Today, 25th December is being celebrated as the Xmas Day by many Christians world wide. In spite of that, there are many other Christians who are not celebrating the day as the birthday of Jesus. They are of the opinion that he was born in either June or October, not December. This controversy is difficult to resolve because neither the bible nor historical documents state the exact date of his birth. The Christian bodies hold different views.
The God Kingdom Society (GKS), for example, says Jesus was not born in December but October and that it is a pagan festival dedicated to the god Saturn, which was “later adopted by early Christian leaders with the motive of converting pagans.”
The Jehovah Witness does not celebrate Xmas on the same basis as GKS. Seventh Day Adventist church is also against it because it is a pagan ritual.
Both Deeper Life and Mountain of Fire Ministries (MFM) do not celebrate it.
They all call attention to the Bible, Luke 22:19, wherein Jesus said during the Last Supper ” Do this in remembrance of me”. Xmas was not mentioned as one of the things Christians should do to remember Jesus. We can then conclude safely that Xmas celebration is not biblical.
That notwithstanding, majority of Christians worldwide commemorate the birth of Jesus on the 25th December every year. Majority of Nigerian Christians do celebrate it.
As some Christians refrain from celebrating Xmas and call on people not to join them in the celebration, some Muslims have joined them by also calling on all Muslims to distance themselves from its celebration because it is Kufr; they call on Muslims not to interact with Christians, not to sell anything to them or patronise them in any way that could promote the celebration of Xmas. Some even call on proprietors of Muslim schools not to observe Xmas day as a public holiday.
The point needs to be made that Islam believes in multicultural, multifaith and pluralistic society where no group would claim absolute exclusiveness of others. Muslims and Christians live together in this country, Nigeria, sharing many things in common, including family, inter-marriage, work place, profession, business, political association and of course, neighborhood. Social interactions inevitably occur between Muslims and Christians. There is no segregation or ostracization as they do many things in common, including greetings and exchange of food and drinks during festive occasions.
Islam, as we all know, loves peaceful coexistence. It is an embodiment of peace. It promotes peace and spreads peace through greetings and demeanour. It allows Muslims to eat lawful (halāl) food of Christians and Jews, while it makes the food of Muslims lawful for them, too (Q5:5). The food and drinks served during Christmas can not be an exception. The food is not dedicated to any god or idol, neither is any animal sacrificed to any god nor required to be so done by Christianity.
In point of fact, many Christians do not even slaughter any animal but chicken or turkey mainly to entertain their guests and for domestic consumption. Q5:3 which some Muslims invoke as justification for declaring Xmas food as harām is irrelevant. Q5:5 declares Christian food lawful for Muslims to consume. It is halāl as long as it does not contain any harām item.
On greetings, Islam does not teach us not to respond to the greetings of non-Muslims, not even during their festivals. Instead, the Qur’an (Q4:86) says whenever we are greeted we should respond in a better way, or in the same manner. When a Christian says ” Merry Xmas to you”, you greet him back saying “Compliments of the season”, ” Happy Holidays”, or “Merry Xmas to you”, or we simply say “Thank you”. Islam does not teach us to keep mute when someone greets us. Those who say that we should not respond to Christian’s greetings have no Qur’anic support. They rely on the opinion of some scholars (not all scholars), not the Qur’an, not even any sound hadith. No human opinion is required once the Qur’an and the Prophet have ruled on any matter (Q33:36).
Peaceful interfaith coexistence is the norm in Islam, not exclusiveness, as long as other faiths do not show any sign of hatred, hostility, aggression or suppression to Muslims. Q 60:7-9 is quite explicit on this position. See also Q8:61 & 29:46. Q9:6 encourages Muslims to accommodate or provide protection for Mushrik ( a polytheist) and make his stay comfortable, perchance he could see the beauty of Islam through the nice manner he is treated by his Muslim host and accept Islam.
Good neighbourliness is stressed in Islam (Q4:36) irrespective of the neighbours’ religions. They all have rights on us in order to sustain peaceful coexistence in the society. Islam advocates and maintains peaceful coexistence where adherents of different religions practise their religions freely unhindered.
We Muslims however have the duty of inculcating Islamic values and culture in our youth in particular and the family in general. Let them understand Islam, let them appreciate Islam. Let them imbibe Islamic values and prefer them over and above any other. Do not allow them to visit father Xmas or attend Children Xmas Party. It is the Christian Party where anything including harām food and drinks may be served. Muslims do not eat nor drink harām. It is halāl food and drinks only.
We Muslims should not think that Christians will embrace Islam simply because we boycott them and by not extending our hands of fellowship to them. Everyone will not and can not be Muslims. It is not the design of Allah that everyone should become a Muslim (Q10:99). What should be paramount to us is the protection of our religious rights and freedom. Other people, too, should be allowed to enjoy their religious freedom and rights (Q109). Islam maintains that there is no compulsion in religion and everyone should be allowed to practise his religion freely as truth is distinct from falsehood (Q2:256).
In shā’a Allah, we shall discuss January 1 celebration next week.
Prof. Yasir Anjola Quadri.
20th Jumādal Awwal 1443 / 24th December 2021
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Muslim News Nigeria.
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