We are on the juncture of festivities of the People of the Book these days, i.e. Christmas and the New Year.
As far as Islamic Shari`ah is concerned, a Muslim is not allowed to participate in any religious aspect of a celebration that is related to non-Muslims. However, we should not forget our role in society. We should be good examples to others. Islam urges us to be kind to everyone without any kind of discrimination due to differences in faith or race. We have become used to those festivities being celebrated in companies, organizations, societies, etc. This is falsehood and for us, Muslims, it should be just another day with nothing special about it, as if they are not celebrating. In this way we make ourselves different.
Most jurists that are specialized in fiqh of Muslim minorities and are aware of the cultures of western societies agree that celebrating non-religious feasts, such as Independence Day and Labor Day, is not forbidden. However, most scholars forbid celebrating religious feasts, such as Christmas, while others, such as Sheikh Ahmad Kutty and Dr. Jamal Badawi, permit new converts to attend their family celebrations without participating in anything that is purely religious related to these celebrations.
Allah (sw) has indicated to us the hostility of the infidels in many verses, including: “Verily, the disbelievers are ever unto you open enemies” [4: 101]. Allah (s.w.t.) also called them the party of Satan and Satan’s allies, etc.
The Prophet (saw) said: ‘You will follow the ways of those nations who were before you, span by span and cubit by cubit (i.e., inch by inch) so much so that even if they entered a hole of a zab (a kind of lizard) you would follow them.’ We said, ‘O Allah’s Apostle! (Do you mean) the Jews and the Christians?’ He said, ‘Whom else?’
(Sahih Bukhari Kitaab-ul-ietisaam Part: 3 Page: 937)
Joining the People of the Book in their festivities is more, or at least as forbidden, as joining idolaters other than the People of the Book. No one should argue that it is only the idolaters who are meant and that the People of the Book have common grounds with Muslims that are not applicable to others.
Celebrating the Christmas and Jewish festivities and festivities of others as well, all come under the same ruling; Since we should not imitate them in festivities, the people who apparently are in this Ummah and who do this must be forbidden from doing so, let alone approve and support them. We should not answer invitations from them if they invite us specifically on such occasions. If someone holds an unusual celebration that coincides with one of the People of the Book’s festivities we do not have to answer the invitation although otherwise a Muslim should answer an invitation from a fellow Muslim as in the prophet’s tradition.
The detailed evidence from the Book of Allah includes Allah’s description of the believers, whom He calls “Worshippers of the Most Gracious”, saying: “And those who do not witness falsehood and if they pass by “Lag how” (evil play or evil talk) they pass by it with dignity”. [25: 72]. This ayat is very clear and explains the dislike of Allah as regards to such festivities.
The Tradition contains numerous Hadiths including; Anas (ra) said: Rasulullah (saw) arrived to Al-Madinah when its citizens had two days as festivities (The Arabs had two days of festivities in pre-Islamic time). The prophet (saw) said: “What are those two days?”! They said: “We used to celebrate them in pre-Islamic time.” He said: “Allah has offered you two better alternative days, Day of Al-Adha and Day of Fitr”.
[Abu Dawood, Ahmad, Nasai, Sanad: Sahih].
The implication of this hadith is that Rasulullah (saw) did not approve those two pre-Islamic festivities and did not allow them to celebrate them and insisted on alternative festivities.
The second hadith by Thabit Ibn Al-Dhahalah (ra) said: A man during the time of the Prophet (saw) made a vow to Allah to slaughter camels at “Bawatah”. The prophet asked: Was there an idol of the pre-Islamic idols? He said: No. The prophet said: Was there any of their festivities? He said: No. The Prophet said: Then carry out your vow (Baasa). There should be no vows implying disobedience to Allah nor in what one has no power to do it.”
[Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim].
“Thus it is clear that the implication in this hadith is that slaughtering in a place of their festivities or idols is an act of disobedience to Allah (s.w.t.)”.
Our beloved Prophet Muhammad (saw) issued a stern warning:
“Whoever imitates a nation is one of them!”
(Reported by Ahmed, Abu Dawood Kitaabul Libaas Part: 3 Page: 241, Mishkaat Part: 2 Page: 329, Sanad: Sahih, Buloogh ul Amaani Part: 6 Page: 121)
The Prophet Muhammad (saw) said:
The Final Hour will not come until my followers copy the deeds of the previous nations and follow them very closely, span by span, and cubit by cubit (inch by inch).
(SAHIH Bukhari Kitaab-ul-ietisaam Part: 3 Page: 937).
Generally speaking, I can say that it is forbidden for the Muslim to participate in any religious aspect of a celebration, except the Islamic celebrations of the two `Eids, and it is allowed to take part in the general, non-religious aspects of the celebrations of other feasts.
Celebrating the New Year: You find that this week is new Gregorian year, next week is new Hijri year; but a Muslim understands and recognizes the first one and makes a party and invites friends to enjoy thobwa at his house. When you ask them about Hijr new year,! As if you have mentioned something just that never was. What they know about Islamic calendar is that there is month of fasting and 10 days of Dhul Hijah that end with Eid festive, but how many months are there? Which is the first month that marks the beginning of the New Year? If these questions were paused to him, he shall mention December/January. Dhul Hijjah/Muharram is not his way…subhaan Allah!
Muslim brothers and sisters, Islam is enough for you and me, if we feel there is something missing, check the Qur’an and Hadith; verily Allah stated more than 1400 years ago that He has perfectly sufficed this religion, meaning that there is nothing missing in it.
May Allah guide us to His straight path of truth