You most likely have to interact with Muslims as co-workers, colleagues, neighbours… You know that they seem a little different about certain aspects of their lives, but you may not be sure how exactly. You may have heard things, and you may imagine things about them, and yet you never asked. If that is the case, then this series is for you.
The entries will be written in the spirit of educating non-Muslims about Muslims in general, and in hopes of having a more understanding and accommodating society for all, Muslims and non-Muslims. Of course the entries of this series will not apply to every Muslim you know, because every Muslim chooses for themselves to what degree they adhere to the teachings of their religion. This list is more about the religious teachings, not about how individuals or cultures apply or modify them. So, without further ado, here is the first of a series of entries presenting things that would be really good to know about your Muslim friend…
Celebrations, including Christmas
Christmas is a Christian celebration, so no, Muslims do not celebrate it. They also do not celebrate: Thanksgiving, Easter, St. Valentine’s Day, the Sabbath, Hanukkah, New Year’s, Halloweeen, Fathers’ Day, Mothers’ Day, or birthdays…
By this, I do not mean that there is necessarily anything wrong for a Muslim to celebrate any of these occasions, only that they are not Islamic occasions per se. So if a Muslim celebrates say Canada Day, it is done as a Canadian, not as a Muslim, and if she celebrates Fathers’ Day, it is as a daughter, not as a Muslim.
Many Muslims may decide that they want to expose themselves and their families to Halloween or Christmas for instance, because they want to understand it better as part of their cultural education, or to integrate socially, or because they believe in the underlying values being promoted on a certain occasion. Islamically, there is absolutely nothing wrong with any of that. Yes, there is some resistance from culturally conservative voices, because they are afraid that their communities will lose their Islamic or cultural identities by imitating others, especially when they are minorities. This is no different than the situation of all minorities fighting assimilation anywhere in the world, such as the Québecois, who rarely celebrate Canada Day, and officially celebrate la Saint-Jean Baptiste instead (or La fête nationale, as they call it.)
Muslims will celebrate the following Islamic occasions:
– eid al fitr, which marks the end of the month of fasting
– eid al adha, which marks the end of the pilgrimage
– eid al Ghadeer, which marks the official appointment of the first Imam, Imam Ali
– and other important Islamic occasions, such as the birth (and death) of the Prophet Muhammad and those of the Imams, etc.
– Fridays are the weekly day of worship and congregation in Islam, not Saturdays nor Sundays. There is a Friday prayer performed around midday, and countries with a Muslim majority often have Fridays off, along with Thursday or Saturday, but sometimes as the only day off in the week. I mention Fridays because they are usually listed as one of the celebrations in Islam (the other three being Eid al Adha, Eid al Fitr…).
Now that you know that your Muslim friend does not celebrate Christmas or New Year’s, do not be surprised if they still end up helping you decorate, bring you cards and gifts, and express warm wishes to you on all of these occasions. Their actions are genuine and their words heartfelt. Being respectful and full of civility is an important Islamic teaching.
So if this applies to you, merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!