Christmas, a religious and cultural celebration held on the 25th of December each year, is an annual festival that marks the birth of Jesus Christ or Hazrat Isa (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ). As Muslims, we believe in every Prophet before the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ), so why don’t Muslims Celebrate Christmas?
To understand the answer, let’s first look at what Christmas is.
What is Christmas?
Christmas is perhaps the biggest celebration of the year not only in Christian majority countries but worldwide. Around 2 billion people in more than 160 countries celebrate Christmas, and the number grows each year!
While most Christians view it as a religious holiday, non-Christians celebrate Christmas as a cultural festival. Whatever the reason for celebration, Christmas is indeed a spectacular holiday marked with festive Christmas trees, bright lights, mistletoe, good food, gifts, family gatherings, and more.
So, if Christmas is being celebrated by people worldwide, then why do not Muslims celebrate Christmas?
It’s a question that both Muslims and Christians have. Most people wonder why Muslims do not soak up all the holiday joy and decorate their homes with lights and a tree.
Before you label your Muslim neighbor as the Grinch, know that there is a good reason why Muslims don’t celebrate Christmas.
Let’s see why:
1. Christmas is a Religious Festival of Christianity
Christmas is, without a doubt, a religious affair. It involves celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, whom Christians consider the son of God and the essence of God Himself. But neither do Muslims nor do Jews ascribe to such a belief.
The cornerstone of the Islamic faith is the oneness of Allah. The Quran says,
قُلْ هُوَ ٱللَّهُ أَحَدٌ
لَمْ يَلِدْ وَلَمْ يُولَدْ
وَلَمْ يَكُن لَّهُۥ كُفُوًا أَحَدٌۢ
Say, “He is Allah, [who is] One, Allah, the Eternal Refuge.
He neither begets nor is born, nor is there to Him any equivalent.”
Moreover, each religion has its own religious celebrations; Jews celebrate Hanukkah while the Muslims celebrate the Eids. Similarly, Hindus have their Diwali and Holi festivals, whereas Buddhists celebrate the Wesak and Parinirvana.
Do Christians or Jews celebrate Eid? Probably not. Similarly, Muslims also don’t celebrate Christmas simply because it is not a part of their religion.
2. Christmas is a Cultural Festival
Hollywood and consumerism have played a great role in making Christmas mainstream. As brands have gone global, they have spread the Christmas spirit through Christmas merchandise, traditions, and sales.
This may make it seem like Christmas is a universal festival, but it’s not. There are still countries where Christmas is not a cultural event. Countries like China, North Korea, Bhutan, Maldives, Morocco, Pakistan, and many others don’t celebrate Christmas simply because it is not a part of their culture.
Just like Americans don’t celebrate the Tomatina festival of Spain or the Qingming Festival of China, Muslims don’t celebrate Christmas simply because it is not a part of their culture.
3. Christmas and Its Roots in Paganism
Another reason Muslims don’t celebrate Christmas is because they believe that the festival is rooted in Paganism.
Religious historians make this claim for several reasons; firstly, there are no mentions of Jesus being born on the 25th of December in the Bible. In fact, early Christians were not too concerned with celebrating the birth of Jesus at all.
According to religious archaeologists, the first records of Christmas being celebrated on December 25th were found almost 300 years after the birth of Christ.
The records coincidentally are found in the Roman almanac, and anthropologists such as Sir James George Frazer believe that the Roman Church made compromises to aid the spread of Christianity by allowing pagan festival dates to become the date on which Jesus’ birth would be celebrated.
The coincidences of the Christian faith with the heathen festivals are too numerous and too close to be accidental. For example, the Sol Invictus festival was held on December 25 by Roman emperor Aurelian to celebrate the unconquered sun, the winter solstice was celebrated on December 25, and the Romans had their mid-winter Saturnalia festival in late December, etc.
Therefore, Muslims and even some sects of Christians are reluctant to celebrate Christmas because of its pagan origins.
So, what does this mean? Does your Muslim neighbor down the road hate Jesus?
Quite the opposite!
As mentioned in the beginning, Muslims believe in all Prophets that came before the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ), including and especially Hazrat Isa. Muslims believe that Hazrat Isa is not dead but is living in the heavens and will be resurrected near the day of judgment to lead the pious and true against the evils of that time.
Muslims also revere Hazrat Isa (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) as the pure and noble soul who was born to the Virgin Mary or Maryam (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ). Therefore, Muslims not only revere Jesus but believing in him is a part of their faith or Iman.
In fact, the Holy Prophet (ﷺ) said:
“Both in this world and in the Hereafter, I am the nearest of all the people to Jesus, the son of Mary. The prophets are paternal brothers; their mothers are different, but their religion is one.” Sahih al-Bukhari 60:113
Here is your answer to Can Muslims Celebrate Christmas Day. And no, just because most Muslims don’t celebrate Christmas, it doesn’t mean they hate Christians or Jesus Christ.
Is Celebrating Christmas Haram?
So, is celebrating Christmas haram?
There are contradictory opinions on it; while it has not been declared outright haram as alcohol or pig’s meat in Islam, some scholars believe that there is enough proof in the Quran and Hadith to suggest that celebrating festivals of another religion is haram.
Mufti Menk, an Islamic scholar of renown from Zimbabwe, says that celebrating Christmas is akin to endorsing the beliefs of Christians even though our faith is in direct conflict with it. As Christians are celebrating the birth of Jesus, whom they believe to be the son of God, it would be incorrect for Muslims to wish them Merry Christmas as the first and most important principle of Islam is Tawhid, the oneness of Allah.
On the other hand, some Muslims, especially those living in countries where Christmas is celebrated with great pomp, believe that traditions like the exchange of gifts, decorating the Christmas tree, and baking cookies are pretty harmless.
Some Muslims join in the Christmas festivities because they see it as a cultural event rather than a religious event. Others believe that celebrating Christmas with their Christian friends won’t affect their faith and is just their way of joining in the happiness of their friends.
It’s up to you to decide which route you want to take. We suggest you read on the matter, have a discourse with knowledgeable historians and theologists, and then make your mind. May Allah help us choose the right path.
What Quran Says About Christmas?
The Quran does not mention Christmas. In fact, the Gospels make no mention of the date Jesus was born. This is not surprising considering that religious books of the Abrahamic faith do not focus on calendrical events.
An interesting fact that most people do not know is that Jesus is mentioned more times in the Holy Quran than Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ). In fact, Prophet Isa even foretold the coming of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) as is mentioned in John, chapter 14 verse 26, “But the comforter, whom Father shall send in my name will teach you things and make you remember whatsoever I have already said to you.” The comforter refers to Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ), and the said verse foretells his coming.
Opportunity to Spread Love and Unite
وَأَمَّا بِنِعْمَةِ رَبِّكَ فَحَدِّثْ
And proclaim the blessings of your Lord – Al-Quran 93:11
In Surah Ad-Duhaa, Allah asks his followers to celebrate the blessings Allah has bestowed upon them, and aren’t Allah’s prophets the greatest blessing for mankind?
Muslims have a difference of opinion from Christians regarding the parentage of Jesus Christ. However, it does not mean that Muslims should not respect the right of Christians to celebrate their religious festival.
Moreover, if you are living in countries where Christmas is being celebrated, then take a leaf out of the Prophet’s book and celebrate the birth of Hazrat Isa in your own way.
When the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) migrated to Medina from Makkah, he saw that the Jews of Medina fasted on the 10th of Muharram. He asked the Jews the reason for their fast; they told him that they fast to show gratitude to Allah because on the 10th of Muharram, Allah delivered Hazrat Moosa and his followers from the Pharoah.
Upon hearing this, the Prophet Muhammad declared that he too shall fast on the 10th of Muharram as the deliverance of Moosa is a happy event for Muslims more so than Jews. However, he declared to fast on the 9th and 10th to differentiate himself and his followers from the Jews.
Therefore, you too can celebrate the birth of Hazrat Isa in ways that are different from mainstream activities. You can donate to charities, volunteer for a good cause, help the needy, feed the poor, and so forth.
You can also hold a Halaqah or a congregating in your home to talk about Jesus and his life; his message of kindness and love and highlight the need for tolerance and interfaith harmony in a mixed society.
Can Muslims Celebrate Christmas Day?
After you have finished reading the post, you will come to know that Muslims may celebrate Christmas as long as they engage in festivities that are aligned with the teachings of Islam. However, it is a personal choice; some may believe it contradicts their faith, while others may see it as an opportunity to grow interfaith harmony.
Whatever your decision, Muslims must respect the right of Christians to celebrate Christmas.