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All I Want For Christmas Is… For Muslims To Read This


Stumped by our own Childhood

Tinselly window dressings are everywhere. It is holiday season— the only time during the year where peppermint bark comes to the local Trader Joe’s. Neighborhood windows glisten with ornaments on the tree. “Mama, why can’t we have a Christmas tree like theirs?” he asks. Sometimes, the youngest children ask the toughest questions. Especially tough when this question was never adequately answered for us when we grappled with it as children.

Let’s be honest here, for those of us growing up as Muslim minorities, whether it was Christmas or another holiday, the assertive “because it’s ḥarām (forbidden)” coupled with the parental death-stare was usually the end of the conversation. One generation later, though, this answer – or the subconscious resentment of it – now has parents like me reluctant to repeat it, and for many, even questioning it.

Better Late than Never

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Let us first say that the “do’s and don’ts” of our faith being communicated to us superficially or belligerently, do not disqualify their potential correctness. In other words, withholding the reasons from us doesn’t negate that there may be very good reasons behind our abstention from observing Christmas as Muslims.

To mention a few:
1) God sent His final prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) to rescue those coerced (culturally or violently) into believing that the Creator has partners/children that share in His Unique Perfection and Sovereignty. It is no secret that with Christmas, the “reason behind the season” is commemorating the day when Christ (peace be upon him), supposedly God’s son, was begotten into this world to be sacrificed on the cross for the salvation of those who accept that doctrine. Given our deep love for Esa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him), should our children be left to conflate between casually celebrating ‘the birth of God’s son’ and celebrating God liberating humanity (via revealing the Quran) from this claim?

Therefore, should our children not grow wishing all people a happy hereafter, and therefore politely abstaining from saying “Merry Christmas”? Should our children not carry genuine concern for their friends and loved ones incurring the costliest loss?

“Indeed, Allah does not forgive association with Him, but He forgives what is less than that for whom He wills. And he who associates others with Allah has certainly gone far astray.” [an-Nisā’ 4:116]

“And they say, ‘The Most Merciful has taken [for Himself] a son.’ You have done an atrocious thing. The heavens almost rupture therefrom and the earth splits open and the mountains collapse in devastation – that they attribute to the Most Merciful a son.” [Mary 19:88-91]

2) Over the centuries, Christendom’s ascription of divine qualities to human beings has widened past Jesus Christ (ﷺ) to include saints as well. This is glaringly evident in the “harmless” Christmas carols, which we may not even know our children have memorized:

“Santa Claus is coming to town;

He sees you when you’re sleeping,

He knows when you’re awake.

He knows if you’ve been bad or good,

So be good for goodness sake…”

For a Muslim, if the super-foundation of your theology, lā elāha illā Allāh, is singling God out in everything particular to Him (like being the All-Knowing, the All-Hearing, who hears the prayers we whisper and deserves our sincere devotion), then this is no longer an innocent song. Rather, this erodes in a child why the universe was created, why the Scriptures were revealed, why the Messengers were sent, and why Paradise and Hellfire were prepared. It represents mixed messages for why a person is alive, what the primary message of the Quran is, and why the worthiest blood, sweat, and tears were ever sacrificed. Our children’s pure little hearts are like sponges that soak up whatever they are exposed to, and we have been appointed as the gatekeepers of those hearts, and will be questioned about that trust.

The Prophet (ﷺ) said, 

There is no servant whom Allah entrusts with subjects, then dies while having betrayed that trust, except that Allah has made Paradise forbidden for him.”

[Saḥīḥ Muslim: 1/261]

And again, parents must inculcate in kids that being a true Muslim necessitates compassion for humanity, and that compassion is not restricted to this life. A greater act of compassion and selflessness is tolerating the occasional backlash when identifying for others the harms of disbelief in this world, and the requirements for salvation in the next.

3) Being comfortable with standing out, and the willingness to be different when necessary, is a hallmark of survival and of successful people. For this reason, our prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) cautioned that “imitating a people renders us as one of them,” [Musnad Ahmad] and taught us to revisit in every prayer a particular “straight path”, and further specify that it is “not the path of those who incurred wrath” nor “those who are lost.”

Nobody likes to identify with weakness, or be perceived with suspicion, and hence we find Muslims more likely – at times – to leap into unhinged degrees of assimilation than others nowadays. The desire to escape the media hostility against Islam is expected, but we must recognize that it also breeds an inferiority complex of sorts. Why else do Muslims, particularly where living as minorities, feel the pressing need to celebrate Christmas when many other groups don’t? Whether citing the commercialization of Christmas, or the pagan symbols of the Christmas tradition (think: charms on trees, bad luck to erect before a certain date), or Judaism’s rejection of Jesus Christ (ﷺ), there are plenty of people all around us who abstain from participation.

Muslims not decorating Christmas trees is largely irrelevant to those who do— considering how many groups do not without consequence. Therefore, the setting up of a Christmas tree really has to do with us as Muslims; which of us internalized the stigma and need to prove “we are just like you”, and which have escaped the identity crisis, feel privileged with Islam, and confident in being sufficed with the two Eids.

As the Prophet (ﷺ) said, “Allah has replaced you [in place of these holidays] with that which is better than them; Eid al-Aḍḥā and Eid al-Fiṭr.” [Abū Dāwūd, an-Nasā’i, Aḥmad]

A Charming Tree

How many have heard of this narration by the Prophet (ﷺ)?

Abū Wāqid al-Laythi reported that when the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) went out to Ḥunayn, he passed by a tree that the idolators called Dhāt Anwāṭ upon which they hung their weapons. The Prophet’s Companions said, “O Messenger of Allah, appoint for us a Dhāt Anwāṭ (good-luck tree) just as they have a Dhāt Anwāṭ.” The Prophet (ﷺ) said, Subḥān Allāh. This is just like Moses’ people said, ‘Make for us a god like their gods.’ [al-An‘ām 6:138] By the One in whose hand is my soul, you will surely follow the traditions of those before you.” [Tirmidhī: 2180; ḥasan-saḥīḥ]

After generations of subjugation under Pharaoh, the Israelites struggled with an inferiority complex despite being liberated by God and seeing His Might firsthand at the sea. This is what prompted their urge to imitate, along with the fact that humans commonly see the grass greener across the fence, and naturally conform to what they see as ideal. So in this age of global weakness and smear campaigns against Islam and the Muslim, the wise parent must be vigilant of similar tendencies, and understand what occasions like Christmas indicate for the Muslims in their family.

Finally, a child’s desire to understand the world around them, and demand that his/her mind be respected via the infamous “but why?!” inquiries should always be validated and satisfied. If we do not craft their worldview, others will fill that void. However, the greatest gift you as a parent can give your child this holiday season is the confidence to be different. 23% of US Muslims no longer identify with their childhood religion, and surely some of the remaining 77% only identify with Islam socially/culturally. Is it then not urgent to instill that pride before the dominant culture finishes reshaping their new cultural identity?

Saturate your children with enjoyable discussions on tawḥīd (the oneness and greatness of Allah), speak to their teachers about alternatives during celebratory functions, supervise their screen time, make a big deal out of Islam’s Eid(s), and fill them with thrill and privilege for being chosen by Allah for Islam.

And praise be to Allah, Lord of the worlds.

Keep supporting MuslimMatters for the sake of Allah

Alhamdulillah, we're at over 850 supporters. Help us get to 900 supporters this month. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Graduate of English Literature; Translator for IIPH, AMJA, and Mishkah; Da'wah Director @ Muslims Giving Back; Student @ Mishkah University. More blessed than I know, and more than I deserve.



  1. AJF

    December 24, 2017 at 12:14 PM

    Christians do not consider Jesus to be God’s partner. They consider him to be God.

    I have had many conversations of Muslims who are ignorant of this fact. As a result, they will continue to parrot their false idea of the Christian Jesus until there is no point in talking to them any more.

    Additionally, Santa Claus is not regarded as having any God-like or magical powers by Christian adults. Santa is a children’s story. Muslims should not tell their children that Christians consider Santa to be a “partner” of God, because Christians do not. Most Christians would consider a teen or adult who actually believed in Santa to be mentally damaged.

    • Usman

      December 24, 2017 at 1:25 PM

      Dear AJF,

      I think you missed the point of this article with your comment. Whether Christians consider Jesus a partner, a son, a part of God, or God himself still qualifies the Christian theology as Shirk. Association of partnership with God is also akin to associating God’s Divine attributes to creation. And depending upon whom you speak with, Christians promulgate any and/or all of the aforementioned variations of Jesus’s manifestation. The only Christians whom I met that actually don’t consider Jesus as God or the son of God are Jehovah’s witnesses. They came knocking on my door one day and I invited them in for an open discussion.

      Of course, society is aware that Santa Claus is a fairy tale. But the point the author makes is in regards to Santa Claus’s introduction into children’s lives. The introduction is not an innocuous story but rather Christians attribute Divine qualities to Santa Claus such as omniscience. This is brainwashing children into associating God-like qualities that are anthropomorphized into an imaginary human being. The Divine attribute of All-seeing, All-hearing, and All-knowing only belong to the One Creator.

      I think this is an excellent article and I agree wholeheartedly with the author’s premise. It is germane in my life right now because I have a son who is in Kindergarten and I am dealing with the questions as posed above. The reason I am honest with my 5 year old son about our reasons for not celebrating Christmas is because I want him to keep a lens of pure Tawheed in his life and not fall into polytheist traps.

      • AJF

        December 24, 2017 at 2:44 PM

        Hi Usman

        Jehovah Witnesses do not believe in the Trinity and are not Christians for that reason. They believe that Jesus was an incarnate form of the angel, Michael.

        But, I think what you are really saying is that you consider it to all be in error, regardless of how Jesus or the Trinity are viewed, so the fine distinctions hardly make a difference.

        What is really unfortunate is that Muslims have been very busy these past few years trying to use Jesus (and to a lesser degree, Mary) as a method of dawah and ecumenical outreach.

        At that point, it becomes far more important for Christians to define what they actually believe about Jesus, rather than to allow Muslims to tell everyone what they think Christians believe about Jesus.

        Christians don’t have these arguments with Jews, because Jews simply reject Jesus outright without trying to use him to convert Christians to Judaism.

        Additionally, “shirk” is becoming the new “jihad” or “kuffar” in the list of Islamic vocabulary seen as a threat to non-Muslims. That makes “shirk” my business, rather than just you and your children’s business. So you should expect non-Muslims to be increasingly interested in Muslim teachings about Jesus and shirk.

  2. Shawn

    December 24, 2017 at 1:15 PM

    Barrak Allah feek.

  3. Kathryn

    December 25, 2017 at 1:00 PM

    SubhanAllah was hesitant to read this fearing another apologetic “let’s all just be friends” jumble of nonsense. May Allah reward you with all the best!

  4. Cheryl

    December 25, 2017 at 1:30 PM

    Don’t the trolls have someplace else to be today?

    • AJF

      December 26, 2017 at 6:30 PM

      It is not trolling to point out that Santa Claus is a children’s fantasy and has absolutely no role in actual Christian theology. Nor is it trolling to point out that Jesus is considered God in Trinitarian belief.

      Muslims can tell their children anything they want, but it is always wise to err on the side of the truth.

      As for “shirk”, my comment about it was deleted so I guess my observations were unwelcome. That is fine. Muslims and non-Muslims will also be having that conversation eventually, but obviously it will not be here.

      Kathryn made the most honest statement, which is that we need to stop focusing on “let’s all be friends” and start focusing on real issues and the fact that Islam and Christianity (and post-Christianity) are incompatible belief systems. To me, that is the foundation upon which we should begin our dialogue about Islam in the West.

  5. Ola

    December 26, 2017 at 9:38 PM

    Jazak Allah khair for a much needed reminder.

  6. Jehan

    December 27, 2017 at 8:40 AM

    Masha’Allah, well said.

  7. Md Nayeem

    December 27, 2017 at 12:37 PM

    جزاك اللهُ خيرًا
    You stand with some valid points, it was the post for now,,..feel so hurt, when see that our children are breaking to bad knock,,may Allah give us solid knowledge to understand the right way and lead us to right…

  8. Kristy

    January 1, 2018 at 9:25 PM

    Unknown to muslim immigrants from underdeveloped countries and seemingly unknown to muslim scholars and apologists, American life commands critical thinking of its citizens. From preschool through advanced college degrees, critical thinking is taught in schools, practiced in industries, it’s the root of political party differences and the foundation of advances and inventions in science and engineering.

    Loosely defined, critical thinking is the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and evaluating information gathered from or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning or communication, as a guide to belief and action. In its exemplary form, it is based on universal intellectual values that transcend subject matter divisions: clarity, accuracy, precision, consistency, relevance, sound evidence, good reasons, depth, breadth, and fairness. (def. based on Scriven and Paul, 1987)
    I would add to the requirements of critical thinking that if any religion is going to survive American critical thinking, it must offer something that is of equal or greater value than religions already present in American society. As the nation’s smallest world religion with fewer adherents than Judaism, Islam’s mature members must be able to model and teach their children and society-at-large how and why Islam should be a contender for religious belief in America. Mere criticism of everyone else’s religious beliefs without being able to defend your own, or religion-on-demand because your ancestors were muslims, and even trying to squash questions from your children because Allah does not like his religion to be questioned, are not options to critically-thinking Americans.

    I have yet to meet a muslim who defends his own religion and beliefs with an answer from the quran. Challenge a muslim about his beliefs or a quranic verse and the answer will have nothing to do with the question, but rather a barrage of unrelated criticism of the Bible copied from an atheist’s website; Or maybe the generic rote answer, “the Bible is corrupted”; Or a list of ‘ibns’ from the endless telephone game called ‘tafsir’ and ‘hadith’.

    So here’s the answer: start with adult muslims learning about their own religion’s theology, figures, morals and values as stated in the quran– enough to actually answer the increasing pile of serious questions challenging islam, not just questions about the existence of Santa and the tooth fairy. Then point out muslims who practice what they preach for the benefit of all American society, not just for the benefit of muslims. Deal with the tough questions about gay rights, women’s rights, Christian, atheist and Jewish rights, and the negative press Islam receives at the hands of its own members in homeland countries.

    As far as “the dominant culture reshaping their new cultural identity”, get ready for someone to ask why muslims choose to live in a country where being reshaped into an American citizen is perceived as a negative outcome of the greatest social experiment in all history, America, the “melting pot” of the world.
    And get ready to hear critical thinking going on in the heads of your own American-born children about Islam.

  9. Hafsa

    December 25, 2019 at 10:18 PM

    Thank you so much for this article, it’s so disturbing to see how many muslims are so comfortable with celebrating Christmas now. We can be tolerant of others and respectful of other customs without having to bring them into our homes.

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