Muslims living in countries where Christmas is a big deal can often feel like the third wheel on a date at the cinema.
It’s awkward and we can feel that maybe we should leave you to it but, then again, we really like the film that’s playing, so we probably end up staying anyway.
And it is hard not to love Christmas. It is such an aesthetically pleasing holiday full of lovely traditional songs, stories, sights and smells. There’s nothing like a cozy-looking house lit up with fairy lights to temporarily transport you from the miserable wintery weather and darker days. Not only that, but your work colleagues are a little less grumpy and it’s considered acceptable to stuff your face with treats.
The Muslim reaction to Christmas covers a wide spectrum — ranging from having a Christmas tree and halal turkey dinner to those who wish to completely deny its existence and nothing, not even the enjoyment of pulling a Christmas cracker, can sway them otherwise. It can also be a confusing time for converts to Islam trying to figure out their position in relation to different religious holidays.
Regardless of whether Muslims are waiting for Santa to bring presents or not, Christmas has always been a time for family and wishing others well. You will find most Muslim families getting together around Christmas — if not for the holiday itself, but because everyone has time off from work, school and uni!
The stories emerging this year of Muslim Turkish restaurant and Birmingham, U.K. takeaway owners offering free Christmas meals to the homeless, elderly, refugees etc., is incredibly heart warming and echoes the Christmas tradition of giving. At this time of year, you’ll find people collecting for their favourite charities, organising food parcels for the homeless, as well as the obligatory mad dash to buy gifts for loved ones.
With this heightened emphasis on giving, it is no surprise that stories highlighting togetherness, such as the Amazon advert, or the lack of it, such as the Silverline ad campaign, have been so widely shared and discussed.
The individuals who have taken it upon themselves to engage with this Christmas tradition remind us of our humanity and are genuinely acting upon the advice, which permeates all world religions, to “want for others what you want for yourself.”
In a world that seems full of hate and pain, the “Golden Rule” reminds us that compassion is a characteristic shared by all humanity. The current climate seems so determined to divide us — by opinion, by religion, by race. And when we have such stark reminders of poverty and of the turmoil that conflict brings, it is these selfless acts of giving that shine a little bit of light in the darkness.