Christmas, To Celebrate or not to Celebrate…
Asalam eleikom dear scholars. I'm a Muslim convert for about 7 months now. I live near my Christian family in a non-Muslim society. Since my conversion, I try to keep myself and my children away as much as I can from the un-Islamic way of life in my society. However, I, as well as my children, used to celebrate Christmas with my family, which is a very special occasion for them. This year, I'm afraid of the un-Islamic effects that we may suffer if we celebrated Christmas with my family this year. Of course I don't intend to celebrate this holiday because of Jesus, but maybe just as a folk tradition. At the same time I don't want to isolate my children from my family completely.
Any ideas to help?
Salam brother Omar and welcome to Islam.Thank you for your question and for contacting Ask About Islam.There are many factors to consider in your situation so you could enjoy peace of mind and relax into your new faith.Like anything new we learn, we need a period of time where we focus and do things slowly, one thing at a time until it becomes a second nature. Islam is actually ourfirst nature, so it doesn’t take much effort for us to get back in touch with our basic self, and as always, practice makes perfect.So, while I understand completely why you try to keep yourself and your children away from influences while you adjust, this should only be for a period of time, like a limited incubation period until you’re strong enough to get back in circulation, after you get used to your new lifestyle. You can’t live in a protected cocoon, shielding yourself and your family from your surroundings forever, nor are you expected to do that because you embraced Islam, you are actually supposed to test your faith while interacting with your society as a Muslim. This is not as tough as it seems at the beginning.
Remember that the Prophet (peace be upon him) and his companions never isolated themselves from their societies or their families who were not Muslim; to the contrary, they positively contributed to the community following the teachings of Islam. Lead by the Prophet, they visited the sick, helped the needy, supported the elderly, traded and exchanged with other cultures, taught and learnt from everyone, traveled and hosted others, and were generally proactive, tolerant, good citizens of the world, because they were Muslims.
This attitude definitely applies to your close relations with your family and friends. Unless they’re doing extreme things that affect your religious beliefs or threaten your wellbeing, there is no need to cut your ties with them at all. In fact, Islam teaches maintaining family ties, respecting parents and relatives, and being a good son and relative to them as you’ve always been. You’ll even be better at it as a Muslim because you’ll be applying a very refined system of human relations guided by the best-mannered man who ever lived: Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).
Also remember that Muslims believe and love Jesus son of Mary, and respect him and his noble virgin mother even more than some of those who claim to follow him. True we don’t celebrate Christmas as a religious occasion, but we honor the great man and his noble mother, and a lot of non-Muslims don’t know this fact. So this might be a good starting point to get back into the family, through the shared love you all have for the same prophet of God, rather than the commercialized entertainment it has become. Your new knowledge could bring great insights into your family and spark enjoyable, mutually enlightening discussions throughout the holidays.Since this is the first big family occasion after you embraced Islam, and it seems to be a very important family tradition too, everyone would be anxious to find out whether or not you have “changed” after embracing Islam. Give them a pleasant surprise by being the same loving son; show that you respect their beliefs because you are a Muslim. They need the reassurance that Islam commands you to honor your parents and love your family regardless of their beliefs, and that this is a way to get rewards with God.
Visiting and gift giving is in fact a Sunnah of the Prophet. He said that it creates a love bond in people’s hearts, so follow his Sunnah and exchange gifts with your family and friends, and take it as an opportunity –if possible- to explain to them the reasons in a kind and gentle way. Also, consider for the next Islamic occasion to invite them into your house to share the celebration and have a good meal and warm discussion together. If you start by being a good guest, your kindness is likely to be reciprocated.Your children also need the reassurance that they haven’t lost contact with society because you have become Muslim. This can cause a negative effect for them. Instead, teach them that a Muslim who deals with people kindly and discusses with them with wisdom and friendliness, without compromising his beliefs and religious practices, is in fact honoring the Prophet and obeying Allah.
This brings us to where you draw the line during the festivities. In general, you need to make sure that you don’t participate in any religious rituals that contradict Islam or any activities that compromise your limits; you need to make sure you eat and drink halal, obviously no alcohol or pork, so it might be possible to ask the family to eliminate those items from the menu during your visit.
You should also mind your conduct and reflect a respectable attitude, for example: no intimate dancing, no hugging or kissing with female relatives other than your wife, mother, daughters, grandmother, mother-in-law, aunts, nieces and sisters. Otherwise relax and enjoy the warmth and love of your family, and remember Islam didn’t take
that away from you, nor did it take you away from them, so nurture the love and celebrate your tolerant, generous faith with them.
May Allah always support you and guide you to what’s best.