Shamshad Ahmad Nasir, Missionary, USA
With Christmas just gone by, I feel that it is an opportunity to write about the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community’s beliefs and views about Christmas and its related celebrations. Do muslims celebrate christmas? No, Muslims do not celebrate Christmas. Many people know this, but they do not know why. If Jesus, peace be upon him, is so revered in Islam, why do we not celebrate his birthday? It is necessary to point out that Jesusas and his mother Hazrat Maryam (Mary), are revered highly by Muslims.
The Holy Quran mentions the name of Jesusas 25 times and that of Hazrat Maryam 34 times. In fact, a whole chapter in the Holy Quran has been dedicated to Hazrat Maryam (Surah Maryam, chapter 19) which gives a detailed account of the birth of Jesusas and the related circumstances.
As far as celebrating Christmas as the birthday of Jesusas is concerned, we, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, do not celebrate it, just as we do not celebrate the birthdays of any other prophet.
We believe that celebrating a prophet’s birth amounts to adopting that prophet’s teachings as a way of life. If the teachings are not followed, the Almighty’s displeasure is invoked. To quote an example from the Gospel, Jesusas preached non-violence to his followers. He said that if someone slaps you on one cheek, do not retaliate violently, but to turn the other cheek towards the attacker (Matthew 5:39).
If this policy of non-violence, and humbleness was strictly adhered to by the followers of Jesusas, surely peace would reign on earth. This is just one example, there are scores of others related to everyday life.
Was Jesus (as) born on 25 December?
The other question that needs to be addressed regarding Christmas is whether 25 December is the actual date of birth of Jesusas. According to the Bible, when Jesusas was born, shepherds slept outside in the open to tend to their sheep and date palms were the seasonal fruit. When the baby (Jesus) was born, Hazrat Maryam shook a date palm tree and ate the dates that fell:
“And shake towards thyself the trunk of the palm-tree; it will cause fresh ripe dates to fall upon thee.” (Surah Maryam, Ch.19: V. 26)
She drank water from a nearby stream. It was the season of the ripening of dates, probably around August or September. Both the Quran and Bible (New Testament, Luke 2:7-8.) give evidence of the actual time of Jesus’ birth as autumn rather than winter.
Winters, and especially winter nights in Bethlehem are too cold to sleep in the open. Christians themselves are unsure of the actual date of the birth of Jesusas. The consensus was to adopt the date of the ancient rituals related to the Winter Solstice, as the day of his birth (Encyclopedia Britannica, 15th edition).
When the authenticity of the date of an event is doubtful, how can it form the basis of a celebration reflecting Christian faith and beliefs? And last but not least, the Christmas spirit has become a business and marketing venture leading to wasteful expenditure and activities that negate the spirit and teachings of Christianity.
Today, Christmas has been all about receiving and not giving. Children expect adults to give them expensive gifts, rather than being content with what they have.
Why Muslims do not celebrate Christmas in a nutshell
In a nutshell, Ahmadi Muslims do not celebrate Christmas because:
1. People should follow the teachings of their prophets and take the time for reflection, rather than make their birthdays’ occasion for merriment and enjoyment.
Today, if Muslims do celebrate Christmas day or Christmas eve, they should keep in mind that Christians take Jesus Christ to be the son of God (and God within Trinity). Therefore, Christians are celebrating the birth of their god on Earth, God forbid! This is shirk and associating with shirk is the greatest sin according to the Holy Quran. Thus, how can Islam allow celebrating Christmas? Or why would a Muslim think they can celebrate Christmas when it so strongly opposes the core tenets of their religion?
We should educate our children about Islam and not compromise our faith due to cultural influences. We can live harmoniously with other Christians in their country and be their friends too without commemorating a core tenet of another faith as nowhere does Islam say you can join their festivals, especially when they go against your own religion – in this case, shirk and pagan traditions.
Even Prophet Muhammadsa told Muslims not to imitate Christians and Jews:
“The one who imitates those other than us [in faith and religious rituals] is not from among us. Do not imitate the Jews and Christians.” (Jami‘ al-Tirmidhi, Chapter on Seeking Permission)
Muslims should celebrate their own festive days like Eid to the fullest and respectfully allow other religions to celebrate theirs.
We can agree to disagree with Christian doctrine, theology and practices peacefully and steer clear of being influenced by them or participating in them. Other religions do not celebrate Christmas either, so why does the need arise for Muslims to celebrate Christmas then?
That is why it is essential to study Islam deeply and teach the upcoming generations about why Muslims do not celebrate Christmas – or, for that matter, any other non-Islamic traditions. In this way, the essence of Islam and the pure teachings of Prophet Muhammadsa will be instilled within the new generation of Muslims, especially those living in the West.