Saturday, December 23, 2006

Christmas Celebrations

This is indeed an important issue as Christmas is just around the corner. Christmas is celebrated on December 25th by most Christians and on January 7th by the Orthodox in remembrance of the birth of Jesus or as known to the Muslims as Prophet Isa Al-Masih, the Son of Maryam, born through a miracle birth.

In ancient times, December 25 was a feast of the pagan sun god, celebrated in Europe in the depths of winter to give hope that the cold, dark days of December would soon pass. The Churches however took over this date, although in actual there was no record when Jesus was born.

The feast or better known as Christmas celebrates the belief that God sent His son, Jesus into the world to redeem it from the Original Sin of Adam and Eve.

Christmas, as a traditional part of European and North American culture, is celebrated by almost everyone in these countries, whether or not they are church-goers or even believe in God.

During the Middle Ages, almost everyone went to church. Nowadays, the majority do not. Nonetheless, Christmas has remained very much a part of these societies. For most people, it has become a time to celebrate the love of family and friends and to look back with fondness at happy memories of childhood. For others, it is a time when people did, perhaps, pray and have some belief in its power.

The other group who celebrates Christmas is the Orthodox, the devout Christians. For them it is a religious feast at the heart of their faith. The most important part of the celebration for them is the religious service. Unfortunately, because they are very much in a minority, their feast has been hijacked from them by the salesmen and the media.

As Muslims, we do not believe that Jesus was God's son, that is what Quran is saying and so there is nothing for us to celebrate Christmas.

But there are cases where Muslims with non Muslim parents. Are they are allowed to visit them, exchange gifts and partake in their feasts, as long as to stay away from their specific religious observances? Islam is all about keeping good relations and being kind and helpful to parents. Allah says in the Qur’an:

“And We have enjoined on man (to be good) to his parents: in travail upon travail did his mother bear him, and in years twain was his weaning: (hear the command), "Show gratitude to Me and to thy parents: to Me is (thy final) Goal.”

"But if they strive to make thee join in worship with Me things of which thou hast no knowledge, obey them not; yet bear them company in this life with justice (and consideration), and follow the way of those who turn to me (in love): in the end the return of you all is to Me, and I will tell you the truth (and meaning) of all that ye did." [Surah Luqman, 31:14 – 15]

“God forbids you not, with regard to those who fight you not for (your) Faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them: for God loveth those who are just.” [Surah Al-Mumtahana, 60:8]

Based on the above verses, we ought to be kind to our parents at all times regardless of our religious differences with them. The fact that they are not Muslims should not prevent or inhibit us from visiting them, staying with them and being charitable and kind towards them. However, we must never compromise our Islamic principles.

Muslim are certainly allowed to wish them, provided that we are clear in our own mind about the issue of simply wishing them happiness and reciprocating kindness with kindness. Islam teaches us that at all times, reciprocate kindness with kindness and treat all people with fairness and compassion.

But we too are allowed to harbor enmity only towards those who are hostile and aggressive towards us.

Islam spreads throughout the five continents, not through the sword, but primarily because of the tolerance, fairness, mercy, and compassion manifested by those who claimed to be Muslims. After all, Prophet Muhammad SAW as has been stated clearly in the Qur’an was sent by Allah “as a mercy for the worlds” [Al-Anbiya’ 21: 107].

Hence, all Muslims are to remain persistent in practicing the principles of Islam, while being tolerant and compassionate towards parents, kith and kin, neighbors, Muslims, all human beings as well as fellow creatures of Allah S.W.T.

Today in many countries, Muslims are at present under attack, either physically or psychologically. Made to take the blame for terrorism, ordinary Muslims are pointed at with suspicion, and their real motives towards their country are questioned.

Showing our non-Muslim that Islam in actual is a religion of submission, surrender, obedience and are peaceful to the will of Allah is, indeed the principles of Islam. Peaceful and kind does not, of mean that we are weak. We are not offering Christmas greetings out of weakness because we are in a minority. Certainly not, our greeting to our neighbors comes from a strong faith that we are called to be Muslim.

In Islam, our actions and believes are carry out throughout the year and not just during Christmas time. We should carry out our duty as good Muslims and faithfully dedicate all commitments to the Mercy of Almighty Allah. Perhaps we could turn Christmas time into a time for dakwah.

In a world which has lost all senses of God and which turns to alcohol and consumerism to drown its sorrows, we can show that there is a better way for all mankind to experience peace rather than by kissing under the mistletoe or visiting Santa Claus, but by embracing Islam. We must make Christmas as a time for us to tell others about Islam.

As we deal with people, interact with them socially, we must never forget that we Muslim have our own unique identity. This identity means that we have announced our commitment to follow Allah’s way and abide by His rules. Part of which, is not to mix anything alien to His Religion.

Muslim Scholars have deduced a juristic ruling that Muslims must not celebrate festivals or holidays that are for non-Muslims. They emphasize that Islam suffices Muslims. So there is no need for us to imitate others; our religion is comprehensive in itself and it embraces all that is good. Muslims are supposed to be the role model for others and not vice versa. This is based on the Hadith of the Prophet Muhammad S.A.W in which he says:

‘He who imitates others is reckoned as one of them.’ (Abu Dawud)

As such, perhaps Muslims may consider sending them greeting cards to show compliments and felicitation that does not collide with the principles of Islam or not amount to something which is Haram.

Islam insists that Muslims should build a strong personality that would never sway by any circumstances. If a friend from among the People of the Book tends to share your joyous occasions during your feasts and Eids and never fails to share your grief at times of calamities, then there is nothing wrong in us showing them the same feelings in return, for Allah Almighty says:

“When a (courteous) greeting is offered you, meet it with a greeting still more courteous, or (at least) of equal courtesy. God takes careful account of all things.” [Surah An-NIsa’, 4: 86]

However, this does not mean that we should celebrate the occasion with them. What we are required to show is the part of righteousness and justice well established within the perimeter of Islam.


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