Happy Holidays


Sunday, 18 December 2005

A couple of weeks ago I was told by a friend that Dr. Zakir Naik had stressed wishing people ‘Merry Christmas’ was haram as this meant that we were affirming their religious belief in the birth of Christ. This made me of think of how I wish the people I know on their religious festivals. Generally I say things like, "have a good Christmas", "have a nice Diwali break", "Happy holidays", etc. I feel these wishes are more Islamically correct but as always Allah (SWT) knows best. But I don’t feel that if I have said ‘Merry Christmas’ on occasion I have somehow compromised my faith after all does Allah (SWT) not know our ‘niyat’?

Festivals are also an ideal and opportune time at which to do ‘dawah’. There is a beautiful verse in the Qur’an which says, "Invite all to the way of thy Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching and argue with them in the ways that are best and most gracious." 16:125

Festivals are the time when one can educate and inform people on the true nature and meanings of these festivals. How many of us know what "Eid" actually means or what exactly "Ashura" means. Even more importantly we should lead by example to be hospitable and helpful. How many Muslims invite non-Muslims to ‘Iftar’ for example and explain to them the importance of Ramadan? However all those who celebrate Christmas will give out Christmas cards and gifts to their neighbours/friends, regardless of whether they also celebrate this event.

Considering Christmas is just round the corner, rather than obsess about what greetings we should say to people I think we should focus on attempts at ‘dawah’. Now most of the people who I know will celebrate Christmas call themselves Christians, however they don’t attend midnight mass, they don’t really take part in any religious activity except maybe singing the odd religious Christmas Carol. But it is still a ‘Christian’ festival for them. Do they know the following details:

  • December 25 is supposed to be the birthday of Jesus(AS) but no one has any certain knowledge. Some old Christian saints believe that Jesus (AS) died on the 25th of March and this should have been the same day Jesus (AS) was conceived. So Jesus (AS) must have born on the December 25th.
  • Encyclopaedia Britannica says that December 25th was chosen because it coincided with the Pagan Roman festival marking the "birthday of the unconquered sun".
  • The Grolier's Encyclopaedia states that: "In fact, the church did not observe a festival for the celebration of the event until the 4th century".
  • The Christmas tree which is decorated and is visible everywhere has been criticised in the Old Testament. Jeremiah 10:3,4 says: "The customs of the people are worthless, they cut a tree out of the forest, and a craftsman shapes it with his chisel, they adore it with silver and gold, they fasten it with hammer and nails so it will not totter".
  • What about Santa Claus? There is no mention of him in the Bible. He is supposed to be Saint Nicholas, s bishop born 300 years after Jesus (AS). According to legend he was extremely kind and went out at night to distribute presents to the needy. After his death on the 6th of December, schoolboys in Europe celebrated a feast day every year on the anniversary of his death. Queen Victoria later changed the celebration date from December 6th to December 24th.
  • In 1642 when the Puritans seized power in Britain they outlawed Christmas as for them it had no basis in Christianity. In fact they introduced an Act of Parliament which officially abolished the popular Christmas customs, it was decreed that stores should stay open on Christmas day and that anyone found partying would be arrested. From Canterbury to London, there were bloody riots when shops were forced to stay open on Christmas day.
  • Initially Santa was depicted as an elf riding on the roofs and dropping presents from the Chimney. Thomas Nast, one of America's most talented cartoonists, turned the elf into a Santa. Eventually he turned him into a pot-bellied old man.
  • The dress of Santa used to be green in colour. It was made red by Coca Cola who used it to market their drink. Needless to say that this became so popular that the red and white colour given by Coca-Cola has become the ‘official colour’ of Christmas.

I have discussed these points with my friends who celebrate Christmas, they mostly go blank. The most common answer is, "what difference does it make? Its an occasion for the family to get together." That maybe true however it is also a time of incredible commercialism, over-spending, and over-eating. To warn against these things and engage in active dawah is more practical than to simply avoid saying ‘Merry Christmas’.

Hopefully you will find this information useful and have a ‘Happy Holiday’. Allahu 'Alam


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