In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.
The article was collected by Ummu Mariam.
Verily, all praises and thanks are due to Allah, we praise Him, seek His help and His forgiveness. We seek refuge with Allah from the evils of our souls and evils of our deeds. One whom Allah guides none can lead him astray, and one whom He misguides, none can guide him. I bear witness that there is no god but Allah, and I bear witness that Muhammad (SAAS) is His servant and His messenger.
"O you who believe! Fear Allah (by doing all that He has ordered and by abstaining from all that He has forbidden) as He should be feared. (Obey Him, be thankful to Him, and remember Him always), and die not except in a state of Islam [as Muslims (with complete submission to Allah)]." (Al-Qur‘aan 3:102 - interpretation of the meaning)
"O mankind! Be dutiful to your Lord, Who created you from a single person (Adam), and from him (Adam) He created his wife (Eve), and from them both He created many men and women and fear Allah through Whom you demand your mutual (rights), and (do not cut the relations of) the wombs (kinship). Surely, Allah is Ever an All-Watcher over you." (Al-Qur‘aan 4:1 - interpretation of the meaning)
"O you who believe! Keep your duty to Allah and fear Him, and speak (always) the truth. He will direct you to do righteous good deeds and will forgive you your sins. And whosoever obeys Allah and His Messenger (SAAS) he has indeed achieved a great achievement (i.e. he will be saved from the Hell-fire and made to enter Paradise)." (Al-Qur‘aan 33:70-71 - interpretation of the meaning)
Ammaa ba'd (as for what follows), the best of speech is the speech of Allah that is the Book of Allah. The best of guidance is the guidance of Muhammad (SAAS). Of all matters, the worst are innovations; and everything new is an innovation, and every innovation is a deviation, and every deviation leads to Hell-fire.
"One of the most controversial problems in human history is the question of Jesus. Was he completely Divine or only human, or was he semi-Devine and semi-human at the same time? Was he true or just another pretending impostor? Was he born in an ordinary way to a father and a mother like any child? Was he born in the winter or in the summer? Many questions like these were and are still raised by Christians and non-Christians alike … As for the date of his birth, Christians have not been able to establish any specific season or year. "Astronomers still have not pinned down any scientific explanation of the Star of Bethlehem… 'Neither the year of Christ's birth nor the season of the year when it (the Star) occurred are known with certainty' … Historians estimate the earliest year was 11 BC and the latest, 4 BC… 'Also,'… 'While the time of year when the birth occurred has not been fully established most probably it occurred in the springtime, rather than in December." (Mrs. Simone Daro Gossner of the U.S. Naval Observatory, quoted on p. 12 of the Edmonton Journal of December 23, 1960)." (Islam in Focus, Hammudah)
The subject that is dealt with in this article is whether Jesus ever commanded his followers to celebrate his birth and is Christmas and its customs the teachings of Jesus? What should the attitude of Muslims be towards non-Muslim festivals and customs?
Christmas according to Christian sources
The following quote is from World Religions presented by Encyclopaedia Britannica:
Christmas (is) the Christian festival celebrating the birth of Jesus. The English term Christmas ("mass on Christ's day") is of fairly recent origin. The earlier term Yule may have derived from the Germanic jxl or the Anglo-Saxon gexl, which referred to the feast of the winter solstice. The corresponding terms in other languages—Navidad in Spanish, Natale in Italian, Noël in French—all probably denote nativity. The German word Weihnachten denotes "hallowed night." Since the early 20th century, Christmas has also been a secular family holiday, observed by Christians and non-Christians alike, devoid of Christian elements, and marked by an increasingly elaborate exchange of gifts. In this secular Christmas celebration, a mythical figure named Santa Claus plays the pivotal role.
…During the first two centuries of Christianity there was strong opposition to recognizing birthdays of martyrs or, for that matter, of Jesus. Numerous church fathers offered sarcastic comments about the pagan custom of celebrating birthdays when, in fact, saints and martyrs should be honoured on the days of their martyrdom—their true "birthdays," from the church's perspective.
The precise origin of assigning December 25 as the birth date of Jesus is unclear. The New Testament provides no clues in this regard. December 25 was first identified as the date of Jesus' birth by Sextus Julius Africanus in 221 and later became the universally accepted date. One widespread explanation of the origin of this date is that December 25 was the Christianizing of the dies solis invicti nati ("day of the birth of the unconquered sun"), a popular holiday in the Roman Empire that celebrated the winter equinox as a symbol of the resurgence of the sun, the casting away of winter and the heralding of the rebirth of spring and summer. Indeed, after December 25 had become widely accepted as the date of Jesus' birth, Christian writers frequently made the connection between the rebirth of the sun and the birth of the Son. One of the difficulties with this view is that it suggests a nonchalant willingness on part of the Christian church to appropriate a pagan festival. (End quote)
The following quote is from Microsoft Encarta Reference Library 2004:
Christmas, (is) annual Christian holiday commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ. Most members of the Roman Catholic Church and followers of Protestantism celebrate Christmas on December 25, and many celebrate on the evening of December 24 as well. Members of the Eastern Orthodox Church usually delay their most important seasonal ceremonies until January 6, when they celebrate Epiphany, a commemoration of the baptism of Jesus … The official Christmas season, popularly known as either Christmastide or the Twelve Days of Christmas, extends from the anniversary of Christ's birth on December 25 to the feast of Epiphany on January 6.
The most important holiday on the Christian calendar is Easter, which commemorates the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus. Nevertheless, many people, particularly in the United States and Canada, consider Christmas to be the most significant annual Christian event. In addition to being a religious holiday, Christmas is a widely observed secular festival. For most people who celebrate Christmas, the holiday season is characterized by gatherings among family and friends, feasting, and gift giving.
…Roman Catholics first celebrated Christmas, then known as the Feast of the Nativity, as early as 336 AD. The word Christmas entered the English language sometime around 1050 as the Old English phrase Christes maesse, meaning "festival of Christ." Scholars believe the frequently used shortened form of Christmas—Xmas—may have come into use in the 13th century. The X stands for the Greek letter chi, an abbreviation of Khristos (Christ), and also represents the cross on which Jesus was crucified.
ORIGINS OF CHRISTMAS
Historians are unsure exactly when Christians first began celebrating the Nativity of Christ. However, most scholars believe that Christmas originated in the 4th century as a Christian substitute for pagan celebrations of the winter solstice. Before the introduction of Christmas, each year beginning on December 17 Romans honoured Saturn, the ancient god of agriculture, in a festival called Saturnalia. This festival lasted for seven days and included the winter solstice, which usually occurred around December 25 on the ancient Julian calendar. During Saturnalia the Romans feasted, postponed all business and warfare, exchanged gifts, and temporarily freed their slaves. Many Romans also celebrated the lengthening of daylight following the winter solstice by participating in rituals to glorify Mithra, the ancient Persian god of light. These and other winter festivities continued through January 1, the festival of Kalends, when Romans marked the day of the new moon and the first day of the month and year.
Although the Gospels describe Jesus' birth in detail, they never mention the date, so historians do not know on what date he was born. The Roman Catholic Church chose December 25 as the day for the Feast of the Nativity in order to give Christian meaning to existing pagan rituals. For example, the Church replaced festivities honoring the birth of Mithra, the god of light, with festivities to commemorate the birth of Jesus, whom the Bible calls the light of the world. The Catholic Church hoped to draw pagans into its religion by allowing them to continue their revelry while simultaneously honoring the birthday of Jesus. The Eastern Orthodox Church took a slightly different course. By the end of the 4th century the Eastern Church in Constantinople had also begun to acknowledge December 25 as Jesus' birthday, but it emphasized the celebration of Christ's baptism on January 6 as the more important holiday.
Over the next 1000 years, the observance of Christmas followed the expansion of Christianity into the rest of Europe and into Egypt. Along the way, Christian beliefs combined with existing pagan feasts and winter rituals to create many long-standing traditions of Christmas celebrations. For example, ancient Europeans believed that the mistletoe plant held magic powers to bestow life and fertility, to bring about peace, and to protect against disease. Northern Europeans associated the plant with the Norse goddess of love, Freya, and developed the custom of kissing underneath mistletoe branches. Christians incorporated this custom into their Christmas celebrations, and kissing under a mistletoe branch eventually became a part of secular Christmas tradition.
During the Reformation of the 16th century, Protestants challenged the authority of the Catholic Church, including its toleration of surviving pagan traditions during Christmas festivities. For a brief time during the 17th century, Puritans banned Christmas in England and in some English colonies in North America because they felt it had become a season best known for gambling, flamboyant public behavior, and overindulgence in food and drink…
THE CHRISTMAS TREE
As early as the 17th century, Germans had transformed this pagan symbol of fertility into a Christian symbol of rebirth. According to legend, the Christmas tree tradition began with the founder of German Protestantism, Martin Luther. While walking through the forest on Christmas Eve, Luther was so moved by the beauty of the starlit fir trees that he brought one indoors and decorated it with candles to remind his children of God's creation. In 1841 Prince Albert of Germany gave his wife, Queen Victoria of England, a gift of a Christmas tree. This was reputedly the first Christmas tree in England, but the custom spread quickly. German immigrants took the Christmas tree to other parts of Europe and to the United States and Canada, where it soon became a popular tradition. Blown-glass ornaments, tin angels, paper chains, candles, cornucopias filled with sugarplums, and other decorations made the simple evergreen tree into a beautiful parlor centerpiece at Christmastime…
RELIGIOUS PRACTICE AND POPULAR CUSTOMS
The Bible provides no guidelines that explain how Christmas should be observed, nor does it even suggest that it should be considered a religious holiday. Because of the lack of biblical instructions, Christmas rituals have been shaped by the religious and popular traditions of each culture that celebrates the holiday. Traditionally, the sacred Christmas season starts with Advent, which begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas and continues to Christmas Day. The sacred season ends on Epiphany, January 6. During Advent, Christians make preparations for the commemoration of Jesus' birth on December 25, and also look forward to the Second Coming of Christ. Each of the four weeks symbolizes a different way in which believers perceive Christ: through the flesh, the Holy Spirit, death, and Christ's judgment of the dead. The Advent wreath, which consists of four candles anchored in a circle of evergreen branches, originated with German Lutherans; the tradition has been adopted by many churches and families. At the beginning of each of the four weeks preceding Christmas, Christians light an Advent candle as they say a prayer.
On Christmas Eve, churches around the world hold evening services. At midnight, most Catholic and many Protestant churches hold special candlelight services. The Catholic midnight Mass was first introduced by the Roman Catholic Church in the 5th century. Christmas Masses are sometimes solemn and sometimes buoyant, depending on the particular culture that conducts them. Among some congregations, worshipers enter the church in communal processions. Church services often feature candlelight and organ music. Some also include a dramatization of the biblical story of Jesus' birth, a practice begun by Saint Francis of Assisi in the 13th century.
Christmas observances have also assimilated remnants of ancient midwinter rituals that celebrate the returning light of the sun following the winter solstice. For example, many cultures continue the pre-Christian custom of burning Yule logs during the midwinter season; the Yule log symbolizes the victory of light over the darkness of winter. The tradition of lighting the Yule log is still observed, especially by Europeans. Families light the log on Christmas Eve and keep it burning until Epiphany. Some families save the remains of the Yule log to help kindle the fire the following year. According to ancient tradition, the ashes provide protection against bad luck during the year.
Christians traditionally exchange gifts as a reminder of God's gift of a savior to humankind. Gift giving also recalls an ancient Roman custom of exchanging gifts to bring good fortune for the new year. In most cultures that celebrate Christmas, a mythical figure delivers gifts to children. Many of these legendary gift givers bear a passing resemblance to pre-Christian elves and pranksters, who would distribute gifts while also making mischief in the community…
The Greek Christmas, or Christougenna, pays homage to the Nativity of Christ while also incorporating popular folklore and superstitions. On Christmas Eve, Greek children go from house to house knocking on doors and singing Greek songs that herald the arrival of the Christ child. The family celebration focuses on a Christmas Eve dinner, which, in the Greek Orthodox tradition, follows several weeks of fasting. According to legend, mischievous, often hideous–looking elves called Kallikantzaroi wreak havoc in houses for the next 12 days. Burning incense or leaving a peace offering may offer some protection against the elves. Most families decorate a small wooden cross with basil and dip it into a shallow bowl of water. This is believed to give the water holy powers. The water is then sprinkled throughout the house to keep the mischievous spirits away. In the Greek Orthodox Church, the water bowl and cross are also part of an important Epiphany rite known as the Blessing of the Waters.
In December, thousands of Christians from all over the world gather in Bethlehem, the town of Jesus' birth, to witness annual rituals at the Church of the Nativity. On Christmas Eve, a horseman bearing a large cross leads a procession of church members and dignitaries into the church. They continue down steep stairs and enter the Grotto of the Nativity, a long, narrow underground cavern. Carrying an ancient image of the baby Jesus, which they wrap in swaddling clothes, they place the figure in a manger at what is believed to be the actual birthplace of Christ. (End quote)
The following quote is from the Hutchinson History Reference Suite:
The choice of a date near the winter solstice owed much to the missionary desire to facilitate conversion of members of older religions, which traditionally held festivals at that time of year. (End quote)
The following quote appeared in the Watchtower, December 15, 2000:
Concerning the Christmas celebration as it is generally known all over the world, The Encyclopedia Americana says: "Most of the customs now associated with Christmas were not originally Christmas customs but rather were pre-Christian and non-Christian customs taken up by the Christian church. Saturnalia, a Roman feast celebrated in mid-December, provided the model for many of the merry-making customs of Christmas. From this celebration, for example, were derived the elaborate feasting, the giving of gifts, and the burning of candles."
In Latin America, those basic Nativity customs may be followed, along with additional ones. 'From what source,' you might wonder. Frankly, many who want to adhere to the Bible recognize that some customs are nothing but Aztec rites. El Universal, a newspaper in Mexico City, commented: "Friars from different orders took advantage of the fact that festivities of the Indian ritual calendar coincided with the Catholic liturgical calendar, so they used this to support their evangelizing and missionary work. They replaced the commemorations to the pre-Hispanic divinities with festivities to Christian divinities, introduced European festivities and activities, and also took advantage of the Indian festivities, which resulted in a cultural syncretism from which authentically Mexican expressions have arisen."
In his book The Trouble With Christmas, author Tom Flynn set out conclusions reached after years spent researching Christmas: "An enormous number of traditions we now associate with Christmas have their roots in pre-Christian pagan religious traditions. Some of these have social, sexual, or cosmological connotations that might lead educated, culturally sensitive moderns to discard the traditions once they have understood their roots more clearly."—Page 19 (End quote)
The following quote appeared in the Watchtower, December 15, 2004:
Regarding the date for Christmas celebrations, the Enciclopedia de la Religión Católica frankly states: "The reason that the Roman Church decided to assign this date to the festival seems to be its tendency to replace pagan festivals with Christian ones…
We know that in Rome at that time, the pagans consecrated December 25 as the celebration of natalis invicti, the birth of the 'invincible sun'."
The Enciclopedia Hispánica likewise notes: "The date of December 25 for the celebration of Christmas is not the result of a strict chronological anniversary but, rather, of the Christianization of the festivals of the winter solstice that were celebrated in Rome." How did the Romans celebrate the rise of the sun in the winter sky? By feasting, revelry, and the exchanging of presents. Since church authorities were loath to abolish such a popular festival, they "Christianized" it by calling it the birth of Jesus instead of the birth of the sun. (End quote)
Can Muslims celebrate Christmas?
Muslims living in the West are confronted with intruding questions made by Christians during the month of December concerning the prohibition of Muslims celebrating or congratulating people at Christmas. Therefore, we quoted some fataawaa which deal with the matters related to Christmas for the purpose of presenting the Islamic rulings concerning them and that the Muslims will cooperate in enjoining the good and forbidding the evil.
The following questions were submitted by different people from all around the world to the Islamic site: www.islam-qa.com. These questions were answered by different Islamic scholars.
Why do you condemn the celebration of that what Christians think is birth of the son of God? 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.
Praise be to the One God, who begets not, nor is begotten.
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.
Do you think Encyclopaedia Britannica is rational and honest? Please read what they have to say about Christmas: Excerpts quoted directly from http://www.britannica.com/:
The word Christmas is derived from the Old English Cristes maesse, "Christ's Mass.":
(There is no certain tradition of the date of Christ's birth. Christian chronographers of the 3rd century believed that the creation of the world took place at the spring equinox, then reckoned as March 25; hence the new creation in the incarnation (i.e., the conception) and death of Christ must therefore have occurred on the same day, with his birth following nine months later at the winter solstice, December 25)…
According to a Roman almanac, the Christian festival of Christmas was celebrated in Rome by AD 336...
(The reason why Christmas came to be celebrated on December 25 remains uncertain, but most probably the reason is that early Christians wished the date to coincide with the pagan Roman festival marking the "birthday of the unconquered sun") (natalis solis invicti); this festival celebrated the winter solstice, when the days again begin to lengthen and the sun begins to climb higher in the sky. The traditional customs connected with Christmas have accordingly developed from several sources as a result of the coincidence of the celebration of the birth of Christ with the pagan agricultural and solar observances at midwinter. In the Roman world the Saturnalia (December 17) was a time of merrymaking and exchange of gifts. December 25 was also regarded as the birth date of the Iranian mystery god Mithra, the Sun of Righteousness. On the Roman New Year (January 1), houses were decorated with greenery and lights, and gifts were given to children and the poor. To these observances were added the German and Celtic Yule rites when the Teutonic tribes penetrated into Gaul, Britain, and central Europe. Food and good fellowship, the Yule log and Yule cakes, greenery and fir trees, and gifts and greetings all commemorated different aspects of this festive season. Fires and lights, symbols of warmth and lasting life, have always been associated with the winter festival, both pagan and Christian. Since the European Middle Ages, evergreens, as symbols of survival, have been associated with Christmas. [End quote]
So as any rational person can see, there is no sound basis for Christmas, nor did Jesus (AS) or his true followers celebrate Christmas or ask anyone to celebrate Christmas, nor was there any record of anyone calling themselves Christians celebrating Christmas until several hundred years after Jesus. So were the companions of Jesus more righteously guided in not celebrating Christmas or are the people of today?
So if you want to respect Jesus (AS) as Muslims do, don't celebrate some fabricated event that was chosen to coincide with pagan festivals and copy pagan customs. Do you honestly think God, or even Jesus himself, would approve or condemn such a thing? If you say approve, then obviously you are not interested in the truth.
We ask Allah, the One, Singular God, with no partners or sons, the God of all creation and mankind, to guide us all to the path of guidance and sincerity. [Islam Q&A Sheikh Muhammed Saaleh al-Munajjid (www.islam-qa.com)]
There is a factory that makes glass gifts, such as perfume bottles and candlesticks and exports them to other countries. I have been offered a position with responsibility for exports, but the factory will ask me to make some gifts that are just for Christian holidays (Christmas) such as crosses and images. Is this work permissible? I fear Allah now that I have been blessed with some knowledge and have memorized His Book.
All praises and thanks are due to Allah.
It is not permissible for any Muslim to join in the festivals of the kuffaar (disbelievers), whether by attending the festivities or enabling them to hold their celebrations, or selling any goods or products that have to do with these festivals.
Sheikh Muhammad ibn Ibrahim rahimahullaah wrote to the Minister for Trade, saying:
From Muhammad ibn Ibrahim to His Excellency the Minister for Trade, may Allah preserve him. Peace be upon you and the mercy of Allah and His blessings.
We have been told that last year, some traders imported gifts for Christmas and the Christian New Year, including Christmas trees, and that some citizens bought these and gave them as gifts to Christian foreigners in our country, joining them in this festival.
This is an evil action which they should not have done. Undoubtedly you know that this is not permissible, and you are aware of what the scholars have said about there being scholarly consensus on the prohibition on joining the kuffaar (disbelievers), mushrikuun (polytheists) and People of the Book in their festivals.
We hope that you will issue a ban on these gifts that have been brought into our country and other things that come under the same ruling and are things that are unique to their celebrations. (Fataawaa Sheikh Muhammad ibn Ibrahim, 3/105)
Sheikh 'Abd al-'Azeez ibn Baaz rahimahullaah was asked: "Some Muslims join the Christians in their celebrations. What is your advice?"
He replied: It is not permissible for any Muslim man or woman to join the Christians, Jews or other disbelievers in their festivals; rather that must be avoided, because "Whoever imitates a people is one of them." The Prophet (SAAS) warned us against imitating them and adopting their ways. So the believer, man or woman, must beware of that; it is not permissible to help them in doing that in any way, because these festivals are against sharee'ah, so it is prohibited to take part in them or to cooperate with the people who are celebrating it, or help them in any way, whether by helping them to serve tea or coffee or in other ways such as providing vessels etc, because Allah says (interpretation of the meaning): "…Help you one another in al-birr and at-taqwaa (virtue, righteousness and piety); but do not help one another in sin and transgression. And fear Allah. Verily, Allah is Severe in punishment." (Al-Qur‘aan 5:2)
Joining in with the kuffaar on their holidays is a kind of cooperating in sin and transgression. (Majmuu' Fataawaa Sheikh ibn Baaz, 6/405)
In a statement issued by the scholars of the Standing Committee concerning joining in celebrations of the Millennium, they said: …It is not permissible for a Muslim to cooperate with the kuffaar in any way with regard to their festivals, such as announcing and publicizing their festivals, including the Millennium mentioned above, or promoting them by any means, whether that is via the media or by setting up clock to "count down" to the Millennium, or making clothes or other items that commemorate the occasion, or printing greeting cards or stationery marking this occasion, or offering special discounts or prizes on these occasions, or holding sporting events or producing special logos for them etc.
Based on this, it is not permissible for you to participate in making anything that has to do with the festivals of the kuffaar; you should leave this job for the sake of Allah, and Allah will compensate you with something better than it in shaa‘ Allah. And Allah knows best. [Islam Q&A (www.islam-qa.com)]
Is it permissible for Muslims to take part in their festivals, such as Christmas?
All praises and thanks are due to Allah.
It is not permissible for the Muslim to join the kuffaar in their festivals and to express joy and happiness on these occasions, or to take the day off work, whether the occasion is religious or secular, because this is a kind of imitating the enemies of Allah, which is forbidden, and a kind of cooperating with them in falsehood. It was proven that Allah's Messenger (SAAS) said: "Whoever imitates a people is one of them." And Allah says (interpretation of the meaning): "…Help you one another in al-birr and at-taqwaa (virtue, righteousness and piety); but do not help one another in sin and transgression. And fear Allah. Verily, Allah is Severe in punishment." (Al-Qur‘aan 5:2)
We advise you to refer to the book Iqtidaa‘ as-Siraat al-Mustaqeem by Sheikh-ul-Islam ibn Taymiyah rahimahullaah for it is very useful on this topic. [Translator's note: This book is available in English under the title "The Right Way", published by Darussalam, Riyadh].
And Allah is the source of strength. May Allah bless our Prophet Muhammad and his family and companions, and grant them peace. [Standing Committee on Academic Research and Issuing Fataawaa, fatwaa no. 2540. (www.islam-qa.com)]
Can a Muslim celebrate a non-Muslim holiday like Thanksgiving?
All praises and thanks are due to Allah.
Greeting the kuffaar on Christmas and other religious holidays of theirs is haraam (prohibited), by consensus, as ibn al-Qayyim rahimahullaah said in Ahkaam Ahl adh-Dhimmah: "Congratulating the kuffaar on the rituals that belong only to them is haraam (prohibited) by consensus, as is congratulating them on their festivals and fasts by saying 'A happy festival to you' or 'May you enjoy your festival,' and so on. If the one who says this has been saved from kufr (disbelief), it is still forbidden. It is like congratulating someone for prostrating to the cross, or even worse than that. It is as great a sin as congratulating someone for drinking wine, or murdering someone, or having illicit sexual relations, and so on. Many of those who have no respect for their religion fall into this error; they do not realize the offensiveness of their actions. Whoever congratulates a person for his disobedience or bid'ah or kufr exposes himself to the wrath and anger of Allah."
Congratulating the kuffaar on their religious festivals is haraam to the extent described by ibn al-Qayyim because it implies that one accepts or approves of their rituals of kufr, even if one would not accept those things for oneself. But the Muslim should not accept the rituals of kufr or congratulate anyone else for them, because Allah does not accept any of that at all, as He says (interpretation of the meaning): "If you disbelieve, then verily, Allah is not in need of you; He likes not disbelief for His slaves. And if you are grateful (by being believers), He is pleased therewith for you…" (Al-Qur‘aan 39:7)
"…This day, I have perfected your religion for you, completed My Favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion…" (Al-Qur‘aan 5:3 - interpretation of the meaning)
So congratulating them is forbidden, whether they are one's colleagues at work or otherwise.
If they greet us on the occasion of their festivals, we should not respond, because these are not our festivals, and because they are not festivals which are acceptable to Allah. These festivals are innovations in their religions, and even those which may have been prescribed formerly have been abrogated by the religion of Islam, with which Allah sent Muhammad (SAAS) to the whole of mankind. Allah says (interpretation of the meaning): "And whoever seeks a religion other than Islam, it will never be accepted of him, and in the Hereafter he will be one of the losers." (Al-Qur‘aan 3:85)
It is haraam for a Muslim to accept invitations on such occasions, because this is worse than congratulating them as it implies taking part in their celebrations.
Similarly, Muslims are forbidden to imitate kuffaar by having parties on such occasions, or exchanging gifts, or giving out sweets or food, or taking time off work, etc., because the Prophet (SAAS) said: "Whoever imitates a people is one of them." Sheikh-ul-Islam ibn Taymiyah rahimahullaah said in his book Iqtidaa‘ as-Seraat al-Mustaqeem Mukhaalafaat Ashaab al-Jaheem: "Imitating them in some of their festivals implies that one is pleased with their false beliefs and practices, and gives them hope that they may have the opportunity to humiliate and mislead the weak."
Whoever does anything of this sort is a sinner, whether he does it out of politeness or to be friendly, or because he is too shy to refuse, or for whatever other reason, because this is hypocrisy in Islam, and because it makes the kuffaar feel proud of their religion.
Allah is the One Whom we ask to make the Muslims feel proud of their religion, to help them to adhere steadfastly to it, and to make them victorious over their enemies, for He is the Strong and Omnipotent. [Majmuu'at Fataawaa wa Rasaa‘il Sheikh ibn 'Utheimeen, 3/369 (www.islam-qa.com)]
She says: I want to become Muslim, but my family gathers to celebrate Christmas, and I want to go and greet them. This is not with the intention of celebrating or joining in, but simply to make the most of the opportunity of my relatives getting together. Is this allowed?
We put this question to Sheikh Muhammad ibn Saaleh al-'Utheimeen, may Allah preserve him, who answered as follows:
No, it is not permitted. If Allah blesses her with Islam, then the first thing she must do is to distance herself from her former religion and its festivals. And Allah knows best. [Sheikh Muhammad ibn Saaleh al-'Utheimeen (www.islam-qa.com)]
What is the ruling on eating food prepared for a Christian festival? What is the ruling on accepting their invitation to their celebrations of the birth of the Messiah [i.e., Christmas celebrations]?
All praises and thanks are due to Allah.
It is not permissible to celebrate innovated festivals such as the Christmas of the Christians, or Nawroz (Persian New Year) or Mahrajaan (Persian festival), or festivals that have been innovated by Muslims such as the Prophet's birthday in Rabii' al-Awwal or the israa‘ in Rajab and so on. It is not permissible to eat from that food which the Christians or mushrikuun prepare on the occasion of their festivals. It is also not permissible to accept their invitations to join them in their celebrations of those festivals, because this encourages them and is tantamount to approving of their bid'ah, which gives the wrong idea to ignorant people and makes them think that there is nothing wrong with that. And Allah knows best. [From al-Lu‘lu‘ al-Makeen min Fataawaa ibn Jibreen, p. 27. (www.islam-qa.com)]
To us Muslims, each and every thing we do is a part of our worship of the One, Supreme God - nothing is excluded. We might be branded as "fundamentalists" but is there anything else more basic or "fundamental" than applying our absolute moral code consistently to everything we do? Isn't that the highest standard?
For Muslims there are two festivals; namely 'eid-ul-Fitr - the festival of fast-breaking immediately after the end of Ramadhan - and 'eid-ul-Adhaa - the festival of sacrifice during the major pilgrimage time. Any other festivals are innovated and amount to nothing, especially if they are the religious festivals of other religions or groups that are beyond the pale of Islam.
Allah, the Exalted, says (interpretation of the meaning): "And strain not your eyes in longing for the things We have given for enjoyment to various groups of them (polytheists and disbelievers in the Oneness of Allah), the splendour of the life of this world, that We may test them thereby. But the provision (good reward in the Hereafter) of your Lord is better and more lasting. And enjoin as-salaah (the prayer) on your family, and be patient in offering them (prayers). We ask not of you a provision (i.e. to give Us something: money): We provide for you. And the good end (i.e. Paradise) is for the muttaqoon (the pious)." (Al-Qur‘aan 20:131-132)
It should be noted that in Islam it is not permissible to celebrate birthdays, which will be emphasized in the following quote.
What is the evidence on celebrating birthdays? Is it allowed in Islam?
The evidence in the Qur‘aan and Sunnah indicates that celebrating birthdays is a kind of bid'ah (innovation in religion), which has no basis in the pure sharee'ah. It is not permitted to accept invitations to birthday celebrations, because this involves supporting and encouraging bid'ah. Allah, may He be glorified and exalted, says (interpretation of the meaning): "Or have they partners (with Allah - false gods) who have instituted for them a religion which Allah has not ordained?…" (Al-Qur‘aan 42:21)
"Then We have put you (O Muhammad (SAAS)) on a (plain) way of (Our) commandment [like the one which We commanded Our Messengers before you (i.e. legal ways and laws of Islamic Monotheism)]. So follow you that (Islamic Monotheism and its laws), and follow not the desires of those who know not. Verily, they can avail you nothing against Allah (if He wants to punish you). Verily, the dhaalimuun (polytheists, wrongdoers) are auliyaa‘ (protectors, helpers) of one another, but Allah is the Walii (Helper, Protector) of the muttaqoon (the pious)." (Al-Qur‘aan 45:18-19 - interpretation of the meaning)
"Follow what has been sent down unto you from your Lord (the Qur‘aan and Prophet Muhammad's Sunnah), and follow not any auliyaa‘ (protectors and helpers who order you to associate partners in worship with Allah), besides Him (Allah). Little do you remember!" (Al-Qur‘aan 7:3 - interpretation of the meaning)
According to sahiih reports, the Prophet (SAAS) said: "Whoever does something that is a not part of this matter of ours (i.e., Islam) will have it rejected" (reported by Muslim in his Sahiih); and "The best of speech is the Book of Allah and the best of guidance is the guidance of Muhammad. The most evil of things are those which have been newly invented (in religion), and every innovation is a going astray." There are many other ahaadiith that convey the same meaning.
Besides being bid'ah and having no basis in sharee'ah, these birthday celebrations also involve imitation of the Jews and Christians in their birthday celebrations. The Prophet (SAAS) said, warning us against following their ways and traditions: "You would follow the ways of those who came before you step by step, to such an extent that if they were to enter a lizard's hole, you would enter it too." They said, "O Allah's Messenger, (do you mean) the Jews and Nazarenes?" He said, "Who else?" (Reported by al-Bukhari and Muslim). The Prophet (SAAS) also said: "Whoever imitates a people is one of them."
[Fataawaa Islamiyyah, 1/115 (www.islam-qa.com)]
On the basis of the above, the festivals of non-Muslims are part of their religion, and if a Muslim venerates their festivals by expressing joy and giving gifts, or even by helping them in any way with regard to their celebrations, he is imitating them. And in order to avoid this evil action, we quoted in the following paragraph a fatwaa which shows the rulings concerning imitation of non-Muslims.
Guidelines concerning imitation of the kuffaar
What are the definitions of imitating the west? Does everything that is modern and new and has come to us from the west imply imitation of them? In other words, when can we say that something is haraam because it is an imitation of the kuffaar?
All praises and thanks are due to Allah.
It was narrated that ibn 'Umar (RAA) said: "Allah's Messenger (SAAS) said: 'Whoever imitates a people is one of them.'" (Narrated by Abu Dawud, al-Libaas, 3512. Al-Albaani said in Sahiih Abi Dawud, (it is) hasan saheeh, No. 3401.)
Al-Munaawi and al-'Alqami said: i.e., dressing as they dress, following their way of life in clothes and some of the things they do.
Al-Qaari said: i.e., whoever imitates the kuffaar, such as in how one dresses, etc., or imitates the evil and immoral people, or the Sufis or the righteous, is one of the people whom he imitates, whether they are good or bad.
Sheikh-ul-Islam ibn Taymiyah rahimahullaah said in as-Siraat al-Mustaqeem: Imam Ahmad and others quoted this hadiith as evidence. This hadiith at the very least implies that it is haraam to imitate them, as Allah says (interpretation of the meaning): "...And if any amongst you takes them [Jews and Nazarenes as auliyaa‘ (friends, helpers)], then surely, he is one of them…" (Al-Qur‘aan 5:51)
This is similar to the view of 'Abdullah ibn 'Amr who said: "Whoever settles in the land of the mushrikuun and celebrates their Nawroz (new year) and Mahrajaan (festival) and imitates them until he dies will be gathered with them on the Day of Resurrection." This may be interpreted as referring to absolute imitation which implies kufr and as meaning that imitation in part is therefore haraam; or it may be interpreted as meaning that he is one of them to the extent that he imitates them, whether it is in ideas of kufr, sin or partaking in a ritual. It was narrated from ibn 'Umar (RAA) that the Prophet (SAAS) forbade imitating the non-Arabs and said: "Whoever imitates a people is one of them." This was also mentioned by al-Qaadi Abu Ya'laa. This was quoted by more than one of the scholars to show that it is makrooh (hated) to imitate forms of dress of the non-Muslims which are not known among the Muslims. See 'Awn al-Ma'buud Sharh Sunan Abi Dawud.
Imitating the kuffaar falls into two categories: Imitation that is haraam and imitation that is permitted.
The first type is imitation that is haraam: this means knowingly doing things that are unique characteristics of the religion of the kuffaar and that have not been referred to in our religion. This is haraam and it may be a major sin; according to the evidence in some cases a person may even become a kaafir (disbeliever) by doing that, whether a person does that because he agrees with the kuffaar, or because of his whims and desires, or because of some specious arguments which make him feel that doing it will bring him benefit in this world and the next. If it is asked, is the one who does that out of ignorance a sinner, such as one who celebrates Christmas? The answer is that the one who is ignorant is not a sinner because he was unaware, but he has to be told, and if he persists he becomes a sinner.
The second type is imitation that is permissible. This means doing something which is not originally taken from the kuffaar, but the kuffaar do it too. This does not involve a prohibition on resembling them, but one may miss out on the benefits of differing from them.
Imitating or resembling the People of the Book (Jews and Nazarenes) and others with regard to worldly matters is permissible only when the following conditions are met:
See as-Sunan wal-Athaar fii an-Nahy 'an at-Tashabbuh bil-Kuffaar by Suhayl Hasan, p. 58-59.
[Islam Q&A Sheikh Muhammed Saaleh al-Munajjid (Taken from: www.islam-qa.com)]
Allah, the Exalted, says (interpretation of the meaning): "And leave alone those who take their religion as play and amusement, and whom the life of this world has deceived. But remind (them) with it (the Qur‘aan) lest a soul be given up to destruction for that which it has earned, when it will find for itself no protector or intercessor besides Allah, and even if it offers every ransom, it will not be accepted from it. Such are they who are given up to destruction because of that which they have earned. For them will be a drink of boiling water and a painful torment because they used to disbelieve. Say: "Shall we invoke others besides Allah (false deities), that can do us neither good nor can harm us, and shall we turn back on our heels after Allah has guided us (to true Monotheism)? - like one whom the devils have made to go astray in the land in confusion, his companions calling him to guidance (saying): 'Come to us.'" Say: "Verily, Allah's Guidance is the only guidance, and we have been commanded to submit (ourselves) to the Lord of the 'aalamiin (mankind, jinn and all that exists); and to perform as-salaah (the five compulsory prayers), and to be obedient to Allah and fear Him, and it is He to Whom you shall be gathered." It is He Who has created the heavens and the earth in truth, and on the Day (i.e. the Day of Resurrection) He will say: "Be!" - and it is! His Word is the truth. His will be the dominion on the Day when the trumpet will be blown. All-Knower of the unseen and the seen. He is the All-Wise, Well-Aware (of all things)." (Al-Qur‘aan 6:70-73)
We ask Allah (SWT) to guide His slaves and to help them find the true religion, which is Islam, and the path of His messenger Muhammad (SAAS) according to the understanding of his noble Companions (RAA). And Allah (SWT) is the Guide to the Straight Path.
Published on Saturday the 6th of Dhul-Qi'dah, 1425/the 18th of December, 2004