What’s the deal with Muslims and ‘Merry Christmas’?

Grab your pitchforks everyone, a Muslim has just said ‘Merry Christmas’ to their colleague on Teams! :o

‘Merry Christmas’ – a phrase that is debated this time of year and gets a lot of Muslims heated because of their belief that it is HARAM!! And whoever says it is WRONG!! End of story.

For some, it’s not a big deal that needs a lot of headspace. But if you do believe otherwise, or give leeway to those that do, you are labelled as some sort of miscreant as I’ve been seeing on social media. 

Let’s all utilise our God-given reasoning skills to understand that, firstly, to say something is Haram means that it is forbidden by God. And we shouldn’t just label something as such without thorough reasoning and a clear understanding of what we’re outlawing on behalf of God. 

“Do not falsely declare with your tongues, “This is lawful, and that is unlawful,” ˹only˺ fabricating lies against God. Indeed, those who fabricate lies against God will never succeed.” (Quran 16:116)

So, to reinforce the main focus of this article with the above Quran verse in mind, it isn’t to outrightly declare that saying ‘Merry Christmas’ is Halal or Haram (especially as a layperson like myself) but to be conscious and considerate that Muslims do in fact operate and reason within different paradigms (depending on where they’re from etc), have views that may oppose our own, and we shouldn’t be condemnatory if some believe you can say it while others believe you can’t. 

Some might follow scholars/opinions that believe it’s right/wrong to say all with their own explanations and understandings. But this doesn’t now mean people have the faculty to lambast another because they believe something different. Can Muslim’s collectively agree on anything

Back to the point…

The vast majority of us who reside in the West get time off during Christmas because it’s a national holiday. And it’s not uncommon for people to use the term ‘Christmas’ to refer to the end of year (which in and of itself makes it lose its religious significance) because, regardless of what religion you subscribe to, everyone gets time off. 

For a neighbour or colleague to ask ‘What are your plans for Christmas?’, to me, doesn’t necessarily imply ‘what are you doing to celebrate Christmas day to honour Jesus’s birth’ but rather, I would believe it to suggest – what are you doing on the collective holiday that everyone in the country has! (albeit, the exceptions to frontline workers).  

The main and most used contention is that saying ‘Merry Christmas is a form of ‘shirk’ (attributing a partner/object to God) so therefore it is Haram as it suggests agreement to the tenets of Christianity and/or paganism that would essentially compromise the Oneness of God – a fundamental belief of all Muslims.

However, intrinsically, Christmas for Christians, is the celebration of the birthday of Jesus Christ (peace be upon him). Although, irreligious adaptations have been added throughout the centuries where fern trees are decorated in the house and a Santa Claus comes down a chimney to leave presents. Its primary (and often neglected) premise is that it’s when Jesus was supposedly born – which does not mean the day is an association of Jesus to God as some suggest it to be.

The concept of shirk is more closely tied to the beliefs that Christians hold about Jesus Christ and his status as the son of God and is not directly related to the actual celebration of Christmas itself. So to say someone is committing shirk for saying ‘Merry Christmas’ is not really a well-grounded reason and is definitely something that shouldn’t be thrown around lightly.

Secondly, it’s argued that saying ‘Merry Christmas’ is now celebrating Christmas and that is imitating the Kuffar so now you are a Kafir! This is an extremely illogical argument as it conflates a phrase with actually observing the day. 

A non-Muslim can say ‘Eid Mubarak’ – does that now mean they will now go to Hajj, wear ihram, and give out Qurbani? 

Can you see how unsound this objection is? 

Also, for a non-Muslim to say ‘Eid Mubarak’ or ‘Ramadan Kareem’ is a heartwarming expression of goodwill as we know they don’t celebrate it or are saying it to imply that they do.

So why isn’t it the same rationale when a Muslim says ‘Merry Christmas’? 

Some also suggest that you can say ‘Happy Holidays’ or something along those lines instead of explicitly saying ‘Christmas’. Even though it can basically be seen as the same thing – it’s a fair, alternative statement to say for those who don’t agree instead of blanking your non-Muslim neighbour when they greet you.

Agree or disagree. Say it or don’t say it. It’s just a reminder to not attack or exile another believer because of what you believe to be right or wrong but just to be respectful. Always.

The takeaway here is not for me to tell you that it is Halal or Haram. I am not a person of any standing to do this. This is just my opinion. As you have yours.

It’s mainly to unpick some of the arguments I have seen online that can be seen as quite insulting rather than advising. As the title suggests, what is actually the deal? There are bigger issues to sharpen your pitchforks and light your torches over.

*Mvslim doesn’t represent views of writer*