Christmas - For Muslims?
Is it permissible for Muslim children and adults to join along Christians in celebrating Christmas; giving gifts, decorating their homes, lighting candles, putting up Christmas trees and lights and greeting each other with "Merry Christmas."?
Let us consider some important facts about this occasion and what it really means:
The word Christmas comes from the words Cristes Mæsse, or "Christ's Mass." Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus for members of the Christian religion. Most historians peg the first celebration of Christmas to Rome in 336 A.D.
I was a Christian for many years, and I used to get really upset when people took the "Christ" out of Christmas, and I could not imagine why people would let all of this gross commercialism overwhelm the remembrance of the birth of Christ Jesus. So, it came as a great surprise, in my little world, to learn this was from the solstice celebration, and had been going on for hundreds of years before the time of Jesus. Also, we find no evidence Jesus was even born in the month of December (and in fact, it becomes obvious from close study of the Bible he was not even born in the year claimed to be 2,006 years ago.
Let's consider some very important evidence about the event called "Christmas":
No proof for his birth in December. New Testament claims he was born during the reign of King Herod. He was already dead 6 years before.
No proof for Christmas trees - actually, the Bible (Jeremiah 10) forbids the act of cutting down trees or holly or anything and then taking it into the house and decorating it up.
Nothing about Santa Claus except a bishop who attended the Council of Nicaea in 325 A. D. named, Saint Nicholas who was generous with money and used it to help a man get his two older daughters married off by throwing a bag of silver into their open window for their dowry (women paid men - the opposite of the dowry system of Islam), thus earning himself the title of St. Nick.
There can be no absolute proof of the particulars and details surrounding all of the many factors coming together in Rome in 325 A.D. (after Christ's birth), in order to establish with certainty, Jesus Christ was born on December 25, as mentioned.
From Babylon to Rome, for thousands of years, virtually every culture has had some sort of celebration for the solstice. The winter solstice is the darkest, shortest day of the year, and since it marks the time at which the glorious light returns, the solstice has long been an occasion for great celebration and rejoicing.
On the surface, the solstice celebration is often a rejoicing of the return of the sun with the promise of the greening of the earth and the warming of the days. But on a deeper spiritual level, the solstice celebration honors the birth and rebirth of the glorious Holy Light which guides and sustains all of creation, the One Light that illuminates every heart and promises new growth, the warmth of loving-kindness and the brilliance of illumination to all of mankind.
The sun god Mithra (Mithra in Persian, Mitra in Sanskrit) was highly honored and well known across the entire region from India to Rome. In the ancient Vedic hymns of India, Mitra is often invoked together with Varuna so that the two are combined as 'Mitravaruna': Varuna is lord of the cosmic rhythm of the celestial spheres, while Mitra brings forth the light at dawn, which was covered by Varuna.
In the Zoroastrian religion, the sun-god Mithra was highly honored as a major deity, and interestingly, the birth of Mithra is celebrated at the eve of the winter solstice called Shab-e Yalda in Farsi (Persian).
The Romans had a great number of temples dedicated to Mithra, and the winter solstice celebration dedicated to the sun god Mithra was indeed a major event in their lives.
In the ancient world, much of the day to day life was centered on a keen awareness of the sun, the stars and the seasons. For thousands of years, the return of the sun at the time of the winter solstice has been a time of good cheer and great celebration, both secular and spiritual.
The early Christians did not celebrate the birth of Jesus. The early church fathers Origen (d.255), St. Irenaeus (d. 202), and Tertullian (d. 220) do not include Christmas or its date on their lists of feasts and celebrations.
In fact, nobody really knows when Jesus was born. Church father Clement of Alexandria tells us that certain theologians had claimed to have determined not only the year of the Jesus' birth but also the day; that it took place in the 28th year of Augustus and on the 25th day of Pachon (May 20) (Stromata, I, 21). He also added that others said that he was born on the 24th or 25th of Pharmuthi (April 19 or 20). Another piece of evidence is De Paschae Computus of 243, which states that Jesus was born on March 28.
Many modern scholars, using the details given in the bible, suggest that Jesus' birthday was likely before October or after March. So, although we don't know when Jesus was born, it seems quite unlikely that it was on December 25th.
The Church in Rome:
The early church fathers in Rome were perhaps feeling a bit left out by all the celebrations that were going on at the time of the Solstice. It's all too difficult to control people who are busy celebrating for just any old reason.
It was not at all common in those days to celebrate a person's birthday, but something drastic had to be done to get the church into the celebration. So, in order to eclipse the solstice celebration of the sun god Mithra, in the middle of the 4th century after Jesus' death, the newly converted Emperor Constantine declared December 25th to be the official birthday of Jesus.
Within a few years, the altars of the temples of Mithra had been destroyed and the temples were quickly rededicated to the activities of the church of Rome. Just that suddenly, the winter solstice which was perhaps the greatest celebration known to the ancient world, was transformed into a matter of church doctrine.
In later years, the English gave this celebration the name Cristes Mæsse, literally, Christ's mass... and from that we have inherited the word Christmas.
We see clearly, Christmas as it is celebrated today is not something associated with Judaism or Islam in their original teachings. We must ask the question, "If the prophets of Allah and their people did not engage in such acts of pagan worship, then why should we?"
Our Prophet (Peace and blessings be upon him) ordered us to refrain from following in the footsteps of those who had gone astray before us. He also made sure we understood our celebrations are two; namely: Eid Al-Fitr and Eid Al-Adha.
Even though some will join in with others to celebrate the beliefs and practices of non-Muslim activities, we as believers, must not engage in such offensive acts toward our Lord, Allah. He hates that we involve ourselves in practices of worship not ordained by Him and we must avoid such activities at all costs.
We ask Allah to forgive us for our past mistakes and errors and to guide us to do better in the future and grant us from Him, Mercy, Compassion and Forgiveness, Ameen.