Can Muslims Celebrate Christmas?
Before finally going back home (to Sulu) for our year-end break, I attended a short lecture in Cubao organized by the New Muslim Care, a network of Muslims and New Muslims (or Balik Islam which they are more commonly called) in Manila. The lecture was indeed timely as it’ theme is about the “Celebration of Christmas and what Muslim should and should not do” and was delivered by one great brother Ustadz Muhammad Yahya of Sudan.
The following will be my own sharing base on what I grasped and learned in the 2 hour lecture by brother Yahya and some sharing by other brothers and sisters who attended the session. Pls do notify me if in case there are some errors in my part that I may correct them immediately. Some of these you are about to read might be painful and unacceptable to our not-yet-Muslim friends and even Muslims as well, so I am already asking you to please be patient and read all throughout until the end. These are not my own words and I, nor our lecturer, did not made it up on our own. They were all taught in our religion with strong basis from the scriptures of the Holy Qur’an and following the hadith of our beloved Prophet (Peace and blessings be upon him).
What is Christmas?
We started by first defining what is Christmas so that we could understand this event that we are about to talk about. As Muslims living in a Christian environment almost all of us already know that Christmas is the “celebration of the birth of Jesus” (peace be upon him) every 25th of December each year. But what is the significance of this celebration to the Christians themselves? For them, this is what they believed to be the “day of the birth of God’s Son” or what they call “God Incarnate”. Thus this is not just a celebration or event from another Religion (Christianity) but is also a celebration that is based on a belief that is TOTALLY AGAINST the teachings of Islam.
From the Islamic point of view, the concept of “God as Flesh” or the belief in “Son of God” is unacceptable and will be considered as one of the greatest blasphemy one can do in his life. For God (Allah) is Eternal and Absolute, He owns everything and never needed a son and none can be liken unto Him. And for Muslims, Jesus or Prophet Eisa (his Musim name) is no one but a mere Prophet of God, just like Prophet Muhammad (Peace and blessings be upon him), humans who lived to guide their people and humanity to the straight path. So Muslims should really be careful about this and always be aware of what is the essence why Christians celebrate Christmas.
Can Muslims Celebrate Christmas?
The answer is a clear NO. No matter what circumstances you will be in, a Muslim should never, ever celebrate Christmas by heart. For it was never part of the teachings of Islam, it was never done by the Prophet Muhammad (Peace and Blessings be upon him) and his companions and thus should be avoided at all cost. Even his own birthday (the Prophet Muhammad) was never celebrated during his time, what more of Prophet Eisa (Jesus). This is to avoid making such event part of the traditions and dangerously become part of our concept of doing “worship”.
Also, in Islam there are only two valid and authentic celebrations for Muslims, that is Eidul Fitr and Eidul Adha. Nothing more, nothing less. Not even your own birthday!
Can Muslims attend Christmas Parties?
A question was raised during the session. That what if the company or school you are in is conducting a “Christmas Party” (which is so common nowadays) and everyone is attending. What if as member of that company/school, I would attend the “Party” but not with the intention of celebrating with them but rather showing them that Muslims can also socialize with other people, and I don’t want them to be angry (or magtampo) with me also.
This was what brother Yahya answered (more or less): “The best thing to do is avoid, as much as you can. But if you cannot, say something will happen that you are afraid of when you will not attend, then attend. But be sure and keep it firm in your heart that you are against such celebration and you will never be part of it.
We are in a non-Islamic environment and these are things that we cannot always avoid. We are the minorities, we are not the government, we are not in power to say this and not do that. But for whatever thing we do, whether we attend these parties or not, ask yourself what’s in here (pointing to his left chest). What’s in your heart is what Allah will look into. That is what’s most important. But if you can still avoid please avoid. Explain it to them, they should respect you and understand.”
(My own addition, if you explain to them that celebrating Christmas is not in Islam and is highly discouraged they have no choice but to accept it. They cannot force you to follow what they believe in. Even no matter what they say, like “It’s just a party, cmon!” or they will call you “anti-social”, “walang pakikisama”, or whatever, they have to respect your belief as how we should respect theirs. If they would feel “insulted” that you never attended their event, you have all the right to be insulted also for being pushed to attend that same event. Wallahu Alam, Allah knows best)
What should you do when greeted with “Merry Christmas!”?
“Simple,” brother Yahya answered with a smile, “Say ‘Happy New year’, or ‘Happy holidays’ or you can just smile at them and be silent. Just never say ‘Merry Christmas, too’. Show them that you, as a Muslim is not part of this event and you are not celebrating it.”
Again this does not mean we are insulting them. We are only following what is taught to us in Islam.
What about Gifts? Can Muslims give or receive gifts during Christmas?
|Dr. Yahya giving his lecture|
Islam encourages Muslims to give gifts to their loved ones (Muslims or not), BUT NOT DURING CHRISTMAS. This is to avoid the connotation that the gift was given in celebration of Christmas. You can give gifts all throughout the year from January to November, but avoid giving gifts during these seasons. Or if you really have to give something, say a Sadaqa (a share of gift and support given to the poor) during these seasons, let it be known by informing them crystal clear that “this sadaqa is given to you because Muslims are supposed to help the poor, AND THIS IS NOT for Christmas.” Or say “I am giving you this gift as an appreciation of our friendship and not because of Christmas”. Other than that, it is a big, big no to give gifts during Christmas, even if your intention is to “join the fun” or “pakikisama” or whatever. If someone is expecting a gift from you for some reason, give it earlier or later. Tell them, “I can give you a gift but I have to delay it until January or February so and so.”
How about receiving gifts from non-Muslims even if you are not celebrating Christmas? This had happened in Muslim families that their non-Muslim friends and family were giving gifts to their children, etc. Are they allowed to accept the gifts or should they return them or stop those giving gifts during Christmas?
The question was answered by brother Yahya: “We are not allowed to impose our Religion to others. We can explain Islam’s teachings about these but we cannot impose on them to stop if they keep on doing it. So when they send you or your children gifts, as Christmas gifts, accept them and thank them, but again avoid giving the impression that you are celebrating Christmas. Don’t say ‘Merry Christmas’. Always check what’s in your heart. Say ‘Oh Allah, you know more what’s in my heart. I and my family are not celebrating these events’. In sha Allah you will be at ease. And most importantly, educate and guide your children. Tell them about Christmas is not the only time that you should give gifts. Give them gifts during non-Christmas days so that they will enjoy and see Christmas are just like any other day of the year.”
The Last Message
Through the short session, there were more questions about other aspects of living in a non Muslim environment like celebrating birthdays, anniversaries, etc. and some about Salah. I will no longer include them in this post. Now this is what I learned that day, Alhamdulillah:
Islam is already complete and Islam already gave us strict and explicit guidelines on everything that we can and cannot do through the Qur’an and the Prophet’s Sunnah. There is no need to add new things just because it’s “fun” or whatever. Islam already gave us the answers to our questions especially on how to live in this dunya (wordly life) successfully with happiness and free of regret and that is to worship Allah alone and to follow Islam as a way of life.
Christmas is a celebration that is never allowed in Islam as it signifies that there is another God and He had a son (naudhubillah); this is clear and thus should always be clear to us Muslims living in this non-Islamic environment and be very careful on what we do. Being the minority population in this country, there is always the pressure of being pulled along by what the greater population is doing. And just because everyone is doing it does not give us the permission to do it also.
“Hey! Everyone is doing it, why can’t we do it to? It’s fun!” someone would argue to which we can simply tell them: “If everyone is jumping on a deep cliff or to a big fire, would you jump in too?”. We should not always follow what the “majority” tells us to do. They can tell us, but they cannot force us. And choosing between displeasing a hundred thousand people and displeasing Allah, you know which one to choose. It doesn’t if every single soul in this world will be angry with you as long as you know you are doing the right thing trying to please Allah the Great Creator. And remember that no matter how much you try to please all the people in this world, by following what they are happy to do, you will never succeed. They will eventually get displeased of you and betray you one day or the other. That is just the imperfect human nature. So choose Allah, choose Islam, and you will never regret.
Another thing that was emphasized is the importance of intention, what’s in our heart. Maybe there would be a chance that we have no choice but to attend and be present on their events like this, but we should never participate or celebrate. We should keep our hearts and mind reminded that this is not part of Islam and you are supposed to avoid it, but you have no choice for some circumstances. Remember that is what’s in your heart that Allah will look into in the end.
And lastly, I cannot overemphasize the great importance of seeking knowledge. It is a duty that every Muslim man or woman have. We should always strive hard to seek knowledge; study what’s happening around us, research about them and learn what is Islam’s view and guidance about them as according to Islam’s only two great guides: The holy Qur’an and the Sunnah. Attend lectures, ask our scholars who understand these better. Try to understand them properly and strive harder to act upon these teachings by heart. And lastly never forget the obligation of every Muslim to convey the beautiful message of Islam not just to your own Muslim brethrens but to all humanity as well.
I would end this post reminding everyone that is still Allah who knows best than anyone of us. So if there are again errors in this humble sharing I made, pls do notify me immediately that I may correct them. May Allah guide us all to the one straight path towards His pleasure. Ameen.
(: The New Muslim Care Family :)
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