Celebrating Christmas for Muslims – Halal or Haram?

Right I think it’s about time I answered this issue, it seems to have been escalated beyond the remit of a respectful debate. A humble request for everyone (including myself) to check the content of any messages and comments posted publicly…

Now regarding the celebration of Christmas by Muslims. In a nutshell this is not permitted in the remit of Islam.

Now I’m not going to give a scholarly discussion, there seems to be plenty of ‘Muftis’ to give you the scholarly rulings and I’m sure they have far more knowledge than I do!

But in layman’s terms, when we celebrate Christmas, we are giving respect and we are sanctifying a festival which is associated to the religion of Christianity and the birth of Jesus Christ. Now celebrating the birth of Jesus Alayhi salaam is not an issue in itself but when it’s associated to the Christian religion, their basic Aqeedah and faith is that Jesus is the son of God (mazAllah). So by celebrating Christmas we are giving respect and support to this deviant belief which is contrary to the Quran and Islam. This puts our own imaan in to question.

This is the crux of the matter.

I would like to mention for the benefit of some people that Christmas was actually a pagan festival not even a Christian one and of course paganism can be regarded as shirk or even atheism. Again celebrating their religious festival gives support to their deviant beliefs. Hence celebration of Christmas is not permitted within Islam.

However, if somebody wishes you merry Christmas, more often than not, it’s not even related to religion because in the west today, how many people who celebrate Christmas are practising Christians? Not many.. Even non Christians (atheists, agnostics etc) celebrate Christmas and the ‘urf’ is changing. (A principle in usool Al fiqh)

If a Christian wishes you merry Christmas and you reply with the Niyya of akhlaaq, that you are simply returning a greeting, unrelated to the beliefs of Christianity, and having the niyya that you are not sanctifying the religion or their celebration, then that is fine. It is important to understand here that your niyya must be that you are sending them greetings for the nafs of the birth of Easa Alayhi salaam only and not sending them greetings for their own beliefs in this matter. It would also be advisable to say lam Ya lid wa lam yu lad with your greeting, which is radd/rejection of the Christian aqaa’id and therefore renders us safe from committing shirk or kufr.

I need to make an important point here’, the definition of the word ‘Christ’ is not simply messiah, the word is synonymous with ‘the Lord’, ‘son of God’ and immediately the usage of this word is not permitted by people of imaan so in returning greeting, either say ‘the same to you’ or ‘all the best’, ‘best wishes’ etc. as mentioned above.

The reason why this would be something to practice is to avoid causing more hatred for islam and Muslims in an already islami phobic environment in Dar ul Harb. If you were in Dar ul islam then you would not need to entertain this but would simply be able to avoid the issue altogether without problem. However I would advise we should always refrain from initiating the greeting, replying is fine. ‘Best wishes’ is something more neutral and entirely permissible in Islam.

The issue is for reverts who’s families celebrate Christmas. For these individuals, do not partake in the celebration of the Christmas festival. If however you make clear that you are joining your family to have a meal with them as a matter of good character, not as a matter of celebrating Christmas, or you are gathering because it is a mutual holiday period etc which facilitates the meeting of family and friends,then this is permissible only in these particular circumstances, it would not be permissible for a Muslim from a Muslim family to do the same. For this revert person, they must make clear their disassociation from any faith or Aqeedah associated to the Christian belief and make clear their intentions in attending.

Regarding the giving of presents/chocolates etc, this is again prohibited. If you receive then it is better for you not to eat but forward on, May be at new year. Giving/receiving with the intention of new year is fine since this is unassociated to religion and belief. This gives reverts another avenue to be able to give presents, where they can tell their families they are giving presents for new year and not for Christmas.

Remember, in this regard: innamal a’amal u bi’niyya. Actions are judged on intention.

It is a very delicate and fine line, but I hope I have been clear in defining the line.

In the same way, The practice of putting up Christmas trees or any other activity specifically associated to Christmas is not permitted. However having a meal with your family and such activities are generic and not specifically associated to Christmas. So if for example, a Muslim family gather on Christmas Day because everyone is off work and school etc, then there is no harm in this! The matter we have to take care in is refraining from those practices specifically associated with the celebration and sanctifying of the Christmas festival and deviant aqaa’id of the Christians.

Remember the Prophet of Allah ﷺ taught respect and tolerance. In the west most of us live in Dar ul Harb and therefore a certain level of tolerance is incumbent upon us and returning greetings or the like is our duty as Muslims, as long as this is within the remit of our deen. Sometimes it is necessary to use ambiguous language whete niyya prevails. We only have to look at the Quran to see the example of Sayyedena Ibrahim Alayhi salaam where he used ambiguous wordings in saying ‘f’alahu kabiruhum haza’ (21:63) ‘the big one amongst them broke them’, when he was asked who broke the idols. His intention was that I as the big one amongst people broke the idols, but Nimrod understood him to mean the big one from amongst the idols! … and His niyya allowed him to function in Dar ul Harb whilst preserving Islam. Or the example of Hazrat Abu Bakr Siddiq RA during hijrah from makka to yathrib with the Beloved Prophet ﷺ where he was asked oh Abu Bakr, who is with you and to avoid conflict and preserve safety, he replied a guide who shows me the way. In his mind his niyya was way of deen and the listener took it to mean the way of travel! Often rulings on matters of islamic law vary in Dar ul Harb, like the issue of ‘interest’ etc.

Please note however that after you have read the above, you may understand (انشآء الله تعالى ) but many who see or hear you may not have the same understanding and therefore when they see you, they may follow what you do but not know the appropriate intentions and ways which you will have understood. It is therefore important to put forward a general message not to celebrate Christmas but living in the west we must be careful not to defame our deen or cause an increase in hatred towards us from the non Muslim community.

I hope this is of benefit.

Allah & His Rasool know best.

Answered By: Shaykh Abu Yusha Yasin of The Suyuti Institute

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