This year I
finally bought a Christmas jumper. I don’t know why it took me so long – as a
young adult I would look enviously at others who were bold enough to wear them
into work, or listen to colleagues complain about their Christmas gift being
another terrible jumper, secretly wishing they would give it to me. Although I
was brought up with a fondness for the Christmas season, I still never thought
I could go as far as buying a jumper!
earliest school memories, my Mum would buy me packs of Christmas cards to write
out for everyone in my class. We gave all the neighbours cards. If anyone extra
gave us a card my Mum would tell me to quickly write one out for them. My young
brothers wrote letters to Santa, even though I told them he didn’t exist, and
we posted bright homemade envelopes to the North Pole.
And we even
had Christmas lights. I don’t know where the string of fairy lights came from.
I can’t imagine anybody in my family buying them specifically for Christmas.
Yet every December they came out of the cupboard and were strung around the
window. We were yet another window on our street that sparkled in the night.
Until the year I tried to put two exposed wires back together, mildly
electrocuted myself, fell off the table and fused the lights. Sadly, no one
replaced them and I was too traumatised to ask.
may have been in the minority as Muslims with Christmas lights, the festive
season was still welcomed by everyone in our community – why wouldn’t it be?
People were nicer and we all had time off school and work, and since Christmas
Day is the only day of the year that there are no newspapers, even Muslim
shopkeepers had a day off! And the telly was great – we watched The Greatest
Story Ever Told religiously (!) and every time my gran would cry and curse
Judas for his betrayal.
baffled me as a young adult when I started hearing in the news that Christmas
was “under attack” by Muslims and it was no longer politically correct to wish
someone a Merry Christmas. I wondered where these sad, angry Muslims were as I
certainly had never met any who disliked Christmas – in fact I knew even more
secular people who disliked Christmas than Muslims who ignored Christmas (which
is pretty hard to do really). So while I still didn’t go as far as getting a
tree or a jumper, my “Merry Christmases” got louder and my email signature
acquired a “Ho Ho Ho”.
And I must
have been in Santa’s good book because when I met my husband I gained entry
into real Christmas with my family-in-law who are various degrees of Christian.
The first Christmas I spent with them was ridiculously exciting for me and they
lovingly indulged me – I even had a stocking on the mantelpiece! The tree was
huge, the presents were many, and going to church on Christmas Day morning
became a highlight to share with my Catholic mother-in-law. In fact, sharing our
faith strengthened our relationship, and it was a joy to speak about loving
Mary and Jesus, peace and blessings be upon them. Over the last decade we’ve
had wonderful Christmas family gatherings, sharing love, friendship, and food.
All of this
was supported by my spiritual journey which started at the same time as meeting
my Sufi husband. Reading Maulana Rumi’s numerous passages about the holiness
and reverence given to Mary and Jesus in Islam, and the beautiful way he
describes how we can all embody an aspect of these Prophets within ourselves,
made Christmas even sweeter for me. I started sharing lines from Maulana with
friends and online communities – it became a way for me to deepen in my
remembrance and love of these holy guides who went through so much to share the
Some of my
favourite lines from Rumi are:
of your spirit is within you:
aid, for he is a good helper.
Mary’s painful need that made the infant Jesus
speak from the cradle.
Our body is
like Mary, and each of us has a Jesus within, but unless we experience the
pains of birthing, our Jesus will not emerge. If there is no pain, our Jesus
will return by that hidden way to the original place from which he came, and we
will be left deprived. 
is hidden in the Breath
Mary—by that sweet breath
grew within her.
first Christmas as a married couple, our friends gifted us a miniature
ornamental Christmas tree which takes pride of place on our mantelpiece each
year alongside a dervish.
is not only a wonderful reminder to honour Mary and Jesus but it can, and
should be, a time especially for Muslims and Christians to remember their
shared spiritual heritage and work together to support those who are in need.
Regardless of whether Mary gave birth in a manger or under a date tree – she
gave birth to the Word of God! Regardless of whether it was in December or July
– we have a date to focus our collective remembrance and prayers! And
regardless of whether we believe Jesus was the son of God or a prophet – we can
all work to embody his message of peace, love and goodwill to all.
But I find
it deeply depressing to now see a growing number of young Muslims subscribing to
the “Halal-Police” mentality and looking to so-called-scholars to answer
idiotic questions about whether it is “Halal” or “Haram” to wish Christians
“Merry Christmas”. That the Muslim mentality has fallen so low to have lost
basic common sense is baffling and shocking.
am also heartened to see many mosques this year planning to open on Christmas
Day to share a meal for those who are homeless or have no family. The need for
solidarity within community has never been greater and we can utilise the power
of religious holidays to help everyone, no matter our religion or lack thereof.
I wish you
all a very merry and blessed Christmas! May your time be filled with love and
light, and may we deepen our remembrance and connection to the beloved souls of
Jesus and Mary, peace and blessings be upon them.
Mathnawi II, 450, Jewels of Remembrance, tr. Kabir and Camille Helminski
Mathnawi III:3204, Jewels of Remembrance, tr. Kabir and Camille Helminski
 Fihi ma
Fihi: Discourse 5, The Rumi Daybook, tr. Kabir and Camille Helminski
The Pocket Rumi, tr. Nevit Ergin with Camille Helminski
Headline: A Very Muslim Christmas
Source: The Patheos