Should Muslims Join the Christmas Fever?

This is one of those topics that always has to resurface every time the event comes around.

I completely agree that there are many more important topics that must be discussed and shared, but it so happens that unfortunately and regretfully this topic of “Muslims celebrating Christmas” is at the top of the list of questions during this season.

It really does come as a shock for us to receive this many queries about an event that has nothing to do with us as Muslims.

I will go one step further and say it has nothing to do with Christianity as a religion as well. We all know that this whole Christmas topic is even controversial among Christians themselves.[1] There are Christians who completely denounce Christmas and refuse to celebrate anything from it.[2]

It doesn’t concern us whether or not all or some Christians celebrate Christmas. That’s an internal issue they have. But this issue serves as a strong argument against us Muslims who might find ourselves obliged to take part in something in solidarity with people around us, but yet the practice itself has no basis.

When we know that Islam is a complete religion and a way of life, with a long and vast heritage, it has so much in it that would really keep us occupied throughout the year. We will be so busy and vibrantly active, we won’t have any time for anything else.

Look at all the occasions we have during the year. As a Muslim, do you do anything for these great celebrations: Ramadhan al-Mubarak, Eid al-Adha, 15th of Sha’baan, Eid al-Ghadir, or the birthdays of our Ma’sumeen (a.s.)?

Are they just normal days in your household that pass by and you or your children don’t even notice them? I am not just talking about the Mustahab things you should be doing on our sacred days and celebrations, but also creating such an atmosphere in the home, where the children live them.

Is that better for you to have, or to introduce non-Islamic practices that have no basis even in the religion they’re supposedly based on?

So it’s not just about having a Christmas tree in your house, or putting out biscuits and milk next to the fireplace. It’s about having pride in your heritage and identity.

When you read into Islamic law, one of the outstanding cases strongly reiterated is the prohibition of imitating non-Muslims and doing something that is a part of the rituals, habits or practices of non-Muslims.

For example, many hadiths insist on men shortening their moustaches, and then explain that it’s because Jewish men at that time would leave their moustaches to grow long. So it was a way of allowing themselves to be recognised as Muslims.

All of our jurists – Sunni and Shi’ah – say it is Haram for us to buy, sell, or adorn ourselves or our houses with statues or symbols of other religions. You cannot hang a crucifix, or put a Buddha statue, and then innocently say that there is no harm in it.

This isn’t belittling or insulting other religions. It is you as a Muslim being proud of what you have and keeping your personal space as Islamic as possible.

Grand Ayatullah Seyid Khamenei visiting a Christian family (parents of a Christian martyr) on Christmas

You can visit your non-Muslim friends. You can give them gifts. You can send them greeting cards for Christmas, or Diwali, or Hanukkah, or any other occasion of any religion. But there is a big problem when you start decorating your “Muslim” house with things that do not represent your faith or identity.

You are also getting dragged into the pressure of submitting to today’s consumerist culture. Secular society and commercial brands have financially benefitted hugely from these occasions. Christians themselves are saying the “spirit” of true Christmas is fading away. But indeed, the true spirit is not in decorations; it is in conduct.[3]

Ok, you might be strong in your faith, but what about the rest of the people in the house? What about your children? Losing faith and distancing away from practicing Islam does not happen overnight. It is a slow process, but it creeps up very quickly, and then all of a sudden it will be too late.

How strong and effective is it to boost your child’s identity by merely telling them “It’s not our celebration. We are Muslims.”?

Yes, they can sit on Santa’s lap and take a picture. But it shouldn’t go beyond that. Anything further would confuse yourself and your child.

An example of an ‘extreme approach’.

Taking the extreme approach is never something we do, as the followers of Ahlul Bayt (a.s.). We find balance.

I don’t believe we should start some “campaign” against Christmas. That would not only be inappropriate, but also against our principle of co-existence with other religions.

An example of an ‘extreme approach’.

Unfortunately, we can see some shallow-minded Muslims who have an issue with everything, even celebrating the birthday of our own Prophet (s.a.w.). That is not the correct or Islamic approach.

It should really come down to honouring your principles as a Muslim, and keeping your personal space as “Islamic” as possible.

If we do not celebrate Christmas, it does not mean we are anti-Christian.

I think this is what the problem is. Many Muslims feel guilty and believe they need to “conform” to the rest of modern society, and give in to the norms of Western influence.

Sadly, I’ve seen Santa decorations even in some of our holy cities.

It’s shows how confused some of our fellow Muslims are. Some Muslims have an inferiority complexity, where they feel they should conform to be accepted. Some believe they should assimilate and adopt the culture of the majority.

Also, there is the issue of becoming modern, and celebrating these occasions makes someone feel more western, or prestigious, or upper-class.

We need to be very careful when it comes to cultural invasion and becoming negatively influenced by practices that are not a part of us.

You preserve your identity and strengthen your faith by upholding the events and rituals you have in your Islamic calendar. You show pride in what you believe in, and what you don’t believe in. You also prevent your personal space from being influenced by non-Islamic culture.

At the same time, you can greet your Christian fellows with the greeting they like, and be as nice and kind and considerate as possible, respecting their beliefs.

It isn’t an issue of honouring Jesus (a.s.), or doing charity work, or feeding the hungry.

These are counter-arguments you might have come across.

What is so bad about decorating our houses for Christmas if it’s a way of showing solidarity with our Christian family, neighbours and friends?

Well, we agree with the last bit, of always having solidarity with everyone who is around us, but it doesn’t have to be by me surrounding myself with symbols that don’t represent my faith. We must share grace and compassion with those around us all the time. They have their special occasions, and you have your special occasions.[4]

Although we have mentioned thus far the impacts to one’s family and the importance of maintaining one’s own Islamic identity, there is also the spiritual impact of following non-Islamic practices and customs whose effect will not completely be realised until the next life.

So, you need to ask yourself how concerned you are about upholding your religious occasions, and how much attention do you pay in marking these occasions and making them special events in your own household.

When you decorate your Muslim home with non-Muslim symbols, what does this reflect? Is it not promoting or endorsing or supporting non-Islamic rituals. Are you not contributing to this batil industry of commercialism?

Again, not only are these things spiritually damaging for you, but fiqhi wise also prohibited.[5]

As Muslims, our obligation is to be as proud as we can towards our Islamic heritage and identity. We have a duty to honour our Islamic occasions and present them in such a way that would fulfil our religious responsibilities, but also satisfy our social requirements. If we celebrate our own beautiful occasions, there would be no need for us to complement our lives with the rituals of others.

Finally, we must strive towards living a noble and religious life, making our household as safe and as pure and Islamic as possible, and putting as much effort in keeping the memory of Ahlul Bayt (a.s.) alive in our hearts and homes.

For any Christians who might be reading this, I wish you a blessed and prosperous season for you and your family. Happy Christmas.

Notes:

[1] This site gives 120 reasons against Christmas: http://www.letgodbetrue.com/bible/holidays/christmas.php

[2] With a simple internet search you are able to find a lot of information about not only the origins of Christmas celebrations, but also Christian groups who completely stay away from it. See: https://www.ucg.org/the-good-news/christians-who-dont-celebrate-christmas-heres-why

[3] Please read this article: https://www.ncronline.org/news/opinion/why-christians-should-hate-christmas

[4] It is worth mentioning a quite controversial ayah of the Qur’an related to what has been thus far mentioned:

 “O you who believe! Do not take friends (awliya) from the Jews and the Christians, as they are but friends of each other. And if any among you befriends them, then surely, he is one of them. Verily, Allah guides not those people who are the wrongdoers.” Surah Ma’idah: 51

The word awliya in this ayah is commonly mistranslated as ‘friends’ and many then interpret this as being a prohibition of establishing friendship with people of other faiths. The word awliya is derived from the word waliyy which is more correctly understood in this context and other usages in the Qur’an as meaning ‘guardianship’ or a close proximity.

‘If it is in respect of harmony and love (which is spiritual attraction) then waliyy is the beloved before whom man cannot keep his own will and gives him whatever he desires; and if it is in respect of relationship, the waliyy is the one who inherits him without any hindrance; and if it is with respect of obedience, then the waliyy is the one who controls his affairs in any way he pleases.’

It is then understood that what this verse means the ‘friendship’ that causes the Muslim being influenced or drawn to their practices, symbols and customs.

The outcome of this is dire – surely, he is one of them – which also indicates the spiritual impact this may have.

[5] Please refer to the detailed Fatwas of your Marja’ taqleed on the issue of Muslims participating in rituals and practices of other religions.

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