Muslims and Merry Christmas

“Hence, peace was upon me on the day when I was born, and on the day of my death, and on the day when I shall be raised to life again!” [Holy Qur’an 19:33]

There are many ways in which I guess a Muslim could approach the issue of wishing ‘Merry Christmas‘ to Christians during this time of the year.

As a Muslim, I understand a religious day of celebration as an ‘eid. I understand it to be a time of festivities, or religious devotion or time to share in jubilation among friends and families.

For Muslims, we have two such Eids -that is a given and not something that I need to delve into.

The one place in the Holy Qur’an where the term is used is here:

“When the disciples said, “O Isa, son (of) Maryam! Is your Lord able to send down to us a table spread from heaven?” He said, “Consciously revere Allah if you are believers.”

“They said, “We wish that we eat from it and satisfy our hearts and we know that certainly you have spoken the and we be over it among the witnesses.”

“Said Isa, son (of) Maryam, “O Allah, our Lord, send down to us a table spread from the heaven to be for us a festival [idan] for first of us and last of us and a sign from You. And provide us, and You (are) best (of) the providers.” [Holy Qur’an 5:112-114]

You are encouraged to read disparate translations of the Qur’an into English to see how the word has been translated:

https://www.islamawakened.com/quran/5/114/default.htm

You can see that the word idan has been translated as a festival, feast, and celebration.

The above verses in the Holy Qur’an speak to what could be understood as the mass transmitted practice among Christians known as the Eucharist-or Thanksgiving.

As regards Christmas there is no mention of it either in the Holy Qur’an or the Bible for that matter. The fact that there is no date on when Christ Jesus is said to be born is observed by the fact that Christians are not in agreement on when to celebrate the birth of Christ Jesus themselves.

For example, the Orthodox Russian church will celebrate Christmas this: Tuesday, 7 January Orthodox Christmas Day 2020 in Russia.

So for those people who insist that Muslims must either say or respond to ‘Merry Christmas‘ by saying ‘Merry Christmas‘ would have to make it known that it would apply to both occasions on celebrating it. Otherwise, it would make those scholars partisans to a sectarian Christian divide.

Now comes the actual meaning of Merry Christmas. We know that in the English language the word Merry means to be cheerful and lively.

But what about Christmas? Christ-

Christ comes from Christos, a Greek word that means “the anointed one,” or “the chosen one.”. The Hebrew word meaning the same thing is Mashiach, or as we know it—Messiah.

Now would Mehdi Hassan or Maajid Nawaz or Irshad Manji or any of these people really expect for our Jewish brothers and sisters to say ‘Merry Christmas’ or respond to the statement in kind with ‘Merry Christmas?

Will that now become a ‘purity test’ for them to be accepted as being non-fundamentalist, anti-extremist and multi-cultural?

To demand this of our Jewish brothers and sisters strikes at the core of their belief. They do not recognize that Jesus is the Christ or Messiah. They are still waiting for the Messiah.

Why would we force them to capitulate to some Christian understanding of the Messiah and totally disregard the Jewish position in this matter?

Again we as Muslims would become partisans in this Christian-Jewish debate.

What about the term ‘mas‘ in Merry Christmas?

Remember that Jesus is reported to have said,

“But I say unto you, that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by your words you shall be justified, and by your words, you shall be condemned.” [Matthew 12:36-37]

Uncovering the meaning of Mas in Christmas.

The word Christmas comes from “Cristes Maesse“, an early English phrase that means “Mass of Christ.” It is interesting to note that the word “Mass“, as used by the Roman Catholics, has always been rejected by the Protestants such as Lutherans, Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterians, Pentecostals and so forth.


The word “Mass” is strictly a Catholic word and so is the word ‘Christ MASS‘. So as a side note all those Christian denominations that hate on the Catholic Church become Catholic for a day on December 25th! It’s the day when all the “wayward daughters” of the Roman church return home to Rome!

Source: [http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03724b.htm]


Mass from the Latin ‘missa‘ simply means dismissal. So literally Merry Christ-mas would mean if literally translated as ‘Happy Christ dismissed‘ you know like when the teacher says ‘class dismissed‘. So do Christians really want to go around saying, “Jesus dismissed“?

Source: [ https://forums.catholic.com/t/what-is-the-origin-of-the-word-mass/2290/2 ]

Source: [ http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/09790b.htm]


Dismissed means ‘removed‘. And is this not telling? There is nothing Christ-like about the whole celebration. A person who was born in a manger, who taught simplicity and humility and love for fellow man. Now what we have in place of Christ Jesus and his teachings is a tree, bright lights festive songs and possibly the biggest materialistic holiday on the Earth.


Now in a religious usage mass means a “death sacrifice.” The impact of this fact is horrifying and shocking; for when millions of people are saying , “Merry Christmas“, they are literally saying “Happy Be the End of Christ” or “Merry is the Death of Christ“.

For Muslims to say this is interesting considering that the majority view is that Christ Jesus is not dead. Thus when Muslims assert ‘Merry Christmas‘ they are asserting the view that Jesus is dead rather they realize it or not.

On page 537 of the Catholic Encyclopedia, it says, “In the Christian law, the supreme sacrifice is that of the Mass.” It goes on to say, “The supreme act of worship consists of essentially in an offering of a worthy victim to God, the offering made by a proper person, as a priest, the destruction of the victim.” The Latin word for victim is “Hostila” from which the word “host” is derived. The Mass, by definition of those who coined the word, is a sacrifice involving a victim. There is no other meaning for the word “Mass” or “Christ-Mass”.

Sources: [http://www.catholicity.com/encyclopedia/m/mass,sacrifice_of.html]

http://www.catholicity.com/encyclopedia/c/christmas.html

So for me as a Muslim, I am certainly not merry or happy over the death of Christ. I understand that Christians would be jubilant because through Christ death they obtain salvation. That is something I understand and completely respect their right to believe as such.

But those Muslims who simply say on a mere whim that we can say, “Merry Christmas” or respond by saying, “Merry Christmas” I can promise you, dear readers, that these people are not worth their weight in salt. They haven’t even bothered to research its meaning, its etymology, and history.

It has become a Public Relations stunt for them. Allah alone knows the truth of it.

Beyond mere lip service if we want to foster better relations with Christians we should join with them in the promotion of conservative values. We should join with Christians in feeding the hungry, and the homeless, building wells for those who do not have water. We can do this all the while having an understanding that we have deep theological differences. Yet, these differences do not need to come in-between our shared humanity.

So now let us look at some other facts:

“Said Isa, son (of) Maryam, “O Allah, our Lord, send down to us a table spread from the heaven to be for us a festival [idan] for first of us and last of us and a sign from You. And provide us, and You (are) best (of) the providers.” [Holy Qur’an 5:112-114]

Even when the Qur’an, the Holy Qur’an itself acknowledges a specific Christian ‘id we do not have an example of the Blessed Messenger [saw] greeting and wishing Christians well on that ‘id.

It is not to say that he [saw] did not, we simply don’t have an example that he did.

Next, I have even seen some Muslims circulate the following verses of the Holy Qur’an as a suggestion that celebrating Christmas is acceptable.

“Hence, peace was upon me on the day when I was born, and on the day of my death, and on the day when I shall be raised to life again!” [Holy Qur’an 19:33]

Stop! Please stop! This is embarrassing. This is a really horrible exegesis. So if you going to celebrate his birth you going to celebrate his death too? Do Muslims celebrate the death of the Prophet Muhammed? [saw]

The issue of bid’ah and bid’ah hassana [innovated practice and innovated practice that is praiseworthy].

Jarir ibn ‘Abdullah said: “The Messenger of Allah (saw) said: ‘Whoever starts a good thing and is followed by others, will have his own reward and a reward equal to that of those who follow him, without it detracting from their reward in any way. Whoever starts a bad thing and is followed by others, will bear the burden of his own sin and a burden equal to that of those who follow him, without it detracting from their burden in any way.'” (Source: Reported by al-Tirmidhi, no. 2675)

As well as:

The Prophet (saw) told us that: “Every innovation is going astray, and every going astray will be in the Fire.” (Source: Reported by Muslim (867) and an-Nasa’i 1578) 

So basically Muslims are divided on the issue of innovation or bid’ah. So let us look at it when it comes to this issue:

There are Muslims who consider other Muslims who call themselves as ‘Daawat salafiyyah‘ or who oppose wishing ‘Merry Christmas‘ as self-studied individuals. ‘Smartypants‘ who do not understand the religion of Islam.

Yet with all their clamoring and emotive rhetoric why didn’t those Muslims who wish to refute those Muslims who believe it to be a bid’ah refer to the past scholars and past precedent?

Examples:

Syria where the population has went from 12% Christian to 6% Christan, nonetheless there has been a substantial Christian population in Syria, Lebanon (47%) and Jordan for ages. Egypt has a Christian population of around (20-25%).

Remember now because supposedly any Muslim who is a Salafi is a ‘bad guy‘ and those Muslims who self identify as Sufi or follow a traditional school of jurisprudence are the ‘good guys‘.

So in all the hundreds and hundreds of years in which Christians and Muslims lived side by side with each other which scholar from the Shafi’i, Hanbali, Hanafi, or Maliki school took the initiative to wish Christians, “Merry Christmas?” Which of those scholars in the past practiced this?

Is it possible to get a compiled list of those who did? Why is it only recently in the world of photo ops and lip service that this suddenly becomes popular?

Why aren’t those who are opposed to celebrating it refuted by reference to a precedent or past scholars? Why are they marginalized and made to feel they are against multiculturalism when they are no more against multiculturalism than our Jewish brothers and sisters who don’t want to acknowledge via ‘Merry Christmas‘ that Jesus is the Christ?

In fact, I’ll do you one better. Did you know that Christmas was initially banned by Christians in the United States and those who were caught practicing it was fined?

In the example of the United States:

Read the following short write up https://newengland.com/today/living/new-england-history/how-the-puritans-banned-christmas/

““For preventing disorders arising in several places within this jurisdiction, by reason of some still observing such festivals as were superstitiously kept in other countries, to the great dishonor of God and offense of others, it is therefore ordered by this Court and the authority thereof, that whosoever shall be found observing any such day as Christmas or the like, either by forbearing of labor, feasting, or any other way, upon such accountants as aforesaid, every person so offending shall pay of every such offense five shillings, as a fine to the county.”

As well as https://www.apuritansmind.com/puritan-worship/christmas-and-the-regulative-principle/once-upon-a-time-when-christmas-was-banned-by-c-danko/

So anyway from the 1980s Christians in America started to do something that the very Muslims who want want to use ‘Merry Christmas‘ as a purity test should actually realize. People have different beliefs!

So the practice started of saying a more general, “happy holidays“, thus recognizing that Jews may be celebrating ‘Hanukkah‘ which often overlaps with Christmas. So instead of being totalitarian in one’s world view or dismissive of other people’s traditions, a more inclusive ‘happy holidays‘ was often heard.

Think about it would we force Christians to pass some purity test to wish us Muslims Ramadan Mubarak? Ramadan a month which the Holy Qur’an came down a book which contains the following passage:

“They have certainly disbelieved who say, “Allah is the Messiah, the son of Mary” while the Messiah has said, “O Children of Israel, worship Allah, my Lord and your Lord.” Indeed, he who associates others with Allah – Allah has forbidden him Paradise, and his refuge is the Fire. And there are not for the wrongdoers any helpers.” [Holy Qur’an 5:72]

Why would an informed Christian celebrate that?

“Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us. But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things. I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and that no lie is of the truth. Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son. Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also. [ 1 John 2:18–23 ]

I personally wouldn’t fault a Christian for not wanting to say, “Ramadan Mubarak” to me. It is a month in which the Qur’an came down and resolutely denied that Christ Jesus is the son of God as well as claiming those who believe it to be disbelievers.

The next point is where do we draw the line?

Would it be bizarre to celebrate with our Sikh friends the martyrdom of  Guru Arjan Dev Sahib? You know the Guru who was asked to convert to Islam or be killed?

Do we celebrate Vasant Panchami with our Hindu friends? The celebration of the goddess Saraswati? Or perhaps the Maha Shivratri?

Do we celebrate Samhain with our Wiccan friends?

Do we say ‘Merry Christmas‘ to Christians such as the Jehovah’s Witness who neither recognize or celebrate it, thus offending their religious sensibilities in the process?

In other words, do we take sides on this Intra-Christian conflict?

So what is one to do?

What I personally do is this. If someone wishes me Merry Christmas because, to be honest with you I have never my entire time while in multicultural Singapore have I witnessed a Hindu say to me, “Happy Divali” or anyone from any other tradition. That is the God’s honest truth.

Do not misunderstand me it is not a bad thing. It is a recognition in the rest of the world that they do not wish to impose their holidays upon others.

It only seems that in Western countries that Christians are in the habit of practicing this.

So when someone wishes me “Merry Christmas” I simply say to them “Happy holidays“, and my intention my [niyyah] in that is an understanding that we all have holidays. Days that we recognize as holi/holy. I honestly see it as no different than saying to someone have a blessed day.

I see a Christian proclaiming ‘Merry Christmas‘ as saying today is my day that I do this or that on. For me, it is akin to when I say during Ramadan when someone offers me food, “I am fasting.”

I personally do not say, ‘Merry Christmas‘ for similar reasons that the Puritan Christians didn’t say it. For similar reasons to Christians like our Jehovah’s Witness Christians friends who do not. Alas, I also saw opening a sort of pandora’s box as mentioned above. Where do you draw the lines on which holidays do you wish merriment in and which do you not?

Lastly, I would hope that Muslims who almost insist that other Muslims say ‘Merry Christmas‘ as a sort of purity test would stop and consider some of the thoughts put into this article. If you wish to do so that is up to you. However, if you feel you are being sensitive and respectful to our Christian brothers and sisters by saying it would be helpful if you could be equally sensitive and respectful of those Muslims who choose not to.

Surely I have never taken issue with the following verse from the Holy Qur’an.

“To you be your worldview, and to me my worldview. (Holy Qur’an 109:6)

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