Muslim Christmas Grinches - updated

Muslim Christmas Grinches

by Sheila Musaji

There are always a few among the lunatic fringe that insist on promoting an exclusivist, exclusionary and petty interpretation of Islam.  Some of them come out of the woodwork at the time of Muslim holidays they disapprove of (like Milad un Nabi), some of them come out at Christmas. This year is no different.  Dr. Zakir Naik posted a statement on his FaceBook page which said “What people don’t realize that [sic] when you are wishing MARRY CHRISTMAS [sic] you are AGREEING that Jesus Christ was born on the 25th of December and you are agreeing that he is the begotten son of God… Na’uzubillah which is SHIRK.”  A “fatwa” was posted on OnIslam ** giving this same view, and not surprisingly, the “scholar” issuing this “fatwa” does not even give him name or qualifications.  Anjem Choudary (of al Muhajiroun/Hizb-ut Tahrir/Islam4UK, etc.) plans a protest outside St. Paul’s Cathedral in London.  This is the same Anjem Choudary who in 2008 called Christmas “evil”, and said the festival is “the pathway to hellfire”, and urged all Muslims to reject traditional yuletide fun.  Someone posted an anti-Christmas message on the website of the Lakemba Mosque in Australia.  And a “scholar” from MUI in Indonesia issued an anti-Christmas fatwa.

Here on TAM we have published many articles about Christmas and about Muslims participating in Christmas celebrations or wishing a Merry Christmas to family and/or friends.  Just this week we published a fatwa by Sheikh Ali Gomaa, the Grand Mufti of Egypt titled Cutting Kinship Ties in the Name of Islam? in which he made it clear that there is no problem with doing this.  He said:

I am nonetheless appalled by the unauthentic opinions of some self claimed scholars who equate spending time with one’s non Muslim family during Christmas and the like with shirk or polytheism! This opinion is a mere aberration of the true authentic teachings of Islam both in letter and spirit.

Islam is a religion of mercy and espouses all encompassing values which include all humans regardless of their religious affiliations, cultural differences and ethnic backgrounds and it encompasses plants, and animals along with inanimate objects as well. In other words, if the concept of mercy in Islam is so grand that it envelopes the whole universe, wouldn’t it fit one’s own mother too?

As a matter of fact God in the Quran did not only allow us to keep ties with one’s non Muslim family members, but He raised the level from recommendation to making it an obligatory act which Muslims should abide by and this is obvious in the Quran when God said,

”But if they (your parents) endeavor to make you associate with Me that of which you have no knowledge, do not obey them but accompany them in [this] world with appropriate kindness and follow the way of those who turn back to Me [in repentance]… 31:15

In this noble verse, God commanded us to keep warm ties with our families even when they exert their utmost efforts and place pressures on us to leave our religion — so what about those who show respect to our religious choices and do not insult our belief in any way or form, should we not even be more eager to show extreme kindness and envelop them with mercy in our sayings and deeds, to be a real embodiment of what Islam is all about?

Muslims show utter love to God’s creation in general as a sign of reverence to their divine origin and Islam placed unprecedented importance to the concept of high morals and made a unique connection between good ethical standards and between faith and creed. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said “The nearest of you to me in the Day of Judgment are the ones who have the highest morals”. Therefore we are commanded to show kindness to people irrespectively and to treat them with mercy and love and to refrain from discriminating against them based on their religious choices, cultural backgrounds or the like.

There is no legal impediment to participating in celebrating the birth of Jesus (peace be upon him). Islam is an open system and its followers believe, respect and honor all the prophets and messengers, and treat the followers of other religions with kindness in accordance to the words of God the Almighty:

And dispute ye not with the People of the Book, except in the best way. [Al-‘Ankabut, 46]

Jesus the son of Mary, peace be upon him, is one of the Prophets who are characterized with determination, resolution and patience. Prophet Muhammad [pbuh] said: “I am more entitled to Jesus the son of Mary than anyone in this life and in the Hereafter; no prophet has been sent between us.”  Every Muslim believes that Jesus is a human prophet who performed great miracles, such as reviving the dead and curing the sick by the will of God the Almighty.

This was not because he was a god or the son of God in the sense of physical procreation—God is exalted above this. Celebrating the day of the birth of Jesus is an act of belief regardless of Christian convictions in his regard. Therefore, participate in your friends and family’s celebrations, eat with them and refrain from eating pork and drinking alcohol with tact and civility. Do not pay any attention to anyone who wants to ruin the relation between you and your family and others in the name of Islam because Islam is free from all of this.

In 2010, we published Dr Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri Wishes Christians a Happy Christmas which said:

On this joyful occasion of Christmas 2010, a leading Muslim authority, Dr Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri on behalf of British Muslims and Minhaj-ul-Quran International would like to congratulate and wish our Christian brethren in the UK and around the world a happy Christmas.

On his Christmas message he said “the day highlights the teachings and message of Jesus Christ. Belief in the Prophethood of Jesus Christ and Bible being the Divine Book is part of Muslims faith. Allah Almighty sent him to the world at a time when the world needed love, compassion for humanity and peace.”

“Today, the world is faced with multiple crises of grave nature. The scourges of terrorism and extremism seem to eat into vitals of our collective ethos and value system. The fundamentalism of varied nature threatens to degrade human civilization. Existence of unsolved international disputes is great danger for stability and global peace.  The dream of global peace will never come true unless followers of both Islam and Christianity come forward in a spirit of cooperation, respect and goodwill to play their due role to promote peaceful coexistence.”

The day also highlights the need of promoting interfaith dialogue and harmony at various levels.

Dr Tahir-ul-Qadri added “The hollow notion of ‘Clash of Civilization’ needs to be replaced with ‘Dialogue among Civilizations’. The enhanced engagement among different religions especially Islam and Christianity would serve to build bridges and raze down walls that separate us. Islam stands for peace, harmony and human development. The historic incident of Nijran whereby the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) treated the Christian delegation as his personal guests, made them stay in the Prophet’s Mosque and allowed them to worship there reflects the true spirit of harmony and brotherhood espoused by Islam.”

Dr Tahir-ul-Qadri said “On this auspicious day, all of us, whatever religion and society we may belong to, must pledge to work for promotion of interfaith harmony and peace in the world. Love can heal the wounds of decades and we must dedicate ourselves to spreading the message of love of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) and Jesus Christ. We must foil all conspiracies of blaming religions for actions of terrorism, for all divine religions promote love and discourage violence.”

On this occasion spokesman of Minhaj-ul-Quran UK said “It is time to re-build bridges between Islam and the west and start a result oriented dialogue in order to prevent extremism and promote integration in western society. We would like to wish our Christian brethren a happy Christmas and a happy new year.”

In 2007, we published A Muslim Message of Thanks and of Christmas Greetings from Muslim Scholars working on A Common Word.  The greetings, sent by a group of 138 Sunni, Shi’ite, Sufi and other scholars who recently proposed a dialogue with Christian leaders, called for peace on earth and thanked church leaders who have responded positively to their invitation. That greeting said:

In the Name of the God, the Compassionate, the Merciful.  May God bless Muhammad and his kin just as He has blessed Abraham and his kin.  Al-Salaamu Aleikum; Peace be upon you; Pax Vobiscum

Peace be upon Jesus Christ who says: Peace is upon me the day I was born, the day I die, and the day I am resurrected (Chapter of Mary; the Holy Qur’an; 19:34).

During these joyful holidays we write to you, our Christian neighbors all over the world, in order to thank you truly for the beautiful and gracious responses that we Muslims have been receiving from the very first day we issued our invitation to come together to ‘A Common Word’ based on ‘Love of God and love of neighbor’ (see for the document and the responses).

We thank you and wish you all a joyous and peaceful Christmas Holiday Season commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ .  We Muslims bear witness that: There is no god but God, without associate, and that Muhammad is His Servant and Messenger, and that Jesus is His Servant, His Messenger, His Word cast to Mary, and a Spirit from Him …. (Sahih Bukhari, Kitab Ahadith al-Anbiya’)

We pray, during these blessed days, which happen to coincide with the Muslim feast of the Hajj or Pilgrimage, commemorating the faith of the Prophet Abraham , that the New Year may bring healing and peace to our suffering world. God’s refusal to let Abraham  sacrifice his son—granting him instead a ram—is to this day a Divine warrant and a most powerful social lesson for all the followers of the Abrahamic faiths, to ever do their utmost to save, uphold and treasure every single human life and especially the lives of every single child. Indeed, it is worthy of note that this year Muslim scholars issued a historical declaration affirming the sanctity of human life—of every human life—as an essential and foundational teaching in Islam upon which all Muslim scholars are in unanimous agreement (see details at: ).

May the coming year be one in which the sanctity and dignity of human life is upheld by all. May it be a year of humble repentance before God, and mutual forgiveness within and between communities. Praise be to God, the Lord of the worlds…

The Islamic Networks Group (ING) sent out this message:

Salam/Shalom/Greetings of Peace.

The weeks around the calendar new year is a time of reflection and celebration for many people of faith.  Ending last week, Jews celebrated Hanukkah, Christians are celebrating Christmas and many Hindus Pancha Ganapati, a festival of new beginnings. Muslims may look back on the Day of 窶連shura (in November this year) and ahead to Mawlid an-Nabi (January in 2013), the period of the birth of the Prophet, while many Buddhists celebrated Bodhi day (the commemoration of the Buddha窶冱 enlightenment) in early December and are anticipating Parinirvana day (the day of the Buddha窶冱 passing into Nirvana) in February.  May we all reflect on our shared values, celebrate our differences, and embrace our interdependence.

Imam Salim Chishti’s Christmas Message Blessings to all on Christmas:

It is with great reverence, homage and gratitude that I thank Allah (swt) for sending us the Prophet ‘Isa Ruhallah and join in all other peoples who celebrate his coming to Earth to teach us of the overwhelming compassion and mercy of Allah (swt). And a special greeting of Merry Christmas to our Christian readers and all those who are celebrating Christ’s birth on December 25. (For those in other Christian denominations who celebrate this blessed event on other days I apologize that I will not be able to post separate greetings for all of you and ask that you forgive me and accept this post as my heartfelt greeting to you at that time as well.)

‘Isa bin Maryam (Jesus son of Mary) is celebrated in Islam as well as Christianity. His birth is recorded in the Qur’an and there are miracles associated with his life and birth. He is known as Ruh Allah – meaning “spirit” or “breath” of God.  The angel Jibril (Gabriel) comes to Maryam as told in Sura Imran in the Qur’an 3:42-47.  Also in the Qur’an, ‘Isa announces his own mission at his birth, as we see in Sura Maryam 19:27-34.

What a different world it would be if we all treated each other as Allah taught us through ‘Isa Ruhallah bin Maryam! The Qur’an tells us our disputations about him are vain. Vanity is one of those things we must overcome in order to truly see each other as brothers and sisters. I call on all my brothers and sisters, Muslim, Christian, Jew, Zoroastrian, Buddhist, Hindu, Aboriginals and all others to join together for the sake of learning about one another and seeing this – That any narrow view of God and God’s revelation is only a small window to the truth – God’s truth is far greater and needs to be viewed from many different angles to be seen as a whole. This only exists when the hearts of men and women are open to the message of love that has come to us so many times and which we constantly seem to forget.

As it says in Sura ‘Asr in the holy Qur’an 103:1-3 By the token of time (through the ages).  Verily man is in loss, except such as have faith, and do righteous deeds, and (join together) in the mutual teaching of truth, and of patience and constancy. 

And Allah (swt) knows best.

Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, (president of the International Union of Muslim Scholars) issued a statement on Offering Holiday Greetings to Others saying he considered it permissible to congratulate Christians and other People of the Book during their Holidays. He has also proposed to replace the term “Ahl Aldhimma” (dhimmis) with “Citizens”. This occurred in responses to questions during the past few days regarding the permissibility of greeting and congratulating Christians during Christmas (i.e. wishing them a Merry Christmas).

“I consider it permissible especially if they are your relatives, neighbors, colleagues and classmates (a significant relationship exists)”. “It is permissible as long as they are not hostile towards us”.

Dr. Al-Qaradawi mentioned that considering the current global context was what led him to differ with the great Scholar of Islam Ibn Taymiyya, who considered it impermissible to greet and congratulate Christians and others during their holidays.

“[I consider greeting and congratulating them during their holidays] an aspect of “kindness” (birr) that Allah did not deem impressible, but in fact loves as he loves us treating them justly; ‘Allah forbids you not, with regard to those who fight you not for (your) Faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them: for Allah loves those who are just.’ [60:8]”. Dr. Al-Qaradawi followed that this should be the case especially if they greet us during our holidays, citing the verse “When a (courteous) greeting is offered you, meet it with a greeting still more courteous, or (at least) of equal courtesy. Allah takes careful account of all things.” [ 4:86].

Dr. Al-Qaradawi elaborated saying “We need to consider the Original Intents (maqasid) of the All-Wise Legislator (Allah), study the details in light of the bigger picture of Shariah, and take the different texts into consideration. Didn’t the Quran say “Allah forbids you not, with regard to those who fight you not for (your) Faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them: for Allah loves those who are just.” [60:8]. This is the foundational statement regarding this issue.

Furthermore, Dr. Al-Qaradawi proposed to replace the term “Ahl Aldhimma” (dhimmi: a legal term used to refer to Christians) with “Fellow Citizens”. Supporting his proposal he said: “Our Jurists have all said: ‘Ahl-Aldhimma are part and parcel of Dar al-Islam’. this statement means that they are fellow citizens, so why don’t we forsake the term that harms them and use one that doesn’t?”. “Omar ibn Al-Khattab (rAa) did what was even greater than just forsaking a term. He foresaked the term “jizya” that was mentioned in the Quran when the tribe of Bani Taghlib came to him and said: ‘We are a proud people and cannot tolerate the term jizya. Take from us what you wish but call it sadaka (charity).’ Omar hesitated at the beginning but consulted with his companions who said, ‘they are a powerful and influential people, if we leave them they will join with the Romans and will cause greater harm to us’. Following their opinion, Omar accepted their proposal.”

“What matters is the subject and the content, not the jargon and terms. We need to revisit many issues related to non-Muslims and Women. We need to put emphasis on the “Fiqh of Facilitation” and the “Fiqh of Gradualism” so that we could accommodate our changing context.

Dr. Al-Qaradawi concluded by saying, “Many of our Scholars live in their books and do not live in their reality, they have no understanding of their surrounding reality because they have not read the “Book of Life”, but only read the books of their predecessors. For that reason their fatwas appear as if they have just come out of a grave!”

Ibn al-Qayyim’s opinion:  (Note: Dr. Al-Qaradawi referred to Ibn Taymiyya’s opinion. Ibn al-Qayyim is Ibn Taymiyya’s famous student. It is most likely that the former’s opinion is a re-articulation of the latter’s.)  Ibn al-Qayyim said: “As for greeting and congratulating them on their rituals of kufr, it has unanimously been deemed impermissible. Under this goes greeting them during their holidays or fasts by saying “Happy Holiday” etc. Whoever does this is committing an impermissible action, that’s if he didn’t actually fall into kufr. Its as if you are congratulating them for prostrating to a cross. It’s actually a greater sin than congratulating them on drinking alcohol or murdering or committing adultery. Unfortunately, many people fall into this mistake, not knowing the severity of their action. For whoever congratulates a person for a sin or an innovation or an act of kufr is susceptible to Allah’s Anger. In fact, some of our scholars used to avoid congratulating tyrants or incompetent judges for their positions, in order to avoid Allah’s punishment.  [Translated by Ahmed al-Bostoni]

As usual, the Islamophobic echo chamber is focusing only on the few negative and intolerant interpretations, and attempting to present the views of this minority as if they represent the majority opinion, or even the only opinion.  Pamela Geller posted an article on the Lakemba Mosque incident where an anti-Christmas “fatwa” was posted on their FaceBook page, and getting the facts wrong even in her title.  She says: “Another pious Islamic cleric spreading the word of Islam…..”[Ishmael’s] hand shall be against every man, and every man’s hand against him” Genesis 16:12” and then refers to an article in the Sydney Morning Herald about the incident.  The article itself contains information that disproves her insinuations:

... The posting of the fatwa has shocked many Muslim leaders. The Grand Mufti of Australia, Ibrahim Abu Mohammad, said the foundations of Islam were peace, co-operation, respect and holding others in esteem.  “Anyone who says otherwise is speaking irresponsibly,” he said.  “There is difference between showing respect for someone’s belief and sharing those beliefs,” Dr Ibrahim said.  Dr Ibrahim said the views did not represent the majority of Muslims in Australia. “We are required to have good relations with all people, and to congratulate them on their joyous events is very important.”

The fatwa quotes the teacher Imam Ibn Al-Qayyim as saying that congratulating disbelievers for their rituals is forbidden, and if a “Muslim who says this does not become a disbeliever himself, he at least commits a sin as this is the same as congratulating him for his belief in the trinity, which is a greater sin and much more disliked by Almighty Allaah than congratulating him for drinking alcohol or killing a soul or committing fornication or adultery”.

A community leader, Dr Jamal Rifi, said he did not agree with the school of thought behind the fatwa.  “We can share the festivities with friends and families and neighbours – I don’t think there is any civil, religious or ethical reason not to,” he said.

Dr Rifi and Sheikh Youssef Nabha, the imam of the Kingsgrove Mosque, are travelling to Nauru on Sunday night with priests from the Maronite and Melkite churches in Sydney to attend Christmas celebrations with the asylum seekers held there.  Dr Rifi said he and Sheikh Youssef would be distributing Christmas cards during the visit.

A community advocate and Muslim convert, Rebecca Kay, told Fairfax Media: “It’s sad to see the Lebanese Muslim Association, which considers itself the peak body representing Australian Muslims, with comments like these. It goes to show how far they are from representing the community.  “The notion that Muslims wishing other people a merry Christmas will take them out of their faith is outright ridiculous, laughable and borders on the extreme.”

Keysar Trad, a former official with the Lebanese Muslim Association, said in his time with the organisation they used to regularly greet people with merry Christmas. “I don’t know what has changed,” he said. “But now as a representative of Australia’s peak Muslim body, the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, I would like to wish all your readers a merry Christmas and a happy new year.”

Another article from ABC Australia adds even more information on this incident:

... Over the weekend, a message appeared on the Facebook page for Lakemba Mosque, saying that Muslims were forbidden from taking part in Christmas traditions or wishing people a merry Christmas.  The entry implied it was a fatwa, or Islamic ruling, and was based on a lecture given at the mosque during Friday prayers.  The Lebanese Muslim Association, which runs the mosque, says the comments were taken out of context and the group harbours no anti-Christmas sentiment.

Samier Dandan from the the Lebanese Muslim Association says a junior staff member of the association copied and pasted text from another website that the mosque had not endorsed.  “From our perspective this is an innocent mistake done by a youth member who’s employed by this organisation,” he said.  “We are basically not going to apologise for what I perceive to be an innocent mistake, which is not necessarily reflective of the true mindset and belief of this organisation.”  This afternoon, the organisation arranged to have the words “Merry Xmas” written in the sky above Lakemba Mosque.

Pamela Geller’s partner, Robert Spencer also wrote an article noting the negative Christmas messages noted above, which he called a Jihad Against Christmas.  It is curious that the Islamophobes are only aware of the negative and never the positive where Muslims are concerned.  And, he posted a Christmas Day article that expressed the following “Christian” message of Christmas peace and goodwill:  “In my country it is customary for people to celebrate this day of Hatred and Violence in the Qur’an Awareness Month by exchanging gifts, having a big Hatred and Violence in the Qur’an Awareness dinner, and spending the day with loved ones. I am not sure where or how this quaint and intriguing custom originated, but I wish you all the happiest of days.”  Obviously, there are also Christian Christmas grinches.

This is how the messages of these marginal individuals and groups were met everywhere..  The anti-Christmas “fatwa” was rejected by Australian Muslims.  In Indonesia, the MUI fatwa was widely condemned and ridiculed.  In London, very few participated in Anjem Choudary’s nonsense, but Muslims in the East End held a Christmas party for their Christian neighbors, and Muslims across the U.K. collected toys and food for the needy to be distributed at Christmas.  The Dakar Mosque in Senegal was lit with Christmas lights.  In Canada, Muslims volunteered to help the needy at Christmas.  In the U.S., Muslims and Jews volunteered to take over for Christian social service workers so they could have a break on Christmas day.  In the Philippines, Muslim doctors took over for Christian doctors in hospitals so that they could spend the day with their families.  And, in Bethlehem, at the Church of the Nativity, “At midnight, Twal, the most senior Roman Catholic bishop in the Middle East, will deliver the traditional mass to the faithful, with officials including Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, prime minister Salam Fayyad and Jordan’s Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh expected to be in attendance.”  In Cairo, Sheikh Mazhar Shaheen from Omar Makram Mosque offered Christmas greetings to congregants of the neighboring Church (Qasr El Dobara Church). Inside the Church, he is accompanied by hundreds (and perhaps thousands) of Egyptians, who also came along to wish fellow Christians a merry Christmas. Both the mosque and the church are very close to Tahrir Square and both played a very significant role during Egypt’s Januray 25th revolution. VIDEO here

We need to do what we can to magnify these voices of compassion, tolerance, and bridge building, and sideline the marginal voices of exclusivism and sectarianism.  I for one, will listen to the actual scholars like Sheikh Ali Gomaa, Grand Mufti of Egypt; the scholars of A Common Word;  Dr Tahir-ul-Qadri; Sheikh Ibrahim Abu Mohammad, Grand Mufti of Australia; Imam Salim Chisti; Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, President of the International Union of Muslim Scholars; Imam Malik Mujahid, etc. and totally ignore the lunatic fringe like Anjem Choudary and Zakir Naik.  And, I know that that is the position of most Muslims. 

A Merry and Blessed Christmas to all of our Christian TAM readers.  I pray that for all of humanity there will someday be Peace on earth.  Goodwill toward man.

Oh mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know each other (Not that you may despise each other). Qur’an 49:13

Update:  **  This originally said that the fatwa was posted on OnIslam and IslamiCity because the OnIslam site posting says: “The above Fatwa is excerpted, with slight modifications, from:”.  I cannot locate the “original” fatwa on IslamiCity and therefore will assume that there is something not quite right about their being mentioned. 


A Merry Muslim Christmas, Dr. Hesham Hassaballa

A Muslim says “Merry Christmas”, Aref Assaf

Anti-Christmas clerics rebuffed in Indonesia

Australian Muslims reject anti-Christmas messaage

Anjem Choudary part of the Muslim Lunatic Fringe, Sheila Musaji

Christmas as a “Secular American” Holiday?, Sheila Musaji

Christmas, Dr. Zakir Naik, and the Doctrine of Extreme Culpability, Mary Lahaj

Christmas ‘more special’ in Bethlehem this year

Christmastime, Iftekhar Hai

Dakar mosque lit up for Christmas in Senegal

Fairuz sings -sawt el eid [silent night] Christmas carol in Arabic (VIDEO)

In the Spirit of Tolerance, a Merry Christmas to My Christian Friends, Sumanto Al Qurtuby

Merry Christmas, Dr. Hesham Hassaballa

Metro Vancouver Muslims enjoy Christmas focus on Jesus, Mary and bright lights

Same Day, Different Planet, Sheila Musaji

Treating Christmas with Respect, Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid

Why as a Muslim I Celebrate Christmas, Shamim Chowdhury

Why (or how) should Muslim Americans ‘celebrate’ Christmas?, Faheem Younes