Do Muslims Celebrate Christmas?

It’s the most wonderful time of the year – allegedly. In western countries, Christmas is more than just a passing holiday; it’s an entire season and a lifestyle within itself. For some Muslims living in the west, this time of year can often feel like a drag, almost as if you’re third-wheeling on some weird date, but for others, it’s become just as joyous as it is for those who actively celebrate it.

They’ve made it difficult for people not to be attracted to Christmas. By “they,” I mean the capitalist regime that profit off of the masses being so utterly consumed by this holiday. With all of the pretty lights, stories, and overall coziness attributed to Christmas, in this day and age, if you deny liking it even a little bit, you’re kind of deemed a weirdo, or a “Grinch.” While there are still a fair amount of people who preach, “Keep the Christ in Christmas!” many stand by the modern notion that Christmas is no longer truly a religious holiday, but more cultural, if anything. This is a very slippery slope, especially for Muslims living in the west. Christmas, even today, can easily be seen and linked back to pagan beliefs and practices. The very essence of Christmas directly conflicts with the truth of Islam. Even if you find yourself having the intentions to solely celebrate it in the most “non-religious” way possible, we cannot sit here and pretend that there is no reason why we don’t celebrate this holiday in Islam. We cannot sit here and senselessly “celebrate” a holiday built around not only a highly capitalist agenda, but also idolization of entities other than Allah (SWT). Spoiler alert, but just because a majority of people are enjoining in a certain practice, doesn’t mean it’s right or that you should mindlessly participate and embrace it with them.

I truly am sympathetic to the Muslim diaspora and how painfully difficult it is to balance two worlds that always seem to be in conflict with one another, but it is not impossible. I feel that every year I witness more Muslims falling into the “Christmas trap.” Excuses such as, “But I’m not partaking in anything religious, it’s just for fun!” and “But Isa is a prophet that we recognize too, so technically…” and “It’s more cultural than anything else,” run rampant and cause much divide within our community. Every year, I am saddened by the fact that my Muslim brothers and sisters are sinking so deeply into a celebration of something that, at its core, is completely un-Islamic.

I get it, I really do. I was born and raised in America, and I have witnessed how “special” this time of year is made out to be. With all of the jolly Christmas music blaring in every single store, glistening décor, and the overall cheerful mood everyone seems to be in, one could easily ask, “How could anyone hate Christmas?” I’ve also seen many Muslims pull out the excuse that “It’s all about giving” during the Christmas season, so it’s okay to participate. In my humble opinion, I don’t think we should reserve being charitable and kind to just a few weeks at the end of the year. We should be carrying these actions and habits constantly throughout the year and all throughout our lives. I feel that many people fail to delve into deeper thought about the subject. I’m talking way passed the surface level of candy canes and reindeer. It has to do more with the fact that regardless of what angle you look at it from, it still is a holiday based on shirk, one that attacks the most important and fundamental aspect of Islam. It’s the first thing we are taught as Muslims, our existence revolves around this very truth: “La illaha illallah.” There is no God, but Allah. He is the One and only. When you’re actively choosing to participate in Christmas, whether your intention is to just, “have fun” and “be in the spirit” and doesn’t have to directly do with the “religious aspect,” it still is a pagan holiday nonetheless that derives from celebrating Jesus’ “birthday.” I understand that it is seen and celebrated in a more cultural way now, but if it’s so cultural now, why is it even called, “Christmas?” If it’s so cultural now, why are all these statues of Santa Claus and Maryam (RA), so heavily prominent across all decorations and stories about Christmas? Why is a tree involved? Why do people even exchange gifts with one another? If it’s so cultural now, why do most people still go to Church during this time? What is the significance behind it all? I’ve seen Muslims display all types of Christmas themed décor around their house, including a tree. Where is the limit? We may recognize prophet Isa for all of his miraculous characteristics and noble attributes, he is a beloved prophet to us and a very important figure in Islam, but we can never agree that he is “the son of God” nor is he God in any way. This is directly contradicting not only to the aforementioned first pillar of Islam, but it also counters what the Qur’an teaches us. One of the first surah’s we learn is Surah Al-Ikhlas (Sincerity), which reads:

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Qul huwal laahu ahad / Say: He is Allah [who is the One]

Allah hus-samad / Allah the Eternal Refuge

Lam yalid wa lam yoolad / He neither begets nor is born.

Wa lam yakul-lahu kufuwan ahad / Nor is there to Him any equivalent.

These are the basics of Islam, and to celebrate anything that even comes remotely close to disputing this is a disgrace and disrespect to Allah (SWT), even if it is masked underneath pretty colorful lights and music.

We cannot sit here and senselessly “celebrate” a holiday built around not only a highly capitalist agenda, but also idolization of entities other than Allah (SWT).

The prophet Muhammad (SAW) is the perfect example for us to follow in terms of lifestyle and character. He did not engage in any frivolous holidays and taught us not do so especially because they cause us to become distracted from worshipping Allah (SWT) and derive from a place and time of true ignorance. I think the thing is that as Muslims, we kind of fail to truly educate each other and ourselves in a proper way about Christmas and holidays in general, especially living in the west. We end up portraying ourselves to be a part of this strict, extreme religion that doesn’t allow any fun or enjoyment whatsoever. I’m no scholar, but I feel like that type of atmosphere and mentality almost pushes some (especially the youth) away from the true Islam. Who would want to learn more about a religion when all they’ve been told about it are the restrictions and “punishments?” Additionally, I have come across many people who claim that we need to “innovate” Islam to “progress” and be more assimilated with modern society. This is yet another ridiculous excuse to partake in irrelevant practices and beliefs such as Christmas. Why would Islam need any innovation at all when the All-Knowing, the Most Wise, created it in all of its perfection? Islam and the Qur’an have proven to remain relevant and timeless throughout history – it does not need to be molded or influenced by the creation to fit society’s weak standards or trends. We need to understand that humans literally cannot know and understand everything; we have not been created with that type of mental capacity, we are not the wisest beings to exist. Only Allah (SWT) withholds the reasoning behind every single thing. Understanding that truly puts everything into perspective.

We should be putting more of an emphasis on the blessed Islamic holidays that we have been given. We should engage our families and friends in celebrating Ramadan and Eid (both of them!) in a way that is even more beautiful than Christmas. We have Ramadan, such a blessed time that is quite honestly a month-long holiday in itself, and we also have not one, but two Eid’s in one year! Beautify these holidays and decorate your homes when Ramadan and Eid come around. Make special foods, wear your best clothes, visit your family, friends, neighbors, and of course, your masjid. When we begin to practice and understand the beauty that is in what Allah (SWT) has ordained for us, then we truly will not feel the need to want to participate in other holidays such as Christmas. Sure, maybe the whole entire world won’t be celebrating along with us with decorations and exclusive blowout sales, but that makes it even more special. It’s something just for us and it’s not completely stripped of its significance because it’s not being as commoditized as Christmas is. Just because our blessed holidays have not been integrated with the capitalist agenda, does not make them any less special, in fact it actually makes them that much more great.

Christmas is aesthetically pleasing, I won’t deny that, but it’s not worth celebrating if it means I’m defying Allah (SWT) in any way, intentional or unintentional. We can live without Christmas. It all really leads back to proper education on a variety of subjects, but most importantly the fundamentals of our faith. My intentions are not to sound like a grumpy, salty, extremist, but to underline the reality of what we are choosing to celebrate. It all just comesback to our devotion to Allah (SWT).

The Reality of Idolizing Islamic Speakers

In light of recent events, I’ve realized that people, no matter who they are, will disappoint you. We won’t name names, but the news that recently broke has disappointed the American Muslim community greatly. In the West, it’s hard being Muslim to begin with and then something like this happens and the whole community is affected significantly. In the current political climate this is the last thing that we needed. We have been making active strives in the right direction and this kind of “publicity” disrupts the entire Ummah.

As a teacher, a preacher, and someone who posts about Islam on social media constantly; you have some level of responsibility to do it justice. You cannot be a hypocrite who does not practice what he preaches. If you claim to represent Islam and the Ummah, then you need to with sincerity. You don’t get to profit off of Islam while also abusing your power to manipulate multiple women. I can’t even fathom how people continue to defend him. The proof is there, and he ADMITS to many of the allegations made against him, but there is still a large amount of people who are defending him. He has blackmailed, paid off, and emotionally abused these women, but yet, he is still given the benefit of the doubt. As this news unfolds, it reveals a deeper issue in our community – misogyny. Men can make horrendous “mistakes” and get away with it, but if a woman steps out of line, she will be scrutinized until the end of time. It’s interesting because about the same time as this scandal surfaced, a picture of Mahira Khan leaked where she was wearing revealing clothing and smoking a cigarette with a male co-star. The comments that came afterwards were disgusting to say the least. Mahira Khan, an actress, who never claimed to represent Islam, was scrutinized for this picture with no mercy whatsoever. On the other hand, we have people making excuses for an abuser – people are out here posting verses from the Qur’an about how we shouldn’t judge others and instead we should make 70 excuses for them. Correct me if I’m wrong, but there seems to be a highly noticeable difference here. Actively raising and treating women unjustly compared to men, is not of Islam. So, the next time you think you’re being “just,” look at the situation and reflect on if you would run to the defense of a woman in the same way.

For the people who keep saying that we shouldn’t talk about this issue because it’s backbiting, well technically it is, but simultaneously, it’s important to talk about it so others do not get hurt. We need to address these discrepancies and realities within our community, rather than pretending they don’t exist. When we remain silent in the face of injustice, we are only helping the situation to occur again. This situation has divided the Ummah even more, when in reality we need to be coming together now more than ever. How are we supposed to grow and learn as an Ummah if we refuse to own up to the truths that exist within our community and within our own selves? There’s a major difference between veiling someone’s mishaps, sins, or bad deeds, and actually confronting pressing issues that put others in danger. The Dallas community tried to keep this under wraps in the best way possible, but since the person involved was not willing to cooperate, it was important for the community to be aware of this hypocrite that they believe so strongly in to prevent others from getting hurt. No one, and trust me NO ONE, wanted to know this much about this scandal. Keeping it hidden would have been beneficial for everyone, but since it has escalated so much, it was important to talk about it publicly.

I worry for our Ummah. I worry for the youth living in this era of media that’s so saturated it dictates the way one should think and feel, and even stray’s people away from the true message of Islam. I worry for my dear sisters in Islam. We are so strong, although everyone is always trying to tear us down and keep us silent. My sisters, who get the blame for everything, even a man’s shortcomings. My sisters, who are taught that our “sins” weigh more heavily than a man’s. My sisters, who are afraid to speak up in their own community, a community that ideally should be a safe haven from the rest of this dunya, in fear of being so viciously judged and humiliated. Although this is the unfortunate and despicable reality of our society, my sisters, we must never lose our ultimate trust in Allah (SWT). Run to Allah (SWT) and understand that He is the All-Knowing and that He is your Protector. Find comfort in Him, even if this entire world seems to be against you.

The take home message from this entire situation is: do not attach your Islam with people. People are people and are not immune to the fitnah of this world. Nothing in this world is stable or consistent. Islam is perfect, however Muslims are not. If you want an example to follow, then look to those who have come before us and left a legacy worth following. We have endless examples of people who are worth learning from, so don’t attach your Islam and faith to someone in this dunya. If you attach your Islam to the people around you or lecturers in this dunya, then if they stumble, you stumble. If you want to have a strong and unbreakable bond with Islam, protect your imaan (faith) by attaching yourself to Allah (SWT), His text, and His prophet’s Sunnah.

 

Gaza Stories of Resilience Project

For well over a decade, Palestinians have been fighting, resisting, and struggling to maintain their right to exist. About 2 million Palestinians living in Gaza have been enormously oppressed by various world “super power” governments. The situation that has been occurring in Palestine has only increasingly gotten worse and is one of the most severe humanitarian crises of our time. The occupation and destruction that millions of children, women, and families, have gone through and are still currently going through, is something almost incomprehensible when you think about it. Yet, the Palestinian people have such a beautiful strength and an undeniable resilience to them. 

Mainstream media has a specific way of categorizing what we should deem as important enough to lend our human sympathy to. They have been able to manipulate our human emotion and psyche into caring about certain situations and being completely and utterly ignorant to others. We consume forms of media with a selective sense of humanity. With situations such as the one going on in Palestine, the media fails to rightly humanize these innocent civilians. They have no problem, however, exposing corpses or severely malnourished, dying children of color from around the globe, at any chance they get. By constantly seeing certain groups of people portrayed in a negative light, our sense of compassion depletes. I personally believe that this lack of human compassion is a global epidemic and it plays a significant role in these humanitarian crises continuing on. We have very scarce resources that show marginalized, oppressed groups as actual people.

Yet, the Palestinian people have such a beautiful strength and an undeniable resilience to them. 

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That’s why I find the work of The Khaldi twins so important. Two sisters, Asmaa and Saja, who live in Gaza have started a much needed journey of documenting the lives of Palestinians. They are reclaiming their voice as Palestinians and showing us the real people of Gaza. They’ve created their YouTube channel to inspire and educate others about the reality of the place that they call home. They are answering the question that many of us have asked internally: “What are the people of Gaza doing in the meantime?” Believe it or not, we all have much more in common that we are taught to believe. From beautifully edited videos titled, “A Walk in Old Gaza,” and “Ramadan in Gaza,” these sisters truly allow us to get a glimpse into daily life of Palestinians. Through their YouTube channel, they are creating quality content that vividly shows life in Gaza. 

“What are the people of Gaza doing in the meantime?”

Recently the Khaldi twins created a LaunchGood fundraiser project in order to gain support for their necessary endeavors of being a prominent voice for Gaza. Unfortunately, with the high taxes that Israel imposes on traders, as well as the fact that they have banned the import of electronics ordered online to Gaza, it has become more difficult for the Khaldi twins to create the content they are passionate about, and that we desperately need in this world. We need to encourage media such as theirs to be more prominent in order to change the world. As their project states, they are taking up the responsibility to shed light on and tell the full, real stories of people; to empower these characters; to give hope to those living within the same circumstances; and to inspire those watching from around the world.

Now  it’s our time to be a part of the story by helping to tell it. If you’d like to help out and learn more about their amazing initiative and work, click here!

*all photographs above are copy-righted to Asmaa Elkhaldi©.

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