Ruling on Celebrating Non-Mulsim Festivities
Two festivities of the People of the Book are looming these days, i.e Christmas and the New Year. We have become used to those festivities being celebrated in companies, organisations, societies, etc. We are also used to some Muslims participating, joining, and attending these gross events of falsehood, behaving in a way not befitting those who belong to this magnificent religion. It is for this reason that we want to write these words as a reminder for the Muslims. The question is: how should the Muslims act during such occassions?
The answer, in Ibn Taymiyah’s words, is that nothing should be done at all. This means that we, as Muslims, should not do anything we do not usually do on such days. It should be just another day with nothing special about it, as if they (People of the Book) are not celebrating. In this way Muslims make themselves different.
Allah (s.w.t.) has indicated to us the hostility of the infidels in many verses, including: "Verily, the disbeleivers 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 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 lizard, you would follow them.’ We said, ‘O Allah's Apostle! (Do you mean) the Jews and the Christians?’ He said, ‘Whom else?’
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.
Shaikhul Islam Ibn Taymiyah has proved the prohibition of celebrating the Christmas, Persian festivities such as Neyrouz, Jewish festivities and festivities of others as well, by stating that they all come under the same ruling. Since we should not imitate them in festivities, Muslims who do this must be forbidden from doing so, let alone approve and support them. We should not answer invitations from Muslims who invite us specifically on such occasions. If a Muslim 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.
Shaikhul Islam states details on issues related to the time and space dimensions of the festivities. He, for example, says: "And a Muslim should not sell food, clothes, or other items that encourage Muslims to be similar to the People of the Book in their festivities." From this we understand that if selling such items is forbidden, then selling cards that have a picture of a cross or church for greeting and congratulation of the festivity is also forbidden, let alone joining and being involved in this gross falsehood. Prohibition extends also to everything related to the festivity, eg, congratulating, offering gifts, food, etc., since the festivity includes those and many other concepts.
Ibn Taymiyah quoted the evidence on celebrating the infidel’s festivities. The first evidence is that Allah (s.w.t.) forbade us to imitate the infidels or be their allies. The issue comes under loyalty, which is part of the faith itself. Believing and accepting their feasts would be confirming their faith. Rejecting it is required, as rejecting any other faith the infidels may adhere to, as Allah (s.w.t.) indicated: "O you who believe! Take not the Jews and the Christians as allies". [5: 51]. Attending their festivities implies being allies to them, and accepting the festivities as being Muslim festivities. In this way the festivities of Satan’s party and associates become festivities for Allah’s party and associates which contradicts the evidence, let alone the instinctive rejection of disagreement Allah built in everyone.
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 "Laghow" (evil play or evil talk) they pass by it with dignity". [25: 72]. The scholars and interpreters of Al-Quran quoted Mujahed, Ad-Dhahak, Ikrimah and others that Laghow means festivities of the idolaters, ie, "Worshippers of the Most Gracious" do not attend festivities of the idolaters.
The Tradition contains numerous Hadiths including; Anas (r.a.a) said: Rasulullah 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 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, viz, Day of Al-Adha and Day of Fitr". [Abu Dawood].
The implication of this Hadith is that Rasulullah 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 Thabet Ibn Al-Dhahalah (r.a.a) said: A man during the time of the Prophet made a vow to God 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. There should be no vows implying disobedience to Allah nor in what one has no power to do it.". [Bukhari and Muslim].
After quoting this Hadith, Shaikhul Islam said: "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.)".
We also understand from the Hadith that the Prophet’s prohibition was on account of the place being one of celebration. When it was not, there was no prohibition. This indicates the condition on the place remains.
© Nida'ul Magazine December - January 1997-1998