Defending our identity

These days we all know that the Muslim is portrayed by media as being someone intolerant, someone wanting to change the make-up of society and someone who is a threat to the status-quo.

So much is spoken of a tolerant society in which Muslims must learn to adapt in order to co-exist. We are told that they ought to be no compulsion in religion and that we must stop enforcing our beliefs on others.

However, is there a case for the opposite also being true? As Muslims, we are in a difficult and stressful position at this time of year. It is the time of the Christmas, a time that is associated with happiness, presents, caring for others and coming together.

But we as Muslims, do not celebrate Christmas. Alongside Hindus, Jews, even orthodox Christians, this is not something which is marked as a religious festival for us.

So how does one navigate this festive period? After all, Allah SWT and his Prophet SAWS has made this very clear. The imam mentioned the following hadith of the Prophet SAWS in which he said:

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

Dear brothers and sisters, what makes this all the more difficult is that we are also believers in Jesus as we hold him in the highest regard as a Prophet of Allah, may peace be upon him.

However, to celebrate Christmas is to acknowledge Christmas and this celebration has key differences which make it wrong for us to partake in it.

Firstly, this is a celebration of God’s son or God’s Incarnate which is not only the celebration of another religion but also a celebration which is based on a belief that is totally against the teachings of Islam. Through the Quran we know that Allah SWT is one and He has no offspring.

Secondly, the argument that this is a celebration of a birthday of the Prophet Jesus holds no logical sense. We have 24 prophets mentioned in the Quran and so why aren’t we celebrating them all? Non-Muslim historians have also proved that this date isn’t even the birthday of Prophet Jesus which adds to the illogical standpoint.

Dear brothers and sisters, if we are being encouraged to be more tolerant of others then doesn’t the same point apply here? Surely, we are entitled then to hold on to our identity as a Muslim and exercise our right to not partake in another religions’ celebration?

The Imam mentioned ayat 48 of Sura Al-Maidah in which Allah SWT says:

And We have revealed to you, [O Muhammad], the Book in truth, confirming that which preceded it of the Scripture and as a criterion over it. So judge between them by what Allah has revealed and do not follow their inclinations away from what has come to you of the truth. To each of you We prescribed a law and a method. Had Allah willed, He would have made you one nation [united in religion], but [He intended] to test you in what He has given you; so race to [all that is] good. To Allah is your return all together, and He will [then] inform you concerning that over which you used to differ.

 

Dear brothers and sisters, we also have our children to consider in all of this. From Christmas celebrations in schools to advertisements on the television to shops covered in reminders for Christmas, it is overwhelming to see the amount of emphasis given to this day.

However, we need to understand that children are more resilient than we give them credit for. They are able to defend their identity better than adults at times. From this we ought to learn lessons and so this reminder concludes with three practical tips we ought to adopt during this period of the year.

  1. We can still be nice to others. Our faith demands that we keep our manners with our neighbours and our friends. This isn’t a time to miserable as this puts us in a bad light. We ought to use this time to show our neighbours that we can demonstrate this peace, love and unity all year round with them and not just on the day of Christmas. Just replacing the term “Merry Xmas” with “Happy Holidays” keeps our identity intact but allows us to demonstrate that we can also enjoy this time of closeness with those around us. Don’t slam the door on those who want to give you a gift on this day but instead take it with the intention it is given. It’s their time of year to demonstrate the love and good faith we must demonstrate all year round so give them that opportunity to do so.
  2. We need to be able to talk to others. Allah SWT has put us on this land as ambassadors of Islam. Tell them of our similarities in faith. Tell them how much we love Jesus, peace be upon him. And although we are not allowed to give them gifts to mark Christmas day but why not gift them otherwise on any other day? Aren’t we the ummah of kindness and of peace and of love and of tolerance towards others? Why not take the opportunity to give them a gift a few days afterwards and tell them about our beloved Prophet Jesus and what we believe?
  3. Lastly, we need to remember that this faith has granted us a weekly celebration of Friday and more importantly, two Eid festivals each year. This point is crucial for both our identity as Muslims and the identity of Muslims in the eyes of our children. Eid should be prepared for just like Christmas is here in December. Book time off work in advance, not just an hour for prayers. Arrange it with schools that the children are taking time off during Eid. Put up celebrations around the house leading up to Eid. Get the Toy catalogue out in the weeks up to Eid. Get the family together for Eid dinner. Send cards or gifts to all your relatives all over the world celebrating Eid. And, give cards or gifts to each and every friend, neighbour and associate to tell them it’s the festival of Eid. Do it with a smile and with happiness and with the same love and goodwill that they do during Christmas. Tell them why you are doing it. And lastly, and best of all, do the same level of celebration on both Eids so our kids know that we are the lucky ones that do all this twice a year and not just once like their friends do.

Dear brothers and sisters, this needn’t be time for us to feel uneasy. If we do right by our own identity as Muslims then we need not feel inadequate or miserable at this time of year. If anything this presents a great opportunity for us to open ties of communication with those whom normally wouldn’t be so open to doing so. Let’s use this opportunity to show them that despite our differences in belief, our identity is also one of peace and of love and is following the 63rd ayat from Sura Al-Furqan which says:

And the servants of the Most Merciful are those who walk upon the earth easily, and when the ignorant address them [harshly], they say [words of] peace.

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