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

Masha Allah a very good article. As a convert to Islam for my family I make a big celebration for our Eids involving my children in all the preparation's. I do not get involved in any celebrations with my Cathlioc family in Ireland, we have a very good relationship but I prefer to visit at other times of the year. I do send my father a gift because it may not be my celebaration anymore but it is his. My father has rights as my father in Islam to be treated with kindness and to be looked after in this life by me. When I go to Ireland in Ramadan my father allows me to pray in his house, and when I break my fast he has my food ready for me, this is what Islam is all about tolerance for each other and respect for all. It was nice to read the comments from the christian's who read the article. For me what attracted me to Islam, was the belief in one God, the manners and teachings of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). I am bringing up my children to be proud to be Muslims to understand their religon, and to respect other people's belief. We are all Ambassadors for our Religion always remember Islam as a religion is a perfect way of life for mankind, unfortuntley the people who follow are not perfect.

Location

London UK

Salaam to all. The article was quite good but however did not well address the issue that has to do with where your rights as a Muslim are being trampled upon. For example, you work in a Christian dominated company where Xtmas programmes are organised with compulsory attendance. Or where Christmas gift items are being given to you. What should we do in these circumstances. Thanks

Location

Nigeria

Subhanalah...... how could u post such information abt Nigerian Muslims witout findin out if it is true of not no evidence nd approvals.... i read the informative article but was Shocked when i saw the last page saying.....(These are the lessons which need to be learned by those extremists who attack Christians during their worship in Nigeria) plz for Allah's sake as Br Usman Gude Garba, Kaduna, Nigeria - wrote on 12/10/2004 3:13:05 AM that its not a true information abt Extremist in Nigeria... dough they are Islam Extremists everywhere in the world But Nigeria Extremist avent gone to that extent for once.... pls in oder not to allow enemies of islam and the muslims spread their malicious stories alwys find out..Bi-Sallam

Location

Nigeria

It is like you’re a true ambassador of peace and a true practicing Muslim.In your article, you’re sending a message of respect and promoting tolerance and bearing in mind that it is Allah who create and destroys at his will thus leaving a room for us to respect peoples difference and concentrate on the common good.The lesson I can draw from your article is unity in diversity. But let us also teach our religion to all human race using the best methods that will maintain total peace.

Location

Uganda-Kampala

I was seeking how the Muslim faith viewed Christmas. I am a Northern Irish Roman Catholic and found this article very imformative & non threatening to the reader..Thank you!!!

Location

Long Island ,NY

Thankyou for an article that engenders peace and mutual respect. My knowledge of the Quran is incomplete, but I have read that the Prophet Mohamed (Peace be upon him) wrote that those who are closest to you, are those who call themselves "Christian". We all worship the same God.I am a Christian, and this time of year teach the story of the birth of the Messiah Jesus (Peace be upon him) to children in the local Public school. Many of these children are not Christian, but the Christmas story is nonetheless important, as it is about a birth which changed the world. When we wish each other Merry Christmas, we Christians and non Christians alike acknowledge the importance of the birth of Jesus (Peace be upon him). To wish someone Merry Christmas does not mean that you are worshipping Him as God, it is merely a mark of respect, and remembrance of his birth.May the Peace of God descend upon us in all Truth. Thankyou. I would rather walk a mile with a fellow searcher for the truth, than with someone who is not looking. Even though we may be climbing the mountain by different paths, if we are honestly searching, God will guide us.The strength in both our Faiths lies in those things held in common. You follow the Prophet Mohamed (Peace be upon him), I follow Jesus (Peace be upon him), and we will cross paths on the way. The greatest threat to our Faiths is not each other, but secular indifference, and the collapse of the world into values which insult both our great Faiths.Thankyou once again for your articleYours respectfullyStephen Myers

Location

Australia

Ahl, an article that speaks about the true essence of Islam and that encourages peace and love. Thank you!

Location

Toronto, Canada

I want to send special thanks to Abdul Malik. He has truly understood Islam. This is what we need from all muslims. Practice of the Faith in accordance with its tenets.

Location

London

bismillah. Asalamu alaikum. I liked the article. But I am afraid that there is a lot of misunderstanding from readers, judging by the comments. We are not allowed to celebrate holidays, except for Islamic holidays of Eid'ul-Adh'ha and Eid'ul-Fitr. This is very clear from a hadith of the Prophet Muhammad (sala Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam), when he arrived in Medinah and noted the people there celebrating various holidays. He asked what this was about and was informed about why they were playing and sporting. Then, he instructed the Muslims to abstain from these celebrations, stating that Allah has given us two holidays, the two Eids mentioned. The Prophet did a lot of "outreach", you could say, to the People of the Book. But he (sala Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam) NEVER celebrated Non-Muslim holidays. Olama have stated that it is also forbidden to say, "Happy Chrismas!" because this is similar to saying, "Have a Good Time Worshipping Jesus!" But, this article is emphasizing the point that we should not insult Christians concerning their holiday. Given. But, we have to also speak the truth. Allah told the believers not to insult the idols of the pagans, lest they insult Allah in reciprocation. But that didn't prevent the Prophet (sala Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam) from braking the idols around the Ka'bah on the Conquest of Mecca. It is difficult for converts to abstain from old traditions and family traditions, even when they feel confident and secure in their Islam. But, this is necessary because otherwise, you send a self-contradicting messege to your Muslim children as well as your Christian family. You are saying, "I don't believe in this. But I'll still practice it to please family members who will otherwise get mad." Once you take a firm stand, your family will come to understand you better. Visit them, sure. But, not in celebration of Christmas. That means not during Christmas, because otherwise, they, and your children, will interpret the visit as a celebration of Christmas. This is what I have done with my Muslim family, which, unfortunately still celebrates New Years, Thanksgiving, and Noruze (the Iranian/Zoroastrian New Years), even though my mother reverted to Islam over 25 years ago, and my Iranian family has been Muslim for centuries! Let's say it clear: Yes, show tolerance--No, don't join in!

Location

Virginia, USA

Islam teaches tolerance and respect for others. In my country, all festivities are celebrated together regardless of race and religious background. The idea is to promote harmony and religious tolerance among all its community. What is important is as muslim we know the boundaries and restrictions.

Location

Malaysia

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