Every year, around Christmas time, many Muslims living in the West, wonder what to do about the holidays, what to tell their children about Christmas and Jesus (peace be upon him) and why they are different.
What are you going to say this year when your children ask you, “Why Muslims do not celebrate Christmas?!” Your children are the product of a hybrid culture, a potpourri of religious experiences. What will you tell them about Christmas holidays?
Respect Your Neighbors
Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, was faced with this question when he arrived in Madinah to consolidate the first Muslim community. Muslims were then a minority living among Christian and Jews.
The Prophet said, "Najran has the protection of God and the pledges of Muhammad, the Prophet, to protect their (the Christians') lives, faith, land, property, those who are absent and those who are present, and their clan and allies. They need not change anything of their past customs. No right of theirs or their religion shall be altered. No church leader, monk or church guard shall be removed from his position." (Salahi, Adil: “Prophet Muhammad Meets Najran Christians.”
It is important that Muslim parents teach their children to respect other people’s beliefs. It is essential to point out the fact that Muslims hate whatever Allah did not permit, but they do not hate the people of different beliefs. There is always room for people of other faiths to learn and grow. We do not give up on them. They have their own customs and we have ours.
Allah says in His holy Book, "You have your religion, and I have mine" (The Qur'an 109:6)
Teach your children to stay away from mocking the beliefs of other people. Almighty Allah says, “And insult not those whom they (disbelievers) worship besides God, lest they insult God wrongfully without knowledge. Thus We have made fair-seeming to each people its own doings; then to their Lord is their return and He shall then inform them of all that they used to do" (The Qur’an, 6:108).
Tell Your Kids the Story of Jesus
Inform your child that Christmas comes from the word Christ used to call Jesus Christ. The “Mass” is a religious ceremony. Christ means “the Messiah” or “messenger” of God. It is an honorific title.
Jesus is known in Arabic as Isa (peace be upon him) as mentioned in the Qur’an.
Muslims have an utmost respect for Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him). Every time Muslims mention the name Jesus, they add “Peace be upon him. In the Qur’an, the name of Prophet Jesus is mentioned five times more than the name of Prophet Muhammad.
Impress upon your child that Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him) is important in both Islam and Christianity. However, there are major differences in what we believe happened to him.
Read the passages in the Qur’an pertaining to Jesus (peace be upon him) and his mother, Mary. Go to the third chapter of the Qur’an called “The Family Of Imran” and also go to the nineteenth chapter of the Qur’an called “Maryam.”
The Qur'an, like the Bible, confirms that Jesus (peace be upon him) was born from a mother but not from a father. It confirms that Jesus’ birth was miraculous.
“(Remember) when the angels said, “O Mary, God gives you good news of a word from Him (God), whose name is the Messiah Jesus, son of Mary, revered in this world and the Hereafter, and one of those brought near (to God). He will speak to the people from his cradle and as a man, and he is of the righteous.” She said, “My Lord, how can I have a child when no mortal has touched me?” He said, “So (it will be). God creates what He wills. If He decrees a thing, He says to it only, ‘Be!’ and it is.”” (The Qur’an, 3:45-47)
However, Muslims believe Jesus (peace be upon him) was able to speak when he was a baby in order to defend his mother against the neighbors’ accusations and in order to preach. Christians, on the other end, believe Jesus started preaching when he was thirty years old.
"Then she (Mary) pointed to him. They said: ‘How can we talk to one who is a child in the cradle?' He (Jesus) said: ‘Verily! I am a slave of God, He has given me the Scripture and made me a Prophet." (The Qur’an, 19:29-30).
Because of his miraculous birth, Christians believe Jesus is the son of God. Muslims believe he (peace be upon him) is only a prophet.
"Such was Jesus, the son of Mary; it is a statement of truth, about which they vainly dispute. It is not befitting to the majesty of God, that He should beget a son. Glory be to Him! When He determines a matter, He only says to it, ‘Be' and it is" (The Qur'an 19:34-35).
Both Christians and Muslims believe Jesus (peace be upon him) performed many miracles during his life. The Qur’an says that he (peace be upon him) healed the blind and the leper and was also able to raise the dead with the help of Allah.
“I have come to you with a sign from your Lord. I make for you the shape of a bird out of clay, I breathe into it, and it becomes a bird by God’s permission. I heal the blind from birth and the leper. And I bring the dead to life by God’s permission. And I tell you what you eat and what you store in your houses....” (The Qur’an, 3:49)
The Bible agrees with the Qur’an on the miracles, but does not mention that Jesus spoke in his cradle, neither does the Bible mention Jesus could breathe life into a bird made of clay.
Christians believe Jesus was martyred on the cross to atone people’s sins (Bible Romans 4:25). Muslims think a person who looked alike Jesus (peace be upon him) was put on the cross. Muslims also believe nobody can be responsible for another person’s sins.
"They did not kill him, nor did they crucify him, but they thought they did.” (The Qur’an 4:156).
Celebrate Our Muslim Identity
One way to help children to be proud of being Muslim is to let them know there is nothing wrong to be different.
Christmas sets makes some kids feel left out; but when parents educate them about the root of this religious occasion and tell them more about the message of Prophet Jesus, they will become aware of their faith, and hence their identity.
Teaching them about Jesus (peace be upon him) at an early age and letting them know the difference between Christians’ and Muslims’ beliefs, will empower them with the ability to tell people about these differences with confidence.
Encourage your children to say proudly, “I’m a Muslim."
Finally, let your child know that a growing number of practicing Christians do not really celebrate Christmas.
A poll in UK showed that “51% agreed with the statement "The birth of Jesus is irrelevant to my Christmas" whilst 46% disagreed with the statement.”
And “40% said Christmas is a good excuse for taking time off and doesn't really have any meaning today but 34 % disagreed with this.”