Last updated on December 20th, 2023 at 07:37 am
Christmas, a religious and cultural celebration held on the 25th of December each year, is an annual festival that marks the birth of Jesus Christ or Hazrat Isa (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ). As Muslims, we believe in every Prophet before the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ), so why don’t Muslims Celebrate Christmas?
To understand the answer, let’s first look at what Christmas is. But remember, Christmas is a religious event in Christianity, so before understanding what Christmas is, we need to explore the similarities and differences between Christianity and Islam.
Christianity and Islam – Differences and Similarities
Islam has, at the moment, the second largest following in the world, after Christianity. The latest census reveals that around 2.8 billion people follow Christianity, whereas some 1.9 billion believe in Islam. Both religions have been originated in the Middle East region of the world, and in fact, both are based on the Religion of the Prophet Ibrahim عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ. And more importantly, both Christianity and Islam are monotheistic religions.
Here are some important facts about these two most-followed religions.
- Both Islam and Christianity and even Jews believe in the concept of monotheism.
- Christianity originated from Judaism, with the basic concepts of birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus (known as Prophet Isa عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ in Islam)
- Islam also has a firm belief and faith in all the Prophets, including Prophet Isa عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ, but with a difference in his death. The Muslims believe that he was not crucified and ascended alive to the heavens with the command of Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى. He said he would be sent to this world before the Day of Judgment.
- Prophet Isa عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ gave the good news of a last Prophet, who will be sent after him, as narrated in the 6th verse of Surah Al-Saf. Translation – And ˹remember˺ when Jesus, son of Mary, said, “O children of Israel! I am truly Allah’s messenger to you, confirming the Torah which came before me, and giving good news of a messenger after me whose name will be Aḥmad.” Yet when the Prophet came to them with clear proofs, they said, “This is pure magic. The Christian scholars of the old days also believed in this fact and were waiting for this to happen. But when it happened, they did not accept the Prophet Hood of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ.
- The major difference, or in other words, point of contention between Christianity and Islam, is the status of Prophet Isa عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ. The Christian’s belief about Prophet Isa عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ, being the Son of God, does not have any base in Islam, as the Muslims don’t believe in this concept, as narrated in the 3rd verse of surah Al-Ikhlas of Quran – Translation – He has never had offspring, nor was He born. So, this is one of the major conflicts between Christians and Muslims.
- Christians believe and follow the Bible, whereas Muslims follow the divine Book, the Quran.
- The authenticity and originality of the Bible are widely questioned. In contrast, the Quran is still and will remain in its original form, forever, as narrated in the – Translation – It is certainly We Who have revealed the Reminder, and it is certainly We Who will preserve it. Quran is a divine Book, and Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى has taken the responsibility to preserve it.
So, despite being very close to each other, there are some glaring conflicts and differences between Islam and Christianity. These conflicts greatly impact the way of life, religious activities, and religious and cultural festivals in both religions. Christmas is one glaring example of it.
What is Christmas?
Christmas is perhaps the biggest celebration of the year not only in Christian majority countries but worldwide. Around 2 billion people in more than 160 countries celebrate Christmas, and the number grows each year!
While most Christians view it as a religious holiday, non-Christians celebrate Christmas as a cultural festival. Whatever the reason for celebration, Christmas is indeed a spectacular holiday marked with festive Christmas trees, bright lights, mistletoe, good food, gifts, family gatherings, and more.
So, if Christmas is being celebrated by people worldwide, then why do not Muslims celebrate Christmas?
It’s a question that both Muslims and Christians have. Most people wonder why Muslims do not soak up all the holiday joy and decorate their homes with lights and a tree.
Before you label your Muslim neighbor as the Grinch, know that there is a good reason why Muslims don’t celebrate Christmas.
Let’s see why:
1. Christmas is a Religious Festival of Christianity
Christmas is, without a doubt, a religious affair. It involves celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, whom Christians consider the son of God and the essence of God Himself. But neither do Muslims nor do Jews ascribe to such a belief.
The cornerstone of the Islamic faith is the oneness of Allah. The Quran says,
قُلْ هُوَ ٱللَّهُ أَحَدٌ
لَمْ يَلِدْ وَلَمْ يُولَدْ
وَلَمْ يَكُن لَّهُۥ كُفُوًا أَحَدٌۢ
Say, “He is Allah, [who is] One, Allah, the Eternal Refuge.
He neither begets nor is born, nor is there to Him any equivalent.”
Moreover, each religion has its own religious celebrations; Jews celebrate Hanukkah while the Muslims celebrate the Eids. Similarly, Hindus have their Diwali and Holi festivals, whereas Buddhists celebrate the Wesak and Parinirvana.
Do Christians or Jews celebrate Eid? Probably not. Similarly, Muslims also don’t celebrate Christmas simply because it is not a part of their religion.
2. Christmas is a Cultural Festival
Hollywood and consumerism have played a great role in making Christmas mainstream. As brands have gone global, they have spread the Christmas spirit through Christmas merchandise, traditions, and sales.
This may make it seem like Christmas is a universal festival, but it’s not. There are still countries where Christmas is not a cultural event. Countries like China, North Korea, Bhutan, Maldives, Morocco, Pakistan, and many others don’t celebrate Christmas simply because it is not a part of their culture.
Just like Americans don’t celebrate the Tomatina festival of Spain or the Qingming Festival of China, Muslims don’t celebrate Christmas simply because it is not a part of their culture.
3. Christmas and Its Roots in Paganism
Another reason Muslims don’t celebrate Christmas is because they believe that the festival is rooted in Paganism.
Religious historians make this claim for several reasons; firstly, there are no mentions of Jesus being born on the 25th of December in the Bible. In fact, early Christians were not too concerned with celebrating the birth of Jesus at all.
According to religious archaeologists, the first records of Christmas being celebrated on December 25th were found almost 300 years after the birth of Christ.
The records coincidentally are found in the Roman almanac, and anthropologists such as Sir James George Frazer believe that the Roman Church made compromises to aid the spread of Christianity by allowing pagan festival dates to become the date on which Jesus’ birth would be celebrated.
The coincidences of the Christian faith with the heathen festivals are too numerous and too close to be accidental. For example, the Sol Invictus festival was held on December 25 by Roman emperor Aurelian to celebrate the unconquered sun, the winter solstice was celebrated on December 25, and the Romans had their mid-winter Saturnalia festival in late December, etc.
Therefore, Muslims and even some sects of Christians are reluctant to celebrate Christmas because of its pagan origins.
So, what does this mean? Does your Muslim neighbor down the road hate Jesus?
Quite the opposite!
As mentioned in the beginning, Muslims believe in all Prophets that came before the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ), including and especially Hazrat Isa. Muslims believe that Hazrat Isa is not dead but is living in the heavens and will be resurrected near the day of judgment to lead the pious and true against the evils of that time.
Muslims also revere Hazrat Isa (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) as the pure and noble soul who was born to the Virgin Mary or Maryam (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ). Therefore, Muslims not only revere Jesus but believing in him is a part of their faith or Iman.
In fact, the Holy Prophet (ﷺ) said:
“Both in this world and in the Hereafter, I am the nearest of all the people to Jesus, the son of Mary. The prophets are paternal brothers; their mothers are different, but their religion is one.” Sahih al-Bukhari 60:113
Here is your answer to Can Muslims Celebrate Christmas Day. And no, just because most Muslims don’t celebrate Christmas, it doesn’t mean they hate Christians or Jesus Christ.
An Interesting Survey – American Muslims & Christmas
A blogger based in the USA published a survey report last year. It reflects the behavior and response of the Muslims towards Christmas. This survey was conducted in a Muslim Community to explore what the American Muslims think about Christmas. The responses are quite amazing and reflect the reasons why Muslims, in general, do not want to be a part of this predominantly Christian religious event.
Let’s see the responses
Question – Do you decorate a Christmas tree?
Response – 71% of the target people responded – No, while 29% said Yes
Question – Do you like to exchange Christmas gifts?
Response – 56% replied – No, whereas 44% replied with Yes
Question – Do you listen to Christmas music?
Response – 63% said no, and 37% replied yes.
Question – Would you like to attend Christmas parties?
Response – 51% replied No, whereas 49% replied yes, we like to attend Christmas parties.
Question – Do you avail of the discount offers during Christmas Sales?
Response – Only 6% said No, whereas 94% would like to avail this opportunity.
The responses are quite clear; mostly, the Muslims of that particular community in the USA thought they would like to participate in the Christmas activities as a cultural and social event. But they would not participate in it regarding the religious side of this event, like decorating a Christmas tree.
Varying responses of Muslims towards Christmas
The survey referred to above reflects the behavior of a particular segment of an American town. It is the response of a community that has been a part of American society for quite some time. Hence, their interaction with the local Christian community considerably impacts their reaction toward the religious and social events of their fellow citizens and neighbors.
They live together like a community or family; hence, their inclination towards each other’s religious activities is logical. Even then, quite a considerable number of Muslims still don’t believe in celebrating Christmas as a religious event. On the other hand, a similar survey conducted in a predominantly Muslim society would reveal an entirely different story.
The reaction of Muslims of an Islamic Country will be even more loud and clear, in the sense that they would not like to participate in Christmas events, being purely a religious activity of their fellow Christians. The Muslims might be participating in some of the cultural or social events with their Christian friends and families, but celebrating Christmas as a religious activity is totally out of the question in these Countries.
For people living in Countries with mixed populations, like some Middle Eastern countries such as Lebanon, the religious festivals are often celebrated collectively, but without compromising on the basic principles of their respective religions. It is a gesture of inter-religious harmony, which these societies need.
Similarly, there are some non-Muslim countries, as well, where Christmas is not celebrated by the non-Christian segment of the society, such as China. Chinese celebrate Christmas purely as a cultural, social, and romantic event, not as a religious activity.
Is Celebrating Christmas Haram?
So, is celebrating Christmas haram?
There are contradictory opinions on it; while it has not been declared outright haram as alcohol or pig’s meat in Islam, some scholars believe that there is enough proof in the Quran and Hadith to suggest that celebrating festivals of another religion is haram.
Mufti Menk, an Islamic scholar of renown from Zimbabwe, says that celebrating Christmas is akin to endorsing the beliefs of Christians even though our faith is in direct conflict with it. As Christians are celebrating the birth of Jesus, whom they believe to be the son of God, it would be incorrect for Muslims to wish them Merry Christmas as the first and most important principle of Islam is Tawhid, the oneness of Allah.
On the other hand, some Muslims, especially those living in countries where Christmas is celebrated with great pomp, believe that traditions like the exchange of gifts, decorating the Christmas tree, and baking cookies are pretty harmless.
Some Muslims join in the Christmas festivities because they see it as a cultural event rather than a religious event. Others believe that celebrating Christmas with their Christian friends won’t affect their faith and is just their way of joining in the happiness of their friends.
It’s up to you to decide which route you want to take. We suggest you read on the matter, have a discourse with knowledgeable historians and theologists, and then make your mind. May Allah help us choose the right path.
What Quran Says About Christmas?
The Quran does not mention Christmas. In fact, the Gospels make no mention of the date Jesus was born. This is not surprising considering that religious books of the Abrahamic faith do not focus on calendrical events.
An interesting fact that most people do not know is that Jesus is mentioned more times in the Holy Quran than Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ). In fact, Prophet Isa even foretold the coming of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) as is mentioned in John, chapter 14 verse 26, “But the comforter, whom Father shall send in my name will teach you things and make you remember whatsoever I have already said to you.” The comforter refers to Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ), and the said verse foretells his coming.
Opportunity to Spread Love and Unite
وَأَمَّا بِنِعْمَةِ رَبِّكَ فَحَدِّثْ
And proclaim the blessings of your Lord – Al-Quran 93:11
In Surah Ad-Duhaa, Allah asks his followers to celebrate the blessings Allah has bestowed upon them, and aren’t Allah’s prophets the greatest blessing for mankind?
Muslims have a difference of opinion from Christians regarding the parentage of Jesus Christ. However, it does not mean that Muslims should not respect the right of Christians to celebrate their religious festival.
Moreover, if you are living in countries where Christmas is being celebrated, then take a leaf out of the Prophet’s book and celebrate the birth of Hazrat Isa in your own way.
When the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) migrated to Medina from Makkah, he saw that the Jews of Medina fasted on the 10th of Muharram. He asked the Jews the reason for their fast; they told him that they fast to show gratitude to Allah because on the 10th of Muharram, Allah delivered Hazrat Moosa and his followers from the Pharoah.
Upon hearing this, the Prophet Muhammad declared that he too shall fast on the 10th of Muharram as the deliverance of Moosa is a happy event for Muslims more so than Jews. However, he declared to fast on the 9th and 10th to differentiate himself and his followers from the Jews.
Therefore, you too can celebrate the birth of Hazrat Isa in ways that are different from mainstream activities. You can donate to charities, volunteer for a good cause, help the needy, feed the poor, and so forth.
You can also hold a Halaqah or a congregating in your home to talk about Jesus and his life; his message of kindness and love and highlight the need for tolerance and interfaith harmony in a mixed society.
Can Muslims Celebrate Christmas Day?
After you have finished reading the post, you will come to know that Muslims may celebrate Christmas as long as they engage in festivities that are aligned with the teachings of Islam. However, it is a personal choice; some may believe it contradicts their faith, while others may see it as an opportunity to grow interfaith harmony.
Whatever your decision, Muslims must respect the right of Christians to celebrate Christmas. However, if you like to be a part of their joy and happiness on the day of Christmas, make sure not to do so at the cost of your individuality and identity as a Muslim. Stick to your religious, traditional and cultural norms. Share the joy, if at all you want to, but not at the cost of your religious identity.