Christmas and Islam
What is Christmas?Christmas is a festival which has become very popular all around the world today, many knowing its origin and many ignorant of what they are actually celebrating. Christmas is celebrating the birth of Jesus.1 The English term Christmas (Mass on Christ’s day) is of fairly recent origin. Since, the 20th century, Christmas has been a secular family holiday, observed by Christians and non-Christians alike, devoid of Christian elements, and marked by an increasingly elaborate exchange of gifts. In this secular Christmas celebration, a mythical figure named Santa Claus plays the pivotal role. Christmas is celebrated on the 25th of December.
Christmas, is it a Christian festival or a Pagan one?As we can see there are two elements to discuss here, firstly, and most importantly Christianity and Christmas. Then, the origin of modern day Christmas, the various rituals, they can trace back to paganism. And all of this will be presented from an Islamic perspective. Christians believe God sent his son Jesus, the messiah, to save the world. They believe Jesus is part of a trinity which completes the understanding of God, God, the son and the Holy Ghost. Jesus in their belief is god and man at the same time and God (Capital G), capital G referring to the father, sent him to earth to be killed in order to save people from sin.
Islamic Perspective on JesusIslam on the other hand believes Jesus is a might prophet of God, who was sent to his people to guide them wrong doing and bring them to path of monotheism, the worship of one God, with no intermediaries, no sons and no daughters. Allah tells us “Say, O Prophet, He is Allah – One and indivisible. Allah – the sustainer needed by all. He has never had offspring, nor was he Born. And there is none comparable to Him.”2 Immediately, we see a direct clash between two fundamentals of each faith, yes they have many similarities but fundamentally they are polar opposites. Islam teaches mankind to submit to one God and not to associate partners with him in any shape or form. To then say God ‘begot a son’ 3 is blasphemy of the highest order. Allah says: “They say, The Most Compassionate has offspring. You have certainly made an outrageous claim, by which the heavens are about to burst, the earth to split apart, and the mountains to crumble to pieces.”4 For further details log into Islamic Courses Online, and watch ‘Christmas and Islam’.
Can we celebrate ChristmasChristmas, being a religious festival celebrating the birth of ‘god’, is without any shadow of a doubt totally impermissible, haraam. It is regarded as a major sin, how can a Muslim celebrate when Allah himself says the son of Adam insults me by saying I have a son: “Allah says, the son of Adam insults me, by saying ‘I have a son’ while I am ‘the one and only, I do not beget nor was I begotten.”5 Hence, on a broader perspective a Muslim is not allowed to celebrate any religious festival irrespective of religion, as celebration reflects one’s acceptance to the idea being promoted. And it is possible by participated in such festivals that slowly one may lose his or her consciousness of this basic yet very important theological point. There is nothing more important to preserve that a Muslim’s identity and faith.
Christmas and PaganismEven if one was to remove the religious element out of Christmas, which is impossible, as everything returns back to it’s origin (asl), we find much of Christmas deeply rooted in paganism. In the winter season, around the last days of December, the people would celebrate the winter Solstice. In the winter period there is a time where there is no light in the northern hemisphere, total darkness for 24hours. These countries people would die of cold, disease and other problems. So when the sun would come out, people would really appreciate the sun and they would hold certain celebrations ad festivals. They would burn bonfires, fire represented life for these people. In the north people recognised there was one tree which never died, the fir tree. And in some cases, people would take this tree and put it in their front rooms for luck, and then put a light on top as a good luck charm, hoping this tree would protect them from the winter. This went on for hundreds of years. They would have certain rituals which involved specific individuals, one of those was Mithra. A mysterious character, he was born on 25th December, he was meant to represent the sun itself. He became to be known as the deity of covenant, light, oath and the sun. They say this man died for the sins of people. Many years later we hear of the arrival of Jesus, he taught a message of monotheism. Soon after we hear of another influential figure Paul, who then goes on to change much of the teachings of Jesus and add new concepts to Christianity, e.g. Jesus dying for the sins of man. These celebrations at this part of the year, were actually banned by the Christian church of England , according to historical sources, banned all the way to 1647, because they saw Christmas as a pagan holiday. We read about a man in ancient writings called St. Nicholas, he was actually known as the demon of the north, in Germany and many northern countries, they saw nick as an evil man, they warned their children of him. They deemed him the devil himself. The bible when describing the devil states: “I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north.”6 They understood that to mean St Nicholas as he was from the north. When the Germans depicted him, they described him as a man with a red fur coat and he was based in the north, and he was the essence of evil. The church of England did not allow for this celebration, they saw this celebration as evil. Now, surprisingly enough he is known as a good man who is searching for your children to give them presents. Many people actually take their children in search of Father Christmas, and place them on his knee.
Either wayIt is not permissible to celebrate this day, the evidences are many we can begin with the Qur’an, the Sunnah, Ijmah and rational. You can see more details to this topic on Islamic Courses Online. Jesus was born to the Virgin Mary. Therefore, it is an article of faith to believe in his miraculous birth, it is an article of faith to love him and his mother, it is an article of faith to believe he is one of the mightiest messengers of God, and without that one is not a Muslim. The Prophet Muhammad said: “Both in this world and in the Hereafter, I am the nearest of all the people to Jesus, the son of Mary. The prophets are paternal brothers; their mothers are different, but their religion is one.”7
ConclusionLet’s wrap up with the words of Ibn Qayyum, where he states wishing/celebrating non Muslim religious functions which involve shirk are totally prohibited.
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