I’m not really for New Year’s resolutions. My objection is not religiously based (I’m sure the bid’ah police have this covered), but more pragmatic: I see most so-called New Year’s resolutions little more than to-do lists for the first week of January (perhaps I’m projecting). But nonetheless, I am reminded of a beautiful supplication the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم made, as transmitted to us by ‘Ali bin Abi Talib—may God be pleased with him—in his witr prayer, to start 2014 off for me (as I was praying witr when the ball dropped, causing some number of crazy people to start screaming somewhere outside my front door):
اللهم إني أعوذ بك برضاك من سخطك وبمعافاتك من عقوبتك وأعوذ بك منك لا أحصي ثناء عليك أنت كما أثنيت على نفسك
“O’ God!, I ask protection with You, by your pleasure, from Your wrath, by your clemency, from your punishment. I am incapable of enumerating Your praises, for you are as you have lauded Yourself.”
This hadith can be found, amongst many other places, in Sunan Abu Dawud, #1427.
I believe the proper etiquette ought to go something like this, as God relates in the Qur’an:
واهجرهم هجرا جميلا
“…and cut yourself off from them – but courteously.” Qur’an, 73:10.
not “blank you and your pagan holiday”.
I find the negative banter regarding non-Muslim holidays in general, and Christmas in particular, not only fatiguing but downright reprehensible. Perhaps, like that first community of Muslims, I too have non-Muslims I care deeply about, indeed even love. What is even more ludicrous is many of these decriers do not even have non-Muslim families and thus are not truly put out by this whole “holiday fiasco”. And of course beyond that lies the unfortunate collective of self-loathing converts who feel that in order to adequately profess adherence to Islam, they must harangue non-Muslims (even their own families) over this celebration.
Let me be clear, I am not advocating some lax or liberal position on Christmas; the secular and the religious one. I do not celebrate Christmas and my loving, non-Muslim parents know and understand why. And that understanding includes that I am not rejecting them and their “dirty, kafir, pagan holiday.”
But more importantly, to return to the verse above, God Almighty has given us a way, a dialectic and a means of how to distinguish and even divorce ourselves from those actions that we deem would have consequences for us in the sight of God and in the Here-After. This separating can be down with eloquence, etiquette and esteem, not belligerence, hostility and rancor. For clearly the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم summed up his mission for us in a beautiful soliloquy (collected in Imam Malik’s al-Muwatta’):
The second in, God willing, a series of podcasts, dealing with issues and challenges facing the American Muslim community. In this episode, we discuss the significance, or lack there of, of Christmas, non-Muslim holidays and the boundaries of Muslim/non-Muslim interaction.
Due to some misunderstandings on a recent post I made on my Facebook page as well as my Twitter account, I felt it might help for me to make a short statement of my intentions behind my posting Shaykh Ali Gomaa’s article, Cutting Kinship Ties in the Name of Islam.
The following is in regards to the permissibility of Muslims participating in cultural [not religious] holidays. There is much confusion on the part of many Muslims who, in substituting a heedless puritanical approach to religion, promulgate a theory that all celebrations outside of the 2 Eids are haram, making them not only impermissible, but punishable in the Here-After. Original post on Suhaib’s web site.
“The holidays which are forbidden [for Muslims] to observe are those with religious overtones [such as Christmas and Easter*] not the festive gatherings people observe due to certain events. Therefore, people are allowed to celebrate wedding anniversaries, birthdays or any occasion as such celebrations are not related to religious holidays. It is imperative that we work to remove the confusion surrounding this misunderstanding and the doubts that have affected many people [regarding this issue]. [Because of this misunderstanding] people find hardship and difficulty in their religion. Especially when a religious minded person holds [such non religious celebrations] to be from the major sins or rejected acts when, in fact, they are not.
Understanding An Important Legal Maxim [the origin of things is permissibility unless there is a text to the contrary]
The origin of things is permissibility so there is no problem with you attending such an event. The school of Ahmed [Hanabliah] allowed the celebration of al-’Atirah which was a sacrifice, during the month of Rajab, observed by the people who lived prior to the advent of the Prophet [may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him]. Although the school of Imam Malik [Malikis] considered it disliked, since it was a practice from those days, the school of Ahmed allowed this practice since there was no text [from the Qur’an, Sunna or Consensus] that explicitly forbade it. Thus, this practice remained upon its original ruling, permissibility [here the sheikh is showing us how the scholars utilized the legal maxim mentioned above]. So, if people gather together to sacrifice there is no objection for them to congregate, celebrate, enjoy themselves and commemorate the independence of their country. Therefore, there is no hardship in celebrating such occurrences.
With regards to the statement [of the Prophet may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him] that “Allah [The Exalted] has given you better than those (feasts): ‘Eid al-Adha (Sacrificing) and the ‘Eid al-Fitr“, then “those feasts” were those with strict religious over tones: one a Christian holiday and the other a pagan one. In addition, the Prophet [may the peace and blessing of Allah be upon him] mentioned that the Islamic holidays were two: ‘Eid al-Fitr and ‘Eid al-Adha. But it is not understood from this that he [may the peace and blessing of Allah be upon him] forbade people from gathering and celebrating [other non-religious occasions]. Even if a person considered [such gatherings] disliked there is no need for him to bother others by making things difficult that were not prohibited by the Qur’an, the Sunna, the consensus [of the scholars] and where no agreement was reached within the schools of Islamic law.
This is because ease in matters [such as these where there is no prohibition and the origin is that of permissibility] is a must, and those statements that create hardship and burden [related to such matters], that are not based on explicit texts [that prohibit them], are weak. Thus, there is nothing that prohibits us from facilitating such matters for the people and giving them some breathing room because ease and facilitation are from the foundations of Islam: Allah says, “And He did not make any hardship for you in religion.” [Surahal-Hajj: 78] and “Allah wants to lighten your burdens.” [Surahal-Nisa: 28] and “Verily, with hardship there is ease. Verily with hardship there is ease.” [Surahal-Sharh: 5-6]. The Prophet [may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him] said, “Facilitate [things] and do not make things difficult. Give glad tidings, and do not cause others to flee.” In closing, we reiterate that the foundation of Islam is ease and the independent interpretation of the legal sources [ijtihad of scholars] is respected but is not [equal to] texts from the Shari’ah [Qur’an and Sunna].”