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January 6, 2003 No.
456

Saudi Daily: 'Islamic View on Celebrating Christmas, New Year'

In the "Focus on Islam" section of the Saudi English-language newspaper Riyadh Daily, an article titled "Islamic View on Celebrating Christmas, New Year"[1] discussed how Muslims should perceive Christian holidays, specifically Christmas and the New Year. The following are excerpts from the article as it originally appeared in English:

"Many Christians Do Not Realize That Much of the Celebration of Christmas is Actually of Pagan Origin"

"Cristes maesse, meaning 'Christ's mass' was the name for the festival service of worship held on December 25 to commemorate the birth of Jesus (PBUH), although there is no exact date of his birth, not even... the year is known. The stories of his birth in the New Testament books of Matthew and Luke, were written several decades after the event, because there was no knowledge about the date of his birth, a day had to be selected. The Eastern Orthodox and the Eastern Rite Churches within the Roman Catholic Church chose January 6. The Western Church based in Rome chose December 25, as early as AD 336. Thus, many Christians do not realize that much of the celebration of Christmas is actually of pagan origin. The Romans celebrated the Feast of the Invincible Sun on December 25. The early church fathers elected to celebrate the birth of Jesus (PBUH) on this date, although there was no particular reason to choose this one. In fact, many Christian scholars contend that Jesus (PBUH) was actually born [in the] summer. This is consistent with the Koranic account that follows because there is a specific mention of ripe dates falling to Mary (may Allah be pleased with Her)... Chapter 19: Verse 25 as we quote:'And shake the trunk of date-palm towards you, it will let fall fresh ripe-dates upon you.'"

Christmas: "Has Nothing to do With the Birth or Teachings of Jesus Christ"

"Both Muslims and serious Christians can learn a lot from Christmas, the annual celebration of the victory of paganism over the religion of Prophet Jesus Christ (PBUH). No one disputes that the event and all its symbols came from pagan religions; it has nothing to do with the birth or teachings of Jesus Christ. For one thing, no one knows with certainty the date of birth of Jesus Christ. 'In fact, dates in almost every month in the year were suggested by reputable scholars at one time or another,' notes The American Book of Days. For another, the celebration of birthdays is itself a pagan idea, never promoted by any Prophet or Book of God, including the Bible. Early Church leaders opposed it strongly. As late as 245 CE African Church father and philosopher Origen wrote that it was sinful even to contemplate observing Jesus's birthday 'as though he were a King Pharaoh.' (The American Book of Days)"

"The basic issue for Muslims everywhere is whether or not to celebrate Christmas. Unfortunately, many Westerners feel that we Muslims should celebrate Christmas. Did Jesus (PBUH) or any of the other prophets celebrate their birthdays? On what authority do they do it now? To Muslims, each and every thing we do is a part of our worship of the One, Supreme God (Allah) - nothing is excluded. The basis of our moral code is the Koran, the only intact Revelation and the strict authenticated observation of those who observed the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), known as the Sunnah. We follow the example of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) upon which we base our daily life practices."

"We Cannot Condone Practices That in Our View Misrepresent Jesus (PBUH) and Help Make Him the Focus of Worship as a God Figure"

"For Muslims there are two holidays, the two Eids. Namely Eid ul Fitr - the festival of fast-breaking immediately after the end of Ramadan – and Eid ul Adha – the festival of sacrifice during the major pilgrimage time. We do not celebrate birthdays even the birth of any of the prophets, including Muhammad (PBUH). Muslims hold Jesus (PBUH) in great respect as one of the mightiest prophets. However, they do not celebrate his birth or the birth of any other of the prophets. Although it may seem intolerant to Christians that Muslims do not celebrate or wish them well on their Christmas holiday, it is out of respect to Jesus (PBUH) that we refuse to participate in its practices. We cannot condone practices that in our view misrepresent Jesus (PBUH) and help make him the focus of worship as a god figure. In addition, the above evidence has shown that many of these practices have no relationship whatsoever to Jesus (PBUH) and instead have pagan origins."

"This Defeat of Christianity at the Hands of Paganism Must Be Contrasted with Islam's Resounding Victory Over It"

"This defeat of Christianity at the hands of paganism must be contrasted with Islam's resounding victory over it. Before Islam, Arabia was a pagan country – big time. But none of the pagan customs survived after Islam. None whatsoever. There was no such thing as 'the people wanted it very much so the church allowed it.' Islam completely eradicated not only the beliefs but also the practices and the symbols of paganism. This in itself is a miracle that serious students of comparative religions must reflect upon. Here is a living proof of the authenticity of the last Messenger (PBUH). Jesus (PBUH) is one of a series of prophets. These prophets or messengers were sent to specific nations with the exemption of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) whose divine message was the final one to all humankind comprising moral guidance or revelation. Jesus (PBUH) was one such messenger sent down to a particular people, the Jews."

"The Christian Beliefs Have Distorted [Jesus and Mary's] Role and Persons"

"Muslims deeply respect Jesus (PBUH) and hold him in high esteem as well as his mother Maryam (Mary) in highest regard. There is nothing disparaging in the Koran about them. It is indeed unfortunate that a similar degree of respect is often not shown towards Muslims and the final Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Since Muslims respect them so highly, they naturally do not want to perform any acts, which misrepresent them or their purpose or past life. The Christian beliefs have distorted their role and persons. The rejecters of faith and infidels spare no efforts to draw the Muslims away from the straight path and to cut their relation with their true religion. Allah says: 'Many of the people of the Scripture (Jews and Christians) wish that if they could turn you away as disbelievers after you have believed, out of envy from their own selves, even, after the truth (that Muhammad peace be upon him is Allah's messenger) has become manifest unto them. But forgive and overlook, till Allah brings His Command. Verily, Allah is Able to do all things.'[2:109]."

"The Celebrations of Unbelievers Such As the Second Millennium, Christmas Day, Etc. are Among the Falsehoods That a Muslim Should Avoid"

"We the Muslims are proud of our religion that was revealed to us by Allah and are thankful that Allah has chosen us for his religion. Allah says: 'This day, I have perfected your religion for you, completed My favor upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion'[5:3]. The celebrations of unbelievers such as the second millennium, Christmas Day, etc. are among the falsehoods that a Muslim should avoid. Allah says: 'And those who do not witness falsehood, and if they pass by some evil play or evil talk, they pass by it with dignity' [25:72]."

"Many known ancestors made clear that the 'falsehood' in the above verse means feasts of unbelievers. Imam Ahmad in his book of Hadith al-Musnad and Imam At-Tirmidhi in his book of Sunan reported on the authority of Anas who said that the Prophet (PBUH) came to Madinah while people there had two days in which they played. The Prophet asked, 'What are these two days?' They said, 'These are two days we used to play in, in our pre-Islamic Ignorance era (Jahiliyyah)!' The Prophet (PBUH) said, 'Allah has replaced them with two better days. Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitr.' A person came to the Prophet (PBUH) and said: 'I have taken a vow to sacrifice a camel at Buwanah.' The Prophet (PBUH) asked: 'Did the place contain any idol worshipped in pre-Islamic times?' They (the people) said: 'No.' He (PBUH) asked: 'Was any pre-Islamic festival observed there?'They replied, 'No.' The Prophet (PBUH) said:'Fulfill your vow, for a vow to do an act of disobedience to Allah must not be fulfilled, neither must one do something over which a human being has no control.'"

"The Prophet (PBUH) Said as Reported in a Sound Hadith: '[He] Who Imitates Non-Muslims Is One of Them.' Therefore, a Muslim is Neither Allowed to Celebrate the Christmas Day nor… the New Year"

"No doubt celebrating such feasts is actually imitating unbelievers. The companion of the Prophet Abdullah bin 'Amr bin al-'Aas said: 'Whoever celebrates the Persian New Year's Day or their carnival and imitates them till his death he will be resurrected with them on the Day of Judgment.' The Prophet (PBUH) said as reported in a sound Hadith: 'Who imitates non-Muslims he is one of them' [Imams Ahmad and Abu Dawud]. Therefore, a Muslim is neither allowed to celebrate the Christmas Day nor is he allowed to celebrate the New Year. Nor, does a Muslim celebrate any of their other feast days. A Muslim celebrates only the Islamic Eid days. Many times Allah has mentioned the details of the birth of Jesus in the Koran but He did not mention any celebration to be done on this occasion. Throughout Islamic history there have been attempts to introduce bid'ah (innovation in religion) as innocent good practices, but unlike Christianity, there have always been rightly guided Islamic scholars who fought them strongly. Muslims can learn from Christmas. Those of us who may be wondering what is wrong with Milad Nabi or Prophet Muhammad's (PBUH) birthday celebrations may do well to realize that Christmas also started as Milad for Jesus Christ."