Celebrating Christmas: Shaykh Mohammed Daniel's reaction to Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa
الحمد لله والصلاة والسلام على نبينا محمد وعلى آله وصحبه وبعد :
As salam mu alaikum wa rahmat Ullah wa barakataHu
I have read the fatwa that you have posted by the Grand Mufti of Egypt Ali Gomaa informing that one may celebrate Christmas with their non-Muslim family and is very sad that such an erudite scholar should commit such a mistake which is completely contrary to the scholars of the Shafi Madhab (School of Thought) that he follows as well as the consensus of the Ulama in this regard. The great Imam of al-Madinah Imam Malik (RA) famously said, "Every person can be taken from and rejected, except the person who occupies this blessed grave." He was pointing at the blessed grave of our Beloved (salahu alayhi wasalam). This is a clear indication that infallibility in regards the rules surrounding how we practice our deen is only possessed by the Apostle of Allah (salahu alayhi wasalam) and that anyone after him no matter their level of knowledge or position in the Ummah can make mistakes and these mistakes should be rejected.
There will no doubt be people who call themselves Muslims, but have the characteristics of hypocrites who will jump on and promote the ruling of Mufti Gomaa in the same way that they did when the now deceased Mufti of Azhar (may Allah forgive him) made comments stating that the Niqab was 'nothing but cultural' which was vehemently refuted by scholars worldwide with proofs from the sacred works. The ruling of Mufti Gomaa contains many flaws that I will look to point out in the future as I do not have time now owing to the pressing issues of assisting fleeing relatives in Damascus. Nevertheless, with only a few days left before the season of Christmas, I feel that it is urgent to address this matter even if I am unable to write at length. I will only list a few of the proofs in this regard and then I will provide some practical advice for those that may find themselves in such situations.
Proofs that a Muslim cannot attend and participate in non-Muslim holy days.
وَالَّذِينَ لَا يَشْهَدُونَ الزُّورَ وَإِذَا مَرُّوا بِاللَّغْوِ مَرُّوا كِرَامًا
And [know that servants of God are only] those who never bear witness to falsehood, and [who], whenever they pass by [people engaged in] frivolity, pass on with dignity. (25:72(
This verse is clearly stating that the servants of Allah are those who do not bear witness to those things that are false let alone sit and participate in them. Christians themselves do not have a consensus on when Jesus was born and many of them only celebrate it on December 25th because that is what the majority today are doing with some of them claiming that it is a false date that was fixed in line with pagan holidays. Furthermore, if we were to agree with Mufti Gomaa that the date is accurate how did the most erudite scholars of Tafseer (Quranic exegesis) understand this verse? To find out, any student of knowledge can open the books of Tafseer and they will find the following:
Tafseer of Imam al-Baghawi (RA)
The pre-eminent exegete Mujahid said that الزور which is translated above as falsehood means the festivals of the Mushrikeen.
Tafseer of Imam al-Qurtobi (RA(
He states: "…And according to one opinion of Ibn Abbas it is the festivals of the mushrikeen."
Tafseer of Ibn Katheer (RA)
Ibn Kathir states: "And Abu al-Aliyah, Tawoos, Mohammed ibn Sireen, Dahaak, Rabi ibn Anas and others have said that it is the festivals of the mushrikeen."
Interestingly, further on he states: … "And Imam Malik narrates from Zuhri that is the consumption of alcohol. They do not attend to it nor do they desire it as has come in the Hadith, "Whoever believes in Allah and the Last day must not sit on the dinner cloth wherein alcohol is given out”
So we ask our Mufti who said, "Therefore, participate in your friends and family's celebrations, eat with them and refrain from eating pork and drinking alcohol with tact and civility" where is he from this statement of Imam Malik and even more importantly the authentic hadith above clearly prohibiting sitting at places were alcohol is given out. If we listen to him, we would be sitting timidly with 'tact and civility' while our 'friends' contravene Allah's laws in celebration.
There is no doubt that the origin of Christmas is that of a religious holiday, irrespective if a person chooses to celebrate it as a custom or as part of their new found patriotism. If you observe it you are clearly imitating/resembling the non Muslims and so you will come under the following authentic hadith that can be found in many collections including the Sunan of Abi Dawood:
مَنْ تَشَبَّهَ بِقَوْمٍ فَهُوَ مِنْهُمْ
"Whoever imitates a nation is from them"
This hadith was understood well by the great Sahabi Abdullah ibn Amr ibn al-Aas as collected by Imam al-Bayhaqi with an authentic chain when he said:
"Whosoever lives in the lands of the non Arabs and celebrates their Neyrouz and festivals and keeps imitating them until he dies in that condition, will be resurrected with them on the Day of Resurrection."
Now, earlier I mentioned that Mufti Ali Gomaa has gone against the rulings of scholars in his own madhab and here it is worthwhile pointing out the statement of one of greatest Fuqaha of the Shafi madhab.
Ibn Hajr al-Haythami al-Shafi'ee (RA) in his Fatawa collection has stated the following:
Then I saw that some of our later Imams have stated that which agrees with what I stated: And from the most despicable of innovations is the acceptance of Muslims in regards to the holidays of the Christians by imitating them in their foods and giving and accepting gifts and those that mainly observe this are the Egyptians. The Apostle of Allah has said, "Whoever imitates a nation is from them… "
Subhan Allah, so it is clear to everyone that this imitating is nothing new because he passed away approximately 500 years ago. What is even clearer is that even he suffered from the Egyptians in this regard so it is not something that we are facing in the 21st century.
The Prophet's (salahu alayhi wasalam) deep rooted desire to contradict the Christians and Jews in everything they did so that he left a distinct example for us to imitate instead of us imitating the non-Muslims. Anyone who studies the books of Hadith and Seerah knows that there are many matters like this.
In an authentic hadith that can be found in the Musnad of Imam Ahmed and other books we come across the following hadith which clearly shows us what our Beloved would do on the days in which the non-Muslims were celebrating.
Umm Salamah (RA) says the Prophet (salahu alayhi wasalam) would fast Saturday and Sunday more than he would fast any other day and he would say, "These two days are the holy days of the mushrikeen and I love to be dissimilar to them."
This trait of the Prophet (salahu alayhi wasalam) was so clear that even the Jews of that time knew it well and they famously said, "This man does not want to leave anything except that he wants to be dissimilar to us." (Sahih Muslim Kitab al-Hayd)
These three proofs suffice to show those who are genuinely seeking the truth that the celebration of Christmas is haraam and this is the agreement of the four schools of thought as I will prove in a future article.
PERSONAL ADVICE TO ALL STUDENTS FROM LIFE EXPERIENCE
I am aware that most students of Cordoba Academy live in countries in which Muslims are the minority such as the United States, Europe and Australia and it is inevitable that you will come into contact with people who are celebrating Christmas. There are also many of you who have non-Muslim family members (as I do) and it is very important you demonstrate to them the warmth of Islam as well as ensuring their rights over you as kin.
I feel that it is only right for me to offer some advice from my own life experience that I believe you may find beneficial in your interactions. I have based the below advice on principles in the Quran and Sunnah, but for brevity have not mentioned every proof otherwise it would become cumbersome upon the reader.
If you have Christian parents/family.
وَوَصَّيْنَا الْإِنسَانَ بِوَالِدَيْهِ حَمَلَتْهُ أُمُّهُ وَهْنًا عَلَى وَهْنٍ وَفِصَالُهُ فِي عَامَيْنِ أَنِ اشْكُرْ لِي وَلِوَالِدَيْكَ إِلَيَّ الْمَصِيرُ وَإِن جَاهَدَاكَ عَلى أَن تُشْرِكَ بِي مَا لَيْسَ لَكَ بِهِ عِلْمٌ فَلَا تُطِعْهُمَا وَصَاحِبْهُمَا فِي الدُّنْيَا مَعْرُوفًا وَاتَّبِعْ سَبِيلَ مَنْ أَنَابَ إِلَيَّ ثُمَّ إِلَيَّ مَرْجِعُكُمْ فَأُنَبِّئُكُم بِمَا كُنتُمْ تَعْمَلُونَ
And We have enjoined upon man [care] for his parents. His mother carried him, [increasing her] in weakness upon weakness, and his weaning is in two years. Be grateful to Me and to your parents; to Me is the [final] destination. Yet should they endeavour to make thee ascribe divinity, side by side with Me, to something which thy mind cannot accept [as divine], obey them not; but [even then] bear them company in this world’s life with kindness, and follow the path of those who turn towards Me. In the end, unto Me you all must return; and thereupon I shall make you [truly] understand all that you were doing [in life] (31:14-15)
Not a day should go by you in which you are neglectful of the need for your family to enter Jannah and the only way bridge between them and Jannah, contrary to what Perennialists say, is Islam. Whether or not your parents are Muslim, you must always exercise impeccable manners towards them and treat them with kindness maintaining a good relationship with them as made clearer by our beloved (salahu alayhi wasalam) in the authentic hadith.
If your parents invite you to partake of their Christmas meal, then you should in the most kind of ways decline the invitation and tell them that you would be happy to invite them to your house or a restaurant for dinner or even eat at their house provided that it has no affiliation to the celebration of Christmas. Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus who Christians believe was God incarnate or was the begotten son of God (audhobillah) etcetera If you participate with them, you will be in clear contradiction of the verse mentioned above.
If you have Christian neighbours
Your neighbours, whether they are Muslim or not have a great right upon you and this is demonstrated by the authentic hadith of the Prophet which is rigorously authentic coming in the Sahih of Imam al-Bukhari and Imam Muslim:
"Jibreel (the Archangel) kept advocating me regarding treating neighbours with kindness until I began to think thought he would allocate for them a share of deceased’s inheritance".
If anyone should claim that this is only for the Muslim neighbour, then we would say is their understanding of the deen better than that of Imam al-Bukhari and the Sahabah? Imam al-Bukhari (RA) in his wonderful text al-Adab al-Mufrad under the chapter related to the rights of neighbours brings as the last hadith in this chapter the following authentic hadith that can be found in the Sunan collections of Imam Abu Dawood and al-Tirmidhi.
Imam Mujahid (RA) said, "I was with Abdullah ibn Amr while his bondsman was skinning a sheep. He then said to him a few times. Oh boy! Once you are done (skinning), start with our Jewish neighbour.' A man there said surprisingly, 'Jewish? May Allah correct you!' Abdullah ibn Amr replied, 'I heard the Apostle of Allah, (salahu alayhi wasalam) advocating that we treat our neighbours well until we began to think he would order us to make them our heirs."
If your neighbour should send you a Christmas card in the post as is tradition, then do not send it back to them or worse still, tear it up and throw it in a communal area for all to see. Put it aside and dispose of it in a discrete way so that you neighbor does not see it and become sad at your actions possibly causing him to hate Muslims and Islam. And as it is not permissible for a Muslim to cooperate with non Muslims in their celebrations of faith as is agreed by the four schools, it would not be permissible for you to send them a card back as this would mean that you are supporting and accepting their false beliefs. My advice would be to wait a few days after Christmas has subsided so that the gift is not regarded as a Christmas gift and buy them a small gift which you should give them with the sole intention of making their hearts inclined to Islam and returning good with that which is good. (see Holy Quran 55:60) In some circumstances best left to your judgment, it may be possible to include in the gift a leaflet on the significance Jesus (Alayhis salam) plays in the life of Muslims.
Greeting you with sentences such as Merry Christmas
If your neighbour should greet you with a greeting that is specific to their religious holiday, you should not reply to them using words related to their religion nor should you ever ignore them as this would definitely hurt their feelings. Instead return their greeting with that which is better (see Holy Quran 4:86) and say something like, may God bless you and Jesus Christ or may God give you a prosperous year. In reality, you are making dua for that person because if Allah wanted to bless and give them a prosperous year, he would bless them with Hidayah (guidance).
One of my Indian Shoyoukh told me that in the early twentieth century Hindus and Sikhs would actually prefer to live next to a Muslim because of the etiquette that they saw of their Muslim neighbors who would not disturb them with noisy music, gossip, drunkenness, parties and the like. How beautiful is it if we could return to this and let our non-Muslim brothers/sisters in humanity see the unique and peaceful teachings of Islam.
If you have a Christian wife
Many revert male Muslims when they enter Islam remain in marital relationships with women who are Christian which is understandable, especially if there are children in the equation. Sadly, many Muslims are happy with the status quo of being able to have a marital life with Christian women and they forget that if they have true feelings for this person, they should wish that they be in the company of this person in Paradise in the life hereafter.
My advice to them is to use the Christmas holiday as an opportunity to discuss the significance of Jesus in Islam and to inform one’s wife about the true origins of Christmas. It is best if you take a holiday away from your home town where you can spend some quality time with her and the family. This helps immensely in staying away from any tricky situations with your family during this period and it will also keep your wife away from actions that are Haraam such as her possible consumption of alcohol, pork, singing and dancing with strange men and other actions of vice. However, if your wife insists that she wants to go to her family and you have no recourse, then you cannot compel her to stay with you as Allah has forbidden any coercion in practicing Islam as mentioned in Surah al-Baqarah:
لاَ إِكْرَاهَ فِي الدِّينِ قَد تَّبَيَّنَ الرُّشْدُ مِنَ الْغَيِّ
“There shall be no coercion in matters of faith. The right direction is henceforth distinct from error.” (2:256)
If you have Christian employees
In order to show your employees Islam’s mercy and tolerance towards other religions one should afford them with flexibility around their holy days with the inner intention of dawah. This is because we know that the Prophet (salahu alayhi wasalam) guaranteed the rights of the Jews and Christians to worship so we should follow his example and not become an obstacle for them so that they should despise us. Even better, is to treat them with Ihsaan and give them a day off as many of them may only find this time in the year to spend with their extended family. Imagine the great dawah effect it would have if while they were gathered with their extended family, they praised and thanked their Muslim boss for his/her generosity towards them. People in marketing know, that the best form of advertising is 'word of mouth'.
I end with saying that we must always be alert as to the way our actions are perceived by those around us and treat everyone with the best of character, however this does not mean that we become excessively flexible to the extent that we completely forego the authentic practices of over a millennium of sacred tradition and scholarship that we have inherited from our teachers. Do we think that we are the first Muslims to ever live with Christians or Jews? Or the first people to become Muslim and have non Muslim relatives? No, we have been doing so since the days of our Beloved (salahu alayhi wasalam) and yet we do not find a single Sahabi, Tabi'ee or those that followed them for hundreds of years who went and celebrated Christmas with them because it was the 'birthday of Jesus' and they felt the need to be closer to Jesus (alayhis salam) and further from the Sunnah of Mohammed (salahu alayhi wasalam)
This and what I have had taufeeq in saying is from Allah alone, and what is from mistakes, oversights and forgetfulness is from me and Shaytaan the accursed; Allah and his Rasul are free from them. I seek refuge in Allah in being a bridge utilised by others to enter Jannah, and then being thrown into the fire; thereafter I seek refuge in Allah from reminding others of this and forgetting myself.
Servant of Allah
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