Celebrations and Ruling on participataing of non-Muslim Religious

The ruling on imitating the kuffaar  
One of the most important basic principles of our religion is that of al-walaa’ wa’l-baraa’, loyalty (walaa’) to Islam and its people, and diavowal (baraa’) of kufr and its people. One of the essential features of this disavowal of kufr and it’s people is that the Muslim should be distinct from the people of kufr, and he should feel proud of his religion and of being a Muslim, no matter how strong and advanced and civilized the kuffaar may be, and no matter how weak and backward and divided the Muslims may be. It is not permissible under any circumstances to take the strength of the kuffaar and the weakness of the Muslims as an excuse for imitating and resembling them, as some hypocrites and defeatist Muslims claim. The texts which forbid imitating the kuffaar do not make any distinction between whether Muslims are strong or weak, because the Muslim can be distinct in his religion and be proud of being Muslim even when he is in a weak position.

Allaah calls us to be proud of Islam, and considers this to be the best of speech and the best kind of pride, as He says (interpretation of the meaning):

“And who is better in speech than he who [says: “My Lord is Allah (believes in His Oneness),” and then stands firm (acts upon His Order), and] invites (men) to Allah’s (Islamic Monotheism), and does righteous deeds, and says: “I am one of the Muslims.” [Fussilat 41:33]

Because it is so important for the Muslim to be distinguished from the kaafir, the Muslim is commanded to pray to Allaah at least seventeen times each day to help him to avoid the path of the kaafireen and to guide him to the Straight Path:

“Guide us to the Straight Way. The way of those on whom You have bestowed Your Grace, not (the way) of those who earned Your Anger, nor of those who went astray” [al-Faatihah 1:6-7 – interpretation of the meaning].

There are very many texts in the Qur’aan and Sunnah which forbid us to imitate them, and which clearly state that they are misguided; whoever imitates them, imitates them in their misguidance. Allaah says (interpretation of the meanings);

“Then We have put you (O Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم) on a (plain) way of (Our) commandment [like the one which We commanded Our Messengers before you (i.e. legal ways and laws of the Islâmic Monotheism)]. So follow you that (Islâmic Monotheism and its laws), and follow not the desires of those who know not.” [al-Jaathiyah 46:18] 
“Were you (O Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم) to follow their (vain) desires after the knowledge which has come to you, then you will not have any Walî (protector) or Wâq (defender) against Allâh” [al-Ra’d 13:37]

“And be not as those who divided and differed among themselves after the clear proofs had come to them” [Aal- ‘Imraan 3:105] 
Allaah calls the believers to remember Him with humility and to recite His Verses, then He says (interpretation of the meaning): 
“lest they become as those who received the Scripture [the Taurât (Torah) and the Injeel (Gospel)] before (i.e. Jews and Christians), and the term was prolonged for them and so their hearts were hardened? And many of them were Fâsiqûn (the rebellious, the disobedient to Allâh)” [al-Hadeed 57:16]

No doubt imitating them is one of the grestes indications that a person has befriended them and loves them, and this contradicts the idea of diavowal [baraa’] of the kufr and its people. Allaah has forbidden the believers to take them as friends, and He has stated that taking them as friends causes a person to become one of them – Allaah forbid. Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning): 
“O you who believe! Take not the Jews and the Christians as Auliyâ’ (friends, protectors, helpers), they are but Auliyâ’ of each other. And if any amongst you takes them (as Auliyâ’), then surely, he is one of them” [al-Maa’idah 5:51] 
“You (O Muhammad ) will not find any people who believe in Allâh and the Last Day, making friendship with those who oppose Allâh and His Messenger (Muhammad ), even though they were their fathers or their sons or their brothers or their kindred (people)” [al-Mujaadilah 58:22]

Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: “Imitation generates friendship and love, and regarding them as allies in the inside, just as loving them on the inside generates imitating them on the outside.”

And he also said, commenting on the aayah from Soorat al-Mujaadilah: “Allaah tells us that there is no (true) believer who takes a kaafir as a friend, for whoever takes a kaafir as friend is not a believer. Imitation on the outside implies that a person loves (the one whom he imitates), and so it is forbidden.” 
It was reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Whoever imitates a people is one of them.”

(Narrated by Abu Dawood, al-Libaas, 1204; Ahmad, 2/05. Shaykh al-Islam classed its isnaad as jayyid in al-Iqtidaa’, 1/042. See also al-Fataawaa, 25/133. Al-Haafiz provided corroborating evidence in al-Fath, with a mursal report whose isnaad is hasan (6/89). Al-Suyooti classed it as hasan, and al-Albaani classed it as saheeh in Jamee’ al-Saheeh, 5206). 
Shaykh al-Islam said: “This hadeeth at the very least implies that it is haraam to imitate them, even if it is only in external appearance, and it implies that the one who imitatest hem is a kaafir, as Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning): ‘And if any amongst you takes them (as Auliyâ’), then surely, he is one of them’ [al-Maa’idah 5:51].” (al-Iqtidaa’, 1/732).

Al-San’aani said: “If a person imitates the kaafir in his dress, and believes that by doing so he will be like him, then he is a kaafir. If he does not belive this, then there is a difference of opinion among the fuqahaa’ in this case. Some of them say that he is a kaafir, which is the apparent meaning of the hadeeth; others say that he is not a kaafir, but he should be disciplined.” (Subul al-Salaam, 8/842).

Shaykh al-Islam said: “The reason why the religion of Allaah and its rituals is vanishing, and kufr and sin are prevailing, is because of imitation of the kaafireen, just as the means of preserving all good is by following the ways and laws of the Prophets. “ (al-Iqtidaa’, 1/413).

There is much that could be said about imitation of the kuffaar, but what we have said above is sufficient.

The forms of imitating the kuffaar in their festivals 
The various sects and groups of the kuffaar have many kinds of festivals, some of them have a religious basis whilst others have been newly invented. Some of their festivals are like customs and events for which they have invented festivals, such as national holidays and the like. Their festivals may be grouped into different categories as follows:
Firstly: 
religious festivals by means of which they seek to draw nearer to Allaah, such as the Epiphany, Easter, Passover, Christmas, etc. They ways in which the Muslims imitate them in these festivals are two:

Joining in with them in these festivals, such as when some non-Islamic groups or minorities in Muslim countries celebrate their festivals, and some Muslims join in with them. This happened at the time of Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah and al-Haafiz al-Dhahabi, and it is what is happening now in many of the Muslim countries. What is even worse than that is what some Muslims do by travelling to the kaafir countries for the express purpose of attending these festivals and joining in the celebrations, whether the motive is to fulfil their physical desires or in response to the invitation of some of the kuffaar – as some Muslims do who live in kaafir countries and are invited to join the celebrations, or some other who have capital to invest or are owners of large companies, so they accept these invitations for the sake of being friendly to the person who invited them, or for a worldly interest such as winning a contract, and so on. All of this is haraam, and there is the fear that it may lead to kufr, because of the hadeeth, “Whoever imitates a people is one of them.” And the one who does this is aiming to join in some of the rituals of their religion.

Beinging the celebration to the Muslim countries. Those who attend the festivals of the kuffaar in their countries and who like them because they are ignorant and have weak faith and little knowledge, may be prompted to bring some of those festivals and rituals to the Muslim countries, as is happening now in many Muslim countries, where the Gregorian New year is celebrated. This category is worse than the former one for one reason, which is that the people whodo this are not content merely to join the kuffaar in their rituals, but they want to bring them to the Muslim lands as well.  
Secondly: 
Festivals whose origins lie in the rituals of the kuffaar, and they have now become international customs and celebrations. This is like the Olympic festivals (the Olympiad) in Greece, which nowadays appears to be no more than an international sporting event in which participation takes two forms:

Taking part in the games with their rituals in the kaafir countries, as many of the Muslim states do by sending athletes to participate in the different games. 
Bringing these festivals to the Muslim countries, such as some of the Muslim countries asking to host the Olympic Games in their countries. 
In both cases, taking part or hosting the games in a Muslim country is haraam, for the following reasons: 
 The origin of these Olympic Games is one of the pagan festivals of the Greeks, as mentioned above. This was the most important festival for the Greek nation, then it was inherited by the Romans and, in turn, the Christians.

It bears the same name as it was known by when it was a Greek festival.   
The fact that it is now no more than a sporting event does not cancel out the fact that it is a pagan festival, because of its origin and name. The evidence (daleel) for that is the hadeeth narrated by Thaabit ibn al-Dahhaak (may Allaah be pleased with him), who said: “At the time of the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), a man vowed to sacrifice some camels in Bawwaanah. He came to the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) and said, ‘I have vowed to sacrifice some camels in Bawwaanah.’ The Prophet Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said, ‘Were there any idols there that were worshipped during the Jaahiliyyah?’ He said, ‘No.’ He said, ‘Did they hold any of their festivals there?’ He said, ‘No.’ The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: ‘Then fulfil your vow, for there is no fulfilment of any vow which involves disobeying Allaah, or with regard to something that the son of Adam does not own.’” (Narrated by Abu Dawood in al-Aymaan wa’l-Nudhoor, 3133. According to another report, the one who asked the question was a woman (2133). It was also narrated by al-tabaraani in al-Kabeer (1431). Shaykh al-Islam said: its isnaad is according to the conditions of al-Saheehayn. All of its narrators are thiqaat (trustworthy) and mashhoor (well known), and the chain is intact, with no ‘an’anah (none of the links of the chain are connected with the word ‘an, meaning ‘from’). See al-Iqtidaa’, 1/634. It was classed as saheeh by al-Haafiz in al-Buloogh, 5041).