Should Muslims be celebrating Christmas?: A Muslim Imam’s Perspective24 Dec 2021
The Christmas season can by far be described as the most popular time of the year for many living in the Western world. But the question remains: should Muslims really be celebrating Christmas?
Dr. Shabir Ally discusses this exact question in depth, and offers an entirely unique view. It is crucial when understanding this debate to begin from a theological perspective. Whilst Muslims and Christians view the role of the Prophet Isa or Jesus (pbuh) differently, Muslims still understand him to play an important role in Islam. He is mentioned throughout the holy Qur’an, and more specifically, discussed in depth within the third chapter of the Qur’an. To many Muslims, Prophet Isa (pbuh) is known in a different capacity to Christians; only as a Prophet and messenger of Allah. Evidently, the belief in Prophet Isa (pbuh) is also entrenched within Muslim philosophy, and so it is unnecessary for muslims to disregard Christmas altogether. It may be better for Muslims to take control of what Christmas means to them and celebrate the Prophet (pbuh) in a different way, possibly by reading about him or attending lectures that discuss the place that Prophet Isa (pbuh) holds in Islam. If we aim to educate ourselves instead, then we can maintain a strong Muslim identity whilst still enjoying this ‘holiday spirit’.
Furthermore whilst Christmas has been coined a Christian holiday, it is important to note how in recent times the ‘Christmas period’ has become far more secular due to its commercialisation. Many secular ideas can be associated with the holiday period such as the joyful spirit, family time and dinners due to national holidays, decorations as well as boxing day and other sales. These are all things that can arguably be enjoyed by everyone regardless of their religious beliefs. Muslims isolating themselves from Christmas entirely when living in the Western world would be extremely difficult. Muslims can still maintain their identity when taking part in ‘harmless’ activities such as attending employee Christmas dinners, as a way to feel a part of their wider community. However, it is still important to recognise our religious limits where we are only viewing Prophet Isa (pbuh) in the Islamic way: as a prophet and messenger of Allah.
With all this being said, another controversial issue over the years has been whether Muslims are allowed to wish their non-Muslim friends ‘Merry Christmas’. An analogy here would be that many non-Muslims wish Muslims a happy Eid, as a way of celebrating their joy with them, so then why should we not reciprocate these same gestures? By using the words Merry Christmas, Muslims are not promoting Christmas or Christianity, but only trying to be kind and spread joy to their friends and colleagues during the festive period. It is not harmful, but rather is simply a greeting for well wishes during a time that may be seen as quite important to those around us. Overall, although Muslims should not be celebrating Christmas from a theologically Christian perspective, it is not wrong for them to enjoy the joyful spirit of the festive period, and more importantly we can take the holiday into our own hands and use it as an opportunity to learn further about our Islamic history.