Question ;
“Assalamualaikum brother. Christmas is around the corner. I am in dilemma. My friends and family are Christian but I am not sure what to do. Can I wish them Merry Christmas, exchange gifts & celebrate Christmas with my friends and family? I believe a lot of our Muslim Reverts brothers & sister are facing the same situation like me. Hope you can share with me what should I do. Thanks”


Answer ;
Alhamdulilah (All Praise To Allah). This is not the 1st question that I had received from reverts but in fact some born Muslims also facing the same dilemma. For sure I am not a scholar to give ruling regarding this matter but we need to look at the fatwa (Islamic Ruling) by the scholar and not to decide by ourselves. A lot has been discussed by the scholar on the issue can a Muslim celebrate or wish Merry Christmas to our Christian's friend.  Now lets us look into 2 questions here.



A) CAN MUSLIM WISH MERRY CHRISTMAS?


When it comes to wishing Merry Christmas, scholar differs in this matter. A group of classical scholar says it is Haram (Forbidden) to wish but some contemporaries scholars ruled that it is Harus (Permissible). Now let’s have a look at the ruling of the scholars pertaining to this matter.



1st Fatwa – It is haram to wish Merry Christmas


Some scholars like Ibn Qayyim says;

'As for congratulating the unbelievers for their rituals, it is forbidden according to the agreement of all scholars- like: congratulating them for their feasts and fast by expressing good wishes: happy feast or enjoy your feast… etc. If the Muslim who says this does not become a disbeliever himself, he, at least, commits a sin as this is the same as congratulating him for his belief in the trinity, which is a greater sin and much more disliked by Almighty Allah than congratulating him for drinking alcohol or killing a soul or committing fornication or adultery…etc'.
[Fatwa answered by: The Fatwa Center at Islamweb]


Sheikh Muhammed Salih Al-Munajjid was asked;

“Why do you condemn the celebration of the what Christians think is birth of the son of God (Allah)? We should be teaching respect for other peoples and religions. Yet with such condemnation and calling it falsehood, it makes it difficult for rational, honest, and respectful persons to communicate.”


His answer to this question was;


“You seem to have misinterpreted the condemnation of celebration of Christmas as a matter of disrespect for Christians. In reality, it is out of respect for Allah and Jesus and the teachings of our Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon them. It is an integral part of our faith to reject celebrations that have not been prescribed and/or that have a basis in falsehood, as inevitably they lead to misguidance and alterations in faith, as has happened with Christianity. There is nothing "radical" or "fringe" about this. It is our basic right to protect our faith and practice from distortion and falsehood. Surely no one has a right to condemn us for this.”
[Fatwa answered in Islam Question & Answer]





2nd Fatwa – Harus (Permissible) to wish Merry Christmas


The European Council For Fatwa and Research headed ruled that it is permissible. In the fatwa, they says;


Indeed the permissibility of congratulating non-Muslims on their festive days becomes more of an obligation if they offer their greetings on Islamic festive occasions, as we are commanded to return good treatment with similar treatment, and to return the greeting with a better one or at least with the same greeting. Allah Almighty says:


“When you are greeted with a greeting, greet in return with what is better than it, or at least return it equally…”
(An-Nisa' 4: 86)


Now we have 2 fatwa here. One mentioned that it is Haram while another mentioned it is Harus. Respect one another when it came to this issue. If we are holding on to the opinion that it is Haram, please respect others who are holding on to the opinion that it is Harus and vice versa. Whichever that you felt more confident and comfortable, follow it but golden rule is to respect each other view and do not condemn others for not following the view that you are holding on to.


We have to put in mind that we must be realistic and understand the surrounding. Base on the above 2 fatwa, which are the one that is more practical in a multi-racial country like Malaysia? If you would like to wish them, maybe you can change the wishing to the following greetings;


-   > May Allah Guide All Of Us
-   > Peace Be Upon Him Who Follow The Right Path

Even in your greetings, it would be a good idea if you slotted this verses of the Quran in;


Say, "O People of the Scripture, come to a word that is equitable between us and you - that we will not worship except Allah and not associate anything with Him and not take one another as lords instead of Allah ." But if they turn away, then say, "Bear witness that we are Muslims [submitting to Him]."
[Ali Imran 3:64]





B) CAN WE EXCHANGE GIFT?


Once again, scholars differ in this issue as well. Some scholar ruled that it is Haram. Sheikh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen (may Allah have mercy on him) said:
“Similarly it is forbidden for the Muslims to imitate the kuffaar by holding parties on these occasions, or exchanging gifts, or distributing sweets or other foods, or taking time off work and so on, because the Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) said: “Whoever imitates a people is one of them.”


Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah said in his book Iqtida’ al-Siraat al-Mustaqeem Mukhaalifat Ashaab al-Jaheem:


Imitating them on some of their festivals implies that one is happy with the falsehood they are following, and that could make them (the non-Muslims) take this opportunity to mislead those who are weak in faith. End quote.


Those who do any of these things are sinning, whether they do it to go along with them, or to be friendly towards them, or because they feel too shy (to refuse to join in) or any other reason, because it is a kind of compromising the religion of Allah to please others, and it is a means of lifting the spirits of the kuffaar and making them proud of their religion,
[End quote from Fataawa Ibn ‘Uthaymeen, 3/44]


Another group of scholar ruled that it is permissible to exchange gift during Christmas. European Council for Fatwa and Research issued a fatwa;


There is also no objection to accepting gifts and presents from them, and to return their gifts in kind, on condition that these gifts are not unlawful in themselves, such as being alcohol or pork. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) accepted the gift of the King of Egypt and several others (See: At-Tahawi's Sharh Mushkil Al-Athar).
[Fatwa by European Council for Fatwa & Research]


My personal suggestion is that, if you would like to exchange gift during Chrismas among your offices colleagues, friends of family, take this opportunity to share with them what is Islam is all about and also Islam point of view about Jesus (pbuh). Books like Jesus Christ in Islam by Sheikh Ahmed Deedat, The Choice – Islam & Christianity by Sheikh Ahmed Deedat, Crucifixion or Crucifiction by Sheikh Ahmed Deedat and many more that you can purchase in bookstores.


Again, you might be holding on to a different opinion but please respect each other opinion when it come to this issues. Always have the mind-set of doing dakwah to them in all situations. Take advantage of the opportunity presented to us.




C) CAN WE CELEBRATE CHRISTMAS?


Well some of you might ask wishing or celebrating Christmas is not shirk (associate partner with Allah) right and do not become too strict and well my answer for that will be for you to consider this;


And they say, "The Most Merciful has taken [for Himself] a son."You have done an atrocious thing. The heavens almost rupture therefrom and the earth splits open and the mountains collapse in devastation. That they attribute to the Most Merciful a son. And it is not appropriate for the Most Merciful that He should take a son.
[Maryam 19:88-92]




"Say: He is Allah the One and Only; Allah the Eternal Absolute; He begets not nor is He begotten; and there is none like unto Him."
[Al-Ikhlas 112:1-4)


It is not proper for a Muslim to celebrate or wish them but that doesnt mean that we didnt respect their right to celebrate. They have the right to believe what they want to believe and to celebrate what they want to celebrate but is also equally important for them to respect our right not to celebrate or wish them. Obviously there will be some quarters disagree but that is individual choice and most important is to respect each other view. Whatever view you are holding to just please respecting other people who holding to a different view.


Some will use the argument that lot of Muslim are celebrating it to justified is ok to celebrate it and might also point out that some leader also wishing and celebrate it so it should be ok but as mention earlier is up to individual to decide which view they would like to subscribe to. Islam is built on facts and evidences and not base on the practices of the majority. If someone would like to know more on the reason, please read the fatwa below and if you need more detail please feel free to drop your question in the comment box and InshaAllah I will try to look for the answer for you.


When it come to this question, it seems like all scholars holding on to the same view that it is Haram to celebrate Christmas. It a consensus among all the world scholars.




CONCLUSION


It is very important for everyone, Muslim & Non-Muslim alike to respect each other principle. We can co-exist without compromising our core principle. If someone holding on to the opinion of not wishing Merry Christmas, that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t respect you as a person. Each religion have it own DO & DON’Ts and do not force upon others on such issue. When a Muslim doesn’t attending Christmas celebration, is doesn’t implicate that they disrespect.


Well some might says Islam is the stumbling block to national unity and I would like to says that Islam is not the stumbling block for national unity but it is merely that the fact we failed to accept the differences and the principle of others. National unity can be achieved by understanding each other religion principle and not merely by celebrating religious festivities together. To work on the common ground of nation building instead of sacrificing each other core believes. To understand and to accommodate is the key. Diversity is not an excuse to be divided but rather than it is something that we should appreciate because all of us are the creations of Allah SWT;


“O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted.”
[Al-Hujuurat 49:13]  


Some interesting links about what is Christmas;
WHAT IS THE HISTORY OF CHRISTMAS

WHAT DID JESUS SAYS ABOUT CHRISTMAS 

WHO IS SANTA CLAUS


The History of Christmas


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