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Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Congratulating Non-Muslims on Their Festive Occasions


















Assalamualaikum dear Brothers & Sisters, my fellow Malaysians who are reading this.

I came across this fatwa from the leading scholars at the Islam Online.net website where the European Council for Fatwa and Research have issued the following decree with regard to the sensitive matter of whether it is permissible for Muslims to congratulate Non Muslims who celebrate their religious festivals and occasions such as what we experience here in our multiracial, multi faithed country every so often?

I figure that this fatwa is of very great importance for us to ponder upon and learn as to the do's and don'ts as far as our religious principles and practices allows or forbids us in wishing our fellow Malaysians and other nationalities who happen to be Non Muslims but yet are those who mean us no harm, bear us no malice and wish to co-exist with us in relative peace and harmony save for a few die hard individuals who continue to wage an undeclared war against us and our faith?

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Living Shari`ah -Fatwa Bank Question and Answer Details

Name of Questioner: Abu Yusuf

Title : Congratulating Non-Muslims on Their Festive Occasions


Question :

Dear scholars, as-salamu `alaykum. Would you please shed light on the ruling of congratulating non-Muslims on their festive occasions. Please explain this issue in detail, such as congratulating them for their different festivities including national ones as well as exchanging gifts. Jazakum Allah khayran.

Date : 23/Apr/2006

Name of Counsellor : European Council for Fatwa and Research

Topic : Social Manners, Customs & Traditions, Daa`wah to Non- & New Muslims

Answer :

Wa'alaykum As-Salamu wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh.

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.

Dear brother in Islam, we would like to thank you for the great confidence you place in us, and we implore Allah Almighty to help us serve His cause and render our work for His Sake.

First of all, we stress that Muslims are commanded to deal justly and kindly with their non-Muslim neighbors or friends.

Therefore, there is nothing wrong in exchanging gifts with them.

Muslims are allowed to congratulate non-Muslims on their festive days and this becomes more of an obligation if the non-Muslims offer their greetings on Islamic festive occasions.

Allah the Almighty says: (When you are greeted with a greeting, greet in return with what is better than it, or at least return it equally…)(Al-Qur'an Surah An-Nisa’ 4: 86)

However, Muslims are not to celebrate or participate in the religious festivities of non-Muslims, but they can participate in national celebrations and festivities as citizens of those lands while observing Islamic manners and controls in all matters.

In response to the question you raised, the European Council for Fatwa and Research issued the following fatwa:

There can be no doubt as to the importance and the sensitivity of this issue, specially to Muslims residing in the West.

The Council has received numerous questions and queries from those who live in these countries and interact with the non-Muslims.

Indeed, between the Muslims and the non-Muslims are strong and integral links stipulated and deemed necessary by the means and manner of life itself, such as neighborly relations, friendship at work or study.

In fact, a Muslim may actually feel indebted toward a non-Muslim in particular circumstances, such as toward a hardworking and selfless supervisor or lecturer, a sincere and skillful doctor, and others.

A famous Arab said that one is enslaved by others’ favors.

Thus, what is the position of the Muslim to such people who are non-Muslims, who do not actually hold any animosity towards Muslims, do not fight them due to their religion, and did not actively seek to expel Muslims from their homes and lands?

The Holy Qur'an stipulates regulations as to how relationships between Muslim and non-Muslim are to be governed and carried out in Surat Al-Mumtahinah, which was essentially revealed to address the pagan polytheists.

Allah Almighty says:
(Allah does not forbid you to deal justly and kindly with those who fought not against you on account of religion and did not drive you out of your homes.

Verily, Allah loves those who deal with equity.

It is only as regards those who fought against you on account of religion, and have driven you out of your homes, and helped to drive you out, that Allah forbids you to befriend them.

And whosoever will befriend them, then such are the wrong-doers.) Al Qur'an Surah Al-Mumtahinah Chapter 60: Verses 8-9)


Thus the verse stipulates that there is a clear difference between those who fight Muslims and treat them as enemies, and those who interact and deal with Muslims in peace.

We are commanded to treat the latter well and in a just and beautiful manner, not merely give them what is duly theirs by right and to take from them what is duly ours.

Indeed, the command is to treat them beyond that and to deal with them in beautiful and ideal ways.

As for the other group — to whom the verse clearly forbids any allegiance or support offered in their favor — they are those who chose to become enemies of Islam and Muslims and worked actively to expel them from their homes and lands for no reason other than that they proclaim that Allah Almighty is their Lord, as did the Quraysh and the infidels of Makkah to the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) and his Companions.

Al-Bukhari and Muslim both reported on the authority of Asma’ bint Abi Bakr (may Allah be pleased with her), that she came to Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) and said: "O Messenger of Allah! My mother, who is a mushrik (a polytheist), has come to visit me and she desires to be close to me and to give me gifts.

Shall I greet her and treat her well?”

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) stated: “Greet your mother and treat her well.”


This, while the woman was a mushrik, and the Qur’an clearly states that the People of the Scripture (Jews and Christians) are far closer to Islam and Muslims than mushriks.

Indeed, the Qur’an gives allowance to eat from the food of the People of the Scripture and to marry them.

Allah Almighty says: (...The food of the People of the Scripture is lawful to you and your is lawful to them, lawful to you in marriage are chaste women from the believers and haste women from those who were given the scripture before your time…) (Al-Ma’idah 5: 5)

Also, if marriage is permissible with them, then it goes without saying that marriage implicitly and necessarily decrees love and closeness.

Allah Almighty states: (And amongst His signs is this, that He created for you wives from among yourselves, that you may find repose in them, and He has put between you affection and mercy…) (Ar-Rum 30: 21)

Indeed, how can a man despise his wife, who is ultimately his partner in life, his spouse, the mother of his children? Almighty Allah says: (...they are body cover for you and you are the same for them…) (Al-Baqarah 2: 187)

Moreover, an important consequence and result of marriage is the coming together of two families to form blood bonds and relationships, a natural human form of relating to one another. Allah says: (And it is He Who has created man from water, and has appointed for him kindred by blood, and kindred by marriage…) (Al-Furqan 25: 54)

Also, there are the feelings and affections of maternity, and the clearly stipulated and emphasized rights of a mother upon her children in Islam.

One asks in this context: Is it an acceptable act according to these stipulations that one does not greet or congratulate his or her non-Muslim mother on a day of festivity that she celebrates?

What about relatives from the mother’s side, such as grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins?

All those have rights upon a Muslim clearly stated in the Holy Qur'an, where Allah states: (But kindred by blood are nearer to one another regarding to inheritance in the decree ordained by Allah…) (Al-Anfal 8: 76), and also: (Verily, Allah enjoins justice and perfect mannerisms and giving to kith and kin…) (An-Nahl 16: 91)

Thus, if maternity and blood relation rights are obligatory upon a Muslim, in a way that exemplifies the beautiful manners of Islam and Muslims, it is also obligatory upon a Muslim to pay the due rights that work towards showing Muslims as people of beautiful character.

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) advised Abu Dharr (may Allah be pleased with him) saying: “Be aware of Allah wherever you are, and follow up a sin that you have committed with a good deed, so that sin may be erased, and treat people with beautiful manners.” (Reported by Ahmad, At-Tirmidhi, Ad-Darmi, and Al-Hakim)

As is evident, the emphasis is upon “…and treat people with beautiful manners” not “…treat Muslims”.

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) also strongly advised us to deal with non-Muslims in a mild and gentle manner, not using stern and terrorizing methods.

It was reported that when a group of Jews approached the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and greeted him with twisted pronunciation, and thus uttered “Assam`alaykum, O Muhammad!” (meaning “death and destruction come upon you”) instead of “as-salamu `alaykum”, `A'ishah (may Allah be pleased with her) heard them and responded by saying, ‘assamu `alaykum also and the curse and wrath of Allah!

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) rebuked `A'ishah for what she had said.

She told him, “Did you not hear what they said?” He said, “I did, and I responded by saying, ‘And upon you,’” @ ' Wa alaika!' (i.e., that death will come upon you as it will come upon me.)

He went on to say, “O `A'ishah! Allah loves gentleness in all matters.” (Reported by Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

Indeed the permissibility of congratulating non-Muslims on their festive days becomes more of an obligation if they offer their greetings on Islamic festive occasions, as we are commanded to return good treatment with similar treatment, and to return the greeting with a better one or at least with the same greeting.

Allah Almighty says: “When you are greeted with a greeting, greet in return with what is better than it, or at least return it equally…” (An-Nisa' 4: 86)

A Muslim must never be less charitable or pleasant or indeed of lesser manners than any other, as the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) stated in the hadith: “The most perfect believers in terms of their iman are those who possess the most beautiful manners.” (Reported by Ahmad, At-Tirmidhi, Ad-Darmi, and Abu Dawud), and he (peace and blessings be upon him) also stated: “Verily I have been but sent to perfect the most noble of manners.” (Reported by Ahmad, Al-Bukhari in Al-Adab Al-Mufrad and Al-Bazzar in Kashful Astar)

The significance of this increases dramatically if we are interested in inviting them to Islam and making them like Muslims, which is an obligation upon us all, as this cannot be achieved by treating them roughly, sternly and violently, but rather by beautiful manners and sublime ethics.

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) dealt with the polytheists of Quraysh in the most beautiful of ways and manners throughout his life in Makkah despite their animosity, persecution, oppression and extreme insult of him (peace and blessings be upon him) and his companions.

This was epitomized by the fact that due to the incredible trust they had in him, they deposited their wealth and possessions with him, in fear that they may be lost or stolen.

When the Prophet fled Makkah to Madinah, he left behind `Ali (may Allah be pleased with him), whom he commanded to return the deposits and trusts that were with him (peace and blessings be upon him).

Thus, there is nothing to prevent a Muslim or an Islamic center from congratulating non-Muslims, either verbally or by sending a card that contains no symbols or icons of religious implications that may contradict Islamic faith and principles, such as a cross, for the concept of the crucifixion is totally outlawed and denied by Islam.

Allah states in the Holy Qur'an: (...but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but the resemblance of Jesus was put over another man…) (An-Nisa' 4: 156)

Indeed, one finds in the customary words of congratulations nothing that carries any explicit or implicit recognition of any aspects of their faith or belief, nor any condoning thereof.

There is also no objection to accepting gifts and presents from them, and to return their gifts in kind, on condition that these gifts are not unlawful in themselves, such as being alcohol or pork.

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) accepted the gift of the King of Egypt and several others (See: At-Tahawi's Sharh Mushkil Al-Athar).

We also wish to mention that some jurists, such as Ibn Taymiyah and his student the great scholar Ibn-ul-Qayyim, adopted stringent measures and restricted the permissibility of this issue and the participation of Muslims in the celebrations of non-Muslims.

We adopt this same stance, advising Muslims not to celebrate the festivities of non-Muslims, whether mushriks or People of the Scripture, as we find some ignorant Muslims celebrating Christmas as they would normally celebrate `Eid Al-Fitr and Al-Adha, and maybe even more so.

This is unlawful, as we Muslims have our unique festivities.

But we see no objection to congratulating others on their festivities if there is some relationship or fellowship link that deems positive social interaction and beautiful exchange a must according to our sublime and noble Islamic Shari`ah.

As for patriotic or national celebrations and festivities, such as Independence Day, Union Day, Mother’s Day, Childhood Day and the such, there is no objection whatsoever to a Muslim congratulating others in those regards, and indeed to participate therein as a citizen of those lands, while observing Islamic manners and controls in all matters.

Excerpted, with slight modifications, from: http://www.ecfr.org

Related Questions

- May I Celebrate Christmas With My Christian Mother?

- As a New Muslim, Can My Kids Celebrate Christmas?

- Celebrating Christmas with One’s Non-Muslim Family

- Celebrating Christmas With Christian Parents, etc.

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So dear Brothers & Sisters,

Remember the great dispute that took place before this when we had the same old issue being discussed and debated upon between us in the media and online forums or websites?

Well, this fatwa explains clearly that Muslims are enjoined to be on the best of terms with their friends and contacts from the Non Muslim community but there are certain stipulations and observances that the Muslim must take into consideration?

It is permissible for Muslims to wish their Non Muslim friends or families on their festive occasions but must not take part in the religious practices or acts that might lead them into committing the acts of Shirik towards Allah Subhanahu Wa Ta'ala where an act that is meant to honor or venerate a deity or object of worship be it an inanimate object, idol or whatsoever that is just not Allah Azza Wa Jalla?

It must also be clear to the Muslims that they are forbidden to adopt or put upon any attire or symbol that has any religious significance that belongs to any non Islamic faith, practices or belief?

During Christmas for example, I have come across many ignorant Malay Muslims who put on the Santa Claus cap and go around doing just what every other Christian does in distributing gifts and goodies to the children or adults.

If we are to observe the above fatwa, then the act of wearing the Santa Claus cap is clearly haram for Santa Claus is a fictionary symbol representing St.Nicholas, a Christian figure.

The act of giving out gifts and presents is laudable and encouraged but to adorn that outfit representing a Christian figure is clearly going against the Islamic decree of imitating or representing a Non Muslim religious figure.

This is what Malay Muslims must learn and not be ignorant to such a stage where they do not know or have an inkling about to what's permissible and what is forbidden?

We tread a thin line between halal and haram in this country dear brothers and sisters and it is my intention to help share with you no matter whether you are a Muslim or otherwise as to what Islam has to say about these sensitive matters?

Ignorance is no excuse to remain clueless about such things because it is enjoined upon us to study, learn and know about our faith and those of others so that we may be able to understand each other better and learn to show respect and courtesy to one another in order to co-exist in relative peace and harmony.

I have many Non Muslim friends and I love them dearly for some of them are just so good in their character, mannerisms and personalities.

The only thing separating us is the matter of belief in Allah?

We communicate and discuss many issues relating to our life's as fellow Malaysians and Alhamdulillah, we have learned to accord each other our own space and freedom to be as what we want to be and choose to live accordingly?

This fatwa clearly explaining what many of us faced before and caused us unnecessary heartaches and sorrow whilst each of us tried our level best to seek the answer and remedy to the heart wrenching problem as to whether we are allowed to or not in wishing well upon each other on days and occasions that mean so much to us respectively?

Muslims especially the young ones need to be taught about these matters and guided by the scholars as to how to live their life's according to what Allah Subhanahu Wa Ta'ala commands us and what the Blessed Prophet Muhammad Sallalahu Alaihi Wassallam has enjoined us to?

I call upon our Muslim scholars to stop wasting their time discussing frivolous issues and start doing what they are supposed to by coming down from their high offices and start teaching the people in the truest sense of the word.

Forget that you are the so called Mufti's and Sahibul Samahah's of this and that state and start being the Da'ee's that you are supposed to be?

Allah Subhanahu Wa Ta'ala loves those learned ones who are humble and not stingy or bloody egoistic in sharing the truth about Islam with those who are ignorant and need guidance.

Forget that one needs to make an appointment to see you or fix a date with your secretary or personal aide or assistant?

Your time frame is fast running out and the longer you waste your time in office will see your name being entered into the list of those who shirked their responsibilities over this gone crazy society!

Time waits for no man or woman!

Go spread the truth about Islam to the Ummah and fulfill the trust that the nation has placed upon you.

There is no harm or shame upon you O Mufti's to go into the midst of society and call upon them to return to the Sunnah of Rasul Sallalahu Alaihi Wassallam.

Speak the truth and defend it as best as you can and do not be silent spectators to the deluge of maksiat taking place in society.

Strive as best as you can in upholding the truth and justice of Islam and do not fear losing your title or positions because these are all just temporary and surely Allah Azza Wa Jalla knows best as to what is in our hearts?

To the ones in power, know that each and every deed or misdeed of you is entered into your own book of records just like each and everyone of us?

If you are just to us, Allah Subhanahu Wa Ta'ala will be just to you!

If you commit criminal breach of our trusts, then be warned that there is no hijab between our prayers and Almighty Allah and He will give your your dues right here in this world or in the next!

One might think that one can get away with anything in this mortal world which places wealth, power and position before goodness but in reality there is none than can escape his or her rightful retribution?

To all Muslims, improve yourselves in Islamic knowledge and do not remain ignorant about our faith. Seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave. The one who knows must enlighten those who are lost in the dark and show them the way to Allah's Mercy.

Verily, we are but brothers and sisters from our Father the Prophet Adam Alaihis Salam and our mother Siti Hawwa Radhiallahu Anha.

Be the best that we can be whilst we still are alive here on this earth and each of us will return to Allah the Almighty regardless of our current positions and situations.

Remember that Allah Subhanahu Wa Ta'ala loves those who call upon each other to the truth and good that is in this world and we are enjoined to help and assist one another in fighting against evil and what it entails?

May the truth prevail and we succeed in our own individual life missions.

Ameen.

Wabillahi Taufik Wal Hidayah.

Wassalamualaikum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuh.

Zainol Abideen @ Mahaguru58
Bandar Tun Razak,
Kuala Lumpur.
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