Muslim Societies & Christmas

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Dr Mudasir Rizvi

THE 25th of December is celebrated by Christians throughout the world as Christmas (birthday of Prophet Jesus, peace be upon him). On this day, Muslims congratulate their Christian neighbors and friends. Remarkable is the fact that the date of birth of Prophet Eysa (AS) or Jesus Christ is not what is observed actually on the 25th of December but this is one of the traditional date change made by Christians later on due to some particular reasons. 

From last few years, a new tradition has emerged in many Muslim societies around the globe, regarding the celebration of this day, as many celebrate it as the day of birth of one of the Prophets of Allah. But the important question lies in the factor of faith. What does Islamic Jurisprudence say about celebrating December 25 as the birth date of one of the Prophets of Allah? Many Muslims throughout the world are bent on celebrating the day like any tradition of Islam thus endorcing it as the date of birth of God’s Prophet.

Extending greetings to Christian neighbors and friends from the social point of view is acceptable but it is not allowed to celebrate the date as an Islamic tradition. We can extend greetings and respects to the Christians on this day as a matter of social and cultural trend that may help strengthen unity and mutual-respect. However the fact remains, that many scholars reject the notion that 25th of December is the exact date of birth of the Prophet Jesus (AS). For them the change has been made under a well thought out attempt to propagate Christian beliefs as are in vogue now.

The grounds of the belief, on which the date is changed, is actually against the basic spirit of Islam. Carson Shark explains the change in the date of birth of Jesus Christ, in his book ‘Jesus Birth’ on page 58:

This would mean the church in 525 A.D. did not accept the Gospel of Luke that Jesus was born in 6 AD. However, the Church accepted the Friday 25 March 1 A.D.”

Another writer Edwin D. Fred writes on page 118 of his work ‘Stories of Jesus Birth: A critical introduction’:

“As time went on, Christians also became interested in fixing the time of Jesus birth, and to do that they tried to establish the date of Herod’s death. Since, he died soon after Jesus was born. However, that was not an easy task.

In the same way presented in ‘Chronicle of the Living Christ’ by Robert A Powell on page 34:

Using Anne Catherine Emmerich’s indications as a basis for research, we can establish that the birth of Jesus took place around midnight between Saturday and Sunday 6/7 December in 2 B.C.”

While as Akhtar Shirazi and Safdar Agha write in ‘Jesus: the Warrior Apostle’ on page 233:

Jesus birth was generally celebrated on January 6 as part of the feast of Theophany, also known as Epiphany. Some scholars note that Luke’s descriptions of shepherds activities at the time of Jesus’ birth suggest a spring or summer date. Some scholars speculate that the December 25th date of the celebration derived from a Christian opposition to a absorption of the cult of the unconquered sun (Sol Invictus) promoted by Roman emperors in the third century in their efforts to establish a new imperial religion”

The reason for the change of date is further presented by the writer David Hyde Harrison on page 201 in his book ‘Who was Jesus’:

Jesus was born on the 6th of January. In 375 A.D. at Antioch, his birth date was changed to the 25th of December the shortest day of the year, to bring it into line with the birth of the Sun God. Constantine was the son of Sol Invictus (the Sun God).”

This date is actually based on the myth, and the belief of that myth is totally against the basic teachings of Islam, as it leads to Polytheism (Shirk) and leads to the belief of different Gods except Allah, which is biggest and unforgivable sin in Islam. This myth is also against the basic message of Prophet-hood, as David Hyde Harrison further writes:

It helped to transfer worship of Mithras the Iranian God of Light who was born several thousands years earlier on the 25th of December from a rock watched by shepherds to Christ. Astarte ‘The Virgin Goddess’ bought forth a child, an actual baby every year to represent the rebirth of the sun on 25th of December.

While paying heartfelt congrats to our Christian neighbors and friends, we must obligatory remind our own children that this is the festival of Christianity not Islam, because it is our duty towards our coming generations. One of the Islamic scholars in America, Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi Some years back said in this regard:

It is true that this holiday is very popular and it is extremely commercialized, nevertheless it is basically a religious holiday. Its very name and all its symbolism is Christian, through and through.

It is very important for Muslims to remind the children of next generations that the Christians celebrate Christmas as the day on the belief that it is the day of the birth of God’s Son or they call it God’s Incarnate, which is based on a belief, that is totally contrary to the teachings of Islam. As per Islam belief in the God’s Son or God in the flesh is a Shirk and against the very foundations of Islamic faith.

Muslims must be very cautious and careful in this matter of Islamic faith regarding Tawhid (Monotheism) and Nubuwat (Prophet-hood). Prophets are the Messengers and servants of Allah, is an important aspect of Tawhid, and while as the belief in Nubuwat expresses that Prophet Muhammad (SAW) is the last Prophet of Allah Subhanuhu, as Christians believe that Jesus was the last one of the Prophets, which denies the basic fact of last prophet-hood for Hazrat Muhammad (SAW), against the Muslim belief.

Not celebrating the day has nothing to do with reverence and love of Jesus, the respected Prophet of Allah, whom we Muslims hold in the highest regard and respect. On the other hand, saving our own Islamic Identity, we must congratulate our Christian friends and neighbors from social perspective, in the sense that this is the not festival of Islam but the festival of our Christian brothers.

The writer is Ph.D. in Arabic and Founder of ASAR Literary Foundation. He can be mailed at: [email protected]

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