Christmas, which almost the entire world celebrates, is a classic example of innovation leading to misguidance. We need to understand certain things about it so that we can guide our colleagues to the truth. Most Christians don’t really know the truth about Christmas. Muslims are enjoined to seek knowledge unlike other religions where they are told that knowledge will confuse them and Satan will use that knowledge to misguide them. In Islam each individual is responsible to seek knowledge and learn about his Deen (religion) as thoroughly as possible. We should seek authentic knowledge from those who know and from authentic sources, and not from ignorant masses.
First and foremost we should understand that Christmas wasn’t a celebration taught by Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him) nor did his disciples practice it. In fact if we look in the gospels we’ll not find any mention of Christmas in spite of the alterations made by Paul. It was not celebrated in the Christian world until almost 300 years after Jesus (peace be upon him). Why? Because fundamentally the celebration of birthdays was considered a pagan custom!
Earlier Christians didn’t celebrate birthdays of anybody because the celebration of birthdays was known to be a pagan practice. If we look at the Old Testament and the New Testament then we’d see that the only place where it is mentioned is in reference to the Pharaohs, the pagan rulers, Herod of Palestine etc. It was based on the belief that the day when one was born is the day when one is the weakest so they used to burn candles to drive away the evil spirits. Light driving away the darkness. Hence, now we see that almost all of the celebrations today have lights. In Christmas, there are the Christmas tree lights, all sorts of decorative bulbs etc which originally used to be candles placed on the Christmas tree which due to modern technology (or a history of house fires) evolved into light bulbs.
Its 16th-century origins are sometimes associated with Protestant Christian reformer Martin Luther who, according to the History Channel, “first added lighted candles to a tree.” Because candles were used to light trees until electric bulbs came about, a mat or skirt was often placed on the floor below the tree to protect it by catching the dripping candle wax. (Wikipedia) Hence nowadays some people use lights that are in the form of a small flame which flickers because that was the origin of the belief.
Pagan Origins of Christmas
Three hundred years after the Christ (peace be upon him), a monk suggested that his date of birth was the 25th of December. There is no evidence for how he came to this date. In fact, historians looking at the historical record based on the Gospels said that it couldn’t have been winter because other issues surrounding the birth of Jesus (peace be upon him) that they spoke about couldn’t have taken place in winter. Yet, 25th of December was “chosen” in Rome where Christianity was the strongest; it had left the Middle East, left Jerusalem, the birth place of Jesus. Paul in southern Turkey had become the leader of Christianity. He was the first one to call the followers of Jesus (peace be upon him) Christians, Jesus himself had never used the term. It is a Pauline term. From there Christianity was taken to Rome through Greece, and as it traveled through Greece and Rome, it absorbed a variety of pagan practices in order to win over the hearts of its converts. In Greece they adopted the idea of the Son of God. In Rome, it was developed in such a way that the day of worship shifted from the Sabbath (Saturday) to Sunday which continues to be so till this day, why? Because the most popular god of the Romans at that time was Apollo, who was the Sun-god who would ride his chariot across the sky carrying the Sun behind Him. Furthermore, he was also the son of Zeus, the “main god”. So he was both the “son of god” and the “sun-god”. And that’s why the day of his worship was called “Sunday”!
In this context, when so many new ideas were being formed, the 25th of December was also put along with. Why? Why not some other day? If one goes back into the history of Christianity in regard to Christmas, then you’d find another word associated to it, the “Saturnalia”. The Saturnalia was the day of worship dedicated to the planet Saturn, named after the Roman god of harvest, Saturn. So when fields were harvested, rites of worship were dedicated to Saturn – the god of harvest. The series of rites was called the Saturnalia. It involved giving of gifts, carrying reefs, and the holly (small red berries with green leaves, commonly associated with Christmas now).
As Christianity spread further in Europe, it adopted different customs. In Scandinavia, the Scandinavians believed in tree-gods, that the gods inhabited the trees. So if one wanted to talk to the god, he would go and knock on the tree and then talk. This is where the phrase “knock on wood” comes from! The Scandinavians noticed that all the trees shed their leaves during fall except for one tree, the tree that we now called the Christmas tree. It is an evergreen tree. They believed that it symbolizes eternal life, because God is supposed to be everlasting so they “chose” this tree. They brought small versions of it into their homes to worship, and this is where the Christmas tree originated.
Need I say more?
As a Muslim, knowing from where the rites of Christmas originated it is not permissible for us to participate in this celebration in anyway, or associate ourselves with any of its symbols. It’s not acceptable.
Furthermore, from a religious perspective, the fundamental principle in Islam is that of pure monotheism (tawheed), in that God (subhanahu wa ta’alaa) is One and Unique. One of His Attributes is that He has no beginning and no end. “Lam yalid wa lam yulad”, neither does He give birth nor is He Himself born.
“He begets not, nor was He begotten”
(The Qur’an, Surah al-Ikhlas, 112:3)
He can’t have a son. Usually when one is talking of a son, then it’s obvious that he’s referring to a son who’s distinct from his father; the father and the son are not the same. And if the father was a god then logically speaking, the son would be a god too, but then you’d have two gods! So the only valid argument is that God is not born, because for one to be born one has to first not exist, so if god didn’t exist at a point in time, then how did he come into existence?! It leads to a lot of confusion! So one of the most essential characteristics of God (subhanahu wa ta’laa) is that He doesn’t have a beginning nor does He have an end. He was neither born nor does He give birth. If someone asks you, can God do everything and anything? No doubt, you’d answer, yes God is able to do everything. But again, does “everything” include just about anything? The answer to this is that God is able to do everything befitting with Him being God. Meaning, it doesn’t include absurd things; things which go against His characteristics. Couldn’t God make Himself bored? No! We don’t go into things which are absurd. So the idea of God being born on the 25th of December (because the Christians believe Jesus (peace be upon him) to be the son of God and also God himself) is blasphemy! God bore a son and that god was born is blasphemy. When Christians celebrate Christmas they celebrate the birth of Jesus (peace be upon him) who they consider to be god, so can we Muslims join them in this celebration where they celebrate god’s birthday?! Absolutely not! It is absolutely forbidden.
However, as Muslims it is our duty to understand what Christmas is and why we, as Muslims, don’t celebrate it. And convey this information to our colleagues, our neighbors, our friends who are unaware, in the best way we can. After that it is up to them if they want to accept it or not.
Wishing “Merry Christmas”
And, part of the celebration of Christmas is to say “Merry Christmas”, that is part of the rituals, customs of Christmas. So one shouldn’t think that participating in Christmas means buying a tree or believing in Santa Claus (The concept of Santa Claus is a national lie, parents lie to their children that this big fat guy with a white beard is gonna come to their homes down the chimney and put gifts in their socks…they have a nation of liars!), but also saying Marry Christmas in itself is a part of the rituals of Christmas. One might find it difficult to cope up with in the work environment when their colleagues wish them. But, one can even reply in a pleasant manner like saying, “Have a happy holiday” or some other way but avoid saying merry Christmas. Some might argue, but they wish us Eid Mubarak, so why can’t we wish them merry Christmas? There is a huge difference! Eid al Adha is celebrating something that the Christians believe in too, that Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him) was commanded to sacrifice his son and he obeyed but just as he was about to do it, God (subhanahu wa ta’ala) replaced his son with a ram. So their saying Eid ul Adha doesn’t affect their beliefs in any way. Whereas our saying merry Christmas strikes at the very core of our belief system!
The Muslim counterpart of Christmas: Miald un-Nabi
Seeing this fervor with which the Christians celebrate Christmas, certain Muslims felt that since Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was a greater Prophet than Jesus (peace be upon him), then shouldn’t they celebrate his birth? So four hundred years after the death of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), Muslims began to celebrate his birthday. It began in Egypt, under the Fatimid rule, the Shiite rulers of Egypt started it. The day they chose, historically was the day the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) passed away. The day on which he was born is actually not known. Historians are not agreed on that day, we have no concrete evidence for the date of his birth. The only concrete evidence we have in this regard is the practice of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) to fast on Mondays, and one of the reason when he was asked why he does so, he said that it was the day he was born. So the only thing regarding his birth date that we can say is that he was born on a Monday. Which Monday? God alone Knows. As Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) hid the day on which Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him) was born, he hid the day on which Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was born. The celebration of Prophet Muhammad’s (peace be upon him) birthday has no basis for it at all. It started from the Fatimid rulers and increased over the years. Now you have hundreds of thousands of people lavishly celebrating the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) birthday, going down streets, singing songs, the Qasidatul Burdah, qawalli, music etc. All the forbidden things have now been lumped together in the Mawlid (birthday celebrations). All innovation is misguidance. Regardless of people’s intention, they give an excuse saying that they’re just remembering the Prophet (peace be upon him), is it a bad thing? No, it is not bad to remember the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), but the way they do it is wrong. God commands us to send blessings on the Prophet (peace be upon him). But, it was never to be done in this way, the Sahabah (companions), the salaf (pious predecessors) never celebrated the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) birthday. It is an innovation, and hence definitely a deviation. As a result, we notice that certain lines of the “qasidatul burdah” which is sung in Prophet Muhammad’s (peace be upon him) praise constitutes Shirk (association), it attributes to him the knowledge of Allah (subhanahu wa ta’alaa), God forbid. Many people recite these lines of poetry repeatedly and religiously while celebrating the Mawlid and even at other occasions. As a result of which people have started supplicating to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Often time we find decoration etc hung on people’s walls reading “Ya Muhammad” along with “Ya Allah”, what does that mean? While praying to God (subhanahu wa ta’alaa) to answer our prayers we say, “Ya Allah (subhanahu wa ta’alaa) answer my prayers”, but what does one mean by “Ya Muhammad” (peace be upon him)? Do they ask something from him? Yes, some people do this. This is plain Shirk.
We can call upon only God. He says,
“Call upon Me; I will respond.” (The Qur’an, Surah Ghafir, 60:40)
Only God (subhanahu wa ta’alaa) can answer our prayers. We need to renew our relationship with Him. We need to worship Him, the way He should be worshiped. This is true Islam.
[Adopted from Dr.Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips’ lecture, Innovations in Religion – Bid’ah]