As Christmas is approaching, many Muslims are wondering whether it is permissible to greet Christian friends with the greeting of ‘Merry Christmas.’ We justify the giving of this greeting by saying, “ The Christian friends also wish us on our significant days of Eid and even give us iftar to help break our fasts because they are our friends. As friends, they share our happiness as well as our sad moments.” The response to this is that religion is not in for an exchange!
The moment that we try to wish them, become like them or copy them out of love or friendship, it is as if we approve of their shirk. We cannot give reasons for this by saying, “But they are our colleagues and our friends, what is the harm? What really is the harm?”
Are you congratulating them for their denial? Are you congratulating them for their associating partners with Allah (عَزَّوَجَلَّ) and also becoming a party to their false beliefs, in the process?
As the world is advancing, there seems to be a big problem creeping into the Muslims. We seem to be in awe of the Western countries. We find it acceptable to adopt their ways and culture. As Christmas and New Year approaches, Christians are preparing to celebrate. Many Muslims, some out of ignorance and some out of a desire to become like them also want to follow suit seeing no harm in this celebration. For them it is alright if they also decorate a Christmas tree in their house or their place of work. If there is a Christian acquaintance, we feel obligated to wish them on the occasion of Christmas. This is becoming a trend and a culture for many Muslims.
Let’s understand this in a simple manner.
If we are the followers of Allah (عَزَّوَجَلَّ) and His Messenger ﷺ, then our goal is not to follow others. The non-Muslims who do not believe in Allah (عَزَّوَجَلَّ) and who do not follow the way of the Messenger ﷺ are not all categorized the same way. I would like to point out the differences here.
There is such a thing called a pure disbeliever. He is the one who has the agenda to harm Muslims and is an open enemy to the Muslims. We are advised to fight against them.
فَقَاتِلُوا أَئِمَّةَ الْكُفْرِ ۙ إِنَّهُمْ لَا أَيْمَانَ لَهُمْ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَنتَهُونَ
…then fight the leaders of disbelief, for indeed, there are no oaths [sacred] to them, [fight them that] they might cease.
Elsewhere it is said:
فَاضْرِبُوا فَوْقَ الْأَعْنَاقِ وَاضْرِبُوا مِنْهُمْ كُلَّ بَنَان
so strike [them] upon the necks and strike from them every fingertip.
It is interesting to note that our religion teaches us equality, yet we choose not to implement it. We are bent on saying, “We are peaceful people,” even to those who are our enemies!
The second category of disbelievers who have been mentioned in the Qur’an and Hadith are categorized by the scholars. They are Dhimmi, Mu’ahid and Mustaman and are the various types of disbelievers and Shariah has kept specific rights for each of them. Dhimmi live amongst us and have to give the jizya. This is mentioned in the Qur’an as:
حَتَّىٰ يُعْطُوا الْجِزْيَةَ عَن يَدٍ وَهُمْ صَاغِرُون
…[fight] until they give the jizyah willingly while they are humbled.
Muahid are those with whom you are in contract with. In a similar manner rights are for the Mustaman are living amongst us. It is not as if they are our open enemy and we disdain them every time we meet them. This thought does exist for many of us but this is not the right approach. Then there are those who want to wish ‘Merry Christmas.’ So there are two extremes.
The Shariah has given us three steps. The first one is to maintain kindness with everyone including the animals around us. Help those who need your help. If you have to save their lives, do so. Maintain family even with disbelieving paretns and serve them. May Allah (عَزَّوَجَلَّ) grant us all the treasure of iman. (Aameen) Serve the disbelieving parents.
The second is to maintain cordial relationships and ties. Qur’an mentions in Surah Al-Mumtahina that we are not prevented to deal kindly and justly with those who do not fight you.
ا يَنْهَاكُمُ اللَّهُ عَنِ الَّذِينَ لَمْ يُقَاتِلُوكُمْ فِي الدِّينِ وَلَمْ يُخْرِجُوكُم مِّن دِيَارِكُمْ أَن تَبَرُّوهُمْ وَتُقْسِطُوا إِلَيْهِمْ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يُحِبُّ الْمُقْسِطِينَ
Allah does not forbid you from those who do not fight you because of religion and do not expel you from your homes – from being righteous toward them and acting justly toward them. Indeed, Allah loves those who act justly.
What does this entail? For example visit the ailing acquaintance or colleague even if they are disbelievers. Be with them during their significant moments such as a birth of their child or a demise of their loved one. For the one who is alive, impart good words to them. Why would we do this? Simply because if you close all doors, you are losing all opportunities of calling them towards Islam. If you want to fight them, then who will call them to our Deen? The Prophet ﷺ advised the Sahabas to even do dawah on the battlefield. They were to slow down even during Jihad as they approached the enemy to gain from any opportunity of inviting the disbelievers to Islam. In a hadith we learn:
Sahl ibn Sa’d reported: The Prophet ﷺ said,
“By Allah, that Allah guides a man through you is better for you than a herd of expensive red camels.”
(Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 2847, Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 2406)
The purpose of Islam is not to want to behead all disbelievers. The main calling for us is mentioned in the Qur’an as:
يُخْرِجُونَهُم مِّنَ النُّورِ إِلَى الظُّلُمَاتِ
They take them out of the light into darknesses
[Surah Al-Baqara: 257]
Shaytan also desires for a person to remain a disbeliever till the last moments of death. The way of the Prophet ﷺ was that there was a Jewish boy who used to serve him. One day he ﷺ found out that the boy was unwell, he ﷺ, the mercy to mankind, went to pay him a visit himself. The boy was breathing his last. The Prophet ﷺ advised him to become a Muslim and recite the kalimah. The boy looked at his father seeking an answer. The father being a Jew knew the truth and knew him ﷺ to be the Messenger and hence responded to his son with a positive. As the verse indicates:
الَّذِينَ آتَيْنَاهُمُ الْكِتَابَ يَعْرِفُونَهُ كَمَا يَعْرِفُونَ أَبْنَاءَهُمْ
Those to whom We gave the Scripture know him as they know their own sons.
The boy recited the kalimah and died. The Prophet ﷺ was happy that he accepted Islam as he died. All praises are for the One that he died upon Islam.
This is the main purpose. Hence, if we do not maintain a cordial relationship with the disbelievers, we will not be able to reach this goal. The idea is not to maintain close relations with such people for wordly gain, rather to ensure that you become the means to their guidance. If you are so worried about your friend in this duniya, do worry about the everlasting punishment they will face in their akhira.
The third step is mu’alat (friendship). This is the love and closeness of the heart. This has been mentioned in the Qur’an:
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لَا تَتَّخِذُوا عَدُوِّي وَعَدُوَّكُمْ أَوْلِيَاءَ تُلْقُونَ إِلَيْهِم بِالْمَوَدَّةِ
O you who have believed, do not take My enemies and your enemies as allies, extending to them affection
We as Muslims are advised not to make them our fast friends. Your true friends are the Muslims upon which a hadith has been stated:
Sahl ibn Sa’d reported:
The Prophet ﷺ: said, “Verily, the believer among the people of faith is in the position of the head to the body. The believer feels pain for the people of faith, just as the body feels pain in its head.”
(Musnad Aḥmad 22370)
The disbelievers cannot be close friends to a Muslim. Hence, when comes time for Christmas, a Muslim must be wary that there is a religious background and connotation to their celebration of Christmas. They believe this to be related to Isa (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) and have raised him to the rank of God. They celebrate this as his birth and wish each other. Imagine what you are believing when you say: Merry Christmas? What are you supporting either in ignorance, out of love or just to be kind?
The basis of our belief system is Allah and His Messenger ﷺ. If you believe this, then see that you are advocating a person who is doing shirk. This is not allowed anywhere in Islam. Our deen has been made straight and firm for us. Allah (عَزَّوَجَلَّ) says in the Qur’an:
ثُمَّ جَعَلْنَاكَ عَلَىٰ شَرِيعَةٍ مِّنَ الْأَمْرِ
Then We put you, [O Muhammad], on an ordained way concerning the matter [of religion];
When we try to imitate the Christians and put up Christmas trees or greet them, it is as if we approve of their associating partners with Allah (عَزَّوَجَلَّ). Now you have just jeopardized your own iman by “being nice” to them. It is as if a person who is to save others from the burning fire has himself jumped into it. That is not wise. The first step is to save yourself. The salvation is to be saved from the hellfire on the basis of iman. Hence, this is not a matter where exchange of any kind takes place. Where Allah (عَزَّوَجَلَّ) has given permission to Muslim men to marry women from the Scriptures, yet, a Muslim woman cannot marry the Christian or Jew man. We see religion to be independent of any such exchange.
Deen is to be followed as per Allah (عَزَّوَجَلَّ) command and as His Messenger followed it. We are only to do those acts that please Allah (عَزَّوَجَلَّ) not what our hearts desire. We are not to carry on pleasing our neighbors, family and friends if our actions are displeasing to the Lord. The fact is that we do not give Allah (عَزَّوَجَلَّ) His right that He deserves.
مَا قَدَرُوا اللَّهَ حَقَّ قَدْرِهِ
They have not appraised Allah with true appraisal.
[Surah Al-Hajj: 74]
To be an ideal Muslim, we must follow what Allah Ta’ala has ordained for us. By indulging in the festivities and greetings of Christmas to please others, we will earn the displeasure and wrath of our Creator and Sustainer, Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala.