Reflections on celebration of Christmas

January 03, 2022
Reflections on celebration of Christmas

Osama Yamani

Modern authors portrayed Christianity in a negative manner, and that portrayal was far from the concept of tolerance and human love that our religion calls us to follow.

If we go back to history, we will find many luminous images in this aspect. Most of the Levant regions in the Umayyad state, especially the villages and countryside, were Christian, whether it was Arab or Syriac.

Isho Ohaib, the third Catholicos of Babylon, who was among followers of the Church of the East, observed: “They are not the enemies of Christianity, but rather they praise our religion, reverence our priests and our saints, and extend a helping hand to our churches and monasteries.”

The Umayyad Caliph Muawiyah Bin Abi Sufyan called the inhabitants of Syria as “the enlightened and tolerant” as stated by Al-Tabari and Al-Masudi. His physician and finance minister were Christians. Muawiyah’s court poet, who nowadays is roughly equivalent to the minister of information, was also a Christian.

He also appointed Ibn Athal, a Christian as governor of Homs. This indicates the extent of unparalleled tolerance in the early ages of the Islamic caliphate. Muawiyah used to sit in groups of Christians of different sects and listen to their religious controversy and their various discussions and deliberations.

Christmas is the festival, marking the birth of Isa (Jesus), which is celebrated on December 25. The Holy Qur’an recorded the virgin birth of Jesus in Surah Maryam in the following verses:

And mention, (O Muḥammad), in the Book (the story of) Mary, when she withdrew from her family to a place toward the east. And she took, in seclusion from them, a screen. Then We sent to her Our Angel (Gabriel), and he represented himself to her as a well-proportioned man. She said, “Indeed, I seek refuge in the Most Merciful from you, (so leave me), if you should be fearing of Allah."

He said, “I am only the messenger of your Lord to give you (news of) a pure boy (son).” She said, "How can I have a boy while no man has touched me and I have not been unchaste?” He said, “Thus (it will be); your Lord says, 'It is easy for Me, and We will make him a sign to the people and a mercy from Us. And it is a matter (already) decreed.” So she conceived him, and she withdrew with him to a remote place. (Surah Maryam 16-22)

The Qur’an also states that the birth of Christ was a miracle narrated by the Qur’an in the following verses: And the pains of childbirth drove her to the trunk of a palm tree. She said, “Oh, I wish I had died before this and was in oblivion, forgotten.” But he called her from below her, “Do not grieve; your Lord has provided beneath you a stream. And shake toward you the trunk of the palm tree; it will drop upon you ripe, fresh dates. So eat and drink and be contented. And if you see from among humanity anyone, say, ‘Indeed, I have vowed to the Most Merciful abstention, so I will not speak today to (any) man.” (Surah Maryam 23-26)

From these verses it appears to us that the birth of Christ was in the winter season. The Qur’an indicated the greatness of this event in the following verses: So she pointed to him. They said, “How can we speak to one who is in the cradle a child? (Jesus) said, "Indeed, I am the servant of Allah. He has given me the Scripture and made me a prophet. And He has made me blessed wherever I am and has enjoined upon me prayer and zakah as long as I remain alive.” And (made me) dutiful to my mother, and He has not made me a wretched tyrant. And peace is on me the day I was born and the day I will die and the day I am raised alive." (Surah Maryam 29-33).

The Egyptian Dar Al-Ifta published on its website an official religious edict (fatwa) of the Grand Mufti of Egypt Dr. Shawqi Allam regarding the celebration of Christmas and the New Year’s Day. The fatwa states that “the image of resemblance is not harmful if it is attached to the good of the people, provided that it is not obligated to acknowledge those beliefs that are contrary to Islam. Moreover , it is also endorsing the miraculous birth of Jesus Christ, son of Mary, who was immortalized by the Holy Qur’an and commanded to be reminded of it on the general side as one of the days of God, and on the other hand in particular as a day of peace for mankind.”

Christians in the early period did not celebrate the birthday of Christ. Herbert Armstrong quotes The Encyclopedia Americana, 1944 edition as saying: “Christmas... It was, according to many authorities, not celebrated in the first centuries of the Christian Church, as the Christian usage in general was to celebrate the death of remarkable persons rather than their birth...

A feast was established in memory of this event (Christ’s birth) in the fourth century. In the fifth century, the Western Church ordered it to be celebrated forever on the day of the Roman feast of the birth of Sol, as no certain knowledge of the day of Christ’s birth existed.”

It appears from this that the celebration of the birth of Christ is not related to faith, but rather is a mere commemoration of this great event.

God Almighty commanded us to say the best of things to all people without distinction. Nevertheless, we find many of the modern authors say contrary to what the Qur’an commands us with regard to our behavior with others. They have deliberately or unintentionally sought to spread hatred, division, disharmony and rejection of the other, until this matter became a behavior followed by some and an influential culture in the collective mind.

Ethics and values are the legacy and bonds of any civilization. The renowned Arab poet Ahmed Shawqi was right when he said: “The nations remain as long as they have morals... They vanish when their morals are gone.”

That is why we say to all those who sow ill-will, hatred and grudges, that our religion is a religion of morals, good treatment and peace for humanity.

Finally, peace be upon the one whom God greeted on the day of his birth as well as on his predicted Second Coming.

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