Part 1 of a two-part series on celebrating Christmas as Muslims. Check out Part 2!
The Christmas period is super-sized world phenomenon. As soon as the year enters December, green and red tinsel starts decorating shopping malls and hotel lobbies. Fully-decked out Christmas trees are seen in homes and in offices. Special Christmas-themed movies and television shows are broadcasted while prices are slashed for the inevitable frenzy of Christmas shoppers. Carols are sung. Christmas pies line shelves and home-ovens. The spirit of giving and goodness is abundant. There is no denying it; you cannot but help to feel joyful surrounded by the Christmas cheer whether you live in the West or in Pakistan.
So, is it really that bad to join in the Christmas festivities if you are a Muslim? After all, we recognize and love Jesus (AS) as well as Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). His birth is one of Allah (SWT)’s many miracles and indeed, the day of his birth was blessed by Allah (SWT),
“And peace is on me [Jesus] the day I was born and the day I will die and the day I am raised alive.” [Surah Maryam, 19:33]
Celebrating Christmas as a Muslim is slightly more complex than the microwaved-argument that it is a form of Shirk, and therefore haram to the nth degree. Though that remains a serious and valid point;
“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.” [Surah Maryam, 19:88-91]
it is not the only reason why Muslims should be wary of indulging in the Christmas spirit.
Celebrating Christmas is an issue of Muslim identity.
Yes, identity; a trending talking-point this past couple of years, but something that Islam has been specifically concerned with since the beginning.
There are so many commandments in Islam that are specific to moulding a unique Muslim personality from the way we speak and dress to the way we eat, drink, and sleep. Every Salam we utter from our lips is an affirmation of our identity as Muslims. Every hijab, abaya, and beard display our religion. Every time we observe a fast, pray salah, perform Umrah or Hajj, we testify of our Muslim-ness. Islam is not inaccurately assumed to be a ‘way of life’; it genuinely is a way of life that is to be lived by all Muslims and not just theorized about in sermons and talks.
It is not then surprising that celebrating Christmas is seen as inconsistent with having a specific Muslim identity. Ibn Umar narrates that the Prophet Muhammad warned:
“Whoever imitates a people is one of them” (Abu Dawood, 3512).
Celebrating Christmas or other non-Muslim traditions betrays an uncertainty about our own religious identity. To challenge that we need to self-reflect and set our priorities. Holding up to Allah’s standards of behaviour and actions is more important than holding up to socially or culturally constructed ideals. Crafting a Muslim existence guarantees success while following those who have been condemned by Allah (SWT) guarantees failure in the Hereafter.
It definitely is hard to stand-out and do something different from everyone else. But Islam is there at every turn to guide us. The biggest lesson that we can learn from the Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH)’s life in Makkah during the early years of Islam is that we are required to stand firm in our faith regardless of what other people might think, do, or say. This is the core to be a successful Muslim.
The Quran says:
“O you who have believed, when you encounter force, stand firm and remember Allah much that you may be successful. And obey Allah and His Messenger, and do not dispute and [thus] lose courage and [then] your strength would depart; and be patient. Indeed, Allah is with the patient” [Surah Anfal, 8:45-46]
So, put down the Christmas cards, and step away from the Christmas Tree.
Preserve your faith and your Muslim identity. Empower yourself by recognizing that Allah (SWT) chose you to be a Muslim specifically. Learn more if you feel uncertain or confused but never let go of who Allah (SWT) chose you to be.
Find out practical ways you can counter the mainstream Christmas culture in your home and workplace in Part 2 of this series.