Saying Merry Christmas - is it haram?
In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
It is obvious for Muslims living in western countries to face the issue of celebration, congratulation or gift exchange around the time of christmas in every December.
It is also well understood that Christmas is a purely religious festival started and celebrated by Christians.
Allah (S.W.T) has blessed Muslims with a religion that is perfect and complete. For Muslims, there are two religious festivals in a year and Muslims are supposed to celebrate those occasions. At the same time, Muslims are not allowed to celebrate the religious festivals of other faiths as it would tantamount to their consent and happiness over the wrongdoings of others.
Therefore, Muslims are advised to refrain from the celebrations or participation in religious festivals of other faiths. May it be, Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism or any other faith.
Keeping the above in mind, the answers to your questions are below:
What should a Muslim do when someone says "merry christmas"?
If a Muslim is greeted by someone with "merry christmas", he should return the greeting by saying "Happy holiday"
Is it Haram to say "merry christmas to a christian?
Yes, it is impermissible for a Muslim to say "merry christmas" to anyone. Instead, one may say to a non-Muslim "Happy holiday".
How to deal with a situation when one's close friends, relatives etc... are celebrating christmas?
If someone has friends, relatives or coworkers, who celebrate christmas or other religious festivals then a Muslim should do his best to stay out of such activities. However, if a Muslim fears harm as a result of that then he may participate in such activities that are not directly religious such as praying to Jesus etc... on minimum level and with the intention of not celebrating christmas.
Gifts during the time of christmas?
It is forbidden for a Muslim give and take gifts of Haram substance such as wine, pork etc... If someone is being offered a gift of such substance, he must politely refuse it. If someone has already accepted such gift, then it would not be permissible for him/her to keep it or even give it to someone else. Rather, it will be necessary to discard it.
Gifts of other substances such as fruits, electronics etc... are permissible to accept if presented.
Giving of such gifts at times other than religious festivals such as christmas is not only permissible but encouraged. However, giving of such gifts during times of religious celebration such as christmas should be avoided unless there is a real harm in not giving a gift.
Giving gifts of those kinds which symbolize the significance of other religious icons such as christmas tree, santa clause etc... remain forbidden.
And Allah knows best.
Mufti Ikram ul Haq
Fatwa Center of America
10 Muharram 1432/ December 16 2010
نقل ابن القيّم - رحمه الله – في كتابه أحكام أهل الذمة ، حيث قال : وأما التهنئة بشعائر الكفر المختصة به فحرام بالاتفاق ، مثل أن يُهنئهم بأعيادهم وصومهم ، فيقول : عيد مبارك عليك ، أو تهنأ بهذا العيد ونحوه فهذا إن سلِمَ قائله من الكفر فهو من المحرّمات ، وهو بمنزلة أن تُهنئه بسجوده للصليب بل ذلك أعظم إثماً عند الله ، وأشدّ مَـقتاً من التهنئة بشرب الخمر وقتل النفس وارتكاب الفرج الحرام ونحوه . وكثير ممن لا قدر للدِّين عنده يقع في ذلك ، ولا يدري قبح ما فعل ، فمن هنّـأ عبدا بمعصية أو بدعة أو كـُـفْرٍ فقد تعرّض لِمقت الله وسخطه .
Therefore i would like to wish Happy Holidays to all.