The Friday Message - Issue No. 366 - It's Christmas

The Friday Message - Issue No. 366 - It's Christmas

Salamun alaykum,

It’s Christmas:
In these very worrying times with various lockdown restrictions Christmas will be different this year. Despite these unusual times everyone is trying to celebrate Christmas as merry as it can be. Sparkling tinsel lengths, twinkling lights and festive decorations are adorning shopping centres, roads and homes conveys the feeling of happiness and celebrations in the air..

What is Christmas?
This is an annual Christian religious holiday to commemorate the birth of Jesus; Isa a.s. in Arabic. Although there is no specific date of celebration of the birth-Meelad- of Jesus in the Bible, majority of Christians observe the nativity- Meelad / Mawleed - on 25th December. The practice for this date is based on the declaration by Constantine, the first Christian Roman emperor, who on converting to Christianity replaced 25th December as the birth of Jesus instead of the pagan god Mithra. A few years later, Pope Julius I officially declared that the birth of Jesus would be celebrated on the 25th December. Some Christian denominations in the east have a slightly different date, placing the birth on 6th January. Nonetheless for practising Christians, the event of Christmas really is about Jesus. It’s about spreading love and sharing with the needy in the society. For many, taking advantage of the work and school holidays, it’s the only time of the year when family and friends come together.
Nabi Isa: Prophet of great significance:
The person of Jesus is of great significance in both Islam and Christianity. As Muslims we do not believe in Jesus as in the same way that Christians do, but we do respect and love him. The Noble Qur’an venerates both Jesus and his mother virgin Mary by recounting the stories of miraculous birth, his way of preaching and his ability to perform miracles; with the help of God. However, there are differences in terms of beliefs about the nature and life occurrences of this noble Prophet of Allah. We believe that Jesus was sent as a beloved Prophet of God to deliver the word to the people of his time. Narrations record that his Meelad-birth- took place on the 25th day of Dhulq’adah, the eleventh month in the Muslim lunar calendar.  
Christmas: To celebrate or not to celebrate?
Muslims are not obliged to celebrate Christmas just as we do not expect non-Muslims to observe the Eid or Ashura occassions. There are some Muslims who may take objection to the celebration of Christmas due to its pagan origins or due to their theological beliefs forbidding the celebrations of birthdays in general. However, for majority of Muslims the commemoration of births (and deaths), is not a new thing. Therefore, for us the joy upon the birth of this revered prophet in Islam is as normal as it is on that of Meeladun Nabi- the birth of noble Prophet Muhammad SAWW- or a personality from the Ahlul Bayt a.s.
Do we have to revere Christmas?
Early history of Islam records that the Noble Prophet Muhammad SAWW cordially welcomed a delegation of Byzantine Christians from Najran in Yemen to Madina. He held discussions with them and even allowed them to perform worship service in the mosque. No matter how much one disagrees with the religious beliefs of others, the Noble Qur’an exhorts Muslims to stay away from mocking them (6:108). Therefore, shouldn’t Christmas be treated with respect?
However, respect does not mean to compromise. Respecting Jesus does not equate to adopting Christian rituals. In addition, it is vital to note that accepting Christmas is different from fully immersing oneself in all the cultures of its celebrations in the same manner adopted by the wider Christian community or people of no faith.
The challenge for us as Muslims, a minority, living in the West is how much to interact with these celebrations. We are living during challenging times where conflict, xenophobia and Islamophobia is ever increasing.
As Muslims shouldn’t we be building bridges and peace making?

How to reach out?
One may extend greetings and well wish the Christians on the celebrations of Christmas. You do not necessarily need to partake in the Christian celebration rituals or celebrate Christmas as done by the Christian faithful. However just like we send Eid greetings through cards, text messages or telephone calls we can address Christmas greetings to our Christian friends, neighbours and colleagues. One could send a personalised greeting card /note to share the status of Jesus in Islam. This is a great time to relate or connect to our neighbours. Nevertheless, one should bear in mind that ‘relating’ does not mean ‘preaching’. Let us reach out, be sincere and use the opportunity to connect by exploring common ground during these holidays.

On this occasion of Christmas, I offer heartiest felicitations, prayers and best wishes to all our Christian brethren.
Let us all continue praying and working hard for attaining God's Mercy and Grace during this challenging and testing time.  

Wa ma tawfiqi illa billah.

Sheikh Fazle Abbas Datoo
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Resident Alim
Wessex Shia Ithna Asheri Jamaat