As a Muslim I don’t have anything against the Christmas season.
I like twinkly lights, eggnog and fruitcake (only Claxton brand). I like watching Christmas classics like “Miracle on 34th Street,” “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “A Christmas Story.” I like that people are off work/school and have time to visit friends and family. (However, many Muslims work on Christmas to give their co-workers time off.)
I like the Black Friday/Cyber Monday/holiday sales, but really, really like that I don’t have the pressure to buy gifts. I mostly update my electronics.
But is all of that what Christmas is really supposed to be about? For Christians, it’s a commemoration of the birth of Jesus, the central figure of their faith. It may surprise some to know that we Muslims consider Jesus an important figure in our faith as well.
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The 19th Chapter of the Quran is titled Maraym (Mary). This is some of what the chapter says (19:16-22): And make mention in the Book (the story of) Maryam …Then We sent unto her Our Spirit, Angel Jibril. He said: …I am only a messenger from your Lord, (to announce to you) the gift of a holy son.
She said: “How shall I have a son, seeing that no man has touched me, and I am not unchaste?”
He said: So (it will be).
Your Lord said: It is easy for Me. And (it will be) that We will make him as a Sign for mankind and a mercy from Us, and it is a thing ordained.
(19:27-31): Then she came to her people carrying the infant, they said “Oh Maryam you have come with an amazing thing. Your father was not a wicked man and your mother was not unchaste!
Then she pointed to the babe. They said “How can we talk to a child who is in his infancy?”
He (Jesus) said “I am indeed a servant of God. He has given me revelation and has appointed me a Prophet, and He has made me blessed wherever I may be and has enjoined upon me prayer and almsgiving so long as I remain alive, and He has made me to cherish my mother, and He has not made me arrogant or unblessed. Peace on me the day I was born, and the day I die, and the day I shall be raised alive!”
One big difference is that Muslims do not believe Jesus is the son of God. We believe he is a messenger. We pray only to God, not Jesus, or Muhammad for that matter.
It doesn’t offend me that Christians believe what they do and celebrate Christmas the way they do. The Quran (109:6) says, “For you is your religion and for me is mine.”
I think what people find objectionable is that some folks don’t seem to realize there are people who don’t celebrate Christmas. For example when a teacher tells the class that Santa will bring gifts to all the GOOD children, it causes problems for those who don’t do the Santa thing.
I don’t mind if people say Merry Christmas to me; it’s usually just a spontaneous greeting. However, I am perplexed about what I should say.
I want to give festive salutations during this time of year, while honoring my faith and being inclusive, but “Happy Holidays” has negative connotations now. At the risk of offending anyone, maybe I’ll just say, “Have a Blessed Season.”
Rose Hamid of Charlotte is president of Muslim Women of the Carolinas