Christmas, tolerance and mutual respect

Many Muslims fully endorse and engross themselves in celebrating non-Muslim religious holidays, such as Christmas. They also celebrate New Years Day whilst not even knowing the Islamic new year.

In fact some have transferred this behaviour to Islamic nations, but without realising the damage that this is causing.

The evidence from the Quran and the Sunnah prove that celebrating Christmas is not allowed by joining in with the non-Muslims from the Jews and the Christans in their  celebrations. This is mentioned in the Quran and the imam makes reference to Sura Al-Furqan, ayat 72:

And [they are] those who do not testify to falsehood, and when they pass near ill speech, they pass by with dignity.

Dear brothers and sisters, the scholars have said that this ayat is referring to celebrating the ‘eids’ of the non-Muslims, and Christmas being on of those.

The imam also mentioned a hadith in which the Messenger of Allah SAWS said:

“He who imitates any people (in their actions) is considered to be one of them.”

So what lessons can we take from this practically to ensure we are doing right by our faith?

Firstly, the concept of wishing someone Merry Xmas can be simply overcome by wishing someone Happy Holidays. This is preferred as we want to reciprocate to our neighbours but not compromise on our faith.

By wishing someone Merry Christmas, Muslim scholars state that this is agreeing with the notion of Jesus being the Son of God and therefore impermissible to us as Muslims.

The other things associated with this festival aren’t even strictly religious such as the Red Santa Claus. This was originally a man in green depicting a Christian saint and he was even in green instead of red until Coca Cola made him red one year and it stuck. He isn’t even celebrated in other Christian countries and the same goes for the tradition of the Christmas tree.

However, this point is merely to educate on the specifics of Christmas and it isn’t about ridiculing the beliefs of anyone.

Lastly, this reminder should expand beyond the topic and to the wider question of intolerance that the media portrays Muslims as being guilty of.

You see we are not a people who don’t believe in a multi-cultural co-existence. This masjid is multi-cultural as you look around you. We are not a people who don’t believe in a multi-religious co-existence. Our masjid opens its doors to all, often and when asked of it.

After the Manchester Arena atrocitity, this city proved to all the world that it is a city of tolerance, co-existence and respect to one another. Average people came out in the street in support of Muslims to show us that they did not believe the hype and that besides a few bigoted idiots, this city is a safe city in which Muslims can practice their faith.

Manchester is a city in which people are from many different faiths and all backgrounds. My children for example attend a school in which all different faiths are taught. They are taught how Muslims and Jews do not eat pork. They are taught Hindus do not eat beef. And they are taught how Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ on December 25th.

But alongside these facts about their faiths, the children are taught respect for one another. Growing up they have friends from all the different faiths but they are taught that if they are to progress in society then having a difference in faith does not mean having intolerance for the other person.

They are taught that if a Hindu is present, offering beef may be disrespecting that person’s faith. They are taught that if a Muslim is present, offering ham may be disrespecting that person’s faith. So they are taught that being different is OK, provided you do not shove your opinion onto others. Provided you do not be hateful towards others. Provided you show kindness, respect and tolerance towards others.

Dear brothers and sisters, this is what is taught to us in the Glorious Quran. Understand the message of Sura Kafiroon and you will see that difference in opinion on the most important of topics, faith, can exist in a society and yet still have a society that functions. This is what our faith teaches us and what we must teach ourselves and our children.

Christmas is a time when living in the UK it is impossible to escape this festival. But ultimately we don’t have to. Take happiness from the fact that others are using this time to think of family and of friends. Take happiness from the fact that this is the time when schools are off, family movies are on TV, adults have holiday leave from work and even as Muslims, we get the time together with our family and our loved ones.

We don’t need to believe in Christmas to take all that is good from this time of year. We do though need to remind ourselves that our identity cannot be compromised during this time of year. We need to hold firm to our belief on who Prophet Jesus or Isa was. What he stood for and why we don’t celebrate this festival. But alongside that, we hold firm to our teachings of tolerance, respect and kindness to all of Allah SWTs creation, Muslim or otherwise.

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