“Merry Christmas” or nah? As the holiday season approaches, so does that omnipresent debate: Is it acceptable for Muslims to wish those celebrating a “Merry Christmas?”
Of course, we all love to indulge in the magic of the holiday season. We just adore that refreshing chill in the air, holiday movie marathons with our friends, and those delicious holiday-themed treats (calories don’t count when they’re that delicious, right?!). But what about the act of actually wishing folks a “Merry Christmas,” whether in response to their greeting, or by initiating the greeting ourselves? What about that?
With our curiosity piqued, we took a page out of our standard Muslim Girl handbook. We posed the question to our avid readers for some lively (and boy, do we mean lively) debate and discussion. The answers we got were, as always, varied and hotly debated.
Scholars are notoriously split on the topic, with scholars such as Dr. Zakir Naik tweeted in 2016 that it is absolutely unacceptable to wish people for Christmas (it’s important to note that after this news broke, Dr. Zakir Naik did come out and state that he does not maintain an official Twitter account). Other scholars, such as Dr. Zulkifli Mohamad Al-Bakri, have stated that Muslims are permitted to express these sentiments when it is a congratulatory expression on the celebration of other faiths as long as it is done without glorifying their religion. Dr. Zulkifli is the current Mufti of the Federal Territories in Malaysia, and the founder of the Federal Territories (Malaysia) Islamic Religious Council’s Pondok Moden Al-‘Abaqirah, a religious educational institute.
“It is no more than a mere greeting to express happiness and enjoyment upon seeing the happiness of those celebrating. Muslims can wish Christians [Merry Christmas], provided they don’t glorify the latter’s religion,” Dr. Zulkifli told a local paper when contacted. Citing the Muzakarah National Fatwa Committee Council in Islamic Affairs’ 78th meeting in 2007 (where it was concluded that sending greetings through cards, emails or text messages to non-Muslims during their festive seasons was permissible, as long as such greetings did not glorify non-Muslim faiths or use religious symbols), Dr. Zulkifli claimed that it was important to live in harmony with people of other religions as long as we were creating more awareness on the matter so as to dispel any confusion.
Additionally, the Sheikh Abdel Fattah El Bezm, the Grand Mufti of Damascus, has reiterated that there are many schools of thought on the matter.
Speaking truthfully, my favorite of all the comments implored us to look to sunnah and use the Prophet’s kindness to followers of other religions as a framework for this debate, rather than scholars who are clearly divided. Some commenters claimed that we had bigger things to worry about, whilst others felt that the act of saying “Merry Christmas” was a slippery slope. Some felt that if there was so much confusion on the matter, that we should just avoid the idea of wishing non-Muslims all-together.
Whilst I am certainly not a scholar, turning to the Qur’an, I can’t help but wonder whether we could interpret the following as a way of broaching this topic as an offering of goodwill:
“Allah does not forbid you from those who do not fight you because of religion and do not expel you from your homes — from being righteous toward them and acting justly toward them. Indeed, Allah loves those who act justly.” (Qur’an 60:8)
“When greeted with a greeting, you shall respond with a better greeting or at least an equal one. Surely Allah takes account of all things.” (Qur’an 8:46)
“A good deed and an evil deed are not alike: repel [evil] with something [that is] finer, and notice how someone who is separated from you because of enmity will become a bosom friend!” (Qur’an 41:34)
On that note, folks, it’s time to break out the hot chocolate, switch on those fairy lights, and settle in for a little debate and discussion. Here’s some of what YOU had to say on the topic of wishing folks a “Merry Christmas.”
What’s the Big Deal?
“I was born Muslim and raised Muslim until later in my life. When my mother decided she was going to become Roman Catholic, I was no longer allowed to practice Islam. After a while, I decided to revert back and practice again. In my time as a ‘Christian,’ we never went to church or anything, so I don’t truly know Christianity as part of my life. My mother puts up a tree and everything, so in order to keep the peace I’ll say ‘Merry Christmas,’ give gifts, and help with dinner. If I didn’t help with dinner, none of it would be halal and I would not eat.
Saying ‘Merry Christmas’ is not necessarily wrong, as the Prophet (PBUH) always preached tolerance, love, and respect. The Prophet (PBUH) always greeted Jews and Christians in a loving and respectful way. My personal experience has been that they wish me a happy Ramadan and a happy Eid. They ask me how my fast is going. As a Muslim living in the West, I have to respect the culture that is here. So, while I don’t practice Christianity, I can say ‘Merry Christmas’ out of respect because they do the same for me during my holidays.”
“I personally do not believe there is any problem with wishing those around me a ‘Merry Christmas.’ Living and growing up in a time period in which all we see is division has taught me the only way we will ever see change is if the human race learns to co-exist. We must learn that we do not need to be part of a specific race, religion, or group to respect, accept, and tolerate that group’s beliefs, traditions, or culture.
Saying “Merry Christmas” is not me abandoning my religion. It’s me showing those around me that I respect their holiday and their beliefs. tweet
My friends have always been respectful of my beliefs. For instance, when it came to going out to eat, they made sure I had a halal option before going. In addition to this, one Ramadan, my friend baked me cookies to break my fast with. This is the same friend whose Mom always tried to make sure there was no gelatin in something before I ate it. Saying “Merry Christmas” is not me abandoning my religion. It’s me showing those around me that I respect their holiday and their beliefs, just like my friends have supported mine. There will always be those that choose not to respect the religion of Islam. However, we must be the bigger people in those situations and choose to respect the religions and beliefs of others.”
“My reason for changing my approach towards this topic isn’t that deep. The only reason why I changed my attitude and no longer feel I need to stay away from Christmas celebrations is because when my son was three, a couple in the elevator wished him a ‘Merry Christmas’ on Christmas day. Instead of saying ‘thank you,’ he replied, ‘I am Muslim, I don’t celebrate Christmas.’ I was embarrassed and realized that I am already teaching my kids about our religion passively and they pick up on that, so it’s also important I teach them to be respectful of others traditions.”
“I think it’s very important people understand that coexisting and respecting our neighbors is just as important as following the ‘rules’ of our religion. I’m not a very religious person in terms of the way I dress, and I don’t wear a hijab, but I would never force anyone to do anything against their will. I wish to be treated with the same respect.
Like if some Muslims don’t want to say ‘Merry Christmas’, then that’s okay too. It’s your own opinion. But there’s no point in shaming others for being kinder to their neighbors. tweet
I think that saying ‘Merry Christmas’ or giving out candy during Halloween is just a form of being a part of the community, and it all depends on the person’s choice. Like if some Muslims don’t want to say ‘Merry Christmas’, then that’s okay too. It’s your own opinion. But there’s no point in shaming others for being kinder to their neighbors.”
“As-Salaamu-Alaikum. ‘Merry Christmas.’ A kind greeting to a non-Muslim neighbour or colleague. Instead of isolating us, it opens us up to mutual understanding and often leads to positive questions. It kills dead the lies and manipulation that appear in social media. It doesn’t mean we are committing shirk. We are not participating in the feast. Nor are we inviting our enemies to our table. Instead, we are building a bridge towards understanding rather than a road-block to isolation. From there, we may hear ‘Eid Mubarak’ instead of ‘Go back to where you came from!’ Allah knows what is in my heart and intent. May Allah always guide us. I am guided in this by Surah Al Kafirun (109).”
Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas? Not So Much:
“Your platform is a place where many people, both Muslims and non-Muslims, come to engage, support and share their individual opinions. I believe that word choice is everything when approaching this topic. During this time of the year, where we see many people are celebrating Christmas and in the holiday spirit, Muslims may tend to feel pressured or obligated to say ‘Merry Christmas’ to elevate from being viewed as a threat to society, aka ‘Islamophobia.’
However, as a Muslim, and with my background in psychology and learnings about multicultural instruction, I understand the impact of the choice of words. We don’t have to dim the light on who we are as Muslims, but finding ways to be respectful amongst those who may not be Muslim is the key. Be kind and say, ‘Enjoy your Holiday.’ We don’t have to overthink ways to be kind. The Qur’an states, ‘Worship Allah and associate nothing with Him, and to parents do good, and to relatives, orphans, the needy, the near neighbor, the neighbor farther away, the companion at your side.’ (Qur’an 4:36). If anything, just smile if you don’t know what to say!”
“You don’t need to congratulate the kufr and engage in their ways to be deserving of respect, or to be be accepted by them. Nothing in Islam encourages us to take part in their celebration. You can be kind without doing what they do.”
“I am a person who avoids saying the words ‘Merry Christmas’ and the same goes for any other holiday or festival. I will always politely accept it as a greeting, acknowledge that a person saying it to me is hopefully doing so for a positive reason to spread joy, kindness, and inclusion. This is a sentiment which is actually quite beautiful.
I always wish people well in return, but for me, avoidance of the actual words helps me feel like I’m not overstepping my religious boundaries. tweet
I always wish people well in return, but for me, avoidance of the actual words helps me feel like I’m not overstepping my religious boundaries or downplaying the conflict I feel in regards to the commercialism of it all. It’s definitely tricky because in the middle of all the festive fun, it’s hard not to come off looking like the Grinch! I think it’s just important to be mindful of the words we use, as our words can hold more weight than we know.”
“Christmas is acknowledged by those who consider Jesus ‘the son of God.’ We know that this is blasphemy. Period. Allah does NOT resemble His creation in any form that one can imagine. He does NOT have children, and it is NOT permissible to assign these traits to Him. So, if I allow myself to compromise my beliefs to wish someone a ‘Merry Christmas,’ I am ultimately ascribing these beliefs to myself. This is a serious action and I am NOT willing to ascribe to this practice or belief. My mind does NOT even allow for me to think in this manner, especially since I have learned the PERFECT teaching of Islam. I believe in the ONENESS of Allah. Jesus is an honorable Prophet. That we acknowledge and love just as we do all Prophets.
And for those who believe that the institution of Christmas comes from paganism, you must then acknowledge, and not overlook, the activities that go against the beliefs and practices of Islam: the indulgence of alcohol (beer and wine), in a drunken state that in many ways would remind the person of the practices of Mardi Gras. There are additional practices that are deeply troubling and do NOT align with the teaching and beliefs of Islam, as it relates to pagan indoctrinations with their actions and references.
The idea of willingly participating in the celebration of the holiday is troubling to me. It does not sit well with me. When I have heard a person say “Happy Holidays” to me and I have slipped and said something similar to them, i.e. “Same to you,” I immediately hate it in my heart. I ask forgiveness and remind myself of the seriousness of my actions. I do believe that as a Muslim, I can and should be kind to non-Muslims, but I do not believe that means that I need to compromise our beliefs in doing so.”