (AS) better than ever. Why shouldn't we take a day or two out of our year to acknowledge the truth of Jesus (AS) that we have learned? We take 3 days to recognize Abraham (AS) and almost every day to recognize Muhammad (SAWS). Why can't we take 2 days to acknowledge one of the greatest of all the Prophets? The one who will return to signal the Day or Judgment?The one who will lead us all to perfect Victory against our oppressors?Unity in faith is what will bring more Christians and Jews into the light of Islam; not ridicule and nitpicking.One more thing... I do not say "Merry Christmas" because of the implication of the word Christmas itself; however I do return the greeting with "Happy Holidays."I see no sin in returning a kind greeting with one of equal and sincere strength. I do wish the Christians a happy time during their feast just as I would hope they would wish me a happy time during my own Eids.May Allah guide and guard us all.

Location

Manila, Philippines

"Won’t you agree that respecting what amounts to no more than an accumulation of falsehood, inventions and consumerism mixed with a hint of diluted religion is a huge compromise in itself"? No, in respecting Christmas, the real Christmas, it is celebrating Jesus's birth, and all that the Prophet taught while here on earth. What society and the world does with that (in the material sense, by which the previous writer posted) does not change the real reason and observation of Christmas. If your view of Christmas is based upon the worldly standards of practice then that is your choice, but the true meaning of Christmas is not something to be compromised. Just as in the Muslim tradition of Ramadan, do all Muslims practice fasting and abstaining from alcohal? Since some Muslims don't practice the ways of fasting and abstaining from halal things, do we dismiss the celeveration of Eid or Ramadan? Of course not. We look at the true intent and meaning of Islam and Ramadan, not on what other people do.

Location

Sacramento

Respecting Christmas is a compromise in itselfI agree that the issue is of significant importance to us, and needs to be properly addressed. Around this time of the year at work, if one is a practicing Muslim, quite often he/she is driven to make an awkward statement or act in such a manner to avoid taking part in Christmas office parties, secret Santa presents and all the rest of it. This can be tricky for many of us and in some situations nightmarish.Islam and tolerance Surely it goes without saying that being tolerant and accommodating to others and their beliefs is fundamental to our religion. It was the Muslims who “invented” religious tolerance and put it into practice in the first place, whilst medieval European Christians were notorious for their non-forgiveness and lack of forbearance especially when it comes to faith. This can be easily evidenced from history when you examine (for example) the treaty signed by Omar (RA) for the Christian residents of Jerusalem after it was opened in 638, in comparison to the brutality of Christian crusaders that followed. This Christian brutality was primarily motivated by religious hatred and intolerance. However times have changed now and we as Muslims living in the West today should respect and accommodate others for their beliefs as long as it is mutual and does not involve compromising those of ours. It is part of how we need to promote our religion, and it is perhaps included in the meaning of “the wisdom and the good advice” mentioned in the Quran.How much religion?Now back to commenting on the article. A legitimate question arises here: is the substance of Christmas of a religious nature, as brother Mujahid, the writer of the article, suggests? The answer from experience is an emphatic NO. It is probably safe to say that Christmas is as Christian as Hogmanay and New Year in real life for the majority of people today. So what does Christmas really mean to the vast majority of people here in the West today? The Christmas tree (which is a pagan symbol)? Santa (which is as fictitious as Superman and Cat woman)? Or is it the excessive shopping frantic that proceeds the festive? Where is religion in the midst of all this? And how often do you hear your non-Muslim work colleagues telling you about the position of celebrating the birth of Jesus PBUH in their plan? This is not to mention the timing of the festive, which in a utopian world would only be recognized by Catholic Christians and none else. Even when the story of Jesus according to the Bible is finally mentioned in a random children TV programme, it is often presented in a fairy tale humorous fashion. This is probably because it is often presented by people who don’t even believe it! In short, respecting people for their beliefs is fair enough. But respecting Christmas?!! Hmm, I’m not quite sure what this means. Won’t you agree that respecting what amounts to no more than an accumulation of falsehood, inventions and consumerism mixed with a hint of diluted religion is a huge compromise in itself?Hadeeth Al-MubahalaNow regarding the paragraph where brother Mujahid presents the Mubahala/the intense supplication Hadeeth of the Christian delegation of Najran. This Hadeeth, like many other Hadeeths, should only be presented in its context otherwise it will give a misleading and an unbalanced picture. Brother Mujahid writes in his article “Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, was so accommodating of Christians that ... the Prophet even allowed a delegation of 60 Byzantine Christians from Najran in Yemen to worship in his own mosque in Madinah .. 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”! Well, I can quote other Sahih Hadeeths to you, which if taken out of context could give you a not “so accommodating” picture. For example the Hadeeth which is in Sahih Muslim in which the prophet (SAW) is instructing Muslims not to be the first to salute with “salam” when meeting Christian people, and if met on the road, to force them to walk through the narrowest part of it. This can give a completely different picture if not carefully understood. In short, the delegation of Najran was engaged in an intense Muslim/Christian debate with the messenger (SAW), and he clearly wanted to show them tolerance as well as hospitality. This was solely done for the purpose of Da’wa, and to send Islam to reach new lands, which can be understood from reading the whole Hadeeth as well as reading the commentary of Hadeeth Commentators. My point is we shouldn’t use Hadeeth without presenting enough details of its context and circumstances for the purpose of promoting one opinion over the other. Finally I must admit that I respect the Christmas Holiday because at least I can be at home in these freezing conditions!

Location

Inverness

This was a great article and a needed topic to discuss amongst Muslims due to this holiday's pervasiveness in the religious, economical, and cultural world in and outside our families, and also a great way to respectfully practice dawah. Not only is it Christmas for the Christians, it also falls on a Friday, i.e., Jumuah. My Christian mother invited me to dinner, and I invited her to Jumuah. And it also happens to be the month of Muharram of the Islamic calendar, and there are great blessings in fasting the Day of Ashoora (which falls on Dec. 27th, and the day before). These are all great times of dawah in word and deeds. We, as Muslims are not to shun the way others worship regardless of there persecution. We are not to allow oppression by any means, no, but we have to show that Islam is a beautiful alternative if truth is being sought. Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, allowed Christians their worship in his masjid, but yet destroyed the idols in the Kaaba because it is Allah's house alone, which started with the foundational work of Adam to Ibrahim and Ishmaeel, peace be upon them. Jesus, peace be upon him, never said "Merry Christmas". In the Bible he would say "Peace be upon you", i.e., "As-Salaamu Alaikum". I personally wouldnt greet with "Merry Christmas" due to the historical origin of the pagan symbols, i.e., Santa Claus, Christmas Trees, Winter Solstice (Dec. 25th), Agricultural worship via Yultide Lore, Mithraic origins, and the such, but to acknowledge the Christian celebration of Allah, Whom none should be worshipped but Him, giving the world Esaa ibnu Maryam al Masih (Jesus the messiah, the son of Mary), who foretold the coming of the final prophet Muhammad ibn Abdullah, then it should be good for our relationship with our Christian family in faith, and a great time to join humanity without leaving Quran and Sunnah to compromise. Besides, my Christian mother cooks a mean halal turkey! :)) Allahu Alim.

Location

Ohio, USA

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