Recently, some Muslim friends asked me if it is okay to wish Merry Christmas to Muslim or non-Muslim colleagues, friends and neightbours. On futher probing, it transpired that quite a few of them were affected by the Wahhabi-Salafi and Deobandi clerics eg Zakir Naik, Taqi Usmani, Farhat Hashmi, Yousuf al-Qaradawi etc who propagate a deeply prejudiced, narrow minded and sectarian interpretation of Islam.
These sectarian clerics (Deobandis and Wahhabis) argue that Merry Christmas is haraam (forbidden) because:
– Did the Prophet (saww) wish anybody a Merry Christmas?
– We are submitting to Christianity and their beliefs if we wish them with such a greeting.
– It’s like drinking alcohol.
Video: Saudi-funded Salafi-Wahhabi cleric Zakir Naik forbids Muslims from wishing Merry Christmas
Such an attitude is creating isolationism and intolernace in Muslim communities, particularly those living in Western countries.
“While the real world provides a vast array of interpretations from a variety of Islamic schools, more often than not it is the intolerant strands of Islam taught by Saudi Arabia’s fundamentalist Wahabi scholars that dominate online. Backed by billions of petrodollars and an army of tech-savvy graduates who are more than capable of capturing the YouTube generation’s imagination, the internet has long been a stronghold for the most intolerant forms of Islam. For those who wish to see the West’s Muslim communities continue to integrate with their neighbours, the prevalence of such isolationist rhetoric is of great concern. Armed with quotes from Saudi (or Pakistani) scholars living thousands of miles away, a small number of angry young British Muslims are forgoing the inclusive Islam their parents were once taught in favour of an interpretation that encourages them to cut themselves off from mainstream society and view all non-Muslims with contempt. (Source)”
Contrary to what these Saudi or Pakistani Deobandi and Wahhabi bigots might tell you, rest assured there’s nothing in Islam or the Quran that stops Muslims from being well-mannered, kind and affectionate in their conduct with other members of the society including family members, friends, colleagues and neighbours. In fact, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his progeny) is known to be “mercy for entire universe”, not just Muslims. Thus, there’s no harm at all in wishing Merry Christmas.
From a Sunni Sufi and Shia perspective, there is no problem in celebrating a cultural tradition or festival as long as no Haraam action is performed during its celebration. There are several cultural traditions in Muslim countries eg Nowruz or Basant which are not purely Islamic and are celebrated wholeheartedly.
As Muslims, we are recommended to follow the traditions of the society that we live in, and even their common lifestyle, as long as there is no violation of fundamentals of Islam. One must note that no two cultures in Islamic cultures (eg in Pakistan and Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Malaysia etc) are exactly the same, each have their own traditions and life style, which is perfectly fine.
It may be noted that in many countries, Christmas is a mere secular tradition. Even though some Christians consider it a holy day, for a large majority Christmas just means an excuse to shop, spend money and family reunion.
Even if the aim is to celebrate the birthday of Jesus the Christ, there is no harm in attending it because Muslims (not Wahhabis or Deobandis) celebrate the birthday of Prophet Muhammad, similarly there’s no harm in celebrating the brithday of Prophet Jesus.
According to senior Shia cleric Ayatullah Ali Sistani, there is no harm in greeting non-Muslims on their festivals. “There is no harm in greeting them on their occasions.” and “There is no objection to congratulating them (non-Muslims) on special occasions.” (MMS, pp. 31-32, Q63).
Similar views have been presented by Sunni clerics (of non-Wahhabi backgrounds).
“In reply to whether Muslims can greet non-believers during their festivals, for instance, Al-Azhar’s scholars write: “There is no harm in congratulating non-Muslims with whom you have a family relationship, or that are neighbours of yours.” They then give examples from the Prophet Mohamed’s life that showed his tolerance toward other religions. (Source)”
Celeberating Christmas is a normal seasonal event in many countries, and may be treated as such.
“Is exchanging a Christmas gift really going to set your child off on some wrongful demented road to hell? We live in a predominantly Christian society so we must accept that this is the culture we have to get accustomed to. Would you rather show your child the butchering going on in Syria instead? Let them have Santa for a couple years so they can enjoy their childhood before they have to see the real world,” Berry adds. It appears that local religious leaders could also have varying stances on the subject of Muslims partaking in Christmas festivities. Sheik Abdul Latif Berry, leader of the first Muslim Marja’iya, or religious authority, in the U.S., says that he encourages local Muslims to celebrate the occasion with fellow Christians, as long as they don’t break any Islamic rules like consuming alcohol.”No, it’s not haram to have a Christmas tree because we believe in Jesus and we believe in his great message. This was a great messenger who came from God and he anticipated and told people that prophet Muhammad would be the seal of prophets. It is very important to connect these two occasions together,” Berry says. Dearborn resident Ayda El-Saghir points out that Christmas is celebrated heavily in the Middle East as well. As a Muslim, she grew up celebrating the holiday in Lebanon as a child around Christian residents, and looks forward to carrying on that tradition in Dearborn because it helps build memories with her children. “I do respect other people’s opinions but I personally feel there is nothing wrong with celebrating the birth of a prophet,” El-Saghir said. “I feel the joy and the happiness that Christmas brings to society. I have a Christmas tree in my house and I think it looks very nice. It brings a nice imagination for my kids. Every Christmas day I look forward to them waking up and unwrapping their presents under the Christmas tree.” (Source)”
Many open-minded Muslims celebrate Christmas with their colleagues and friends, and see no problem with it. Of course, there are those Wahhabis or Deobandis that will describe such open-minded Muslims as polytheist (mushrik), infidel (kuffar) or biddati (innovators). But can we allow such bigots to dictate our life and society?
On that note, Merry Christmas to all readers of the Let Us Build Pakistan (LUBP)!