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Islam and Pluralism ( 23 Dec 2012, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Saying ‘Merry Christmas’ Is Permissible In Islam


By Sohail Arshad, New Age Islam

24 Dec, 2012

The Taliban who have been at the forefront of the jihad against multicultural society and interfaith dialogue which the Quran endorses and emphasizes has come up with another fatwa which further damages the interfaith harmony between the world’s two biggest and powerful religious communities – The Muslims and the Christians --- by  declaring  Christmas greetings extended by Muslims to Christians haram which is again not supported by Islamic values as the Islamic jurisprudence is not against extending Christmas greetings to the Christians.

Firstly, the Quran does not permit enmity with those non-Muslims who do not show hostility towards Muslims and enjoins Muslims to establish good relations with neighbours whether Muslims or non-Muslims and greet everyone with a smile.

“Allah does not forbid you to deal justly and kindly with those who fought not against you on account of religion nor drove you out of your homes. Verily, Allah loves those who deal with equity” (al-Mumtahanah:8)

The holy Prophet (PBUH) went to do ayadat (visit a sick person) of a non-Muslim who spread thorns in his way when he came to know that she has fallen ill.

The Prophet (PBUH) and the holy companions accepted gifts from mushrikeen (non-Muslims)

There are hadiths that prove that the holy Prophet (PBUH) accepted gifts from non-Muslims.

It was narrated that Abu Humayd al-Saa’idi said: We went on a campaign with the Prophet (PBUH) to Tabook, and the king of Aelia gave the Prophet (PBUH) a white mule and a cloak, and he (PBUH)) approved of him as the ruler of his land. (Narrated by al-Bukhaari -2990).

There is another hadith in this context:

It was narrated that Katheer ibn ‘Abbaas ibn ‘Abd al-Muttalib said: ‘Abbaas said: I was present with the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) on the day of Hunayn. Abu Sufyaan ibn al-Haarith ibn ‘Abd al-Muttalib and I stayed close to the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) and did not leave him. The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) was riding a white mule of his, that had been given to him by Farwah ibn Nufaathah al-Judhaami. (Narrated by Muslim-1775). 

It is a proven fact that the Sahaabah also (accepted gifts from the kuffaar) with the permission of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) during his lifetime. The mother of Asma’ bint Abi Bakr – who was a mushrikah – visited her daughter and the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) gave permission to Asma’ (may Allaah be pleased with her) to uphold ties of kinship with her. And it is proven that ‘Umar ibn al-Khattaab gave a suit to his brother who was a mushrik. Both hadiths are narrated in al-Saheehayn. 

That giving and accepting gifts to non-Muslims are permissible in Islam is also endorsed by none other than a Saudi religious scholar and mufti Shaikh Muhamamd Salih al Munajjid. In reply to a query on the issue he said:

If what is referred to is accepting an invitation to a meal, for example, and there is nothing involved that is forbidden in Islam, such as mixing of men and women, or foods forbidden by Allaah such as wine and pork, or dancing and music and so on, and this participation does not imply that one loves these kuffaar, then there is nothing wrong with accepting their invitation. He should try to convey the message of Islam to them. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) accepted the invitation of some of the Jews. And Allaah knows best.

He also says:

With regard to accepting a gift from a non-Muslim on the day of his festival, there is nothing wrong with that, and that is not regarded as participating in it or approving of it, rather it should be accepted as an act of kindness, with the aim of softening his heart and calling him to Islam. Allaah has permitted kindness and fair treatment towards the kaafir who is not fighting the Muslims, as He says (interpretation of the meaning):

“Allaah does not forbid you to deal justly and kindly with those who fought not against you on account of religion nor drove you out of your homes. Verily, Allaah loves those who deal with equity” [al-Mumtahanah 60:8]

He further says:

It says in al-Jaami’ al-Asghar: A man bought something on the day of Nayrooz which he did not buy before that. If he intended thereby to venerate that day as the mushrikoon venerate it, then he has committed kufr, but if he wanted to eat or drink or enjoy himself, then he has not committed kufr.

That is if a Muslim buys a cake or a drink (other than wine or similar intoxicants) which is found in a particular festival only to enjoy with the family, it is permissible.

However, Islamic jurists have forbidden Muslims to celebrate the festivals of the non-Muslims actively and to go to their places of worship as part of their festivities. Hadiths also forbid Muslims doing that as it amounts to imitating and approving of their beliefs. But some scholars do not have any objections in Muslims congratulating non-Muslims on their festivals. For example, Shaikh Faraz Rabbani, a Toronto based Muslim scholar says:

“The Messenger of Allah (PBUH)) emphasized the rights of neighbours and those who have any kind of relationship with Muslims in numerous hadiths, and these do not distinguish betweeen Muslim and non-Muslim neighbours.

However, the proper way to give presents during these festive seasons, is to make one's gesture general or seasonal, rather than relating to their specific religious celebrations. Thus, one would say, for example, "Seasons greetings," or "Happy New Year," or other general expressions, as our ulema explain.”

Some scholars quote the opinion of Ibn al Qayyim, Ibn Taymiyya and Ibn Uthaymin who call it impermissible to say merry Christmas to Christians but another section of modern day religious scholars like Yousuf Al Qaradawi and Mustafa Zaraqa are of the opinion that there is nothing wrong in wishing  merry Christmas without supporting their religious belief and the purpose is to fulfil a multicultural social obligation. This section also allows the exchange of greeting cards that are devoid of any religious symbols. ( Fi Fiq’h Aqliyyat: Al Qaradawi and Fatawa: Mustafa Al Zaraqa).

The opinions of Al Qaradawi, Mustafa Al Zarqa and Shaikh Faraz Rabbani prove Taliban’s fatwa wrong and un-Islamic and allow Muslims to wish ‘Merry Christmas’ to Christians.

Sohail Arshad is a regular columnist for New