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Can Muslims celebrate Christmas ?
Q. Is it allowed for muslims to celebrate Christmas?
Ans. Yes, it’s permissible to commemorate Christmas and take part in its celebrations, provided one refrains from any activity in conflict with Islam.
Details: Technically speaking, as in many jurisprudential matters, taking part in Christmas celebrations, is an on-going debate among Islamic scholars. When there is a difference of opinion, one should follow whatever he deems correct. I’ll present both the views, you should follow whatever YOU feel is correct.
One school of thought argues it’s impermissible to celebrate Christmas as by observing the event, you are actually approving the Christian belief of Trinity, which is shirk. This group, interprets the hadith ‘Whoever imitates a people is one of them.’ (Sunan Abu Daud) in favour of their view.
They believe imitating kuffar in their religious celebrations is equivalent to kufr and by wishing “Merry Christmas” you’re supporting the claim of Jesus’ divinity.
They further maintain that Jesus, in reality, was not born on the 25th December and so there’s no point in celebrating the day. Some of this view’s followers even go at lengths to label those Muslims who celebrate this event, as mushrik (Polytheists).
The second school of thought is moderate in its approach. Adherents of this group are increasing. The belief in Jesus being an important messenger and messiah is required in Islam. Allah has given Jesus the title of Ruhullah (Spirit of God) in the Qur’an.
Jesus’ miraculous birth is one of the great events in the history of mankind and is the most-detailed birth discussed in the Qur’an. The Quran even quotes Jesus about his birthday “Blessed was I (Jesus) on my birth day, and blessed I shall be on the day of my death” (Qur’an 19:33).
Christmas is the celebration of his birthday and celebration of birthdays of Prophet’s as well as common people is permissible in Islam. Commemorating Mawlid (birthday) is also a sunnah because the Prophet Muhamamd (pbuh) used to honour his own birthday.
The Prophet (s) was asked about his fasting on Mondays, and he answered: “That is the day that I was born” (Sahih Muslim)
Once in Medina, the Prophet (s) sacrificed two animals in celebration and invited the Ansar over for dinner. Imam Suyuti commenting on this hadith writes this dinner was a celebration of his Mawlid (Birthday) (Sunan Baihaqi, Al-hawi lil-fatawa)
It should be noted however, that i’m commenting on the permissibility of only this aspect of Christianity, Christmas has got nothing to do with Trinity, Crucifixion or the belief of Jesus being the God Incarnate/son. Just as the birthday of the last Prophet (s) is permissible so is the birthday of other Prophet’s.
The places where Prophets are born are amongst the Shaa’ir (venerated holy sites), particularly the birthplace of Jesus Christ, as it was one of the three places where the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) prayed on the night of ascension to heavens (Mi’raj).
“The Prophet (saw) while mentioning his journey of Miraaj said: Jibril asked me to get off from the Bur’aq when we passed Bethlehem and requested me to pray, after which Gabriel asked: Ya rasulullah! Do you know where you have prayed ? You just prayed at Bethlehem where Jesus Christ was born.” [Sunnan an Nasai’I, Volume 1, Page No. 450, Hadith No. 450]
The argument of 25th December not being the birth date of Jesus seems irrelevant to me, because historically there has been dispute amongst scholars on the 12th of Rabi ul Awwal being Prophet Muhammad’s birth date. Shi’i muslims still celebrate Mawlid-un-Nabi on the 17th of Rabi ul Awwal, some even consider 8th to be the exact date, and celebrate it thereby. Most muslims symbolically commemorate on the 12th, as the majority of histrians agree with this date.
So we don’t comemmorate the 12th because it is the 12th or we don’t celebrate the birth ‘date’ of the Seal of Prophets (saw) only, rather we celebrate the FACT that HE WAS BORN in accordance to the Quranic injunction “(All this) is due to the bounty and mercy of Allah (bestowed upon you) through raising Muhammad (s) as the exalted Messenger. So the Muslims should rejoice over it. This is far better than (all that wealth) they accumulate.” (Yunus 10:58) .
That’s why many scholars, over the centuries, implied that the celebration of the Prophet’s Mawlid must not only be restricted to the 12th of Rabi` al-Awwal, but can and should be on every day of every month in every mosque, in order for people to feel the light of Islam and the light of Shari`a in their hearts.
This date has a symbolic significance in Islam, as 25th has in Christianity.
As far as the hadith ‘Whoever imitates a nation, is one of them’ is concerned, we believe, this only refers to the imitation of those acts which promote a particular religion’s beliefs (contradictory to islam).
For e.g. Easter or Diwali is included in this as they’ve a particular element of shirk in them. Candles are lighted in honour of the goddess Lakshmi, so joining Diwali celebrations a form of glorifying their shirk. Easter is celebrated as the day Jesus the son rose from the dead and this resurrection eventually resulted in him being united with God the father. Festivals of this kind are undoubtedly impermissible from an islamic perspective.
But Christmas, in fact, is the most vigorous refutation of Jesus’s Divinity or him being God as the Supreme Creator cannot be created. “He does not give birth nor was he born” (Quran 112)
God cannot be born which means that either Jesus is not God or Jesus wasn’t born. Christmas is the celebration of his birth which means Jesus was born, so the first statement stands true. Christmas actually promotes tawhid (Oneness of God) and is the biggest irony of the Christian faith. Christmas is NOT shirk.
The following hadith clarifies this
Prophet Muhammad (saw) entered Medina in the first year of Hijra and noticed the Jews fasting on the 10th of Muharram. He asked one of his companions: “Why are the Jews fasting?”. His companion replied: “The Jews are celebrating remembering when Prophet Moses (pbuh) and the children of Israel were saved from the Pharaoh”.
The Prophet (s) said: “We have a greater right on Moses than they do. Therefore, my people will fast on Ashura in the same way they are fasting on Ashura”. (Sahih Bukhari)
In the hadith above, we can see, the Prophet (saw) imitated the jews, on the basis of a common element between the two faiths, in a way thats acceptable to Islam.
So anything, whose basic theme is not contradictory to the islamic Faith, and its related to any Prophet, we are allowed to commemorate it.
Based on this, I conclude with Shaykh ul-Islam’s words : ‘As the Prophet Muhammad (saw) said, if the Jews are celebrating then we have a much higher right to celebrate it . Similarly I say: We have much higher right in celebrating the birthday of Jesus Christ than anybody else in this world.’
p.s. watch this video for a proper fatwa
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