It is not surprising to see some Muslims prepare for Christmas and New Year celebration. In fact you marvel at the joy and ecstasy with wish they handle the Yuletide, and you wonder whether it is part of teaching of Islam or they are fulfilling one Sunnah.
Every December 31, a large number of Muslims get into the festive spirit and celebrate New Year’s Day. Some so-called Islamic teachers even cause their members to congregate for a special prayer to cross over to January 1. Some parents even participate in this by purchasing items for the parties and by making their own plans for that night with their friends and relatives.
Some will quick to tell you when you engage them in discussion on the rationality of their action, saying that the year is for all of us. Yes, if the year is for all of us, as every other day, who set aside the New Year day for celebration, and who opined that there should be a cross-over night prayer or certain thing done to celebrate the day? It is no other than the Jew and the Christians, but certainly not from the God, Allah we worship.
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The fact of the matter is that all of these actions represent a comprehensive imitation of western culture and can only be the result of very low levels of faith or indeed a total lack of knowledge about Islam. It is nothing but a step in the wrong direction. The Prophet (s,a,w) told us that “He who imitates a people will be from among them (on the Day of Judgement).” [Abu Daawood] And in another narration, he (s.a.w) said: “The one who imitates people other than us (i.e., in faith) is not from us. Do not imitate the Jews or the Christians.” Therefore, it is not permissible for a Muslim to celebrate New Year, because is it not one of the celebrations of the Muslims.
The Gregorian calendar (so called because it was developed by Pope Gregory) decided on the 1st of January as the New Year to celebrate the circumcision of Jesus. Its origin – like so many modern-day holidays – lies in the pagan Roman festivals associated with Janus – the two headed deity who symbolised change.
The two eids in Islam encourage prayers, duaa for those suffering and alms to the needy. However, celebrating the New Year does no such thing. It is a celebration that promotes western culture and not to seek the face of God. It is not meant to worship God but to celebrate, unwind, and engage in frugalities. The day itself, (January 1) has no known generalization of holiness in it, it does not mirror the celebration of sanctity of God order than paganism. It has no basis or relationship to Islam.
Islam has established a path to guidance which differs from the culture and customs of the disbelievers regardless of whether they are from the people of the book or otherwise.
As Muslims, the Islamic calendar was ordained by Allah and has been in use since 1400 years. Even though we may end up using the Gregorian calendar due to circumstances beyond our control, we know for a fact that Allah has ordained the use of the lunar calendar for us in our worship. According to our Hijri calendar (initiated by the great Umar, the New Year actually begins on the first of Muharram.
Put into perspective, there is even nothing to celebrate. Like I said earlier, the day is like any other day in the sight of Allah. Because humans will always remain humans and that is why they see it differently from the prism of their limitations. But one wonders, if our Creator has told us and warned us against something, why we have to do the contrary.
It is also noteworthy to state that a very few scholars did not entirely condemn it, but they did not also support Muslim participating in it. That was why these scholars who condoned it never actually celebrated it, they were not known in history to have participated in celebration of Christmas or New Year or any member of their family. The lenient position stemmed from position of tolerance and dawah.
Even when we say Lakum dinukum waliya deen we still have to tolerate one and another for a peaceful society. And if we do not tolerate them, how do we engage them in dawah. So, we should not misunderstand their position and take it as excuse to engage in what we should not do ordinarily.
It is on that note that even as we differ in their celebration, we should show kindness and respect for their belief without participating in it. We can return compliments to them but never initiate it.
It would be against the spirit of Islam to not show kindness and respect to non-Muslims. We are encouraged to be warm and welcoming, not least because it will attract others to our faith. By the same token, it is against the spirit of Islam to do any of the above by subordinating our own faith, culture or heritage. Note that the Hijrah has separated truth from falsehood, therefore, let it become the epoch of the era.
Fear Allah in your behaviour and actions; remain firm on His obedience and refrain from disobeying Him; encourage your wives and children to adhere to Islamic rulings and assist them in this; rebuke them and restrain them from committing sins so that you may protect yourselves from the Hellfire.
So this year, and today which is 16th of Jumadal Awwal, 1442 A.H., we thank Allah for the blessings of having our own calendar and the two Eids. May Allah give us all many, many more in happiness, health and unity for the whole of the Ummah. Ameen.