A few days ahead of the Christmas, American Muslims usually have different approaches with regard to the festivities and whether they should join or not.
For Rehana Ahmed, an American Muslim of Pakistani origin, celebrating the festive season has never been a problem.
Getting her early education at a Cathedral High School in Lahore, Pakistan, she and her peers always looked forward to the school’s Christmas parties, Toledo Blade reported.
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Now, she works as a Sunday school teacher at the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo. She still has her hymnals and her Bible “right next to my Qur’an and Torah”.
“I have never found anything that contradicted my faith as a practicing Muslim,” Ahmed said.
“I find that I am a better human being because of my ability to understand other people within their differences and commonalities.”
Religious or Cultural
Ahmad’s approach to Christmas is adopted by many American Muslims as they face the question of whether Christmas can been seen as a cultural or religious holiday.
While many Muslim scholars are comfortable with celebrating non-religious holidays such as Thanksgiving and the Fourth of July, this approach does not apply to the Christmas.
“Holidays in all traditions in the past, before secularism and modernity, were an integral part of any tradition,” Professor Ovamir Anjum, the chair of Islamic Studies at the University of Toledo, said. “That’s why they’re called holidays: They’re holy days.”
Since “holidays have a deeply religious meaning in Islam,” Anjum said, many Muslim scholars think “celebrating a holiday every year is a religious act,” even ostensibly secular ones.
And as many Christians still view Christmas as a religious holiday, some imams believe that viewing it as a secular occasion could be offending to Christians. Therefore, people should accept differences.
“In trying to be kind and sensitive, we many times end up doing the exact opposite,” said Ahmad Deeb, imam of the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo.
“We offend each other by trying to take on religious holidays that contradict our views. We wouldn’t expect Christians to celebrate `Eid or Ramadan. They’re different religions, and I think we just need to be honest about that.”
A Middle Way
Some Muslims maintain a middle way to preserve family ties during festive season, respecting holidays without observing them.
Imam Anjum, whose wife if a Catholic convert to Islam, is one of those. He usually gets gifts during `Eid from his wife’s family. They also send gifts on Christmas.
This gift exchange allows them to “maintain our family relations” without “compromising on our religious values.” Holidays are respected without being observed.
“You make it very clear that it’s not a festival for you, it’s a festival for them,” Anjum said.
Umver Ali Khan’s two daughters had Christian roommates while in college, will also welcome one of her daughter’s Christian friends, whose family is in Korea, during Christmas time this year.
“We are practicing Muslims, but we’re living in a Christian society,” Ali said. “So we have to honor their traditions if we want our traditions to be honored, at the end of the day.”
Christmas is the main festival on the Christian calendar. Its celebrations reach its peak at 12:00 PM on December 24 of every year.
Muslims believe in Jesus as one of the great Prophets of God and that he was born miraculously, conceived with no father, to his mother, Mary, but not that he was son of God.