[Editor’s Note: Since the pagan festival of Christmas, celebrated by the Trinitarian polytheists, is fast approaching on the 25th of December, we would like on this occassion present a fatawa (Islamic ruling) for the Muslims with regard to celebrating their festival or even congratulating them. It should be noted that the Christians believe that Jesus (P) is literally God, hence to participate or even greet them on the occasion of this festival is to implicitly agree with their doctrine. Therefore Muslims should be aware of the boundaries with regard to Christmas and how one should approach it.]
Syaikh Muhammad bin Shalih al-Uthaymeen rahimahullah was asked:
What is the ruling regarding wishing “Merry Christmas” to them [the Christians]? What about giving them an answer when they wish us with the same? Is it permissible to go to the places of festive occasions or parties which celebrate this occasion? Is someone considered to have sinned when he does something related to the above without intending to do so [his real reason] yet he did it only to show respect to his friends, or out of shame, or other reasons? Is it possible to do so in these circumstances?
Praise be to God.
To wish the non-Muslims with Merry Christmas or any of their religious festivals is haraam (forbidden), by consensus of the ulama (ijma’), as Ibn al-Qayyim, may God have mercy on him, said:
“Congratulating the kuffaar on the rituals that belong only to them is haraam by consensus, as is congratulating them on their festivals and fasts by saying “A happy festival to you” or “May you enjoy your festival”, and so on. If the one who says this has been saved from kufr, it is still forbidden. It is like congratulating someone for prostrating to the cross, or even worse than that. It is as great a sin as congratulating someone for drinking wine, or murdering someone, or having illicit sexual relations, and so on.
Many of those who have no respect for their religion fall into this error; they do not realize the offensiveness of their actions. Whoever congratulates a person for his disobedience or bid’ah or kufr exposes himself to the wrath and anger of God.”1
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 accept the rituals of kufr or congratulate anyone else for them, because God does not accept any of that at all, as He says (interpretation of the meaning):
“If you disbelieve, then verily, God 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. . .”2
“This day, I have perfected your religion for you, completed My favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion…”3
So congratulating them is forbidden, whether they are one’s colleagues at work or otherwise.
If they greet us on the occasion of their festivals, we should not respond, because these are not our festivals, and because they are not festivals which are acceptable to God. These festivals are innovations in their religions, and even those which may have been prescribed formerly have been abrogated by the religion of Islam, with which God sent Muhammad (P) to the whole of mankind.
God says (interpretation of the meaning):
“Whoever seeks a religion other than Islam, it will never be accepted of him, and in the Hereafter he will be one of the losers.”4
It is haraam for a Muslim to accept invitations on such occasions, because this is worse than congratulating them as it implies taking part in their celebrations.
Similarly, Muslims are forbidden to imitate the kuffaar by having parties on such occasions, or exchanging gifts, or giving out sweets or food, or taking time off work, etc., because the Prophet (P) said:
“Whoever imitates a people is one of them.”
Shaykh al-Islaam Ibn Taymiyah said:
“Imitating them in some of their festivals implies that one is pleased with their false beliefs and practices, and gives them the hope that they may have the opportunity to humiliate and mislead the weak.”5
Whoever does anything of this sort is a sinner, whether he does it out of politeness or to be friendly, or because he is too shy to refuse, or for whatever other reason, because this is hypocrisy in Islam, and because it makes the kuffaar feel proud of their religion.
God is the One Whom we ask to make the Muslims feel proud of their religion, to help them adhere steadfastly to it, and to make them victorious over their enemies, for He is the Strong and Omnipotent.