Christmas season is upon us. And for us Muslims, that means all sorts of awkward dilemmas. Christmas lunch, Secret Santa, going to the Xmas party. You know the drill.
We’ve compiled some of the fatawa relating to these issues, and also provided our (non-fatwa!) view.
We compiled these fatawa from online resources and from prima facie reputable sources. It’s designed as an easy resource for Muslims to access these three key questions.
Is wishing Merry Christmas halal or haram?
|✔||Azhar||There is nothing to forbid it therefore it is halal||Link|
|✔||Dar Al Ifta Egypt||There is nothing to forbid it therefore it is halal||Link|
|✘||Shaykh ibn Baaz||Even if you intend to just be polite, being polite with regard to falsehood is not permissible||Link|
|✔||Shaykh Yasir Qadhi||It is permissible to utter generic phrases to non-Muslims. If the phrase endorses a haram theology, then it is haram. It is up to you to decide if "Merry Christmas" etc endorses a haram theology or if it is a generic phrase.||Link|
In the United Kingdom and most western countries, Christmas has moved very far away from being a religious festival.
We prefer the Shaykh Yasir Qadhi approach: if you’re living somewhere where giving generic greetings is obviously not an approval of any non-Islamic theological belief, then it’s not a big issue.
That being said, our strongest preference is to avoid these things altogether so don’t go out of your way to give these sorts of greetings.
Secret Santa and Giving Gifts
|✔||Waseem Hussain/Faraz Rabbani||The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) emphasized the rights of neighbours and those one has any kind of relationship with in numerous hadiths, and these do not distinguish between Muslim and non-Muslims. Giving gifts with the intention of strengthening ties is fine.||Link|
|✔||Muhammad Tosir Miah||There is nothing wrong in Islam with accepting presents from non Muslims or giving gifts to them during the Christmas festival, as they are not religious acts in themselves, but social customs. Giving gifts with the intention of strengthening ties and bringing people closer to Islam is fine.||Link|
|✔||Dar al Ifta Egypt||This is considered one of the ways towards calling to the religion of God through noble manners.||Link|
|✘||Shaikh Ibn Bāz, Abdur-Razzāq `Afeefee and others||It is haram to accept a gift from non-Muslims in celebration of their festivities (IFG note: and therefore presumably also haram to give a gift). This honours and condones their innovation and ultimately leads to us taking on their festivals.||Link|
Our approach on this is that it’s quite easily avoided, and so it should be avoided. Giving gifts does potentially help to bring people closer to Islam, but we can do this on the Eid days too. Arguably, it would be more powerful to do it this way. In our experience, a simple, respectful explanation goes a long way.
Secret Santas are a little trickier. If you can opt out gracefully, that’s best (you might offer to bring in a bunch of samosas for the entire team instead). If you can’t opt out easily then taking part with the right intention is likely the best way forward.
Going to Christmas Parties
|✘||Mufti Zakaria Makada/ Mufti Ebrahim Salejee||A believer should not associate with such events.||Link|
|✘||Muhammad ibn Adam Al-Kawthari||It is haram to attend gatherings where unlawful practices take place (e.g. drinking) and attending Christmas parties is tacit approval of the festival.||Link|
|½||Shaykh Yasir Qadhi||In reality, corporate culture for such events is not religious, even though it occurs around a festive time. Note: Shaykh did not discuss his view on whether it would still be okay in the presence of abundant alcohol etc.||Link|
You tend to know what the nature of a “Christmas” event will be. Yasir Qadhi is right to say that in the corporate context, the religious element has nothing to do with the event. Christmas is just an excuse for get-togethers, work lunches, parties etc.
In that sense, attending a “Christmas” event in of itself doesn’t appear to be too problematic because there is nothing religious about it. However, if it is an alcohol-fuelled event – as many Christmas parties tend to be – then it is of course much better to avoid.
However, if your team at work is going out for a quiet “Christmas” lunch (where the time of year is simply an excuse for the gathering), then that’s no different to going out with them at any other time of year.
In our personal experience, we usually will go to the dinner element of the evening, but leave well before any dancing or serious alcohol consumption starts.