In this counseling answer:
• It is a sign of love and inclusion. While you may not feel comfortable now, perhaps if you can view this holiday not as a religious one for you and your children, but rather as a family time to cook together, exchange Christmas presents, and feel joy for your family, it may make it easier.
• Your husband is the one who should approach his family with any decisions that are made regarding Christmas and the children.
• Once you decide how you feel, insha’Allah, I kindly suggest that you speak with your children to ensure they are clear on the differences between religious holidays.
• If they give you gifts, you should thank them and accept them with good cheer and should also remember them at the times of Islamic holidays.
As salamu Alaykum dear sister,
Thank you for writing to us with your important questions and concerns. During the holidays, Christmas especially, Muslims often have a difficult time deciding how to handle holidays and family. It can be especially difficult if you (or a spouse) is a revert or if some of the family is not Muslim. Couples who have school-age children often are in a dilemma about how to handle school holiday celebrations. In your case, your husband is a revert, and you live with his mother.
Mother-In-Law’s Happiness about Christmas
As your husband is a revert and you live with his family, your mother-in-law always talks about Christmas. They are planning to buy gifts for your children. This makes you uncomfortable. While you did not mention the ages of your children, nor how long you have been living at your mother-in-law’s home, it sounds like you may experience your first Christmas living with them.
In order to have more precise insight, it is important to know the ages of your children, how they feel, and their level of understanding in terms of our Islamic identity, holidays, traditions and so forth. It is good to begin teaching these things at a very early age as I am sure you have been.
Therefore, insha’Allah, I kindly suggest that this is where you begin your journey by ensuring your children are knowledgable (age-appropriate) regarding holidays, and secure in their Islamic identity. As you know, this is your mother in law’s Christian celebration, so it is quite normal for them to be very excited, happy, and enthusiastic about getting gifts for the children and others.
Christmas is a time for family, celebrations, festivities, and Christmas presents. Most of the time, family members who are Christian include non-Christian members in the festivities and planning. It is a sign of love and inclusion. While you may not feel comfortable now, perhaps if you can view this holiday not as a religious one for you and your children, but rather as a family time to cook together, exchange gifts, and feel joy for your family, it may make it easier.
Navigating Where you Stand
No doubt, this makes it very difficult for a Muslim who is not used to navigating the holiday ins and outs. Sister, it is basically up to you and your husband how you want to handle the situation with family members regarding religious holidays that are not Islamic.
Some feel that it is absolutely wrong and Haram to even acknowledge or participate in any aspect of Christmas. Others feel it is harmless as long as it is not done in the spirit of worshiping Jesus (Isa PBUH), but in the spirit of being happy and respectful for others’ religious festivities, especially when the family is involved. In between is often a middle stance.
Speaking with Husband
I kindly suggest sister, that insha’Allah you speak with your husband about your concerns. Even if he is not around, his input is vital because this is his family. It is your family too, however, he is the one who should approach his family with any decisions that are made regarding Christmas presents and the children. Insha’Allah, talk to your husband regarding your feelings about Christmas and the children.
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How Do You Feel?
First, however, you need to identify how you feel. When you know how you feel, you will be better able to discuss points with your husband. Are you okay with the children receiving Christmas presents? Do the children have a clear understanding that Christmas is a Christian holiday and not an Islamic one? Do the children understand that as Muslims we have our own holidays?
You may wish to explore how you feel personally about you or your children participating or not celebrating any one aspect of Christmas. Once you decide how you feel, insha’Allah, I kindly suggest that you speak with your children to ensure they are clear on the differences between religious holidays, their Islamic identification, and where you and your husband stand as a family regarding any celebration or participation.
An Islamic Perspective
Based on the Qur’an, it states, “Keep their company with kindness in this world and follow the path of him who turns to Me. Then unto Me will you return, and I shall tell you what you did.” (Luqman 31:15)” Therefore it is advised to ’ ’accept invitations from your family, share their happy times with them, and eat any kind of permissible food with them, which excludes pork, intoxicants, and that which has been dedicated to idols.
Also, you should not participate in any religious rituals associated with non-Muslim beliefs.”, and ’Muslims are allowed to share with non-Muslims in their joyous occasions, wishing them happy holidays, even send greeting cards to your Christian friends, relatives or neighbors. If they give you gifts, you should thank them and accept them with good cheer and should also remember them at the times of Islamic holidays. Therefore, there is nothing in Islam that prevents you from being with your family during Christmas, at least to show them that you are part and parcel of them even after your conversion to Islam”.
Collaboration with Husband
Please do speak with your husband after you decide where you stand on this issue. As he is your husband, he will carry much weight as to how the situation should be resolved concerning Christmas presents. However, your feelings, beliefs and desires for the children are important and should be taken into consideration when making a decision.
Insha’Allah, you both have a similar stance. If it is that he and you both feel that any participation in Christmas is haram and forbidden, and you are uncomfortable with it, then he should speak with his parents about the Christmas gifts that they are planning to give.
If it is okay and you agree that your children may participate in the Christmas presents exchanging or any other aspect of Christmas, then it may be up to you (since your husband is gone) to ensure that the children have a solid Islamic foundation. Ensure they know that this is not our holiday, but they are permitted to participate to whatever extent you both decide as a respect for their family-grandparent.
No matter what decision is made, please do keep in mind that this is your mother-in-law and you do live with her. She is your family.
Also please remember, as I’m sure you do, that as Muslims we respect others’ religious beliefs and opinions especially those religions from the books.
Also as we are Muslim, we seek to have good relations and respect others as we expect the same from them. If you and your husband do decide that it is permissible for the children to accept gifts with a clear understanding of our Islamic identity, you may want to talk with your mother-in-law about also inviting her to participate in Eid gift-giving and festivities as well when Ramadan is here. Insha’Allah, it could be an experience that is both educative and bonding.
It may also create a time for the exchange of thoughts and ideas concerning Islamic and Christian holidays. In this light, it may bring you and your family closer by teaching each other and sharing holiday traditions. Eventually, it may lead to opportunities for dawah.
While you and your children are not to participate in the religious aspects of Christmas, you may find a balance and joy by partaking in the other aspects that bond family such as cooking, eating together, Christmas presents giving, and so forth. You sound like a wonderful mom, daughter-in-law, and Muslima. Insha’Allah, all will work out sister so you are comfortable with the situation.
We wish you the best.
Disclaimer: The conceptualization and recommendations stated in this response are very general and purely based on the limited information provided in the question. In no event shall AboutIslam, its counselors or employees be held liable for any damages that may arise from your decision in the use of our services.