Greeting Non-Muslims on Christmas

As children learning the Qur’an in the mosque we were told, imitating the Kuffar is haram (prohibited). We were taught grave dangers and level of sin involved in not only celebrating Easter, Christmas but even the New Year including exchanges of greetings and gifts during these festivities. It wasn’t only my mosque, there was general reluctance amongst Muslims at school and elsewhere when it came to exchange of gifts, cards or even verbal greetings. It was almost accepted: Muslims do NOT participate in celebrations of Kuffar in any way or form.

But things have changed radically since my school days. I think it was this time last year I found the khateeb at the London central mosque has a different opinion. “Islam is a deen of moderation. We must not be so rigid. We must follow the middle path.” He went on to say, it is obligatory for Muslims living in the west to take part in festivals of their host country, although in moderation. He added, exchanging a few cards, gifts or verbal greetings will not somehow destroy our Imaan. Before I could even start a discussion with my friends about this particular Khutbah, it turned out that a group of ‘credible’ Muslim scholars have already signed and sent to the Pope a letter of Merry Christmas and a Happy new Year. Furthermore, some Muslim scholars in Egypt, Syria, Pakistan and Britain happily participated in Christmas celebrations with their Non-Muslim colleagues as if there were no contradictions in doing so with their religious beliefs. No doubt we will be seeing more of that this year.

All these changes can be very confusing, and adding to this confusion is the variety of fatwas available on the net at our perusal:


First of all, we stress that Muslims are commanded to deal justly and kindly with their non-Muslim neighbors or friends. Therefore, there is nothing wrong in exchanging gifts with them. Muslims are allowed to congratulate non-Muslims on their festive days and this becomes more of an obligation if the non-Muslims offer their greetings on Islamic festive occasions. Allah Almighty says: (When you are greeted with a greeting, greet in return with what is better than it, or at least return it equally…) (An-Nisa’ 4: 86) …. Read more @ Islamonline.net

However, the proper way to give presents during these festive seasons, is to make one’s gesture general or seasonal, rather than relating to their specific religious celebrations. Thus, one would say, for example, “Seasons greetings,” or “Happy New Year,” or other general expressions, as our ulema explain… Read more @ Sunnipath.com

Greeting the kuffaar on Christmas and other religious holidays of theirs is haraam, by consensus….

Congratulating the kuffaar on their religious festivals is haraam to the extent described by Ibn al-Qayyim because it implies that one accepts or approves of their rituals of kufr, even if one would not accept those things for oneself. But the Muslim should not aceept the rituals of kufr or congratulate anyone else for them, because Allaah does not accept any of that at all, as He says (interpretation of the meaning): “If you disbelieve, then verily, Allaah is not in need of you, He likes not disbelief for His slaves. And if you are grateful (by being believers), He is pleased therewith for you. . .” [al-Zumar 39:7]  Read more at Islam QA

In my experience, throughout educational and work life I have never found myself in a compromising situation. I have always made it clear to my non-Muslim colleagues in a sensible way that I do not celebrate Christmas, have always declined invitation to Christmas parties and returned greetings with, ‘have a good time’, ‘don’t drink too much’, ‘be good’ etc. I don’t believe it has in any way strained my work relationship with non-Muslim colleagues, on the contrary I always get the feeling they understand. One colleague asked, ‘so you don’t celebrate Xmas do you?’ I was told, ‘lucky you’… when I responded with a no.

All this makes me wonder if the pressure on Muslims to integrate in society in ways traditionally unacceptable (however made legally permissible recently) are real or just imaginative? And are we getting closer to this hadith in response to calls and pressures to integrate?

Al-Bukhari narrated in his Sahih (book) that Abu Saeed Al-Khudri رضي الله عنه reported that Allah’s Messenger صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم said: “You will indeed follow the ways of those before you, hand span by hand span, and an arms length after another. Even if they enter into a lizards hole, you will follow them. We asked, is it the Jews and the Christians? He صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم replied, Who else!”

Posted on December 10, 2009, in Islam, Lifestyle and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. All this makes me wonder if the pressure on Muslims to integrate in society in ways traditionally unacceptable (however made legally permissible recently) are real or just imaginative? And are we getting closer to this hadith in response to calls and pressures to integrate?

    It seems to me that such a question is rhetorical! I have never understood what was so difficult about simply stating “No! I don’t celebrate christmas [or any other fill in the blank holiday]”

    Allah sayest:

    “And never will the Jews or the Christians approve of you until you follow their religion. Say, “Indeed, the guidance of Allah is the [only] guidance.” If you were to follow their desires after what has come to you of knowledge, you would have against Allah no protector or helper.” [2:120]

    • I agree brother. Would you then say that there is some level of irresponsibility on behalf of scholars answering questions? I say this because I spent ages browsing through these fatwa sites and it seems that those asking questions sound quiet desperate as if there is no way out. In response the scholars are creating a middle ground, a compromise allowing a safe passage to integration. Of course, some have given a clear red light, whereas others have given a green light with caution, but this kind of flexibility is probably taking us in the wrong direction.

  2. Scholars should tell people to suck it up not change islam to make life easy for them.

  3. excellent piece, masha’Allah..

  4. Suck it up? Seriously dude, lol. Are you like blissfully aware of the trials facing Muslims on a daily basis in different parts of the world? Sorry to burst your bubble, but “news flash” we are being targetted for our deen. That’s right…so if by attending a Christmas Luncheon invite and eating only veggies, that’s gonna help weaken the tension that exists between Muslims and non-Muslims, I’d say let’s have that. And if anyone wants to call in ‘hypocrisy’ to me go right ahead, I have been in ‘extremist mode’, whereby I was unable to look at the opposite gender, speak coherently, downright refuse all possible means of interacting with them, in fear of integration with the means to…follow their way of life. It only served, to increase and widen their misconceptions of Islam. Thank God, some scholars are awake and aware to some of our dilemmas.

    • NSxx :Suck it up? Seriously dude, lol. Are you like blissfully aware of the trials facing Muslims on a daily basis in different parts of the world? Sorry to burst your bubble, but “news flash” we are being targetted for our deen. That’s right…so if by attending a Christmas Luncheon invite and eating only veggies, that’s gonna help weaken the tension that exists between Muslims and non-Muslims, I’d say let’s have that.

      I dont think its made much difference – we’re all seen as a bit kooky regardless if we go to Xmas dinner with them (when its not in a freaking pub or bar). Usually one to one interaction helps fizz out misconceptions, not going out in a large group to gorge on brussel sprouts and mince pies.

  5. Salam. Good point raised in this article. I’ve not had any problems and have got on well with non muslims whilst retaining my beliefs. Its high time for most of us to rethink our role as muslims in the west.

  6. For most, Christmas isn’t even recognised as a religious holiday, even for the Christians! BUT for some strange reason it’s highly commemorated, throughout the world. From what I have gathered it’s just a big celebration for many at the end of the year for people to give gifts to each other in appreciation and feel cheery in atmosphere of snow, Santa Claus and dinners, charity events.. guess it all depends on what Christmas means for you.

    And let’s keep in mind, that part of our role as Muslims in the west is not only to retain our identity as Muslims but it’s important to give dawah to non-Muslims. If, we do not integrate through some level of commonality, how will the disbelievers come to appreciate our ways of thinking or even be swayed to Islamic beliefs? I have heard too many reverts and Muslims alike finding difficulty in practicing their faith because they are immediately requested to shun their past as though it never existed, whilst living in a society of constant struggle against once-/held differing beliefs and customs. All im trying to say, is let’s have an open-mind about things, we can use integration as a tool for giving dawah and removing the misunderstandings about Islam etc.

    ma’salama’
    seasons greetings,

  7. I’ve rarely replied with Merry Xmas, I usually say “Have a good break, eat loads!” or something tongue in cheek like so. Not because I have a problem with saying merry xmas but they themselves arent bothered about the whole “Xmas” tag! For those who were self proclaimed religious Christians, it was the same – they seen it as commercialised and away from the true essence, why do people celebrate a miracle event of someone (Jesus) they usually ignore for the rest of the year?

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