Wa`alaykum As-Salamu wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh.
In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.
In this fatwa:
2– Some scholars permit new converts to attend their families celebrations without participating in anything purely religious related to these celebrations.
Responding to your question, Sheikh Muhammad Al-Mukhtar Ash-Shinqiti, Professor of Political Ethics and Religions History at Qatar University, states:
It is very important to note that Islam is a complete way of life. At the same time, we should be interactive and proactive. We should not forget our role in the society. We should be a good example to others. Islam urges us to be kind with all people without any kind of discrimination due to differences in faith or race.
Having said this, it is unfortunate that many Muslims tend to follow and imitate others without understanding their backgrounds. Muslims must not dissolve the marked features of their identity.
In order to keep this identity, Muslim scholars said that Muslims must not celebrate religious holidays of non-Muslims.
Most jurists who are specialized in Fiqh of Muslim minorities and are aware of the cultures of western societies tend to agree that celebrating non-religious feasts, such as Independence Day and Labour Day, is not forbidden.
As for religious feasts, such as Christmas, most scholars forbid celebrating it, others, such as Sheikh Ahmad Kutty and Dr. Jamal Badawi, permit new converts to attend their families celebrations without participating in anything purely religious related to these celebrations.
Generally speaking, we can say that it is forbidden for the Muslim to participate in any religious aspect of the celebration, except Islamic celebrations of the two Eids, and it is allowed to take part in the general, non-religious aspects of the celebrations of other feasts.
It is important to note here that congratulating non-Muslims on their religious or non-religious feasts and exchanging gifts on these occasions is part of the good relations that we are commanded to keep with them and a practical example of the concept of “birr” that Islam has emphasized when it comes to Muslim-non-Muslim relations, especially if those non-Muslims congratulate and exchange gifts with us on our Islamic feasts.
Allah Almighty knows best.
Editor’s note: This fatwa is from Ask the Scholar’s archive and was originally published at an earlier date.