Christmas A day of celebration or Isolation
The jingle of bells and colourful decorations transform the workplace and offices. The sound of laughter and the humming of Christmas carols. The talk of Christmas parties and New Years eve celebrations come to a near. The festive season supposedly creates a period of goodwill and an end to hostilities and conflict.
However it is not so joyous for all, especially for the Muslim employee. Like all the other workers he has received plentiful cards from his friends wishing him a 'Merry Christmas', which he promptly files away in the bin. As in previous years he is also invited to the annual Christmas party. Last year he couldn't go because he had an urgent appointment at the doctors, or so he told his friends. So what does he do this year? He can't use the ‘doctor’ excuse again. Does he grab his heart and fake a heart attack? Does he grit his teeth and just go to keep the peace?
This is a dilemma faced by Muslims in all walks of life, from the student at school, to the person in the office. As the season of goodwill arrives so too do the anxiety levels for some Muslims. E-mails and greetings received can cause confusion in not knowing how to reply without sounding disrespectful. The invitation 'Hey Mohamed, are you coming to the party' causes discomfort. The Muslim acknowledges the invite with an uncomfortable smile and a mumbled excuse that the questioner cannot make out and assumes he said 'yes’. Calls on the mobiles from non-Muslim friends are conveniently diverted to voicemail. So what does the poor Muslim do?
Many of us can relate to this to some degree. At best, Christmas is a time of discomfort with the thought of going through the annual chore of explaining why you will not be attending the company’s Xmas Party or explaining to Andrew from the IT department that you will definitely not be seeing him at the end of year Xmas lunch! At the other extreme many Muslims succumb to the Christmas spirit and cannot deal with the feeling of being the odd one out in explaining their absence from Christmas parties.
Every year there is pressure on Muslims to take part in the festive action. Children at school are expected to attend the Christmas party, take part in the nativity play and sing in the school carol service. For those who remain outside of this atmosphere they may well become ostracised; branded as extreme or unsocial. Worse still, accusations may be levelled that Muslims are not showing respect to the indigenous culture and adopting an intolerant attitude.
Muslim should not be held ransom to participating in Christmas festivals on the basis of showing respect and tolerance. The mentality of the Muslims should be to politely explain to his colleagues or fellow pupils that Islam has its own festivals and celebrations and that a Muslim is not allowed to partake in any others. Ultimately, the discussion should proceed to explaining that this is due to the belief in Allah (subhanhu wa ta’aala) and it is He (SWT) that has decided the limits for the Muslim. Of course, the Muslim should be available to explain at any time the reasons as to why he believes in a Creator and in the Prophethood of Muhammad (salAllahu alaihi wasallam).
Imitating the disbelievers in any of their religious affairs or in any gesture that distinguishes them as groups is forbidden. Al-Bukhari narrated in his Sahih that Abu Saeed Al-Khudri (ra) reported that Allah's Messenger (salAllahu alaihi wasallam) said,
"You will indeed follow the ways of those before you, hand span by hand span, and cubit by cubit even if they were to enter into a lizards hole, you will follow them." We asked 'is it the Jews and the Christians?' He (salAllahu alaihi wasallam) replied, "Who else!"
This ahadith condemns imitating them. It is a proof for the prohibition of imitating the Jews and the Christians in their occasions, symbols, or any matter related to their belief. Hence, it is not allowed for a Muslim to give Christmas cards, wish anyone a Merry Christmas, buy a Christmas tree or celebrate Christmas in any way.
As a Muslim, the Prophet (salAllahu alaihi wasallam) brought guidance to us with regards to celebrating the festivals of other people. Islam defined for us which festivals the Muslims are allowed to celebrate. It is reported that Anas bin Malik (ra) said: When the Prophet (salAllahu alaihi wasallam) came to Medina, the people had two holidays from the days of Jahiliyyah. He (salAllahu alaihi wasallam) said,
"When I came to you, you had two holidays, which you used to celebrate in Jahiliyyah. Allah has replaced them for you with better days, the days of slaughter (Adha) and the day of Fitr."
Also, Uqbah bin Amer (ra) reported that the Prophet (salAllahu alaihi wasallam) said,
"The day of Arafat and the day of slaughter and the days of Tashriq are our holidays, the people of Islam." [Imam Ahmad]
Thus we have not been given a licence to add to the two celebrations Islam gave us. The Prophet (salAllahu alaihi wasallam) said,
"Whoever brings something that is not from our affair, it is rejected." [Bukhari]