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What Every Muslim Should Know About Christmas

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Al-Hamdulillah, All praise be to Allah alone, for making us Muslims and bestowing us the Deen of Islam to distinguish right and wrong. The holiday season is upon us again, and the ugly head of Satan is rising again to inspire people to indulge in innovation and shirk.

What proceeds is an analytical view of Christmas and appropriate Muslim conduct during the Christmas season.

Any belief system or ritual (Christmas or otherwise) in any religion should satisfy each of the following criteria to be labeled as authentic:

1. It should have its evidence from the scriptures or from the authentic sayings of the Messenger.
2. The Messenger himself and his companions should practice and propagate it.
3. The Scripture or the Messenger's sayings in which this belief system is present should be preserved from alterations or perishment.

Does Christmas have Biblical Evidence?

The word 'Christmas' is not even present in the entire Bible. The Bible has closed lips on the entire feast of Christmas with one exception, the decoration of tree. Fortunately, for the Christians, the Bible does has a word or two to say on the decoration of the Christmas tree, but unfortunately for them, their own Bible criticizes the use of decorating tree:

"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" (Jeremiah 10:3,4).

Pre-Christian pagans superstitiously believed that the evergreen tree has special power of protection. In fact, the use of Christmas tree began in the 17th century, in Strasbourg, France and from there it spread to Germany, Britain and then to the U.S. "Tree worship was a common feature of religion among the Teutonic and Scandinavian peoples of northern Europe before their conversion to Christianity…German settlers brought the Christmas tree custom to the American colonies in the 17th century. By the 19th century its use was quite widespread". (Compton's Encyclopedia, 1998 Edition)

Was Jesus Born on Dec. 25th?

Neither the date 25th Dec. nor any other date on Jesus' birth is mentioned in the Bible. Not until the year 530 C.E., that a monk, Dionysus Exigus, fixed the date of the birth of Jesus on Dec. 25th. "He wrongly dated the birth of Christ according to the Roman system (i.e., 754 years after the founding of Rome) as Dec. 25, 753". (Encyclopedia Britannica, 1998 ed.) This date was chosen perhaps in keeping with the holidays already indoctrinated into pagans.

Roman pagans celebrated Dec. 25th as the birth of their 'god' of light, Mithra. "In the 2nd century A..D., it (Mithraism) was more general in the Roman Empire than Christianity, to which it bore many similarities" (The Concise Columbia Encyclopedia, 1995 ed.)

"The reason why Christmas came to be celebrated on December 25 remains uncertain, but most probably the reason is that early Christians wished the date to coincide with the pagan Roman festival marking the "birthday of the unconquered sun" (natalis solis invicti); this festival celebrated the winter solstice, when the days again begin to lengthen and the sun begins to climb higher in the sky". (Encyclopedia Britannica, 1998 Ed.)

Other pagan 'gods' born on Dec. 25th are: Hercules, the son of Zeus (Greeks) Bacchus, god of wind, (Romans),Adenis god of Greeks Freyr the Greek-Roman god.

What about Santa Claus?

Once again the word 'Santa Claus' appears no where in the bible. However Saint Nicholas (Santa Claus) was a real person, bishop, who was born 300 years after Jesus (pbuh). 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 Dec., school boys in Europe celebrated a feast day every year on the anniversary of his death. Queen Victoria later changed the celebration date from Dec. 6th to Dec. 24th eve.

Thus Christmas is an innovation (bidah) in their religion, associating it with Santa Claus, and changing the original date of death anniversary of Saint Nicholas are further deviations.

Did Jesus or his companions celebrated Christmas?

Of course not. If Jesus meant his 'Ummah' to celebrate Christmas, he would have practiced it himself and enjoined it on his followers. Even the 'supposed pseudo-companions' of Jesus (and not the companions of Jesus mentioned in the Quran who called themselves as Muslims) mentioned in the bible made many innovations in their religion, but celebrating Christmas was not their endeavor.

"In fact, the church did not observe a festival for the celebration of the event until the 4th century" (Grolier's Encyclopedia).

Even if Christianity passed the above two test, they still have to prove that their Bible have remained unaltered since its revelation. A whole separate article could be written on this topic.

We'll mention three brief points, insha Allah. (1) Bible, unlike our Quran, was not written down during Jesus' lifetime and no evidence of it ever being memorized. (2) The oldest bible (Codex Siniticas) in possession of Christendom is only from the 4th century C.E. (3) verses are missing or added as to the Bible throughout the centuries. Compare different Bible versions (eg. compare the King James Version with Revised Standard Version. For verse: 1 John 5:7, this verse is missing in Revised Standard Version published in 1952).

How unfortunate and pitiful: parts of the original Bible has been lost. Part surviving has been corrupted and the corrupted parts has been misinterpreted.

How should Muslims React to Christmas?

Being the custodians of Truth and the 'Best Ummah created for mankind" and "witnesses unto Mankind", we Muslims just can't stay still as the society around us is entrapped by Satan. Enjoining good and forbidding evil should be our theme.

The foremost thing to realize is that Christmas is a big innovation which is leading a big part of humanity to shirk (associating partners with God). Christianity has transgressed the limits set by Allah; therefore showing happiness and joy on Christmas, Halloween, Easter, Good Friday is like shaking hands with Satan and telling him to carry on the good work.

Remember Allah commandment to us in the Quran:

"Help you one another in virtue and righteousness, but do not help one another in sin and transgression. And fear Allah, verily Allah is severe in punishment". (Quran, 5:2)

Therefore, a Muslim can't enjoin in any aspect of Christmas in the disguise that Jesus is our Prophet too, we are just honoring him by celebrating Christmas. We should recognize the bidah of Christmas and the Prophet's warning that all bidah should be rejected. Therefore, accepting Christmas invitations, attending Christmas parties, buying small plastic Christmas trees to please the kids (some Muslims actually do) should be avoided.

By greeting Christians with 'merry Christmas' we are legitimizing Christmas, by driving out on Christmas eve to witness the decoration of houses, we are appreciating bidah with our eyes, by placing our kids on the laps of Santa in the malls we are handing them in the hands of a fiend, by closing our Islamic Schools or shops during Christmas we are giving it our silent approval, by selling Christmas items in our shops, we are strengthening the pillars of Kufr.

By purchasing for children books with Christmas themes ('The Night before Christmas'), by watching Christmas movies and by giving holidays to our regular Islamic schools or weekend schools, we are passing them a misguided message.

Indeed Islam came to tear down the pillars of kufr and replace them with the pillars of Islam. Armed with facts on Christmas and eloquent words of Islam, the door of Dawah to the Christians should be wisely open.

When the Christians see us restraining from observing Christmas, they will curiously ask us for the reason. This opportunity should be used by each single Muslim to discuss Islam and invite non-Muslims to Islam.

It is highly recommended for all Muslims to carry brochures on Islam with them to pass on to non-Muslim classmates, co-workers, neighbors etc. after discussing Islam. Free brochures on various topics on Islam can be obtained by calling 1-718-658-1199 (for U.S. and Canadian residents).

Writing articles in campus and local newspapers on 'Jesus (pbuh) in Islam', conducting soup kitchens in impoverished neighborhoods, clothing drives in schools and college campuses for the needy etc. are some proper modes of conduct during the Christmas holiday season.

Thus the hearts and minds of non-Muslims should be exposed to the beautiful message of Islam.

Truth comes, falsehood disappears; Islam came, now shirk must clear.

Sabeel Ahmed

October 1997.

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[Currently, he is the co-chairman of the Da'wa Committee and Board of Director at the Muslim Community Center, Illinois. A student of Ahmed Deedat and now works for the 1-800-662-islam hotline of ICNA. His main interest is in comparative religion.]

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