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. 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 following and adopting a prophet’s teachings as a way of life, amounts to a celebration of his birth. 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.
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 Jesus was born, shepherds slept outside in the open to tend to their sheep and date palms were the seasonal fruit. When the baby (Jesusas) was born, Hazrat Maryam shook a date palm tree and ate the dates that fell. 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.
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 occasions for merriment and enjoyment
2. The Quran and Bible both give evidence that 25 December is not the date of birth of Jesus Christ (peace be upon him).