I’m Muslim And I Love Being Told “Merry Christmas” — Part 2
I don’t understand the paranoia of some Muslims
After I published my article about how I — as a Muslim — enjoy being told, and saying back, “Merry Christmas,” I inevitably received some, ahem, “feedback” about my views from some fellow Muslims. The gist of it was that we as Muslims shouldn’t say “Merry Christmas” because it is “affirming Christian belief.”
Huh? How is my saying “Merry Christmas” affirming Christian belief?
Like I said before, my saying “Merry Christmas” is a prayer for happiness on Christmas Day. It is an attempt to connect with friends, neighbors, colleagues, and complete strangers on a spiritual level, to spread peace and love amongst us. It is in no way, shape, or form an acceptance of the belief in the divinity of Jesus, something in which I do not believe at all.
It is exactly akin to my Christian friends and colleagues who tell me “Ramadan Mubarak” or “Happy Eid.” I know that this doesn’t mean that they have accepted Islamic belief. I know it to be what it is: a gesture of friendship and an attempt to wish me happiness on my religious holiday. I really appreciate the gesture, and I only want to return that gesture to Christians during Christmas time by saying “Merry Christmas.”
I don’t understand this paranoia on the part of some Muslims: that saying “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Hanukkah” or even “Happy Diwali” will somehow take us out of Islamic belief. It is so strange.
When the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) first came to Medinah, he said this to the faithful:
Spread peace, feed each other (i.e., break bread together), maintain the ties of family, and pray at night when others are sleeping. With this, you shall enter Paradise in peace.
The first thing he said was, “Spread Peace.” Greeting my fellow Americans who are Christians with “Merry Christmas” is an effort at spreading peace.
What’s more, Islamic scholar Habib Ali Jifri wrote this about saying “Merry Christmas”:
“I remind my brothers from among the students of sacred knowledge that the scholars who forbid congratulating non-Muslims on their religious celebrations tied their judgement to the assumption that congratulating affirms certain tenets of belief (held by non-Muslims) that are diametrically opposed to Islam. They anchored their judgement on a widespread understanding and custom particular to their time that congratulating others on their religious occasions is considered an affirmation of their beliefs, hence their edicts made mention of proofs regarding the impermissibility of affirming and esteeming false tenets of belief and not clear and unambiguous proofs that forbid congratulating in and of itself.
Today we can not imagine that congratulating others on their religious occasions affirms their tenets of belief. Islam is well established and knowledge of its core aspects of belief are known as well as the points of divergence with other religions. Human beings in general have also matured enough to accommodate co-existence that respects the boundaries of each others’ faiths. A Muslim who congratulates Christians on Christmas does not come close to thinking that this affirms the divinity of Christ or that he is the son of God. Likewise, a Christian who receives the season’s greetings from a Muslim will not be mislead to think that this Muslim has affirmed Christian theology. Similarly, a Christian who congratulates a Muslim neighbour on Eid, or Ramadan or the birth of the Prophet Muhammad knows well that this does not mean he is affirming Islamic belief, nor does a Muslim think that about a Christian who congratulates him/her.
Contemporary custom surrounding the Christmas season no longer links congratulating one (by saying ‘merry Christmas’ for example) with an affirmation of the belief that Jesus is the son of God. Rather, it is considered a general custom that indicates good inter-human dealing.”
Now, to me, this is intuitive, and I did not need scholarly input to come to this conclusion. Still, it is still important to point out that Islamic scholars have affirmed that Muslims can say “Merry Christmas” and not be traitors to their faith.
I have been told, “It’s better to say, ‘Happy Holidays.’ It’s safer.” Come on, really? What is the major holiday at this time of year? It’s Christmas. So, saying “Happy Holidays” in order to “be safe” is a cop out, a play with words. It is saying “Merry Christmas” in a different way.
I said it in my “part 1” post about Merry Christmas, and it bears repeating now:
Now more than ever, we need more connection between us in these horribly divided times. It is too easy to divide; it is too easy to separate; it is too easy to retreat into our corners of familiarity and demonize those from whom we are different. We need to resist this with as much effort as possible. And saying “Merry Christmas” is a small way we can accomplish this.
It’s OK…your faith will still be intact after you say it.