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Muslims Celebrating Christmas: Why the “Petty” Is Powerful

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In recent years, I have noticed an increase in the number of Western Muslims celebrating Christmas in different capacities. This may be more understandable for those new to the faith, or for those who have non-Muslim family members with whom participating in this holiday may be tricky to navigate.

Unfortunately, there is also an increasing number of Muslims who have jumped on the bandwagon of celebrating Christmas with really no compelling reason to do so – putting up decorations in their homes, Christmas trees, giving Christmas presents to their children, etc.

Frankly speaking, I do not think this is because people are unaware of the Islamic teachings on the matter; in fact, I would venture to say that most people are aware of its rulings and prohibition by scholars, and could not counter the strength of those arguments or its proofs. Instead, what I have seen as the most common response is the genuine feeling that there is no harm in it. In simple terms: It’s just a tree! It’s just for fun. What’s the big deal?

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There are two points I would encourage us to reflect on in response to these thoughts and beliefs.

Why the ‘Petty’ is Powerful

The first is about how we look at matters of haram and halal and fiqhi rulings in general. There is a certain outlook that has become increasingly popular in our times — a feeling that these issues and rulings are petty, trivial, and irrelevant, and that religion should not be about these ‘small’ matters, but instead about larger ideas of spirituality, belief in God and just being a good person.

This is contrary to our understanding of religion as Muslims, in which these larger spiritual ideas are actually deeply and essentially connected with an everyday practice of the faith. When one is divorced from the other, there is a severe imbalance, a fracturing, that does not allow faith to remain in tact nor for spirituality to actually be enlivened. Abiding by religious teachings is the first step and the portal to spiritual heights.

The ‘petty’ is in fact powerful! It is the means to spiritual growth and connection to God Most High.

Instead of dismissing these matters as topics for the small-minded, we should know that they are what make up the path to the Vast (Al-Wasi’). We are reminded by Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) to consult those of knowledge – that is, the scholars – on matters that we do not know the rulings of.

“So ask the people of knowledge if you do not know.” [Surah An-Nahl:43]

It’s All Fun and Games Until…

Secondly, many see their participation in this holiday as a way of having fun, with no deeper intent behind it, and also a means of fitting in a little better in a society that often makes us feel excluded. While these things may seem harmless and light to us, we should broaden our vision to consider what weight it may have on our children and their children. What family culture, traditions, and norms are we establishing and nurturing? What legacy are we leaving behind?

We must realize that we are not the first Muslims in this land, and study the waves of immigrants who came before us, as well as the African American Muslim community. We need to consider what helped keep people strong in faith, and what eroded it. While some held fast to faith, others assimilated such that they only came to know Islam as a religion their grandparents vaguely practiced, or the source of their Muslim last name. I would especially encourage every Muslim to read about the African Muslims enslaved in the Americas, and how they strove to keep their faith and religious traditions even in the most difficult of circumstances (Sylviane Diouf’s ‘Servants of Allah’ is an amazing book on this).

Muslim interreligious family with christmas tree in background

Preserving Islam for Our Children

The best legacy and treasure we can leave for our children is faith and a connection to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). If we want to do this, we must make Islam a vibrant reality in our lives, families, in the big decisions we make as well as in our everyday life. We should seek to attach our children’s hearts to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), Allah’s Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), Allah’s Book, Allah’s House, Allah’s people, and Allah’s Deen. Putting aside the legal ruling, celebrating and embracing with love the holiday of another faith tradition does not benefit this effort, but will only harm it.

Our beloved Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said that there would come a time in our community when someone would wake up a believer and go to sleep in disbelief. Never feel confident or arrogant in faith; it is a gift the heart is graced with, and that needs nurturing and care through those things that give it life. Learning, being in good company, remembrance of God, Quran, making our homes blessed spaces imbued with Prophetic teachings… all of this and more.

Our beloved Prophet said that there would come a time in our community when someone would wake up a believer and go to sleep in disbelief. Never feel confident or arrogant in faith; it is a gift the heart is graced with, and that needs nurturing and care through those things that give it life.Click To Tweet

O Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), guide us and guide our children and keep our hearts firm on Islam. Make us a means of a beautiful legacy of faith that continues far beyond our lifetime. O Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), protect us and our loved ones from trials in faith, and guide us to that which You love. Keep us in the Shade of Your protection and draw us ever closer to You.

Ameen.

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Shazia Ahmad grew up in upstate New York and studied with local scholar and teacher Dr. Mokhtar Maghraoui before beginning her studies overseas. She then studied in Syria, where she completed a program in Arabic and Islamic Studies at Abu Nour University. She also studied in a number of private classes and attained her ijaza in Qur’anic recitation from the late Sh. Muhiyudin al-Kurdi (rahimahullah). She then spent the following six years in Cairo, Egypt furthering her education through private lessons and study. She has ijazaat in a number of introductory texts in various Islamic subjects and has written on Islam for Jannah.Org, VirtualMosque.com, Al-Madina Institute, and various other blogs and publications. She also holds a B.A. in Psychology and History from the State University of New York.

9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. Ahmed

    December 22, 2021 at 6:15 PM

    Thank you for this article, truth stands alone from falsehood. Keep up the work of informing the masses of the eroding threat that decent people are facing. My duas are with you Muslim matters.

  2. Asif

    December 24, 2021 at 6:34 PM

    I saw news coverage recently of an entire city in Michigan being governed by Muslim politicians. What would your advice be to them? Should they publicly disregard celebrating Christmas and alienate their Christian constituents?

    What about Muslim businesses in the US? Should they not sell Christian specific products on Christmas, thereby losing customers?

    How about government officials, businesses and laypeople in Muslim majority countries, where for all intents and purposes minorities (Christians / Jews / Hindus) are not treated very well to say the least?

    Would you agree we might need to add some humility and courage to the pettiness you talk about in your article?

  3. Amer Rizvi

    January 1, 2022 at 8:04 AM

    Informative article! Unfortunately, the pictures simply didn’t go with it. Better would have been pictures of Muslim families doing alternative activities together i.e reading a book about the real Jesus Christ (may Allah bless him), shopping together during Christmas sales etc.

  4. Good Man

    January 2, 2022 at 11:07 PM

    >Should they publicly disregard celebrating Christmas and alienate their Christian constituents?

    They should not celebrate it themselves.

    >Should they not sell Christian specific products on Christmas, thereby losing customers?

    Yes. Akhirah is better than dunya

    >How about government officials, businesses and laypeople in Muslim majority countries…

    A Christian should be free to celebrate his/her festival, Muslims should not celebrate Christmas. By the way, do Christians celebrate Eid in Islamic countries?

  5. mahpara

    January 6, 2022 at 11:35 PM

    Salam, I tried this and realized i had made a big mistake with my own children. I grew up in a non-muslim country and had friends from all faiths. My parents did not prohibit us from joining in celebrating with others their festivals. The celebration was limited to what is being denounced here such as having a tree, giving gifts etc. It was understood where the limits were. We never isolated ourselves from them and neither did they. we learnt our deen and they theirs. Our worship was separate but celebration together. We understood the differences and yet tried to be a part of the community. I don’t know of anyone who left islam because of such practices. I am grateful that my parents were foresighted enough to see that we would outgrow those feelings of trying to fit in as we matured. I did not do that with my kids. I dodged every halloween and brushed off christmas. Their curiosity and awe for these festivals grew. If I had let them experience it as children as my parents had let me, they would have been done with them long ago. We live in a very mixed society. What is the point of holding interfaith meetings and inviting others to iftar parties if we cant even let our children set up a tree. We don’t become disbelievers by decorating a tree or baking a turkey. We can still instill islamic values and pass on our traditions. Our children will learn better and be better humans if they avoid isolating themselves from the communities they live in, will work in, or study in. I have a friend from an african country where the population is 90% muslim and she was telling me how during xmas they celebrate and give sadaqa with their christian friends and they in return do the same during Eid- no conflicts, no riots. These isolationistic practices serve no one.

  6. Man From The Dark Side 'The Undertaker'

    January 10, 2022 at 7:31 AM

    Do people of different faiths celebrate the two Eids?

  7. NOS

    January 18, 2022 at 1:32 PM

    Judging from your response, I think that’s enough proof that those isolationist experiences DO serve Muslims. Thank you for your anecdote, I’m even more convinced of the need to segregate

    If my kids want to be “non-isolationist” there are enough civic events and civic holidays and instances of civic volunteering to be able to do so

  8. mahpara

    January 21, 2022 at 12:59 AM

    “Segregate’ “isolate” sound very much like words white supremacists would use. Unless you think that is the way to go.

  9. A. s. Mathew

    January 22, 2022 at 10:26 AM

    The Christmas celebrations in UAE will beat all the nations of the world. The Muslim brothers and Sisters of UAE are enjoying with the Christians and the rest the Christmas celebration. They exchange gifts and enjoying the season of happiness. Those Muslim nations which are celebrating Christmas, they all have closeness with the Christians there as the great grand children of Father Abraham. Quran has given the greatest respect to a one woman, that is the Mother of JESUS. Quran has stated clearly about the virgin birth of JESUS. Quran has mentioned only one person with the Holy Spirit, that is JESUS CHRIST. Christmas is the most celebrated event in the world. So, rejoice with all religious followers of the coming King JESUS CHRIST as written in Quran and the Bible.

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