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5 things Muslims can learn from Christmas

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There will usually be two types of reactions to the title of this article. The first will be along the lines of, “Finally. Someone who agrees that there’s nothing wrong with celebrating Christmas and having a tree, turkey, Christmas cards etc…” The second will be along the lines of “Astaghfirullāh. How can Muslims learn anything from a non-Muslim holiday?”

This article certainly does NOT condone the ever-increasing practice of imitating non-Muslims in the celebration of their holidays. However, I do believe that there are lessons that we can draw from the way that non-Muslims celebrate their holiday. These are lessons that we can apply to our own two historically Islamically legitimate holidays – the two ‘Īds.

So, what are these lessons?

1. Taking time off


In a capitalist society, everyone’s worth is judged by their bank balance. In such a society, taking time off is something you do so that you can recharge your energies just enough to get back into the rat race. However, it is unquestioned that almost everyone relishes getting a break for Christmas – even the most secular people. Meanwhile, many Muslims don’t bother taking time off work for ‘Īd for fear of what that would mean to their career. Many of them tell their kids not to take the day off school because somehow that one day off could mean the difference between becoming a brain surgeon or a drug-addled homeless refugee. We are instilling in ourselves, our families and our colleagues the unsaid thought that ‘Īd is not important. It is not worth any inconvenience that it may cause. Eventually, our kids will come to visit us on Christmas and bring us a Christmas present and we’ll stupidly ask, “how did this happen?”

2. Giving gifts


I remember watching a news report about how many non-Muslims set themselves back financially to buy the best presents they can for their entire family. A lot of thought and preparation goes into these gifts with many of the trendiest and most expensive items being gifted, rather than the bargain basement stuff. And it is not only the parents who give gifts. Even the young children save up their pocket money to buy their parents a gift within their limited means. Therefore it is ironic that it was our very own Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) who said, “Give gifts to one another and you will love one another.” We hardly give gifts during ‘Īd time and instead save them for other “special occasions” like birthdays, anniversaries or graduations. We don’t realize the psychological impact this will have on those receiving it, i.e. associating these other events with happiness from an early age and ‘Īd with a $10 bill thrust into their hand – if they’re lucky. I am not promoting the excesses and commercialization that we see at Christmas, but the spirit of giving gifts and presents to young and old alike is something worth thinking about.

3. Emphasize the story

Who doesn’t know the story of Christmas? Every part of it, from the three wise kings to Santa Claus, is well-documented, played and replayed in hundreds of TV shows, movies, comics and even advertisements. How many Muslims can explain the significance of the ‘Īds, who were the main characters involved and what lessons are we to derive from them? Unfortunately, ‘Īd is marketed in most of the Muslim world in a way that means we hardly ever reflect on the true stories behind them, and instead just spend time with the family stuffing our faces – if we take any time off work that is. Because of the lack of understanding behind the meaning of ‘Īd we think little of adding in lots of other celebrations of our own – after all, if it’s only about having a good time, why not have more of it?

4. Celebrate well

Ever go past a house and see it decked out with lights for Christmas? It may be a terrible waste of money and electricity, but you cannot deny that they are getting into the spirit of the season. There are carolers that go around regaling their neighbors, decorations on public buildings and festive events in every office. In fact, getting into the Christmas spirit is such a ubiquitous thing that anyone who rebels against it is labeled a Scrooge or Grinch. The festive spirit on the two ‘Īds is usually so well hidden that no one outside the Muslim community would be able to tell that a Muslim household is celebrating a special occasion – a real shame and a real missed da‘wah opportunity.

5. Excite the kids

Why am I so focused on getting the kids to enjoy ‘Īd? Well, let’s face it. A large proportion of us are deep into either selfish hedonism, extreme secularism, hypocritical liberalism or some type of sectarianism. The future of the Ummah will be determined by factors such as whether our children see ‘Īd as a holiday worth celebrating, or if they relegate it to the B-list behind the “cool” holidays of Christmas, Thanksgiving, New Year etc. While Christmas is (supposed to be) all about the theatre, excitement and happiness of children, ‘Īd is all about eating lots of food in slightly different locations throughout the day. ‘Īd doesn’t stand a chance. We are failing our children by not inspiring them to hold on to their faith and our traditions. Watch how many young Muslims in Manchester (UK) celebrate ‘Īd  by drinking, dancing, waving nationalistic flags and harassing any white women who happen to be unlucky enough to be in the vicinity:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MygzRFb4yzM

I remember vividly seeing an old man crying at the mosque on ‘Īd day. When asked why he was tearful he said that his children don’t visit him or even call him on ‘Īd day as they are busy at work. His grandchildren send him Christmas cards and get upset because he doesn’t buy them presents for Christmas like everyone else. He looked back and wished he had instilled the love of our own holidays in their hearts when they were young rather than going with the flow. Unfortunately, it’s too late for him now. If we don’t change our attitudes, unite as a single community and take our own holidays seriously instead of freeloading on a holiday that isn’t ours – it will soon be too late for us too.

WAJiD Dr. Muhammad Wajid Akhter - Doctor, Medical Tutor (Social Media, History & Medicine) - Islamic Historian - Founder of, and current board member to Charity Week for Orphans and needy children. www.charityweek.com - Council member, British Islamic Medical Association

47 Comments

47 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Safwan

    December 24, 2012 at 12:30 AM

    Alchamdulillah, very well said brother!
    May Allah grant that your intention and faith be understood by all others who read this, ameen

  2. Avatar

    Aser Rehman Mir

    December 24, 2012 at 12:31 AM

    Excellent article! The comparisons and lessons you’ve brilliantly detailed have been lingering in my mind for many years but just couldn’t spell it out as meticulously above.

    The next stage is implementation which needs a lot of PR and support from Muslims businesses, schools and similar connections.

  3. Avatar

    Safwan

    December 24, 2012 at 12:31 AM

    Alchamdulillah, very well said brother!
    May Allah grant that your intention and faith be understood by all others who read this, ameen.

  4. Avatar

    Dan

    December 24, 2012 at 12:37 AM

    Christmas is a holiday based on pagan tradition. The whole focus of gifting during Christmas takes months to build up with the help of greedy merchants that promote their merchandise on every available media. The true meaning of gifting is lost because the social pressure of giving is incredible. The long preparation for celebrating Christmas end in unrestrained consumption. There is no fasting, very little praying except on Christmas eve service… I always thought Christians have more to learn from Muslim tradition preparing for and celebrating for Eid holidays.
    Did I miss something?

    • Avatar

      Aser Rehman Mir

      December 24, 2012 at 12:45 AM

      @Dan, it still doesn’t explain the lack of enthusiasm and problems of our celebration compared to those celebrating Christmas.

      You make valid points linking to Paganism and the issue of consumption. However, we can still learn from this without going to the extreme of innovating, imitating or consumption. We can find true balance. Use the middle path. Adopt in a way that is morally acceptable and ignite the same level of excitement.

    • Avatar

      WAJiD

      December 24, 2012 at 3:02 AM

      Absolutely agree with you Dan, however we can learn from every aspect – especially the negative – including how our gift giving should not become overly commercialised or excessive.

      And we can also learn from the relative absence of God from Christmas celebrations – and not let our Eid go the same way.

      • Avatar

        scarfed

        December 24, 2012 at 12:07 PM

        I grew up in India; for me the ‘celebration’ was the “gift of giving”. On the day of Eid I was taught to give money to the poor, besides the Zakah / arrange for a meal and sit down for a meal with orphans etc.
        The act of helping someone with less monetary advantage was the celebration. And that was “exciting” for me.

        • Avatar

          Ummridhwan

          January 1, 2013 at 1:10 PM

          @Scarfed, Asalaamu alaykum; If I’m not mistakened this article was towards parents and the elderly, in order to put back the spirituality and enthusiasm in Eid. Many of our young generation living in the West are not at the mental state of some of us spiritual individuals who see Ramadan and Eid as an opportunity to give to the poor, increase our good deeds and put a smile on everyone’s faces. Our environment in the West is set in a way to have our youth think of only being selfish(“the ME, ME, ME generation) self-centered and go after their desires Satan has beautified for them. In Christmas, the young careless of the many Churches who feed the poor on Christmas Eve which does not highlight the essence of what Christmas means to them. The media highlights the gift giving , the celebration of Christmas and highlights less of the charity work that is carried out, if that was the case, non-Muslims would understand more that Christmas is not about materialism or fulfilling your desires but it is the assumed Biblical revelation of Jesus birth.

      • Avatar

        Dan

        December 24, 2012 at 6:53 PM

        Jazakallah khair brother and forgive me for not mentioning the may excellent points you made in your essay. I also understand your point that there is a lack of enthusiasm the way Muslim celebrate Eid. However, there are so many things wrong with Christmas it is an example of how not to treat you religious holidays. Christmas as it is being practiced goes against the teaching of Jesus, who thought fasting, abandoning material greed, to give from the heart, and also he was strongly against using religion and God as a means to generate money or business (he overthrew the tables the merchants setup at the temple in Jerusalem). Christmas does not celebrate the teachings of Jesus, it still has strong practical resemblance to the ancient pagan practices.

        Was Salam

      • Avatar

        smorgan

        December 25, 2012 at 12:04 AM

        ASA

        To my knowledge, there is no sunnah at all for giving gifts on Eid. If so, and since Eid is definitely a “religious” event, that would make gift-giving on that particular day becoming universal and consistant a bid’a in the deen.

        So, while I agree with the intent of the article – especially regarding not even taking a day off work to celebrate the Eid – we must be even more careful about not falling into bid’a by imitating the ways of non-Muslims.

        • Avatar

          Mahmud

          December 25, 2012 at 7:48 PM

          Assalamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

          No it is not a bidah inshaa Allah. Eid is a celebration. Check out what Islam Q&A has to say.

          http://www.islamqa.info/en/ref/130948/gifts%20on%20eid

          Is it permissible to give my family members some gifts on Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitr, and to do that every year, or is it an innovation (bid‘ah)?

          Praise be to Allah.

          There is nothing wrong with giving gifts on Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha to family and relatives, because these are days of joy and happiness on which it is mustahabb to uphold ties, show kindness, and eat and drink plenty. This is not bid‘ah; rather it is something that is permissible and a good custom that is one of the symbols of Eid. Hence it is not allowed to give gifts and express joy and happiness on innovated occasions on which it is not prescribed to celebrate, such as New Year, the Mawlid (Prophet’s birthday) and the fifteenth of Sha‘baan (an-nusf min Sha‘baan), because this makes them like Eids.

          Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen (may Allah have mercy on him) said: On this Eid people also exchange gifts, i.e., they make food and invite one another to come and eat, and they get together and celebrate. There is nothing wrong with this custom because these are days of Eid. When Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him) entered the house of the Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) and found with him two young girls who were singing on the days of Eid, he rebuked them, but the Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) said: “Let them be.” And he did not say it because they were young girls. Rather he said: “Let them be, for these are the days of Eid.”

          This indicates that Islam, with its tolerant and easy-going attitude, allows people to express joy and happiness on the days of Eid.

          End quote from Majmoo‘ Fataawa Ibn Uthaymeen, 16/276

          And he (may Allah have mercy on him) said:

          It is well known that there are no festivals in Islam except those which are proven in sharee‘ah, namely Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Ahda, and Friday which is the weekly “Eid”. As for the fifteenth of Sha‘baan (an-nusf min Sha‘baan), there is no proof in Islam is that it is an Eid. If it is taken as an occasion on which charity is distributed or gifts are given to neighbours, then this is taking it as an Eid.

          End quote from Fataawa Noor ‘ala ad-Darb

          And he said concerning Mother’s Day: Once this is understood, it is not permissible, on the occasion mentioned in your question, which is called Mother’s Day, to introduce any of the symbols of Eid on this day, such as expressing joy and happiness, giving gifts, and so on.

          End quote from Majmoo‘ Fataawa ash-Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen, 2/301

          And Allah knows best.

    • Avatar

      Anne

      December 26, 2012 at 6:01 PM

      Yes you definitely have missed and have misunderstood the meaning of Christmas. Christmas is celebrated as the BIRTH OF CHRIST, THE SON OF GOD. Yes,some of the traditions were adopted from pagan rituals because they had a beautiful, spiritual meaning; but Christians usually pray to Christ every day and the faithful Christians go to Mass and church services at least once a week. You are a bigot. So if you don’t like Christmas, don’t participate in its celebration.

      • Avatar

        WAJiD

        December 26, 2012 at 6:15 PM

        ^ I rest my case

      • Avatar

        harvester

        December 27, 2012 at 11:00 PM

        Anne, what percentage of people who celebrate Christmas do so in honor of the “the son of God”? What percentage of them are celebrating a cultural event? Do all Christians believe that the prophet Jesus was the son of God? I think it is fair to say that many non practicing Christian people observe Christmas as a day of family gathering. I think the author’s observations about certain aspects of how people observe Christmas could have come from anyone regardless of their faith. Do you deny that taking time off work, gift giving, understanding the history of the holiday, being openly enthusiastic about the holiday and making it special for the children are positive things? That is all the author is saying. He did not set out to attack your celebration of Christmas.

  5. Avatar

    WAJiD

    December 24, 2012 at 3:08 AM

    Salaam all,

    Just thought I would clarify a few points before they are said:

    1. I don’t believe that the values I listed above are Christian values that Muslims should learn from. I believe that underlying them are true Islamic values (gift giving, inspiring our children, celebrating properly etc…) that we seem to have lost.

    2. There are many aspects of Christmas we would not want to emulate. Rampant consumerism, the loneliness felt by the disenfranchised, the whole making up of new traditions (Santa Claus replacing Jesus as the central figure as an example) However, this article focuses on some of the aspects we can see our own Islamic heritage reflected in.

    3. Some of you will find this a generalisation. It is. To those who none of this applies, keep up the good work and please try and get your fellow brothers and sisters to take Eid seriously.

  6. Avatar

    aliyu_adam

    December 24, 2012 at 5:01 AM

    I want to commend the author for such an insightfull writeup,though very important to the Ummah,this is one of many issues you hardly hear or read anyone talk about today.However,i think its better to encourage more worship and visits(families and loved ones) together with teaching our children the ideaology behind Id,giftings and general anticipation instead of encoraging such outrageous festivities such as carolers,lighting and partying becouse these go way out of the fundamental ideaology of islamic Id celebration which is a teaching of sacrifice,worship and love.Allah knows best.

  7. Avatar

    aliyu_adam

    December 24, 2012 at 6:20 AM

    Nice article.I must also commend the author for such an insightfull choice of topic as you hardly hear or read anything regarding such even with such obvious reflection it has on the islamic community.Though i think its better to encourage d ummah 2 dwell more on d fundamental ideaology behind Id (wch is all about worship,sacrifice n love) rather than emulating such outrageous christain practices(carlers,lighting and obsessive celebrations) with absolutely no regard to any spiritual envolvement.Imitating such will definately lead to a conception of Id perpendicular to its islamic aim.Allah knows best.

  8. Avatar

    online Quran study

    December 24, 2012 at 6:31 AM

    Jazakumullahukhairan!
    The information you provided on Christmas is informative but It is not permissible for Muslims to imitate them in any way that is unique to their festivals, whether it be food, clothes, bathing, lighting fires or refraining from usual work or worship.

  9. Avatar

    Umm Ibraheem

    December 24, 2012 at 7:31 AM

    Even though we do to celebrate or encourage any aspect of Christmas in our family, I love the spirit of Christmas and the feeling it brings. If we take it at face value, everyone is more caring, loving and charitable and family ties are revisited. However, if we were to look deeply inside everything it’s not a pleasant picture, alot of commercialism, greed and pressure. Living in the UK, even we get an opportunity to spend more time with family and friends because of the extended holidays.

    • Avatar

      Umm Ibraheem

      December 24, 2012 at 7:33 AM

      Edit to say: we do not celebrate

  10. Avatar

    N

    December 24, 2012 at 10:48 AM

    I’m so glad this issue has been mentioned. I have always wondered if Eid could ever be commercialized and what is it about it that prevents it from being so? The commercialization of Christmas has been complained about by many but the commercialization of it is what could make Muslim kids relate to it since it’s in their faces all the time after Thanksgiving.

    Eid already has the associated meaning of family time but what could be taken as a lesson from Christmas is engaging in other family activities. After being in America all these years I still don’t get what families do after opening their presents but I don’t think it’s going from house to house like most Muslims do on Eid. To tell the truth I’m tired of going to the houses of my parents’ friends especially when there is no one there for me to talk to and I know other kids in the community feel the same. This may be a desi concept though because what my Arab friends do on Eid is spend time with their friends SEPARATE from their families. The good thing about celebrating Eid in a non Muslim country is everything is still open for people to meet at a restaurant, the movies or to ice skate. I believe families especially with young kids should do these type of things instead of dragging them to other people’s houses where they just eat snacks and sit awkwardly.

    Another thing would be to set a family tradition. Like I’d think it’d be nice to hang lights on the house during the month of Ramadan (don’t know if the neighborhood homeowner’s association will approve) or maybe make certain foods together. There are certain Ramadan foods that each family has so why not also bring them before Eid al Adha?

    I definitely agree that if gifts are exchanged they should be wrapped. I can definitely see people that exchange gifts on Eid are much more excited about it. I remember one of the youth groups did a white elephant type of gift exchange one Eid which was really fun.

  11. Avatar

    Mansoor Ansari

    December 24, 2012 at 1:36 PM

    Agreed with every point except #2…

    I loved getting Eidy, I could do what I want with my money. And and every dollar counts and never goes to waste. While with presents, I ended with useless gifts most of the time.

    I was talking to my Christain co-workers today about Eidy – giving money as gifts as they said they would prefer that instead of actual gifts.

  12. Avatar

    fatihah

    December 24, 2012 at 1:38 PM

    assalamualaikum,

    alhamdulillah living in my country Malaysia our eid-ul fitr always spent in full fun fair but sadly sometimes it also goes over board.
    let me share with you’ll how we celebrate it every year. or more how my family do it since i m young.
    we definitely wish every family member will come home and share the joy of eid as one family.
    everyone will get at least a set of new cloth.
    half way through ramadhan the women of the family will start making cookies. modern or traditional.
    during ramadhan night the whole village will take turn to feed people who came to the masjid, night after night.
    on the last day of ramadhan we’ll organize iftar in our masjid. the whole community will work together to prepare food for that night. .. some food even cooked on open fire too :)
    eid night do the takbeer.
    decorate the house.. some with twinkling light on and it is very common to light a lamp using gasoline outside the house and along the road. it make a very dramatic effect n memorable for children..
    to prepare food to be serve to guests visiting the house. a lots of traditional food to be selected upon.
    eid morning the whole family will woke up, take ghusul, eat breakfast then go to masjid for prayer.
    done solah everyone will start inviting each other for visit.
    and most of the family and neighbor will visit each other in new cloth and chat while eating from so many selection of food served.
    what we most young adult missed most is sending and receiving eid card then hang it around the house as a decoration. now only receive the FB card or text to wish you happy eid.
    gift mostly given to young children and parents, grandparents, aunts, uncle n so on and so forth.

    it really fun but sometimes it too much. wasting on food, wanting to impress guest with deco, clothing, and food. doing innovating things like going to the graves of relatives and recite quran there..with children running around the grave yards.
    shaking hand with opposite gender is extremely difficult to avoid.
    and over excited young boys imitating the Chinese firing fireworks all night long!

    i hope for more islamic eid for us in the future. ameen!

  13. Avatar

    Amy

    December 24, 2012 at 2:20 PM

    Salaams,

    I have to admit I’ve been thinking about this issue a lot -even considered writing a little article myself regarding certain aspects of this for submission.

    A lot of Muslims may not realize what Christmas is like for reverts/converts like myself. Usually we grow up indoctrinated with Christmas as non-Muslims, and it truly does leave deep grooves in the brain. Then, we all take Shahadah and there’s nothing to celebrate, nothing festive.

    Like you said, the Eid Holidays -especially here in the US- are not just celebrated “moderately”….they are virtually ignored. Every time I have attended an Eid prayer, everyone else hustles home and does their individual and private celebrations with their extended families. There is no lingering fellowship or even sense that it is a special day. If a community does some type of “celebration”, often it is not even scheduled for Eid day, costs money, or is something that no one would be interested in doing (think several “bouncy houses” with some spicy food for $5/plate).

    A lot of us converts/reverts don’t have any Muslims in our family to “go home” and celebrate with after Eid prayers. We don’t have any Eid family recipes to hand down or make that day, and we struggle to start traditions to implement with our own children. Like it or not, there is a glaring cultural divide between Muslims in the west who are immigrants and those who are coverts/reverts, and sadly not even the Eid Holidays manage to bridge this adequately.

    So converts like myself are left feeling nostalgic and disappointed during Christmas. All of the programming we’ve been raised with to celebrate goodness and joy during this time of year is left unexpressed and unsatisfied even when the time for our own religious holidays arrive.

    • Avatar

      Hamza21

      December 24, 2012 at 4:32 PM

      So true Amy I’ve been Muslim for 20 years and never celebrated EId. It’s virtually a non holiday in the US. However over the years it’s hard to remember what it was like celebrating Christmas. Usually this time of year I’m grateful I’m not wasting my money on useless things like my non-muslim relatives. For the future unless this cultural divide,more like paternalistic attitude, from immigrants is changed then I don’t see Eid becoming any more “festive” then it is now.

  14. Avatar

    Infidelicious

    December 24, 2012 at 9:08 PM

    Don’t be offended, relax and enjoy. In the Northern hemisphere we need something to get us through winter, be it solstice, christmas, eid, whatever. Enjoy the food and the time off, and let’s be friends rather than believers of this and that.

  15. Avatar

    Um Yusuf

    December 24, 2012 at 9:23 PM

    Alhamdulillah having grown up in the West but being from a Pakistani Muslim background we have kind of managed to find a balance in the way we celebrate Eid. We always take the day or days off work at Eid and we even took the day off school when we were kids. Eid is also a special time to connect with family, have traditional Eid breakfasts, lunches or dinners with family and friends and call relatives near and abroad to wish them well on those special days. We make the effort to decorate our homes, have Eid parties for the kids with games and nasheeds and make Eid cakes with candles ( becos the kids love to blow out the candles!) give them gifts or money and gifts to each other. We buy new clothes and shoes to wear on Eid and especially the Eid prayer, put on henna on our hands and we always tell our kids the stories behind these events so we remember the relevance of these celebrations and what they mean. We try and attend the local Eid activities such as fundays and fairs. We send food to our neighbors whether Muslim or non Muslim. We can make small Eid parties in our kids classrooms and talk about Eid to the non muslim and muslim kids alike with permission of the teachers so our kids feel proud of their deen and feel comfortable to share it with their friends (dawah).Most of all we try and instill in ourselves and our kids that it is all ibaadah and not get carried away by being wasteful or not making the effort to attend the Eid prayer or doing the Takbeeraat (to glorify and thank Allah )or performing the Udhiya and paying the Zakat al fitr( and remember the poor have a share)We try to make all our activities halal and acceptable to Allah.
    Its all about priorities and making the effort, planning, and being creative in fun and halal ways. we need to see our situation and needs and plan how to incorporate the points the brother made into our lives, so we feel satisfied by our Eid celebrations. By the way we do not celebrate birthdays, anniversaries or other holidays such as thanksgiving, valentines, mothers day or halloween in our family, but Alhamdulillah we and our families do not feel we are lacking in any way. We just put more effort into our 2 festive days of Eid. May Allah swt accept our efforts and help us all improve, Ameen.

    • Avatar

      Amanda

      January 8, 2013 at 2:45 AM

      Masha’Allah Tabarak’Allah (= Loved this

  16. Avatar

    Dess

    December 24, 2012 at 11:27 PM

    Assalamulaykum wa rahmatullah

    I’ve got to humbly disagree with you brother. You live in the West, but in Muslim countries or those who recognise Muslim festivals like Singapore, Eid is already a major celebration with its own festive traditions. And it is smthg that we are fighting against, because the spirit of Ramadan and Korban/Haj gets sacrificed because of these traditions. My take is that its best to follow Sunnah – any other ways will just confuse us & the next gen.

    • Avatar

      Muhammad Abdul Haqq

      December 25, 2012 at 2:02 PM

      Na`am. You said what I was thinking as I read the article. It simply sounds like we are jealous of the kuffar and because of that we want to imitate their ways..

      • Avatar

        WAJiD

        December 25, 2012 at 3:55 PM

        Salaam all,

        Ah – the counter arguments that I was waiting for.

        @Dess – JazakAllah khairun for pointing out the extremely relevant point that we should “follow the Quran and Sunnah.”

        @Muhammad Abdul Haqq – JazakAllah khairun for pointing out that it is not a good thing to imitate the ways of the non-Muslims. Again highly relevant.

        I (and I’m sure many others) look forward to you both explaining how the following are against the Quran and Sunnah or is imitating the kuffar:

        – Celebrating Eid instead of just turning it into a normal day at work/ school
        – Giving gifts
        – Explaining the origins and islamic meaning behind the Eids
        – Celebrating it openly and proudly instead of in (virtual) secret
        – Motivating and inspiring our children to stick to the Islamic holidays instead of those outside of Islam

        Looking forward to your answers…

  17. Avatar

    VJaber

    December 27, 2012 at 3:52 AM

    Good points, I definitely agree that children do not feel the Eid holidays. I do not think we should replicate the Christmas extravagance but maybe place eid presents under a cut out of a moon and a star or hang lights around your house, try to get your neighbors involved. Invite them for iftar and let them see how you celebrate the occasions.

  18. Avatar

    Nuraini

    December 27, 2012 at 5:30 AM

    These are excellent points. Even outside the Western world, in the past people made a big deal about Eid in our own local traditions, mainly driven by the efforts of grandparents and parents (heads of households) ensuring people grouped together and preparations are made, decorations hung, and everyone had a role, and children had fun. nowadays i see that more and more of the boomer generation who are now becoming grandparents do not invest this effort, thus resulting in lukewarm celebrations devoid of organisation and hosting. in fact, for some people they seem to feel that it is somehow impious to have so much fun, taking pride in ‘only’ taking a couple days off (in the past it is not uncommon for the whole week at least, if not two, be taken off for adequate preparations) – forgetting that for children, the weightier aspects of ramadhan and the sacrifice are not yet comprehensible, and instead it is the love for the celebrations should be prioritised until they understand.

  19. Avatar

    Marcus

    December 28, 2012 at 4:49 AM

    I was looking for a good Islamic blogs and I found your blog its such a great peace of information.

  20. Avatar

    Ashraf

    December 28, 2012 at 8:10 AM

    Gift giving in Islam is not related to a particular occasion. The prophet ( may Allah peace and blessing be upon him) encouraged to give gifts all the times and said it enhance love to each other. On the other hand there is charity. Apart from mandatory ZAKAH, there is sadqah which is encouraged by so many ways, like the bad omens or problems in the life can be ward off by sadaqah. The prophet (may Allah peace and blessing be upon him) himself set the example of giving charities and it is narrated that especially in Ramadan the prophet (may Allah peace and blessing be upon him) used to give charity like breeze. In short in Islam there is not a special occasion to give gift or help others. family reunion is the problem of modern life in Muslim families they are always close to each other and Qur,an and Hadith forcefully advise Muslims to keep close ties with your kith and kin. To cut a RAHM relationship with kith and kin is a sin. There are so many good examples of the prophet(may Allah peace and blessing be upon him) and his exalted companions in this respect.
    We Muslim should learn good thing from any where we can find, but example of X Mass is not fit for this purpose.
    May Allah (subhana hoo wa taa, la ) bless you all including your family and friends.

  21. Avatar

    ArabianSpace

    December 28, 2012 at 1:43 PM

    Very interesting article to say the least. I can see a lot of positive comments that this article draw. @Dan has made a good point about the true celebrations. My hope if there is any learning curve from this, it should not alter our own holidays, because we should not deviate from the sunnah practice!.

  22. Avatar

    Lauren

    December 28, 2012 at 2:25 PM

    Assalamu alaykom wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu, I honestly didn’t plan on reading this until someone posted about the article on my facebook page. As a convert, I honestly understand the importance of making the two Eids big mashallah. Most of the muslims I speak to always say the same things about the eids- they are boring and nothing to do. And they go to school instead of celebrating. I never go to work or school on the eids because these are our two celebrations. I think parents and communities should talk about the two eids and their significance and make the eids big and memorable for their kids because our kids will be leading our traditions once we die. We want them to be able to talk about the deen, practice it and tell their kids about it. Instead of being like the kuffar( the non muslims) we should be leading the way. Its sad when muslims have to look at the nonmuslims when we are the best amongst all nations.

  23. Avatar

    myDarkPassenger

    December 28, 2012 at 5:41 PM

    Thanks for the article. I find this article missing a necessary global ingredient. Eid or any other islamic event is a global event and therefore covering how other muslims practice Eid in other countries would have made this more interesting for American muslim readers here. American muslims can learn lot more from, or adopt some practices of muslims living in other countries around the world without having to look at how “Christmas” is enjoyed. We should after all, show how to perfect our union by learning from each muslim-other. All except “Explaining the origins and islamic meaning behind the Eids” during Eid is not a common practice. This seems a novel activity but I dont’ find it important for that day. In fact, it’s probably not a good practice to isolate learning about Eid on any specific day.

    There is always something unique about muslim holidays enjoyed in countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, India (Hyderabad, Uttar Pradash) etc. I am sure we can learn lot more from a Malaysian Eid experience than Christmass any day.

    —To “Fatiha”,
    Thanks for sharing how it’s done in Malaysia. I find the sense of community, and holiday you enjoy in Malaysia during Eid is quite powerful and something American muslims can learn to have one day in their circles.

  24. Avatar

    WAJiD

    December 28, 2012 at 7:00 PM

    salaam,

    Unfortunately it seems a few people are mixing up the intent of the article as I explained in the first paragraphs (maybe they are just skipping ahead to the points.)

    There’s a clear difference between saying that Muslims need to copy aspect of Christmas and saying that the way that non-Muslims take Christmas so seriously – we should do the same for our own holidays.

    @myDarkPassenger – (interesting moniker btw) – agree that it would be nice to see the Eid traditions that other Muslim countries have, but I guess the point of my article is that there’s something in our celebration of Eid that is lacking (and this is shown up very clearly when compared to Christmas celebrations) … unless we can accept that there’s a problem, no one will be interested in suggested solutions.

  25. Avatar

    Saquib Currim

    December 29, 2012 at 7:42 AM

    I totally agree and apart from the points mentioned above, atleast their celebrations happen on the same day, year after year and in every part of the world unlike us who don’t even know who to wish Eid mubarak to as no one celebrates Eid on the same day. Where is the unity?

  26. Avatar

    Ummridhwan

    January 1, 2013 at 12:23 PM

    Asalaamu alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatu! Allahu Akbar!!! Amazingly put together brother, Muhammad Wajid Akhter. I would like to first say that I would probably be considered the type of Muslim that would say, “Astaghfirullāh. How can Muslims learn anything from a non-Muslim holiday?”” Only, because I am seen by others as a niqabi that takes her religion seriously. However, I came to the U.S at the age of 2. I was taught at an early age to be of a person of open mindness. To look at things in a different prospective and take the good from where ever it may be. However, the last revealed ayah in the Qur’an Surah Al-Ma’idah, 5: 3 where Allah says, (the meaning of which is) “This day, I have perfected your religion for you, completed My Favor upon you, and have chosen for you Islâm as your religion. This is Allah telling us that our religion is perfect! However, when advise was given to rasulullah(SAW), from non-Muslims, Rasulullah would take it even though Allah was on his side, the creator of the heavens and the earth. So, it’s okay if we take the good and leave anything that is contradictory to Islam. Nevertheless, the question that I think we should ask, is not whether it’s correct or incorrect to look at the aspects we can learn from within the festivals of the non-Muslims but the qustion that should be asked is I thinkis, WHO IS ON THE STRAIGHT PATH? The non-Muslims who take seriously, ciitzenship rights, humanitarion work(missionaries), the Justice System, correct morals etc. In the city of SanDiego, where I’m from. There was a little Muslim girl who said to her Muslim father, “dad can we have a christmas tree?” And her father said, “no daughter that’s the celebration of the non-Muslims” Then the daughter said to her father, “well, can we have Santa Claus,” and the father said, “that’s also the celebration of the non-Muslims. And the 5 year old daughter said, “well then, can I become a non-Muslim.” I suggest all of the commentators that somewhat find some of the things that this author mentioned a little disagrreeable to please listen to Nouman Ali kHan’s video lecture on ‘the types of Muslim youth(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AU1XFry6ixg).’ The mind of our Western Muslim youths is at the stage, in which they assume or believe, that the way of the non-Muslims must be the correct path because they practise generosity, respect, love, fairness etc. more than we find Muslims practising those same values in the West. Again, I’m speaking from expereince. There are many Muslims who do practise the same values, but we are enourmously out weighed by the non-Muslims. Islam is perfect and anything else is oppression. Shaykh Yassir Fazagi said it beautifullly, “A man said I sell vinegar with a candy face, and you sell candy with a vinegary face.” Therefore, even though the non-Muslims are astry, yet they tend to influence Muslims with their because they practise and convey their message with a sweet and respectful way. Islam did not spread with the sword, it spread through the traders who bought and sold among non-Muslims in a generous, trustworthy,and fair way and not through a grumpy face which we tend to have towards our young generation. Wallahu A3lam(And Allah knows best). Just a reminder first to myself and second to my dear brothers and sisters. May we all meet in jannah! Ameen ya Allah.

  27. Avatar

    Ummridhwan

    January 1, 2013 at 1:10 PM

    Asalaamu alaykum. If the non-Muslims are increasing their numbers and are drawing away our numbers of the young believing Muslims because of their strong influence in the way they celebrate their holidays, shouldn’t we as well put more focus on really celebrating extensively without crossing the boundaries Allah set for us and at the same time teach the spiritual aspect of these great holidays of Eid in a way that will win back our numbers?

    • Avatar

      Amanda

      January 8, 2013 at 2:57 AM

      wa alaikum salaam.

      this isn’t a game to see who has more numbers, or who can win more numbers. Allah gives guidance to whom He wills, and lets astray those whom He wills.

      the concern is more on whether we are ‘living up’ the expectations of Eid, our Islamic celebration. do we, young and old, know why we are celebrating Eid? do we look forward to Eid? when Eid comes, are we celebrating it proudly and in the best way? etc.

  28. Avatar

    Said Make

    January 11, 2013 at 1:19 PM

    I was wondering why you allowed showing non-Muslim women without hijab in this article.

    *Remainder of Comment noted by MM Team*

    • Avatar

      Aly Balagamwala | DiscoMaulvi

      January 15, 2013 at 1:28 AM

      Dear Said Make
      JazakAllahu Khairin for pointing this out. We endaevor to limit the photos used with our articles but sometimes depending on the article we have to use pictures that do not have women in hijab. We could not get an image of non-muslim family celebrating christmas that fit the necessary hijab criteria.
      However, we have noted your comment and hope we can avoid usage in future.

      Best Regards
      -Aly

  29. Pingback: WAJiD (wajid) | Pearltrees

  30. Avatar

    salmirah

    May 15, 2014 at 11:41 AM

    Okay the title actually ticked me off, but reading your article further, I could understand how well-thought your ideas are. How much we Muslims are putting Islam in our kids, is indeed a questionable matter. Nowadays our kids are more interested in Christmas, Easter, Halloween and all the Non-Islamic festivals, and the whole liability lies on our shoulder.
    Your article can be an eye-opener for this kind of Muslims, in sha Allah.
    I definitely need to share this, JazakaAllahu khair!

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#Life

How Do Muslims Plan for Disability

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Families with children with disability have an extraordinary set of challenges and blessings.  Disability (or special needs) is a broad term.

Many disabilities will prevent what we often think of as “normal.”  It may hinder or prevent educational opportunities, and employment. Many people with “special needs” can get educated, get married and live long and productive lives.  The problem for many parents of younger children with special needs is that they typically have no certainty about their children’s future needs. Even if the situation looks dire, it may not stay that way.  

How do parents plan for a world where they may not be around to see how things will end up for their special needs children?  What can they do to help their children in a way that does not violate Islamic Inheritance rules?

Certain types of disability, especially the loss of executive decision-making ability, could also happen well into adulthood.  This can be a threat to a family’s wealth and be the cause of internal conflicts. This is the kind of thing every adult needs to think about before it happens.  

The Problem

The issues are not just that parents believe their special needs child will need more inheritance than other children. Muslim parents usually don’t think that. Some parents don’t want their special needs child to get any inheritance at all.  Not because of any ill-will against their special needs child; just the opposite, but because they are afraid inheritance will result in sabotaging their child’s needs-based government benefits.    

Many, perhaps most special needs children do not have any use for needs-based benefits (benefits for the poor).  But many do, or many parents might figure that it is a distinct possibility. This article is a brief explanation of some of the options available for parents of special needs children.  It won’t go over every option, but rather those that are usually incorporated as part of any Islamic Estate Planning.

Please Stand By

Example:  Salma has three daughters and two sons.  One of her children, Khalida, 3, has Down Syndrome.  At this point, Salma knows that raising Khalida is going to be an immense challenge for herself, her husband Rashid and all the older siblings.  What she does not know, however, is what specific care Khalida is going to need through her life or how her disability will continue to be relevant. She does not know a lot about Khalida’s future marriage prospects, ability to be employed and be independent, though obviously like any parent she has nothing but positive hopes for her child’s life.   

In the event of her death, Salma wants to make sure her daughter gets her Islamic right to inheritance.  However, if Khalida needs public benefits, Salma does not want her daughter disqualified because she has her own money.

Her solution is something called a “stand-by special needs trust.” This type of trust is done in conjunction with an Islamic Inheritance Plan and is typically part of a living trust, though it could also be a trust drafted into the last will.  I will describe more about what a special needs trust is below. For Salma, she is the Trustee of her trust. After she dies, she names her husband (or someone else) the successor Trustee. The trust is drafted to prevent it from becoming an “available resource” used to determine eligibility for public benefits such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Medicaid and other benefits that go with that.

If it turns out that Salma passes away when Khalida is 5, and her assets are held in trust for her until she is 18 and her Trustee determines she does not need a special needs trust, she will get her inheritance precisely like everyone else based on their Islamic right.  If she does need benefits, the Trustee will only make distributions to Khalida that would not harm her eligibility.

This way, there is no need to deny Khalida her inheritance because of her disability, and she is also making sure giving her daughter inheritance would not harm her daughter’s healthcare or other necessary support.  

Munir Vohra is a special needs advocate and an athlete

The Shape of Special Needs Trusts

A stand-alone Special needs trusts, which is sometimes called a “supplemental needs trust” the kind without the “stand-by” variation I described above, are a standard device for families that have children with special needs. A trust is a property ownership device. A Grantor gives the property to a Trustee, who manages the property for the benefit of a beneficiary. In a revocable living trust, the Grantor, Trustee, and Beneficiary are typically the same person.  

When the trust is irrevocable, the Grantor, Trustee, and Beneficiary may all be different people. In a special needs trust, the person with a disability is the beneficiary. Sometimes, the person with a disability is also the Grantor, the person who created the trust.  This might happen if there is a settlement from a lawsuit for example and the person with special needs wants it to be paid to the trust.  

In many if not most cases, the goal may not be to protect the beneficiary’s ability to get public benefits at all. Many people with a disability don’t get special government benefits.  But they do want to protect the beneficiaries from having to manage the assets. Some people are just more susceptible to abuse.

The structure of the arrangement typically reflects the complexity of the family, the desire of siblings and extended family to continue to be involved in the care and attending to the needs of the person with a disability, even if they are not the person directly writing checks.   

Example: Care for Zayna

Example: Zayna is a 24-year-old woman with limited ability to communicate, take care of her needs and requires 24-hour care.  Zayna has three healthy siblings, many aunts, uncles, and cousins. Her father, Elias, earns about $70,000 per year and is divorced. Zayna’s mother Sameena cannot contribute, as she is on social security disability. However, Zayna’s adult brother and sisters, brother in laws, sister in law and several aunts, uncles want to help Zayna meet her needs E.lyas creates a third party special needs trust that would ensure Zayna has what she needs in the years to come.

Zayna receives need-based public benefits that are vital to her in living with her various disabilities and her struggle to gain increasing independence, knowledge and dignity.  So the trust needs to be set up and professionally administered to make sure that when Zayna gets any benefit from her trust, it does not end up disqualifying her ability to get any needs-based benefit.  

Contributions to the special needs trust will not go against Islamic Inheritance rules unless made after the death of the donor.

If Zayna dies, her assets from the special needs trust will be distributed based on the Islamic rules of inheritance as it applies to her.

When disability planning is not about Public Benefits

Perhaps most families with special needs children do not use any needs-based public assistance.  They are still concerned about special needs and planning for it.

Example:  Khadija, 16, is on the autism spectrum. For those familiar with the autism spectrum, that could mean a lot of things.  For her parents, Sarah and Yacoob, other than certain habits that are harmless and easy to get used to, it means Khadija is very trusting of people. Otherwise, she does well in school, and her parents don’t think she needs way more help than her siblings and she has just as good a chance of leading a healthy and productive life as any 16-year-old girl.  

The downside of being too trusting is that the outside world can exploit her.  If she ends up getting inheritance or gifts, she may lose it. The parents decide that when she gets her inheritance, it will be in a trust that would continue through her life.  There will be a trustee who will make sure she has what she needs from her trust, but that nobody can exploit her.

In some ways, what Khadija’s parents Sarah and Yacoob are doing is not so different from what parents might do if they have a child with a substance abuse problem.  They want to give their child her rights, but they don’t want to allow for exploitation and abuse.

Considering your own needs

There are many people who are easy marks for scammers, yet you would be unlikely to know this unless you are either a close friend or family member, or a scammer yourself.  While this often happens to the elderly, it can happen at just about any age. Everyone should consider developing an “incapacity plan” to preserve their wealth even if they lose their executive decision-making ability.   

There is this process in state courts known as “conservatorship.” Indeed, entire courtrooms dedicate themselves to conservatorships and other mental health-related issues.  It is a legal process that causes an individual to lose their financial or personal freedom because a court has essentially declared them not competent to handle their affairs. Conservatorships are a public process.  They can cause a lot of pain embarrassment and internal family strife.

One of the benefits of a well-drafted living trust is to protect privacy and dignity during difficult times.

Example: Haris Investing in Cambodian Rice Farms

Haris, 63, was eating lunch at a diner.  In the waiting area, he became fast friends with Mellissa; a thirty-something woman who was interested in talking about Haris’s grandchildren.  The conversation then turned Melissa and her desire to start a business selling long distance calling cards. Haris was fascinated by this and thought it made good business sense. Haris gave Mellissa $20,000.00. The two exchanged numbers. The next day, Mellissa’s number was disconnected.

Haris’s wife, Julie became alarmed by this.  It was out of character for her husband to just fork over $20,000 to anyone on the spur of the moment.  What was worse is that the business failed immediately.  

Three months later,  Haris meets Mellissa at the diner again.  She then convinces Haris to invest $50,000 in a Cambodian rice farm, which he does right away.   His wife Julie was pretty upset.

How living trusts helps

As it happened though, Haris, a few years before, created a living trust.  It has a provision that includes incapacity planning. There are two essential parts to this:  The first is a system to decide if someone has lost their executive decision-making ability. The second is to have a successor Trustee to look over the estate when the individual has lost this capacity.  This question is about Haris’s fundamental freedom: his ability to spend his own money.

If you asked Haris, he would say nothing is wrong with him.  He looks and sounds excellent. Tells the best dad jokes. He goes to the gym five times a week and can probably beat you at arm wrestling. Haris made some financial mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes.

Julie, and his adult children Haroon, Kulsum, Abdullah, and Rasheeda are not so sure it’s just a mistake.  The living trust created a “disability panel.” This panel gets to vote, privately, in if Haris should continue to act as Trustee of his own money.  If they vote that he should not manage his own money, his wife does it for him.

The family has a way to decide an important and sensitive issue while maintaining Haris’ dignity, privacy and wealth.   Haris’s friends don’t know anything about long distance calling cards or a Cambodian rice farm; they don’t know he lost his ability to act as Trustee of his trust.  Indeed the rest of the world is oblivious to all of this.

Planning for everyone

Islamic inheritance is fard and every Muslim should endeavor to incorporate it into their lives.  As it happens it is an obligation Muslims, at least those in the United States, routinely ignore or deal with inadequately.  However, there is more to planning than just what shares go to whom after death. Every family needs to create a system. There may or may not be problems with children or even with yourself (other than death, which will happen), but you should do whatever you can to protect your family’s wealth and dignity while also fulfilling your obligations to both yourself and your family.

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#Society

Cleaning Out Our Own Closets This Ramadan: Bigotry

Why Eliminating Hate Begins with Us

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Before Muslims take a stand against xenophobia in the U.S., we really need to eradicate it from our own community.

There. I said it.

There is no nice way to put it. Muslims can be very intolerant of those outside their circles, particularly our Latino neighbors. How do I know? I am a Latina who came into Islam almost two decades ago, and I have experienced my fair share of stereotypes, prejudice, and just outright ignorance coming from my very own Muslim brethren.

And I am not alone.

My own family and Latino Muslim friends have also dealt with their daily doses of bigotry. Most of the time, it is not ill-intentioned, however, the fact that our community is so out of touch with Latin Americans says a lot about why we are often at the receiving end of discrimination and hate.

“Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves…” (The Qur’an, 13:11)

Recently, Fox News came under fire for airing a graphic that stated, “Trump cuts aid to 3 Mexican countries,” on their show, “Fox and Friends Weekend.” The network apologized for the embarrassing error, but not before criticism of their geographical mishap went viral on social media. The reactions were of disbelief, humor, and repugnance for the controversial news channel that has become the archenemy of everything Islamic. People flooded the internet with memes, tweets, and comments regarding the ridiculous headline, Muslims included. American Muslim leaders quickly released statements condemning the lack of knowledge about the difference between Mexico and the nations of Central and South America.

Ironically, however, just about two months ago, my eldest son wrote an essay about the bullying he experienced in an Islamic school, which included insults about him being Mexican and “eating tacos” even though he is half Ecuadorian (South America) and Puerto Rican (Caribbean), not Mexican. I include the regions in parentheses because, in fact, many Muslims are just as geographically-challenged as the staff at Fox News. When a group of Hispanic workers came to replace the windows at his former school, my son approached them and spoke to them in Spanish as a means of dawah – teaching them that there are Latin American and Spanish-speaking Muslims. His classmates immediately taunted him saying that the laborers were “his cousins.” Although my son tried countless times to explain to his peers the difference between his origins and Mexico and defended both, they continued to mock Latinos.

On another occasion, a local masjid invited a famous Imam from the Midwest to speak about a topic. My family and I attended the event because we were fans of the shaykh and admired his work. A few minutes into his talk, he made a derogatory remark about Mexicans, and then added with a smile, “I hope there aren’t any Mexicans in the room!” A gentleman from the community stood up behind my husband, who is Ecuadorian, and pointed at him saying, “We have one right here!” Some people chuckled as his face turned red. The shaykh apologized for his comment and quickly moved on. We looked at each other and rolled our eyes. This was nothing new.

Imam Mohamed Alhayek (Jordanian Palestinian) and Imam Yusuf Rios (Puerto Rican) share an intimate moment during the 16th Annual Hispanic Muslim Day. Photo/Caption by Melissa Barreto — at North Hudson Islamic Educational Center (NHIEC).

Once, I visited a Pakistani sister, and as I enjoyed a cup of warm chai on her patio, she turned to me earnestly and said, “You and (another Latina Muslim) are the only educated Hispanics I know.” She then asked me why Latinos did not have “goals and ambitions” because supposedly, all the Hispanic students in her daughters’ school only aspired to work in their parents’ businesses as laborers. She went on to tell me about her Hispanic maid’s broken family and how unfortunate it was that they had no guidance or moral values. I was shocked by her assumptions, but I realized that this was the sentiment of a lot of Muslims who simply do not know a thing about our culture or have not taken the time to really get to know us.

When I accepted Islam back in 2000, I never expected to hear some of the narrow-minded comments and questions I received from those people who had become my brothers and sisters in faith. After all, I came to Islam through the help of an Egyptian family, I declared the Shahada for the first time in the presence of people from Pakistan, and I was embraced in the masjid by worshippers from places like Somalia, Sudan, Palestine, India, Turkey, and Afghanistan. A white American convert gifted me with my first Ramadan guide and an Indian sister supported me during my first fast. I expected to be treated equally by everyone because Islam was for everyone and Muslims have been hearing this their whole lives and they preach it incessantly. I do the same now. As a Muslim Latina, I tell my people that Islam is open to all and that racism, colorism, classism, and xenophobia have no place in Islam.

Nevertheless, it did not take long for me to hear some very ugly things from my new multi-cultural community. I was questioned about whether I was a virgin or not by well-meaning sisters who wanted to find me a Muslim husband. My faith was scrutinized when my friend’s family introduced me to an imam who doubted I had converted on my own, without the persuasion of a Muslim boyfriend or husband. I was pressured about changing my name because it was not “Islamic” enough. I was lectured about things that I had already learned because foreign-born Muslims assumed I had no knowledge. I was even told I could not be a Muslim because I was Puerto Rican; that I was too “out there,” too loud, or that my people were not morally upright.

I know about good practicing Muslim men who have been turned down for marriage because they are Hispanic. On the other hand, I have seen sisters taken for marriage by immigrant Muslims to achieve citizenship status and later abandoned, despite having children. I have been approached by Muslim men searching for their “J-Lo,” who want to marry a “hot” Latina because of the disgusting exploitation of Latina women they have been exposed to from television, movies, and music videos. I have made the mistake of introducing this type of person to one of my sisters and witnessed their disappointment because she did not fit the image of the fantasy girl they expected. I have felt the heartbreak of my sister who was turned down for not living up to those unrealistic expectations, and who continues to wait for a Muslim man who will honor her as she deserves. An older “aunty” once said to my face that she would never let her children marry a Latino/a.

I met a brother named José who was told that he had to change his un-Islamic Spanish name so that he would be better received in the Muslim community, even though his name, when translated to Arabic, is Yusuf! I have been asked if I know any Hispanic who could work at a Muslim’s store for less than minimum wage 12 hours a day or a “Spanish lady” who can clean a Muslim’s house for cheap. I have spoken to Latino men and women who work at masajid doing landscaping or janitorial services who have never heard anything about Islam. When I approached the Muslim groundskeeper at one of these mosques with Spanish literature to give them, he looked at me bewildered and said, “Oh, they are just contractors,” as if they did not deserve to learn about our faith! I have heard that the child of a Latina convert was expelled and banned from returning to an Islamic school for making a mistake, once. I have been told about fellow Hispanics who dislike going to the masjid because they feel rejected and, worse of all, some of them have even left Islam altogether.

Latina Muslims share a laugh during the 16th Annual Hispanic Muslim Day.
Photo/Caption by Melissa Barreto — at North Hudson Islamic Educational Center (NHIEC).

A few weeks ago, news was released about the sentencing of Darwin Martinez Torres, who viciously raped and murdered Northern Virginia teen, Nabra Hassanen during Ramadan in June 2017. The story made national headlines and left her family and the entire Muslim community devastated. Although the sentence of eight life terms in prison for the killer provided some closure to the public, the senseless and heinous act still leaves sentiments of anger and frustration in the hearts of those who loved Nabra Hassanen. Muslims began sharing the news on social media and soon, remarks about the murderer’s Central American origin flooded the comments sections. One said, “An illegal immigrant from El Salvador will now spend the rest of his life in a U.S. prison where all his needs will be met, and his rights will be protected… When we attack efforts to stop illegal immigration and to deal with the criminals coming across the border every day, remember Sr. Nabra… we should all be united in supporting common-sense measures to ensure that our sisters do not walk in fear of attacks. (And no, this is not an ‘isolated case’…).”

Although I was just as relieved about receiving the news that there was finally justice for our young martyred sister, I was saddened to see that the anti-Hispanic immigrant sentiment within our own community was exposed: To assume that Latino immigrants are “criminals coming across the border every day” is to echo the very words that came from current US President Donald Trump’s mouth about immigrants prior to his election to the presidency. To blame all Latinos for a crime committed against one and claim it is not an “isolated case” is to do the same thing that Fox News and anti-Muslim bigots do when they blame all Muslims for a terror attack.

Why are we guilty of the same behavior that we loathe?

I do not like to air out our dirty laundry. I have always felt that it is counterproductive for our collective dawah efforts. It is embarrassing and shameful that we, who claim to be so tolerant and peaceful, still suffer from the very attitudes for which we blame others. As I write this piece, I have been sharing my thoughts with my close friend, a Pakistani-American, who agreed with me and said, “Just like a recovering alcoholic, our first step is to admit there is a problem.” We cannot demand our civil rights and expect to be treated with dignity while we mistreat another minority group, and this includes Latinos and also other indigenous Muslims like Black Americans and Native Americans. I say this, not just for converts, but for my loud and proud, half Puerto Rican and half Ecuadorian children and nephews and others like them who were born Muslims: we need a community that welcomes all of us.

Latinos and Muslims share countless cultural similarities. Our paths are the same. Our history is intertwined, whether we know it or not; and if you don’t know it, then it is time you do your research. How can we visit Islamic Spain and North Africa and marvel at its magnificence, and travel to the Caribbean for vacation and notice the Andalusian architecture present in the colonial era structures, yet choose to ignore our shared past? How can you be proud of Mansa Musa, and not know that it is said his brother sailed with other Malians to the Americas prior to Columbus, making contact with the indigenous people of South America (even before it was “America”)? How can you turn your back on people from the countries which sheltered thousands of Muslim immigrants from places like Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, and Turkey after the collapse of the Uthmani Empire, many of which carry that blood in their veins?

Latino Muslim panelists during “Hispanic Muslim Day” at North Hudson Islamic Educational Center, Union City, NJ Photo/Caption by Melissa Barreto — at North Hudson Islamic Educational Center (NHIEC).

We need to do a better job of reaching out and getting to know our neighbors. In recent years, the Muslim ban has brought Latinos and Muslims together in solidarity to oppose discriminatory immigration laws. The time is now to establish lasting partnerships.

Use this Ramadan to reach out to the Latino community; host a Spanish open house or an interfaith/intercultural community iftar. Reach out to Latino Muslims in your area for support, or to organizations like ICNA’s WhyIslam (Por qué Islam) for Spanish materials. A language barrier is not an issue when there are plenty of resources available in the Spanish language, and we have the universal language that has been declared a charity by our Prophet, Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), and that is a welcoming smile.

There is no excuse.

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How to Teach Your Kids About Easter

Don’t tell my dad this, but growing up, I was sure I wanted to be a Christian. It had nothing to do with the theology though, it was – really and truly – all about the chocolate.

Zeba Khan

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Don’t tell my dad this, but growing up, I was sure I wanted to be a Christian. It had nothing to do with the theology though, it was – really and truly – all about the chocolate.

Don’t get me wrong, I did not grow up in any sort of conservative, chocolate-deprived bubble. My mother was – and still is – a Christian. My father was – and still is – Muslim, and our home was a place where two faiths co-existed in unapologetic splendor.

My mother put up her Christmas tree every year.  We children, though Muslim, received Easter baskets every year. The only reason why I wished I was Christian too, even though I had no less chocolate in my life than other children my age, was because of the confusing guilt that I felt around holiday time.

I knew that the holidays were my mother’s, and we participated to honor and respect her, not to honor and respect what she celebrated. As a child though, I really didn’t understand why we couldn’t celebrate them too, even if it was just for the chocolate.

As an adult I’ve learned that I’m not alone in this conflicted enthusiasm for the holidays of others. Really, who doesn’t like treats and parties and any excuse to celebrate? As a parent though, I’ve decided that the best policy to use with my children is respectful honesty about where we stand with regard to other religions.

That’s why when my children asked me about Easter, this is what I told them:

  1. The holidays of every religion are the right of the people who follow them. They are as precious to them as Eid and Ramadan are to us.
  2. Part of being a good Muslim is protecting the rights of everyone around us, no matter what their religion is. There is nothing wrong with non-Muslims celebrating their religious non-Muslim holidays.
  3. We don’t need to pretend they’re not happening. Respectful recognition of the rights of others is part of our religion and our history. We don’t have to accept what other people celebrate in order to be respectful of their celebrations.
  4. The problem with Muslims celebrating non-Muslim religious holidays is that we simply don’t believe them to be true.

So when it comes to Easter specifically, we break it down to its smaller elements.

There is nothing wrong with chocolate. There is nothing wrong with eggs. There is nothing wrong with rabbits, and no, they don’t lay eggs.

There is nothing wrong with Easter, but we do not celebrate it because:

Easter is a celebration based on the idea the Prophet Isa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) was Allah’s son, who Allah allowed to be killed for our sins. Easter is a celebration of him coming back to life again.

Depending on how old your child is, you may need to break it down further.

Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) Created the sun, Allah is not a person whose eyes can’t even look directly at the sun. Allah Created space, Allah is not a person who can’t survive in space. Allah Created fire, Allah is not a person who cannot even touch fire. Allah is not a person, He does not have children as people do. Prophet Jesus [alayis] was a messenger of Allah, not a child of Allah.

Allah is also the Most-Merciful, Most-Forgiving, and All-Powerful. When we make mistakes by ourselves, we say sorry to Allah and try our best to do better. If we make mistakes all together, we do not take the best-behaved person from among us and then punish him or her in our place.

Allah is Justice Himself. He is The Kindest, Most Merciful, Most Forgiving Being in the entire universe. He always was, and always will be capable of forgiving us. No one needed to die in order for Allah to forgive anyone.

If your teacher failed the best student in the class so that the rest of the students could pass, that would not be fair, even if that student had offered that. When people say that Allah sacrificed his own son so that we could be forgiven, they are accusing Allah of really unfair things, even if they seem to think it’s a good thing.

Even if they’re celebrating it with chocolate.

We simply do not believe what is celebrated on Easter. That is why we do not celebrate Easter.

So what do we believe?

Walk your child through Surah Ikhlas, there are four lines and you can use four of their fingers.

  1. Allah is One.
  2. Allah doesn’t need anything from anyone.
  3. He was not born, and nor was anyone born of Him. Allah is no one’s child, and no one is Allah’s child
  4. There is nothing like Allah in the universe

Focus on what we know about Allah, and then move on to other truths as well.

  1. Christians should absolutely celebrate Christian holidays. We are happy for them.
  2. We do not celebrate Christian holidays, because we do not accept what they’re celebrating.
  3. We are very happy for our neighbors and hope they have a nice time.

When your child asks you about things like Christmas, Easter, Valentines, and Halloween, they’re not asking you to change religions. They’re asking you for the chance to participate in the joy of treats, decorations, parties, and doing things with their peers.

You can provide them these things when you up your halal holiday game. Make Ramadan in your home a whole month of lights, people, and happy prayer. Make every Friday special. Make Eid amazing – buy gifts, give charity, decorate every decorat-able surface if you need to – because our children have no cause to feel deprived by being Muslim.

If your holidays tend to be boring, that’s a cultural limitation, not a religious one. And if you feel like it’s not fair because other religions just have more holidays than we do, remember this:

  • Your child starting the Quran can be a celebration
  • Your child finishing the Quran can be a celebration
  • Your child’s first fast can be a celebration
  • Your child wearing hijab can be a celebration
  • Your child starting to pray salah can be a celebration
  • Your children can sleep over for supervised qiyaam nights
  • You can celebrate whatever you want, whenever you want, in ways that are fun and halal and pleasing to Allah.

We have a set number of religious celebrations, but there is no limit on how many personal celebrations we choose to have in our lives and families. Every cause we have for gratitude can be an opportunity to see family, eat together, dress up, and hang shiny things from other things, and I’m not talking about throwing money at the problem – I’m talking about making the effort for its solution.

It is easy to celebrate something when your friends, neighbors, and local grocery stores are doing it too. That’s probably why people of many religions – and even no religion – celebrate holidays they don’t believe in. That’s not actually an excuse for it though, and as parents, it’s our responsibility to set the right example for our children.

Making and upholding our own standards is how we live, not only in terms of our holidays, but in how we eat, what we wear, and the way we swim upstream for the sake of Allah.  We don’t go with the flow, and teaching our children not to celebrate the religious holidays of other religions just to fit in is only one part of the lesson.

The other part is to extend the right to religious freedom – and religious celebration – to Muslims too. When you teach your children that everyone has a right to their religious holidays, include Muslims too. When you make a big deal out of Ramadan include your non-Muslim friends and neighbors too, not just because it’s good dawah, but because being able to share your joy with others helps make it feel more mainstream.

Your Muslim children can give their non-Muslim friends Eid gifts. You can take Eid cookies to your non-Muslim office, make Ramadan jars. You can have Iftar parties for people who don’t fast.   Decorate your house for Ramadan, and send holiday cards out on your holidays.

You can enjoy the elements of celebration that are common to us all without compromising on your aqeedah, and by doing so, you can teach your children that they don’t have to hide their religious holidays from the people who don’t celebrate them.  No one has to. And you can teach your children to respect the religions of others, even while disagreeing with them.

Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are bound by a common thread, and there is much we come together on. Where the threads separate though, is still a cause for celebration. Religious tolerance is part of our faith, and recognizing the rights of others to celebrate – or abstain from celebration – is how we celebrate our differences.

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