Short Answer: If not attending your family’s non-religious family gathering on Christmas is going to cause isolation and alienation from your family, attend! Use your common sense and stay away from things like overt worshipping of Jesus and consuming of alcohol, and consider not attending if you had a serious alcohol problem in the past. But if celebrating Christmas with family isn’t something you’re into, especially those raised in Muslim families, kindly keep your opinions to yourself. Converts don’t need to be patronized every single year and reminded that we aren’t supposed to worship Jesus. We know.
Asalaamu alaykum and thank you for your question.
These sorts of questions are incredibly important, so it’s great that you asked.
Please check out this video from our consultant Leah Mallery wherein she explains that celebrating Christmas with your family is fine, assuming there are no religious or other haram aspects:
Leah Darland Hanoosh: This is something of a hot topic that comes up every year and it leaves a lot of converts feeling confused and hurt, and family members are feeling confused and hurt and estranged.
And so I just wanted to address it really quickly.
Religious or Cultural?
I think that most people who have reasonable knowledge about what the average American Christmas entails understands that it’s not religious in nature.
There are, of course, many families across the United States who do celebrate a religious aspect, but for a lot of people, it’s purely cultural.
For example, in my family… my family is overwhelmingly agnostic. And there is a Christmas tree and people exchange presents and there’s dinner.
There’s no worship of Jesus, which is something that all Muslims know is not acceptable.
It’s not something that we need to patronizingly remind converts of every year; we know… everyone who is Muslim knows that you don’t worship Jesus because la ilaha ilallah is the most important thing about being Muslim.
So that’s a bit of a non-issue because we are already aware that participating in religious aspects of Christmas is forbidden.
But the way that Christmas is practiced in many, many American families and many Western families is simply a time of getting together.
Some Muslims say things like, “Well can’t they get together any other time of the year?”
I just find that line of thinking a little bit insulting.
This is a time where many people, inshaallah, have some time off of work so why would everyone try and rearrange their schedule to accommodate you, just for the nit-picky detail of it being on a different day?
To Attend or Not To Attend? That is the Question
If a convert is feeling insecure in their faith and they feel that being around unIslamic situations like maybe alcohol at a family party—if they feel that that might kind of sway them, then maybe, in that case, it would be better to stay away.
Also, if you are in a position where you find yourself—and of course, when you’re in this position, you’re not very self-aware and this is coming from my own experience as a new convert—you’re in that stage you want to do everything right.
You don’t want to do anything outside of the strictest interpretation of Islam because you want to try and prove yourself as a Muslim.
Obviously, if you’re in that stage you’re probably not going to be attending your family Christmas.
But if you do feel that way, I encourage you to try and open your heart a little bit, because while whether or not attending a family gathering on December 25th may be up for debate, whether or not it’s okay, one thing that is definitely not okay is alienating your family.
And when this is such an important thing, as long as it’s not a dispute over religion—like if you’re saying, “Well you have to go to a worship service with us or else!” then you don’t want to compromise your actual Islam.
But if it’s a situation where it’s a simple family gathering and not going [attending] is going to hurt a lot of people in your family, then you might want to consider softening your heart and going.
Then, of course, when you come to a place where you’re comfortable in your faith, you know your limits.
And you know, “Oh I can’t be around alcohol because I have a history with alcohol and I’m afraid I’ll fall off the wagon.”
Or you know that you can handle the situation where there are other people drinking and you’re not, you know your limits you know what you can handle.
And so in those instances, you can make the decision for yourself.
Muslims know that Worshipping Jesus is Not Allowed
As far as people who have been raised Muslim, this is really not a time to be enforcing your interpretations of non-Muslim events on to converts.
It’s already a difficult time of year for a lot of people and I already spoke a few weeks ago about how converts often feel alienated from their families just because of their Islam.
So if there is this opportunity for them to bond with their family then, alhamdulillah [thank God!], and inshallah it’s something that can bring the family closer together.
I do encourage all Muslims to please not shame those who choose to participate in family Christmas.
Again, Muslims know that worshipping Jesus is not allowed.
So each of us can keep those nice little reminders to ourselves because for the vast majority of people giving reminders often comes off as patronizing.
If you are one of those people who can give reminders and not come off as patronizing then you know do your thing, but anyway I digress.
Inshallah this is serving as a benefit to someone and I hope everyone has a good holiday and anyone who has the long weekend off celebrate that of nothing else.
And Allah knows best.
I hope this helps.
Salam and please keep in touch.
(From Ask About Islam archives)
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