Celebrations and Ruling on participataing of non-Muslim Religious

For Christians, this festival is an annual reminder of the birth of the Messiah (peace be upon him). They have many rituals and acts of worship at this time, when they go to the church and hold special prayers and services. The story of the birth of the Messiah is mentioned in their Gospels – Luke and Matthew. It was first celebrated in 336 CE. The festival is influenced by pagan rituals, when the Romans used to celebrate the god of light and the god of the harvest. When Christianity became the official religion of the Romans, Christmas became the most important festival in Europe. Saint Nicholas became a symbol of gift-giving at this festival in the European countries, then Father Christmas (Santa Claus) took the place of Saint Nicholas as a symbol of the giving of gifts, especially to children (1). Many Muslims in different countries have been influenced by these rituals and customs, and the giving of gifts by Santa Claus has become well known in many Muslim-owned stores and shops. How many houses have these gifts entered, and how many Muslim children know about Santa Claus and his gifts! Laa hawla wa laa quwwata illaa Billaa il-‘Aliy il-‘Azeem (there is no strength and no power except with Allaah, the Exalted and Almighty).

The Christians have many rituals on this day. The Christians of Palestine and neighbouring regions gather on the night of this festival in Bethlehem, the city where the Messiah (peace be upon him) was born, to attend Midnight Mass. Among their other rituals, they celebrate the nearest Sunday to the date of November 30, which is the feast day of Saint Andrew. This is the first day of Advent – the advent of the Messiah (peace be upon him). The festival reaches its peak when they stay up for Midnight Mass, when the churches are decorated and the people sing Christmas carols. The Christmas season ends on January 6. Some of them burn part of the trunk of the Christmas tree, then they keep the part that is not burned, believing that this burning will bring them good luck. This belief is widespread in Britain, France and the Scandinavian countries. 
The feast of the Epiphany (ghattaas), which is on January 19. For the Copts it is on the eleventh of Toobah. The origin of this festival, according to them, is that Yahyaa ibn Zakariya (peace be upon them both), whom they know as John the Baptist, baptized the Messiah son of Maryam (peace be upon him) in the River Jordan, and when he was washed, the Holy Spirit came upon him. Because of this, the Christians dip their children in water on this day, and all of them immerse themselves in the water. Al-Mas’oodi mentioned that this day – during his time – was a major event in Egypt, attended by thousands of Christians and Muslims, who would bathe in the Nile, believing that this offered protection from sickness and was a healing. This is what is celebrated by the Orthodox churches, but the Catholic and Protestant churches have a different concept of this festival, whereby they commemorate the “adoration of the Magi”, where the three men who came from the east venerated the infant Jesus. 
The origin of the word ghattaas (baptism) is Greek, meaning “emerging.” It is a religious term, referring to the emergence of an invisible being. It was mentioned in the Tawraat that Allaah – may He be exalted – appeared to Moosa (peace be upon him) in the form of a burning bush – exalted be Allaah far above what they say. 
The Christian New Year celebration: this has become a major celebration in these times, which is celebrated by Christian countries and by some Muslim countries. TV broadcasts of these celebrations are transmitted live to all parts of the world, they appear on the front pages of newspapers and magazines, and they occupy a large part of the news broadcasts on satellite channels. It is noticeable that many Muslims in whose countries these Christian celebrations are not held travel to Christian countries to attend them and enjoy the forbidden things that are involved in them, unaware of the sin committed by indulging in the rituals of those who disbelieve. 
The Christians have many false beliefs and myths about New Year’s Eve (December 31), as is the case with all their festivals. We hear of these beliefs from the makers of modern civilization and those who are described as civilized, those whom the hypocrites among our people want to follow in even the smallest detail, even in their myths, so that we can be assured of a position in the ranks of those who are advanced and civilized and earn the approval of those who have blond hair and blue eyes!

Among their beliefs (with regard to New Year’s Eve) is that the one who drinks the last glass of wine from the bottle after midnight will have good luck, and if he is single, he will be the first one among his friends who are present to get married. It is regarded as bad luck for a person to enter the house at New Year without bringing a gift; sweeping out the dirt at New Year means that one is also sweeping away good luck; washing clothes and dishes on this day will bring bad luck; they try to keep the fire burning all night on New Year’s Eve so that it will bring good luck… and other such myths and superstitions. 
They also have other festivals, some of which are ancient and others have been invented recently. Some of them were taken from the Greeks and Romans who came before them, and others were part their religion but have now vanished. Some of these festivals are of major significance to them, and others are of limited importance, being confined to a few churches or denominations.

Each denomination and church has festivals which are unique to them, and are not celebrated by other denominations. The Protestants do not believe in the festivals of the other churches, but they do agree on the major festivals such as Easter, Christmas, New Year and the Epiphany, even though they differ as to the rituals and practices involved, or some of the reasons and details, or the time and place.

Festivals of the Persians 
1. The festival of Nawrooz. The word ‘Nawrooz’ means new. The festival lasts for six days, when at the time of Chosroes they used to fulfil the needs of other people in the first five days, and the sixth day was devoted to themselves and the people to whom they were closest. This day was called the great Nawrooz, and was the most important of their festivals. The book Ashaab al-Awaa’il mentioned that the first one tocelebrate Nawrooz was Jamsheed the king, in whose time Hood (peace be upon him) was sent, after the religion had been changed. When the king Jamsheed renewed the religion and established justice, the day on which he had ascended the throne was named Nawrooz. When he reached the age of seven hundred years, and he had never gotten ill or suffered a headache, he became an oppressive tyrant. He made an image of himself and sent it to the provinces for it to be venerated, and the masses worshipped it and made idols in its image. Al-Dahhaak al-‘Alwaani, one of the Amaaliqah (Amalekites) attacked him in the Yemen and killed him, as is stated in the books of history. Some of the Persians claim that Nawrooz is the day when Allaah created light. Nawrooz is considered to be the festival marking the Persian solar New Year. It coincides with the twenty first of March in the Gregorian calendar. The masses used to light fires on this night and sprinkle water in the morning. 
Nawrooz is also celebrated by the Baha’is, coming at the end of their fast which lasts for 19 days, on March 21. (3). Nawrooz is also the first day of the year for the Copts, who call it Shimm al-Naseem. For them it lasts for six days, starting on the sixth of June. We have already discussed Shimm al-Naseem under the heading of Pharaonic festivals above. It is possible that the Copts took it from the Pharaonic legacy, since they were all in Egypt.

2. The festival of Mahrajaan. The word Mahrajaan is composed of two words: mahar, meaning loyalty, and jaan meaning authority or power. So the word means, the authority of loyalty. The origin of this festival was the celebration of the victory of Afridoon over al-Dahhaak al-‘Alwaani, who killed Jamsheed, the king who has started Nawrooz. It was also said that it was a celebration of the onset of cooler weather in the fall. It is possible that it originally started for the reason mentioned above, but as that coincided with the onset of cooler weather in the fall, so they continued to celebrate that. It is celebrated on the twenty-sixth of the Syriac month of Tishreen al-Awwal. Like Nawrooz, it lasts for six days, the sixth of which is the Great Mahrajaan. On this occasion and on Nawrooz they used to exchange gifts of musk, amber, Indian ‘ood [a kind of perfume or incense], saffron and camphor. (5). The first person to make this exchange of gifts official in Islamic times was al-Hajjaaj ibn Yoosuf al-Thaqafi, and this continued until it was abolished by the rightly-guided Khaleefah ‘Umar ibn ‘Abd al-‘Azeez (may Allaah have mercy on him).

One of the greatest problems that the Muslims are suffering from is the use of the word Mahrajaan (festival) to describe many social, cultural and economic gatherings, celebrations and events. The word is even used to describe da’wah events. So people speak of mahrahjaan al-thaqaafah (cultural festival), Mahrajaan al-tasawwuq (marketing festival), Mahrajaan al-kutub (book festival), mahrahjaan al-da’wah (da’wah festival) and so on, as we see in advertisements and hear in many phrases which use this idolatrous term. Mahrajaan is the name of the festival of the fire worshippers. 
Hence using this idolatrous Persian term to describe Muslim gatherings is clearly one of the things that are prohibited. We must avoid doing this and tell others not to use this word. There are sufficient permissible expressions that we do not need to use this word, for the Arabic language is the richest of all languages in words and meanings. 
Definition of imitation.  
Imitation (tashabbuh in Arabic) means resembling. If we say that someone imitates someone else, we means that he looks like him and acts like him. Likening a things to something else (tashbeeh) means saying that it is like it. The word tashabbuh has many counterparts in Arabic which carry meanings such as being like, imitating, looking like, following, agreeing with, taking as an example, copying, etc. They all have shades of meaning of their own, but they also overlap with the meaning of tashabbuh. In terms of the terminology of Fiqh, al-Ghuzzi al-Shaafa’i defined tashabbuh as describing a person’s attempt to be like the one whom he is imitating, in appearance, characteristics, wqualities and attributes. It implies making an effort to achieve this and deliberately taking action for that purpose.