Sunday, December 30, 2012

Should Muslims Celebrate Christmas, New Year's, and Other Non-Muslim Holidays?


Narrated Anas bin Malik (ro):  The Prophet (saw) came to Medina with two days they played in.  The Prophet (saw) said, "What are these two days?"  They said, "These are two days we used to play in, in our Jahiliyah."  The Prophet (saw) said, "Allaah has replaced them with two better days:  Eid al Adhaa and Eid Al Fitr." (Abu Dawood #1134, 1/675)

This is a picture of me taken with a Santa Claus at one of the department stores in New York City.  I was about 3 and 1/2 years old at the time.  My Christian mother used to take me for pictures with Santa during the holiday season. 

Oddly, no pictures of my little brother and Santa exist in the huge collection of family photos that I inherited from my mother.  Not sure why.  There is a 4-year age difference between my brother and me.

Although my mother was a Catholic when she married my Jewish father, she never converted to Judaism, and she always practiced her faith.

But my brother and I were not raised as Christian children: we were raised Jewish (until my parents divorced when I was around 12 years old, and she converted us to Catholicism - story for another time!).  Occasionally, my mother took us to a Catholic mass when we visited her family in another state.  We always had a Christmas tree, and got Easter baskets.  Likewise, we celebrated Passover, Hannakuh, Rosh Hashana, and other Jewish observations.  Our identity was Jewish, but there was always that pesky issue of my mom's Christianity and the traditions she introduced into our home.

I remember asking my Jewish grandmother once why Jews didn't observe Christmas.  Her answer was simple in a manner that satisfied me.  She said something to the effect of, "We're Jewish.  That's what 'they' do.  We have our own holidays and celebrations."  She continued to explain that we only had Christmas trees and Easter baskets out of respect for my mother's religion.  She also explained to me how our beliefs were different from those of Christians.

My Jewish family tried real hard to respect my mother and make our interfaith family successful.

This year, I noticed that there seems to be a switch in the way many Muslims perceive Christmas and the like.

"Merry Christmas" wishes, pictures of Muslims in Christmas wear, and pictures of Muslim children with Ginger Bread men cookies were abundant in places like FaceBook.

There was a story online about a group of Muslims who held a Christmas party for their Christian neighbors.

Br. Suhaib Webb shared that the European Fatwa Council, made up of 20 of the world's great Muslim Jurists, stated that it is permissible to greet people on these days (exchange gifts even) as long as it does not involve approving any creedal differences between us, or open evil and shirk.  The rationale for the permission is that the fatwa against Muslims "celebrating" are rooted in an age of empire and war (Crusades) and that the social reality does not fit ours in the current day and in the West.

Sh. Ali Gomaa from Egypt, on his website, also issued a similar fatwa.

But, MuslimMatters posted an awesome khutbah by Sh. Mustafa Umar (Islamic Institute of Orange County), Living as a Muslim in a Christmas World, that gives a different perspective, one like my Jewish grandmother's, and one I believe is more in line with Islaam.  The sheikh talked about evaluating the way we make our own Muslim holidays meaningful for our Muslim children and family, and questions how we raise our children concerning their Muslim identities.  Our answers and responses to these issues will help our kids not to be confused about their identities.  They will reduce the pressure on our children to fit in, and will restore balance.

In the long run, my exposure to Christianity, Jesus (as), and non-Jewish celebrations like Christmas, had an effect on me that the efforts and intentions of my family didn't foresee: it introduced me, a Jewish child, to Jesus (as). Judaism was never to be the same for me again.

It led to a lot of questions and a life-long search for G-d which eventually ended up in me saying the Shahadah and becoming a Muslim, Alhamdulillah.

Judaism doesn't hold Jesus (as) to be a great prophet.  So, it's understandable that an introduction to him (as) could be fascinating for a Jewish child.  But for a Muslim child, the exposure to him (as) in a way that is inconsistent with Islaam can lead to confusion.

And it can lead to a lot of questions and a life-long search for G-d in a way that Muslims parents don't intend.

So, let us think about these things as we raise our children. 

May Allaah t'ala make you successful in raising your children as righteous Muslims, and ones who will assure a seat for you in Jannah.  Ameen!

12 comments:

HijabRockers said...

Thank you for sharing ur thoughts about this issue. It's simple, but beneficial. Alhamdulillah. May Allah grants u and ur fmly jannah inshaAllah. Aamiin... =)

Safiyyah said...

Jazaka Allahu Khayrn HijabRockers! And may Allaah t'ala grant you and your family the same. Ameen!

noona said...

Assalamo alaikom dear Safiyya, how are you? It's so good seeing you write in your blog again :).
Your post reminded me of when I was a kid and really craved celebrating Christmas seeing how cool it looked when my classmates decorated a tree and had Santa come over dressed in those nice clothes. I wishfully thought that the Christmas celebration was cooler than the eids'. during a year or two I asked mom to buy me a tree and decorate it or have santa come to our home and deliver a present but she would not accept :). she did compromise though by buying me the Arabic version of jingle bills cassette. she still laughs at that till now.
What do you think about parents abiding by their kids' requests of celebrating Christmas symbolically because all the other kids around them are?



Safiyyah said...

Noona! Long time, no hear from you! Hope you and your family are well. Are you finished with school yet? As to your question, did u listen to Sh Umar khutbah?

Tauqeer said...

Great post. Thank you.

Sara said...

This is an inspiring post. I can see how observing non-Muslim-non-secular celebrations will only confuse the child, and may even take away from his/her faith.

marahm said...

When my grandkids were born, I thought we'd face conflict regarding the non-Muslim holidays, but as they've grown, we have not experienced any of the troubles of which you warn.

I regard Christmas primarily as a material holiday, an economic loosening of the belt, a time for buying things I wouldn't ordinarily buy for the kids. I even buy myself a Christmas present.

The adults have explained to the kids that Christians attach a special meaning to Christmas, but that we Muslims can partake in the fun without having to believe what the Christians believe.

The greater society supports our secular version of Christmas, what with political correctness, and the decreasing emphasis on church in preference to the increasing emphasis on shopping. The kids do not feel marginalized, nor do they compromise their faith.

qatheworld said...

I actually find myself thinking it would be easier to explain Christians celebrating Jesus (pbuh) to my son than the overwhelmingly material celebrations that consume each of these originally religious holidays. Even though I wasn't raised Christian (but did grow up celebrating the major Christian holidays in a secular way), to me it feels wrong to incorporate what are really religious holidays into Islam, and Islam is a structure of our lives. I think it would be easier if we knew more people who made a big deal for the Eids. It's impossible to escape being surrounded by Christmas, and "happy holidays" isn't fooling anyone, even a 4-year-old :P.

Abez said...

JazakAllahuKheiran for the article- as a Muslim child who was raised with Easter, X-mas, and occassional Sunday church visit when a babysitter wasn't handy, my own family had alot of interfaith holidaying out of respect for my mother's traditions. As an adult, I know it was a major source of tension for my parents, and to be honest, it's one they still struggle with. And you can share your eyebrows here. :) zhkhan at gmail dot com

elishebabb said...

Shalom,salaam,
The problem with "Christmas" is that Jesus ( of blessed memory ) did not & would not observe it. He celebrated Khanukah ( see john 10:22,23 ). Khanukah is about gratitude & Christmas involves paganism, shirk, materialism, & even riba. When Allaah takes something away, he replaces it with something better. Embrace Hebraic holidays instead. They actually go hand in hand with Muslim ones.

elishebabb said...

Shalom,salaam,
The problem with "Christmas" is that Jesus ( of blessed memory ) did not & would not observe it. He celebrated Khanukah ( see john 10:22,23 ). Khanukah is about gratitude & Christmas involves paganism, shirk, materialism, & even riba. When Allaah takes something away, he replaces it with something better. Embrace Hebraic holidays instead. They actually go hand in hand with Muslim ones.

elishebabb said...

Shalom,salaam,
The problem with "Christmas" is that Jesus ( of blessed memory ) did not & would not observe it. He celebrated Khanukah ( see john 10:22,23 ). Khanukah is about gratitude & Christmas involves paganism, shirk, materialism, & even riba. When Allaah takes something away, he replaces it with something better. Embrace Hebraic holidays instead. They actually go hand in hand with Muslim ones.