Critique of Habibi Ali Al Jifri and other evidences for greeting: “Merry Christmas”

“And when you are greeted with a greeting, greet in return with one better than it or at least return it in a like manner. Indeed, Allah is ever, over all things, an Accountant.” (Holy Qur’an 4:86)

Even though the above verse is not used by Habibi Ali Al Jifri for his argumentation it is used elsewhere and so I thought I would cover it in this article as well.

The presentation of Habibi Ali Al Jifri is here:

https://www.alhabibali.com/en/writing/christmas-and-the-glorious-birth-peace-be-upon-me-the-day-i-was-born/

Let us begin by looking at the verse above. We are often told that taking the Qur’an literally can be a path to extremism. However, it seems in the case of the verse above those who favour greeting other religions in a like manner [some have argued exactly like] or even better than the greeting given, that we take the above verse quite literally.

Everything else it seems, the message of Islam, what makes Islam distinct from other faith traditions no attention at all it given to it.

So Let’s try some stuff out.

“And when you are greeted with a greeting, greet in return with one better than it or at least return it in a like manner. Indeed, Allah is ever, over all things, an Accountant.” (Holy Qur’an 4:86)

Ok let me give this a try here goes…..

So according to the Qur’an I as a Muslim should reply…

“Shivrati blessings to you and your family as well. May the almighty Lord Shiva bless you as well with good things and perfect health as well and more!”

There! Dear ulama is that sufficient? Have I met the criteria in the Qur’an for an appropriate response to such a greeting?

O.k since I’m on a roll here let’s try the another one…

So according to that understanding of the Qur’an I should reply to someone who wishes me the above as:

“May the Peace, Mercy and Blessings of Godess Kali be upon you and your family. Happy Kali Puja to you as well!”

How’s that? Have I fulfilled the injunctions in the verse of the Qur’an? Any room for improvement??

Now for all the Muslims who think that the injunction on greeting people in the Qur’an doesn’t apply to Hindus and their holidays than let me ask you.

Who is being exclusive and who is being multi-cultural now? For Muslims to think my example is to extreme and assert that the above injunction only applies to Christians and Jews and not to Hindus and others than they have actually established my point.

The above text is general.

So now let us turn our attention to what Shaykh Habibi Ali Al Jifri said:

“We are more deserving of Moses than them”

“This was the response of the Prophet when he was told that the Jews of Madina fast on the day of Ashura in celebration of Moses’ deliverance from Pharaoh and his people. The Prophet used to fast this day while he was in Makka prior to the hijra. He did not ask about the link between this event and its Arabic date, despite the Hebrew calendar being different to the Arabic. Madina’s Jewish community was naturalised in Arab lands and thus adopted the Arabic calendar. This was sufficient for the Prophet as a reason and he did not ask, “How can we ensure the authenticity of the date? The Jews have corrupted their books so it is not permissible for us to rely on them to determine the correct date for Moses’ deliverance!” The issue of acknowledging this event is not related to the time of its happening as much as it is related to its meaning, which is joy for Allah’s sake and love for His righteous.”-Shaykh Habibi Ali Al Jifri

So Shaykh Habibi Ali Al Jifri and those who blindly follow his fatwa do not even think about the references. There are quite a number of issues with relying upon what Shaykh Habibi Ali Al Jifri said.

Let as actually begin by looking at some of the hadith that discuss ‘Ashura.

Chapter: Observing Saum (fast) on the day of ‘Ashura.

Narrated Aisha:

“Quraish used to fast on the day of ‘Ashura’ in the Pre-Islamic period, and Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) too, used to fast on that day. When he came to Medina, he fasted on that day and ordered others to fast, too. Later when the fasting of the month of Ramadan was prescribed, he gave up fasting on the day of ‘Ashura’ and it became optional for one to fast on it or not.”

Source: [Sahih Al Bukhari 2002 Book 30 Hadith 107 Vol 3 Book 31 Hadith 220]

Abd al-Rahman b. Yazid said:

“When al-Ash’ath b. Qais entered the house of ‘Abdullah he was having his breakfast. He (‘Abdullah b. Umar) said: Abd Muhammad (al-Asha’th), come near to the breakfast. Thereupon he said: Is not today the day of ‘Ashura? He (‘Abd al-Rahman) said: Do you know what the day of ‘Ashura is? He said: What is it? He said: It is a day on which the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) used to observe fast before the (fasting) in the month of Ramadan (became) obligatory. But when it became obligatory the (fasting of ‘Ashura) was abandoned (as compulsory). Abu Kuraib said: He (the Holy Prophet) abandoned it.

Source: [Sahih Muslim 1127 Book 13 Hadith 154 Book 6 2510]

“It was narrated that Hafsah said:”There are four things which the Prophet never gave up: Fasting ‘Ashura’, (fasting during) the ten days, (fasting) three days of each month, and praying two Rak’ahs before Al-Ghadah (Fajr).”

Source: [Sunan an-Nasa’i 2416 Book 22 Hadith 327 Vol 3 Book 22 Hadith 2418]

Comments: Go and read the above three hadith reports again. Who is correct? Is Hafsa the wife of the Blessed Messenger [saw] correct that the Blessed Messenger [saw] never gave up ‘Ashura?

Or is Aisha the wife of the Blessed Messenger [saw] correct that the Blessed Messenger [saw] he gave up fasting on the day of ‘Ashura ?

Do you reconcile this by saying that the Blessed Messenger [saw] never gave up ‘Ashura until Ramadan came and than he abandoned it?

Ibn ‘Abbas reported:

“That when the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) fasted on the day of ‘Ashura and commanded that it should he observed as a fast, they (his Companions) said to him:Messenger of Allah, it is a day which the Jews and Christians hold in high esteem. Thereupon the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: When the next year comes, Allah willing, we would observe fast on the 9th But the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) died before the advent of the next year.”

Source: [Sahih Muslim 1134 Book 13 Hadith 172 Book 6 Hadith 2528]

Abdullah b ‘Abbas reported:

“That the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) had said:If I live till the next (year), I would definitely observe fast on the 9th, and the narration transmitted by Abu Bakr is:” He meant the day of Ashura.”

Source: [Sahih Muslim 1134 Book 13 Hadith 173 Book 6 Hadith 2529]

Comments: My dear reader think about this. Are really to believe that the Blessed Messenger [saw] died before observing a single month of Ramadan? Are you prepared to believe that?

The reports that the Blessed Messenger [saw] fasted In Ramadan totally overwhelm these reports in Sahih Muslim that suggest he did not.

Remember that we know that Ramadan abrogated Ashura or at best made it optional.

Let me lay this out for you:

“Later when the fasting of the month of Ramadan was prescribed, he gave up fasting on the day of ‘Ashura’ “-Aisha

“The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) used to observe fast before the (fasting) in the month of Ramadan (became) obligatory. But when it became obligatory the (fasting of ‘Ashura) was abandoned (as compulsory). Abu Kuraib said: He (the Holy Prophet) abandoned it.

“Thereupon the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: When the next year comes, Allah willing, we would observe fast on the 9th But the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) died before the advent of the next year.’-Ibn Abbas

How can the Blessed Messenger [saw] promise to fast on the 9th of the next year but the Blessed Messenger saw already died.

Yet we learn that it is Ramadan that abrogates fasting on Ashura.

One could possibly try to reconcile this and say Ramadan came -which means the Blessed Messenger [saw] only observed one Ramadan in his entire life -which is also suspect. Than, say that Ramadan abrogated Ashura and he died after that. However this doesn’t stack up with the reports of the Blessed Messenger [saw] living past the next Ashura or an indication that he at least lived past several occasions of Ashura.

It wouldn’t stack up with the following report either:

Hakam b. al-‘Araj reported:

“I went to Ibn ‘Abbas (Allah be Pleased with both of them) and he was reclining using his mantle as a pillow near the fountain of Zamzam. I said to him: Tell me about fasting on Ashura. He said: When you see the new moon of Muharram then count the (days) and observe fast on the 9th. I said to him: Is it how the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) observed the fast? He said: Yes.”

Source: [Sahih Muslim 1133 Book 13 Hadith 170 Book 6 2526]

FASTING ASHURA ON ACCOUNT OF JEWS? JEWS N CHRISTIANS? THE PEOPLE OF IGNORANCE? WHICH IS IT?

FASTING ON ASHURA IS FROM THE PAGANS:

Narrated `Aisha:

(The tribe of) Quraish used to fast on the day of Ashura’ in the Pre-Islamic period, and then Allah’s Apostle ordered (Muslims) to fast on it till the fasting in the month of Ramadan was prescribed; whereupon the Prophet (ﷺ) said, “He who wants to fast (on ‘Ashura’) may fast, and he who does not want to fast may not fast.”

Source: [Sahih al-Bukhari 1893 Book 30 Hadith 3 Vol 3 Book 31 Hadith 117]

Narrated Ibn `Umar:

“Fasting was observed on the day of ‘Ashura’ (i.e. 10th of Muharram) by the people of the Pre-lslamic Period. But when (the order of compulsory fasting) in the month of Ramadan was revealed, the Prophet said, “It is up to one to fast on it (i.e. day of ‘Ashura’) or not.”

Source: [Sahih Al Bukhari Vol 6 Book 60 Hadith 28 Book 65 Hadith 4501]

Aishah narrated:

“Ashura was a day that the Quraish used to fast during Jahiliyyah, and the Messenger of Allah used to fast it. But when (the fast of) Ramadan became obligatory, the Ramadan was the required and Ashura was left. So whoever wanted to, he fasted it, and whoever wanted to, he left it.”

Source: [Jami’ at-Tirmidhi 753 Book 8 Hadith 72 Vol 2 Book 3 Hadith 753]

Abdullah b. ‘Umar (Allah be pleased with them) reported:

That (the Arabs of) pre-Islamic days used to observe fast on the day of Ashura and the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) observed it and the Muslims too (observed it) before fasting in Ramadan became obligatory. But when it became obligatory, the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said:’Ashura is one of the days of Allah, so he who wished should observe fast and he who wished otherwise should abandon it.”

Source: [Sahih Muslim 1126 Book 13, Hadith 148 Book 6, Hadith 2504]

Narrated `Aisha:

‘”Ashura’ “(i.e. the tenth of Muharram) was a day on which the tribe of Quraish used to fast in the prelslamic period of ignorance. The Prophet (ﷺ) also used to fast on this day. So when he migrated to Medina, he fasted on it and ordered (the Muslims) to fast on it. When the fasting of Ramadan was enjoined, it became optional for the people to fast or not to fast on the day of Ashura.”

Source: [Sahih al-Bukhari 3831 Book 63 Hadith 57 Vol 5 Book 58 Hadith 172]

It was narrated from ‘Abdullah bin ‘Umar:

That the Day of ‘Ashura’ was mentioned in the presence of the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ). The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said:“That was a day when the people of the Ignorance used to fast. So whoever among you wants to fast may do so, and whoever does not want to may leave it.”

Source: [Sunan Ibn Majah Vol 1 Book 7 Hadith 1737 Book 7 Hadith 1809]

Comments: None of those hadiths mention the Jews at all! Sunan Ibn Majah establishes that it was optional and not obligatory.

Did Habibi Ali Al Jifri forget to mention the above hadith where the Blessed Messenger [saw] ascribed that fast to the people of ignorance. So does Habibi Al Jifri ascribe such fast to the people of ignorance or not?

Notice that Habibi Ali Al Jifri did not tell you what this particular day Ashura translates to in the Jewish tradition? The only sensible explanation is Yom Kippur.

All the above hadiths have the Blessed Messenger [saw] fasting even before he came to Medina.

FASTING ON ASHURA IS FROM THE JEWS:

Narrated Abu Musa:

“The day of ‘Ashura’ was considered as `Id day by the Jews. So the Prophet (ﷺ) ordered, “I recommend you (Muslims) to fast on this day.”

Source: [Sahih al-Bukhari 2005 Book 30 Hadith 110 Vol 3 Book 31 Hadith 223]

Abu Musa (Allah be pleased with him) reported:

The day of ‘Ashura was one which the Jews respected and they treated it as Id. The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: You also observe fast on this day.”

Source: [Sahih Muslim 1131 Book 13 Hadith 166 Book 6 Hadith 2522]

Abu Musa reported:

That the people of Khaibar (most of them were Jews) observed fast on the day of ‘Ashura and they treated it as ‘Id and gave their women ornaments and beautiful dresses to wear. The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said:You (only) observe fast on this day.”

Source: [Sahih Muslim 1131 Book 13 Hadith 167 Book 6 Hadith 2523]

Narrated Abu Musa:

When the Prophet (ﷺ) arrived at Medina, he noticed that some people among the Jews used to respect Ashura’ (i.e. 10th of Muharram) and fast on it. The Prophet (ﷺ) then said, “We have more right to observe fast on this day.” and ordered that fasting should be observed on it.”

Source: [Sahih al-Bukhari 3942 Book 63 Hadith 167 Vol 5 Book 58 Hadith 278]

Narrated Ibn `Abbas:

“When the Prophet (ﷺ) arrived at Medina, the Jews were observing the fast on ‘Ashura’ (10th of Muharram) and they said, “This is the day when Moses became victorious over Pharaoh,” On that, the Prophet (ﷺ) said to his companions, “You (Muslims) have more right to celebrate Moses’ victory than they have, so observe the fast on this day.”

Source: [Sahih al-Bukhari Vol 6 Book 60 202 Book 65 Hadith 4680]

Narrated Ibn `Abbas:

“When Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) arrived at Medina, he found the Jews observing the fast on the day of ‘Ashura’ (10th of Muharram). The Prophet (ﷺ) asked them (about it) and they replied, “This is the day when Moses became victorious over Pharaoh.” The Prophet (ﷺ) said (to the Muslims), “We are nearer to Moses than they, so fast on this day.”

Source: [Sahih al-Bukhari Vol 6 Book 60 Hadith 261 Book 65 Hadith 4737]

Comments: According to the above hadith it was the Jews who were upon this Ashura fasting.

Now let’s circle back to what Shaykh Habibi Ali Al Jifri said above:

We are more deserving of Moses than them.” First it should be pointed out that in this article of Shaykh Habibi Ali Al Jifri has written to give free reign for Muslims to practice Christmas, that he must mean by the above phrase that “We are more deserving of Moses than them.” would by analogy mean that he is saying, “We are more deserving of Jesus than them.”

Let me ask you as a Jew how do you feel if a Muslim said I am more deserving of Moses than you? Does that sound ecumenical to you?

Let me ask you as a Christian how do you feel if a Muslim said I am more deserving of Jesus than you? does that sound ecumenical to you?

Do you think that these are sentiments that Shaykh Habibi Ali Al Jifri shares openly with Christians in his conferences in the United Arab Emirates?

You think the Pope of Rome and Miroslav Volf find the phrase “We are more deserving of Jesus than you.” to be ecumenical?

Shaykh Habibi Ali Al Jifri states:

“The issue of acknowledging this event is not related to the time of its happening as much as it is related to its meaning, which is joy for Allah’s sake and love for His righteous.”

Well actually that’s not entirely accurate.

“That when the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) fasted on the day of ‘Ashura and commanded that it should he observed as a fast, they (his Companions) said to him:Messenger of Allah, it is a day which the Jews and Christians hold in high esteem. Thereupon the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: When the next year comes, Allah willing, we would observe fast on the 9th But the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) died before the advent of the next year.”

So this hadith contradicts the claim of Shaykh Habibi Ali Al Jifri. Because this hadith has the Blessed Messenger [saw] acting contrary to the Jews and Christians to not mimic them on them dates.

However, this hadith in of itself [just like all of the hadith on Ashura if we are to be honest] it itself problematic. This hadith reports a fact to the Blessed Messenger [saw] as if he was ignorant that the Jews hold Ashura in high esteem; where as the following hadith flatly contradicts this:

Narrated Ibn `Abbas:

“When Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) arrived at Medina, he found the Jews observing the fast on the day of ‘Ashura’ (10th of Muharram). The Prophet (ﷺ) asked them (about it) and they replied, “This is the day when Moses became victorious over Pharaoh.” The Prophet (ﷺ) said (to the Muslims), “We are nearer to Moses than they, so fast on this day.”

The above hadith makes the Blessed Messenger [saw] ignorant of the reason why Jews fast when he gave the command to the people to fast on that day; and he needs to be informed by others, in which he shows that they will be contrary to them by fasting on the 9th.

Where as the above hadith and others show that the Blessed Messenger [saw] was informed by the Jews themselves as to the reason they fasted and when he [saw] gave the command to the people to fast on that day the 10th.

So why would this absolute mess be relied upon by the Muslims to mimic the Jews?

By the way for Shaykh Habibi Ali Al Jifri to make Yom Kippur analogous to Christmas is a very bad idea for the reason that Yom Kippur is a solemn event where as Christmas is festive. So for example it is not appropriate to say to Jews [even if it were permissible by our scholars] to say ‘Happy Yom Kippur‘ because it is not a joyous occasion but one filled with pensive reflection.

The other thing to keep in mind is that we fast on Monday’s because the Blessed Messenger [saw] was born on a Monday. So why doesn’t Habibi Ali Al Jifri and those Muslims who believe that Jesus was born during Christmas fast?

What kind of standard is this? The Blessed Messenger [saw] birth is marked by fasting and solemn reflection; where as Christmas is about eating, drinking and being merry?

Lastly, even if Habibi Ali Al Jifri could navigate the above mess [highly doubtful] he would still be stuck with the fact that Allah [swt] had something better in mind for the Muslims.

The Jewish fasting of Yom Kippur /Ashura was abrogated by the Muslims fasting of Ramadan. The proof of this is that we have reports that the Blessed Messenger [saw] when Ramadan came he himself stopped fasting on Yom Kippur /Ashura.

How is that for ecumenical dialogue? Our religion turned one of those shared practices that was obligatory to a mere option among Muslims and was by Allah [swt] himself with the obligation of Ramadan.

By the way the following sentiment “We are more deserving of Moses than them” It simply doesn’t hold water. It doesn’t hold water because the Jews still observe Yom Kippur as an obligation where was Muslims do not.

Habibi Ali Al Jifri continues:

“This day was distinguished by an immense miracle related to his birth. This birth was connected to meanings of peace that we are in dire need of today. Yes, Allah made Jesus Christ a symbol of peace for this world. Did Allah not say upon the tongue of Christ, “Peace was upon me the day I was born, and will be on me the day I shall die, and the day I am raised to life again.”? This alone is sufficient as a reason for our joy on this noble occasion, irrespective of what the exact date is according to us or others and the difference of opinion that exists between the Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant and other denominations. The issue is not about the precise date but the meaning which is indicated by this occasion.”

Here is quoting the following verses:

“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]

Notice that in the caption Habibi Ali Al Jifri only quotes 1/3 of the verse. Why is that?

Habibi Ali Al Jifri only quotes 1/3 of the verse to be applicable to Jesus. Why is that? The full verse actually says the following:

Peace be upon me the day I was born“- the justification for celebrating Christmas?

AND

Peace be upon me on the day of my death.” -the justification for celebrating the death of Jesus? Do we do that Shaykh Habibi Ali Al Jifri? In fact this is a challenge to any of you reading this. Do we celebrate the deaths of prophets? Is it an ‘Id for us?

The irony here is that Habibi Ali Al Jifri is only focused on the birth of Jesus which is a mere few minutes of his life. Where as Christians understand that the real peace is only in the realization of the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus, for this is how one gains true peace. The recognition of eternal hope and salvation and assurance of one’s place in the life to come.

AND

on the day when I shall be raised to life again.” -the justification for celebrating the resurrection of Jesus?

What principle of hermeneutics is being used here that allows a Muslim to cut the verses of the Qur’an up like this? How is that we can quote 1/3 of a verse like this? How can we strip pat of a verse and ignore the context?

Explain yourself?

However, if these people are sincere in what they say including all of you who post this verse on your social media during December 25th you would actually post the same verse and message again on January 7th. Because maybe the dates don’t matter to Shaykh Habibi Ali Al Jifri but they certainly do matter to Christians.

And if they dates are not important than let the Muslims send out such a greeting on December 1st.

I mean it’s not like we don’t want to do the following public gaffe: https://www.egypttoday.com/Article/1/79070/Azhar-Grand-Imam-visits-congratulates-Pope-Tawadros-on-Christmas-Day?fbclid=IwAR2FvdOgk_61KA0t0x4R4CfKmD4UVTtS9NEOiT2OEsrO2dOFQbQ7gz1Lz6A

Click on the above link and take a good look at the picture, The Mufti of Al Ahzar has this look on his face as if he is about to say, “I wish I could start this day over.” and the poor Pope Tawardros has that look on his face like “Awkward bro….”

Wow, I hope the Pope of Rome remembers to wish Muslims “Eid Mubarak” on the 15th day of Ramadan”

I mean do not get me wrong it is a good intention on behalf of those Merry Christmas giving Muslims but you think if you live with a Christian community that is 95% Coptic Christians and genuinely want to have dialogue with them you would know they celebrate Christmas on January 7th and want absolutely nothing to do with the cult of Sol Invictis -aka-December 25th.

Also if Muslims like Shaykh Habibi Ali Al Jifri and all of you wish to celebrate Christmas and wish people ‘Merry Christmas‘ and this isn’t simply just a multi-cultural purity test and if you are not just doing it as a Public Relations stunt well why not consider the following:

Since you are hellbent on wishing ‘Merry Christmas‘ on December 25th, much to the delight of Catholics and Protestants and keen on throwing the Orthodox Christians in the back of the bus, well I have a proposal for you.

“So Peace on him the day he was born, the day that he dies, and the day that he will be raised up to life (again)!” [Holy Qur’an 19:5]

JOHN THE BAPTIST! LOOK MAWLID NABI YAHYA IS IN THE QUR’AN ACCORDING TO THE STANDARD HABIBI ALI AL JIFRI USES!!

Just to show to our Christian brothers and sisters that this isn’t some insincere Public Relations stunt….or some purity test for multiculturalism.

On June 24th all Muslims who celebrate Christmas will also celebrate the birthday of John the Baptist in conjunction with Orthodox Christians.

We hope that by doing this it will make amends for taking sides with the Roman Catholics and Protestants over the Orthodox in our celebration of Christmas on December 25th as opposed to January 7th.

That’s right A TWO FOR ONE PACKAGE. Because Muslims are not hypocrites right?

So let us re imagine Shaykh Habibi Ali Al Jifri statement and replace the word Jesus with the words John the Baptist and let’s see how that fits.

“This day was distinguished by an immense miracle related to his birth. This birth was connected to meanings of peace that we are in dire need of today. Yes, Allah made John The Baptist a symbol of peace for this world. Did Allah not say upon the tongue of The Baptist, “ So Peace on him the day he was born, the day that he dies, and the day that he will be raised up to life (again) ”? This alone is sufficient as a reason for our joy on this noble occasion, irrespective of what the exact date is according to us or others and the difference of opinion that exists between the Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant and other denominations. The issue is not about the precise date but the meaning which is indicated by this occasion.”

Remember that John the Baptist becomes a symbol for peace in the world.

Any how I think that is enough food for thought for those who reflect.

“The Messiah, son of Mary, was not but a messenger; [other] messengers have passed on before him. And his mother was a supporter of truth. They both used to eat food. Look how We make clear to them the signs; then look how they are deluded.” (Holy Qur’an 5:75)

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