Christmas is a holiday celebrated by Christians and others all around the world. On Christmas, people exchange gifts, engage in large feasts, get together, and sing music. Christmas is celebrated on December 25th of every year, as the birth of Isa (alayhis salaam). Gradually, through the centuries, the holiday of Christmas transformed to that which is present today. Despite its origin in Christian tradition, most people celebrate Christmas and partake in its traditions. This article will examine the permissibility of celebrating Christmas, its history, and how Isa (alayhis salaam) is portrayed in accordance with the Qur’an and Sunnah.
History of Christmas:
There are many interpretations regarding the history of Christmas. Despite the holiday being known from its Christian perspective. Many nations before Christianity celebrated the births of different high figures. In the Norse tradition, there was Yule, a celebration where fathers and sons would drag evergreens to their house as reminders of life and light logs on fire as a sign of good fortune. This is believed to be the origin of the Christmas tree.
In Rome, one week before the winter solstice they had their own holiday, Saturnalia, a celebration in honor of the Roman god of Agriculture, Saturn. Some Roman government and military officials also worshiped the sun god Mithra. According to these powerful men, the birthday of Mithra, December 25th, was the holiest day of the year.
In the 1st century, the traditions of paganism were being challenged by Christianity, but it was impossible for the Church to completely outlaw the pagan traditions of Christmas, so it accepted them instead. Since the celebration of the birthday of Mithra was already existing, it is thought that the Church adopted this date as the date of the birth of Christ and made it official in the 4th century as there was no mention of his date of birth in the bible. The evergreen trees brought indoors were now decorated with apples to symbolize the Garden of Eden, which eventually became Christmas ornaments. The tradition of Santa Claus also emerged during the 4th century after the death of Saint Nicholas, a Turkish bishop of the Church. On the anniversary of his death on December 6th, the good children woke up to gifts from the Saint, and bad children woke up to nothing.
1500 years later, an American seminary professor named Clement Clarke Moore wanted to revive the tradition of Saint Nicholas. He wrote a poem called the Night before Christmas, where Santa Claus would come with his reindeer climbing down the chimney to give gifts to the children. Yet the appearance of Santa Claus remained a mystery, so to resolve this issue, a cartoonist Thomas Nast drew the famous image of Santa that we know. This is a brief history of Christmas and how it emerged.
The Islamic perspective of Christmas is that Christmas comes from paganistic rituals and the actions of the Christians. Allah (SWT) states in the Qur’an,
”يَـٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوا۟ لَا تَتَّخِذُوا۟ ٱلْيَهُودَ وَٱلنَّصَـٰرَىٰٓ أَوْلِيَآءَ ۘ “
O those who believe, do not take the Jews and the Christians as friends.
This verse shows that we cannot celebrate the actions of the Jews and the Christians, as this verse commands us not to be friends with him. Among the actions friends do with each other is to celebrate their holidays. Furthermore, the actions of Christmas constitute those things which are forbidden in Islam. For example, the mistletoe of which a girl and boy kiss under, promoting zina and illicit relations. Another example is singing Christmas songs, as we all know, music is completely forbidden in Islam, as stated by the Hadith of Rasulullah (SAW), who said “Music grows hypocrisy in the heart just as water grows crops”. This Hadith and numerous others clearly explain the impermissibility of such action. These and numerous other festivities of Christmas involve actions which are impermissible and Haram to practice.
Most importantly, engaging in the practices and traditions of disbelievers is impermissible, as Rasulullah (SAW) states,
”من تشبه بقوم فهو منهم“
Whoever imitates a nation will be from amongst them.
Therefore, it is evident and inferred from these Ahadeeth and numerous others that the celebration of Christmas is haram and must be avoided
The story of Isa (alayhis salam) from Qur’an:
The story of Isa (alayhis salam) is that of a pious Nabi of Allah (SWT), His name is Isa ibn Maryam (Isa, the son of Maryam bint Imran (radiyallahu anha). Maryam (RA) was from amongst the most pious of the womenfolk and she was informed by the angel Jibreel (alayhis salam) that she would give birth to a child. She expressed amazement at this, as stated in the Qur’an,
”قَالَتْ أَنَّىٰ يَكُونُ لِى غُلَـٰمٌۭ وَلَمْ يَمْسَسْنِى بَشَرٌۭ وَلَمْ أَكُ بَغِيًّۭا“
She said, How will I have a son while no man has touched me and I am not unchaste. (Maryam:20)
These are from amongst the miracles, that she was to give birth without male intervention and this is the belief of Islam. This is in contrast to the Christian belief that Isa is the son of Allah and Maryam by association is the wife of Allah (na’udhubillah). After she gave birth, the people started to accuse Maryam of Zina, because it was known that she was celibate and was not married. Maryam (RA) was commanded to stay silent, because this was to allow the Nabi of Allah Isa (alayhis salam] to answer for her. In the Qur’an it states,
”قَالَ إِنِّى عَبْدُ ٱللَّهِ ءَاتَىٰنِىَ ٱلْكِتَـٰبَ وَجَعَلَنِى نَبِيًّۭا“
He (Isa) said, Indeed I am the slave of Allah, he brought me the book and made me a prophet.
Here, the infant Isa is demonstrating miracles as he is talking while he is just an infant. This is from amongst the Mu’jizaat (miracles) of Ambiya. After this, the Jewish priests of the area decided to keep the story of Isa (alayhis salam)’s miraculous speech a secret due to their fear that this boy would bring back the message of Tawhid and bring an end to their authority. When he reached adulthood, Isa (alayhis salaam) one day was at the temple, which was filled with sheep to be slaughtered for the priests, the visitors however had to pay significant money to get inside. The priests slaughtered animals while the people outside starved. On this night, the prophets Yahya and Zakariyya (alayhima as-salam) were martyred by the Jews and Isa (alayhis salam) was given the order to call people to Islam.
Isa (alayhis salaam) with the permission and power of Allah performed many miracles, such as giving life to the dead and curing the blind. The message of Nabi Isa (alayhis salaam) angered the ruling classes of the time, and so they plotted to kill Nabi Isa (alayhis salaam). However, someone took the appearance of Isa (alayhis salaam) with the permission of Allah and Allah (SWT) raised Isa (alayhis salaam) to Heaven, wherein he resides until he will come again during the fitnah of Dajjal. This is the story of Isa (alayhis salaam) according to Islam.
This article concludes that the celebration of Christmas is totally Haram and should be avoided at all costs because imitating and celebrating the practices of the disbelievers is Haram and against the honor of a Muslim. A muslim should be proud of his own celebrations and traditions and not celebrate the traditions of others who distort the story of the prophets of Islam. May Allah give us tawfiq to act upon the good and leave the bad. Amin