In recent years, I have noticed an increase in the number of American Muslims celebrating Christmas in different capacities. While this may be more understandable for those new to the faith, or for those who have non-Muslim family members with whom participating in this holiday may be tricky to navigate, there are also an increasing number of Muslims who have jumped on the bandwagon of celebrating Christmas with really no compelling reason to do so – putting up decorations in their homes, Christmas trees, giving Christmas presents to their children, etc.
Frankly speaking, I do not think this is because people are unaware of the Islamic teachings on the matter; in fact, I would venture to say that most people are aware of its rulings and prohibition by scholars, and likely would not counter the strength of those arguments or its proofs. Instead, what I have seen as the most common response is the genuine feeling that there is no harm in it. In simple terms: It’s just a tree! It’s just for fun. What’s the big deal?
There are two points I would encourage us to reflect on in response to these thoughts and beliefs. The first is about how we look at matters of haram and halal and fiqhi (jurisprudential) rulings in general. There is a certain outlook that has become increasingly popular in our times — a feeling that these issues and rulings are petty, trivial, and irrelevant, and that religion should not be about these ‘small’ matters, but instead about larger ideas of spirituality, belief in God and just being a good person.
This is contrary to our understanding of religion as Muslims, in which these larger spiritual ideas are actually deeply and essentially connected with an everyday practice of the faith. When one is divorced from the other, there is a severe imbalance, a fracturing, that does not allow faith to remain intact nor for spirituality to actually be enlivened. Abiding by religious teachings is the first step and the portal to spiritual heights. The ‘petty’ is in fact powerful, and the means to spiritual growth and connection to God Most High. Instead of dismissing these matters as topics for the small-minded, we should know they are what make up the path to the Vast (Al-Wasi’).
Secondly, many see their participation in this holiday as a way of having fun, with no deeper intent behind it, and also a means of fitting in a little better in a society that often makes us feel excluded. While these things may seem harmless and light to us, we should broaden our vision to consider what weight it may have on our children and their children. What family culture, traditions and norms are we establishing and nurturing, and what legacy are we leaving behind?
We must realize that we are not the first Muslims in this land, and study the waves of immigrants who came before us as well as the African American Muslim community, and consider what helped keep people strong in faith, and what eroded it. While some held fast to faith, others assimilated such that they only came to know Islam as a religion their grandparents vaguely practiced, or the source of their Muslim last name. I would especially encourage every Muslim to read about the African Muslims enslaved in the Americas, and how they strove to keep their faith and religious traditions even in the most difficult of circumstances (Sylviane Diouf’s Servants of Allah is an amazing book on this).
The best legacy and treasure we can leave for our children is faith and a connection to Allah. If we want to do this, we must make Islam a vibrant reality in our lives, families, in the big decisions we make as well as in our everyday life. We should seek to attach our children’s hearts to Allah, Allah’s Prophet (ﷺ), Allah’s Book, Allah’s House, Allah’s people, and Allah’s deen. Putting aside the legal ruling, celebrating and embracing with love the holiday of another faith tradition does not benefit this effort, but will only harm it.
Our beloved Prophet (ﷺ) said that there is coming a time in our community when someone will wake up a believer and go to sleep in disbelief.  Never feel confident or arrogant in faith – it is a gift the heart is graced with, and that needs nurturing and care through those things that give it life. Learning, being in good company, remembrance of God, Quran, making our homes blessed spaces imbued with Prophetic teachings… all of this and more.
O Allah guide us and guide our children and keep our hearts firm on Islam. Make us a means of a beautiful legacy of faith that continues far beyond our lifetime. O Allah protect us and our loved ones from trials in faith, and guide us to that which You love. Keep us in the Shade of Your protection and draw us ever closer to You. Ameen.
 Sahih Muslim (118)
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About the Author: Ustadha Shazia Ahmad grew up in upstate New York and studied with local scholar and teacher Dr. Mokhtar Maghraoui before beginning her studies overseas. In Syria, she studied briefly at the University of Damascus and then at Abu Nour University where she completed an Arabic Studies program and a program in Islamic Studies. She also studied in a number of private classes and attained her ijaza in Qur’anic recitation from the late Sh. Muhiyudin al-Kurdi (rahimahullah). She then spent the following six years in Cairo, Egypt furthering her education. She has ijazaat in a number of introductory texts in various Islamic subjects and has written for Jannah.org, VirtualMosque.com, and various other blogs and publications. She also holds a BA in psychology and history from the State University of New York.
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