Celebrations and Ruling on participataing of non-Muslim Religious

The disagreement between truth and falsehood is ongoing and will last as long as this world remains. The fact that some groups among the Ummah of Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) are following the people of falsehood such as the Jews, Christians, Zoroastrians, idol-worshippers and others, whilst a group is remaining steadfast to the truth despite the pressures, is all part of the decreed system of the universe. But this does not mean that we should give in and follow the ways of those who are astray, because the one who told us that this would inevitably happen also warned us against following this path, and he commanded us to adhere firmly to Islam no matter how many people deviate from it and no matter how strong they become. He told us that the blessed one is the one who adheres steadfastly to the truth no matter what the distractions, at a time when the one who does righteous deeds will earn the reward of fifty men whose deeds are like those of the Sahaabah (may Allaah be pleased with them) – as was reported in the hadeeth of Abu Tha’labah al-Khushani (may Allaah be pleased with him).

Among the Ummah of Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) there will be people who deviated from the truth and went towards falsehood, changing and altering things. Their punishment will be that they will be kept away from the Hawd (Cistern) whilst those who adhered to the Straight Path will come and drink from it. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said:

“I will precede you to the Cistern, and men from among you will be brought to me, and when I stretch forth my hand to them, they will be pulled away. I will say, ‘O Lord! My followers!’ and it will be said: ‘You do not know what they innovated after you were gone.’”

According to another report: “I will say: ‘May he be doomed, the one who changed (the religion) after I was gone.’” 
One of the most obvious manifestations of this altering of Islam and disdainfully treating the religion of Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) is the way in which people follow the enemies of Allaah – may He be exalted – in everything, major or minor, in the name of development, progress and civilization, under the banners of peaceful coexistence, human brotherhood, new world order, globalization and other dazzling but deceitful slogans. The caring Muslim can spot this dangerous problem among the majority of Muslims, except for those on whom Allaah has mercy, to such an extent that they even follow them in their religious rituals and in their most unique traditions and customs, such as the festivals which are part of their belief systems. Allaah says (interpretation of the meanings):

“and follow not their vain desires, diverging away from the truth that has come to you. To each among you, We have prescribed a law and a clear way” [al-Maa’idah 5:48]

“For every nation We have ordained religious ceremonies which they must follow” [al-Hajj 22:67] – which means, a festival which is for them alone.

Many Muslims have been led astray by the dazzling attractions of the enemies of Allaah, especially the Christians with their major festivals such as the celebration of the birth of the Messiah (peace be upon him) – i.e., Christmas – and the Christian New Year. They attend Christian parties on these occasions in their (Christians’) countries, and some of them have brought these things back to Muslim countries – we seek refuge with Allaah. A great disaster is the huge preparations which are being made on an international scale and at the level of the major Christian countries to celebrate the end of the second millenium and the beginning of the third millenium since the birth of the Messiah, son of Maryam (peace be upon him). If the world is teeming with Christian celebrations during a regular New Year, how will it be at the end of a Christian century (the twentieth century) and the end of a millenium (the second millenium)? It is a major event for which the Christians are preparing in a manner appropriate to its huge significance.

This Christian event will not be like a usual New Year’s Eve celebration taking only in the Christian countries and in their focal point, the Vatican. Preparations are afoot to make the focal point of the celebrations in Bethlehem, the place where the Messiah – peace be upon him – was born. The political and religious leaders of the Christians will go there – evangelicals and moderates alike, and even the secularists, to celebrate this millenium of which the world press is talking more and more as it approaches day by day. It is expected that more than three million people will be present in Bethlehem, led by the Pope John Paul II. Some of the neighbouring Muslim countries are also taking part in this global event, on the grounds that some of the symbols or major events of the Christian festival took place in their land – namely the baptism of the Messiah (peace be upon him), when he was baptized by John the Baptist (Yahyaa, peace be upon him) in the River Jordan. Indeed, many Muslims will also take part in these celebrations on the basis that they are an international event which concerns all the inhabitants of the earth. These people do not know that celebrating this millenium is a celebration of a Christian religious festival (the birth of the Messiah, i.e. Christmas, and the Christian New Year), and that taking part in it involves taking part in the rituals of their religion, and that rejoicing in it means rejoicing in the symbols of Kufr when they are made manifest and they prevail. This poses a great danger to the ‘aqeedah (belief) of the Muslim, because “Whoever imitates a people is one of them” as was reported in a saheeh hadeeth from the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him). So how about one who actually joins in with them in the rituals of their religion?! This obliges us to discuss the rulings on the festivals of the kuffaar, how the Muslim should deal with them and how they should differ from them – which is one of the basic principles of this pure religion of ours. Moreover, we need to know some details about their festivals and rituals so that we can avoid them and warn others about them.  

Why do we need to know about the festivals of the kuffaar?
One of the things that the scholars agreed on is that the Muslim does not need to concern himself with the ways of the kuffaar, or their rituals and customs (unless he wants to call them to Islam), except when their customs and rituals are becoming widespread ignorant Muslims, whether deliberately or unintentionally. In such cases Muslims need to know about them so that they can avoid them. In recent times this has become more of an issue for the following reasons:
More mixing with the kuffaar, because Muslims go to their countries to study, take vacations, do business or for other reasons. Those who go there witness some of their rituals and they may like them, so they follow them. This is especially the case with those who are suffering from an inferiority complex and who look at the kuffaar with strong admiration which robs them of the power to resist, corrupts their hearts and weakens their commitment to religion. In addition to this, many westernized, educated people regard the kuffaar as advanced, progressive and civilized even in their most mundane customs and habits. Or else this comes about through the open celebration of these festivals in Muslim countries by some groups and non-Muslim minorities, so some ignorant Muslims are influenced by this.

The matter is made more serious by the media which can transmit everything with sound and living pictures from the farthest corners of the earth. No doubt the media of the kuffar is stronger and more capable of transmitting their rituals to the Muslims than the other way round. Many satellite channels broadcast the rituals of other religions’ festivals – especially Christian festivals. The matter becomes more serious when the secular systems in some Muslim countries have adopted the celebrations of the kaafirs and some of the people of bid’ah and the Arabic satellite channels broadcast this to the world, so some Muslims are deceived by the fact that this is coming from a Muslim country.

Throughout their history, the Muslims have suffered from the problem of being influenced by the rituals of others through mixing with them. This prompted the imaams (scholars) of Islam to warn the Muslim masses against imitating others in their festivals and rituals. Among these scholars are Shaykh al-Islam ibn Taymiyah, his student al-‘Allaamah Ibn al-Qayyim, al-Haafiz al-Dhahabi and al-Haafiz ibn Katheer. They lived at the same time, when there was a lot of mixing between Muslims and others, especially Christians, and ignorant Muslims were influenced by their (Christians’) religious rituals, especially their festivals. So these scholars spoke a great deal about these things throughout their books, and some of them devoted books to the particular topic, such as Ibn Taymiyah (Iqtidaa’ al-Siraat al-Mustaqeem li Mukhaalafat Ashaab al-Jaheem) and al-Dhahabi (Tashbeeh al-Khasees bi Ahl al-Khamees), and others.
Ibn Taymiyah (may Allaah have mercy on him) spoke at length about their festivals and what they do on those occasions, and he described the extent to which the ignorant Muslims were influenced by this. He described their various festivals and the rituals and customs that were involved - which Muslims do not ordinarily need to know about, but now it is necessary because many Muslims are following the People of the Book in those rituals.

Shaykh al-Islam described their festivals and discussed them in the context of warning against them. After speaking in detail about them, he said: “Our aims are not limited just to knowing the details of their falsehood, but it is sufficient for us to know what is munkar (evil) in such a way that we can distinguish between it and that which is mubaah (permissible), ma’roof (good), mustahabb (encouraged) and waajib (obligatory), so that by means of this knowledge we will be able to protect ourselves and avoid it, just as we know (and avoid) other things that are haraam, as we are obliged to do. Whoever does not know about what is munkar, either in general terms or in details, will not be able to avoid it. A general knowledge is sufficient, unlike with waajibaat (duties) [where it is essential to know details – translator].”
He also said:
 “I have counted so many things that are munkar in their religion when I noted that some groups of Muslims are influenced by some of them, and many of them do not know that this comes from the Christian religion which is cursed, it and its followers. I do not know all the things that they do, but I have mentioned what I have seen Muslims doing, which is taken from them.”

4. Some of their festivals nowadays revolve around large gatherings, and still bear some of the features of their ancient festivals. Many Muslims take part in these events without realizing that. This is the case with the Olympic Games, whose roots lie in a festival that was celebrated by the Greeks, then the Romans, then the Christians; and with the “Mahrajaans” (“festivals”) which are organized to promote trade, culture etc., even though the Mahrajaan was originally a Persian festival. Most of those who organize these gatherings and call them “Mahrajaan” are unaware of this.

Knowing evil is a means of avoiding it and keeping away from it. Hudhayfah (may Allaah be pleased with him) said: “The people used to ask the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) about good things, but I used to ask him about bad things, fearing that I may fall into them.” It is a great problem that Muslims fall into observing some of the rituals of the disbelievers without realizing that this is part of their rituals and unique customs, which we have been commanded to avoid because it is an abomination and misguidance.

There are so many calls made by the strong voices of hypocrisy who want to cut the Ummah off from its roots, destroy its identity and assimilate it into the methodology of the kuffaar, and want people to follow them step by step, under the banners of humanity, globalization, universalism, openness towards others and receptiveness towards other cultures. This makes it essential for us to know about the others’ (the kaafirs’) misguidance and deviation so that we can expose it and point out the faults that lie beneath the attractive exterior that covers these abhorrent ideas,

“so that those who were to be destroyed (for their rejecting the Faith) might be destroyed after a clear evidence, and those who were to live (i.e. believers) might live after a clear evidence” [al-An’aam 8:42 – interpretation of the meaning] – and so that proof may be demonstrated to the followers of Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), so that they will not be cheated or deceived.
Festivals of the Pharaohs
Among the Pharaonic festivals is the festival of Shimm al-Naseem (lit. “smelling the breeze”), which involves venerating some days as a good omen or drawing nigh to the gods who were worshipped instead of Allaah – may He be exalted. Shaykh Mahfooz – during his own time – mentioned some of the shameful and immoral practices that would make one's hair stand on end, whereby farms and open spaces were filled with groups of immoral people of bad conduct, and groups of young and old, men and women, went to the orchards and rivers to commit zinaa (fornication, adultery) and to drink intoxicating substances, thinking that on that day all evil actions were permissible for them.

Among the superstitions connected to this festival was the placing of onions beneath the head of a sleeping person, or hanging them in doorways, claiming that this would take away laziness and sloth. This event is counted as one of the Pharaonic festivals, and it was said that it was invented by the Copts; there is nothing to suggest that it did not belong to both of them, and that it was not passed down from the Pharaohs to the Copts. Many Egyptians – especially the Copts – still celebrate this festival, and many Muslims join in with them. In recent years a number of secular writers have called for it to be made an official holiday, in order to revive the Pharaonic legacy, at the time when they describe the rituals of Islam as being backward, reactionary and uncivilized!