Every year, Muslims celebrate the birth of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and Christian brothers celebrate the birth of Prophet Jesus (PBUH). Yet, many Muslims celebrate the Christmas, along with their fellow Christians, without fully realizing the relation between this occasion and the birth of Jesus (PBUH). Most of them think that this celebration marks the end of a calendar year and the beginning of another year. As Muslims are always keen on knowing the legal ruling of celebrating this occasion, there are different opinions on it. Some people believe that it is permissible to celebrate the birth of all Prophets in general, while others view that this kind of celebration prohibited. Another group of people think that it is permissible to celebrate the birth of Prophet Muhammad, but it is prohibited to join Christians in their celebration or even to congratulate them on the Christmas.
In this context, it is appropriate to stress that no one of the Muslim scholars said that celebrating the birth of prophets is one of the pillars of Islam or something obligatory that we have to do and thus whoever does not celebrate this occasion is labeled as a sinner. In addition, no one argued that those who do not celebrate the birth of prophets or do not congratulate Christians on their Christmas should be imprisoned. Thus, it seems that the current obsessive preoccupation with and debate over this issue is a part of a real agenda drawn up by the nation's enemies.
If the people deeply concerned with explaining the legal ruling on celebrating Christmas were eminent scholars, they would not plunge into this total confusion and would not issue such legal rulings. In this context, it is worth noting that the majority of the scholars agree that it is permissible to celebrate the birth of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). They base their opinion on the following evidence: First, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) took pride in the day when he was born as he used to observe fasting on Mondays, the day on which he was born. The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) was asked about fasting on Mondays, whereupon he said, "That is the day on which I was born and the day on which I received Revelation."[i]
Second, we, Muslims, and our Prophet Muhammad are closer to Abraham, the father of all Prophets as Allah (Glory be to Him) says, “Indeed, those who have the best claim to Abraham are his followers, this Prophet, and the believers. And Allah is the Guardian of those who believe”[ii]. In addition, Allah commanded us to follow all Prophets and Messengers, saying, “Say, O believers, “We believe in Allah and what has been revealed to us; and what was revealed to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, and his descendants; and what was given to Moses, Jesus, and other prophets from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them. And to Allah we all submit.”[iii]
Third, Ibn ‘Abbas narrated that when the Prophet (PBUH) came to Medina, he found that the Jews used to fast the day of ‘Ashura’ (i.e., 10th of Muharram), saying: "This is a great day on which Allah saved Moses and drowned the people of Pharaoh. Moses observed fasting on this day, as a sign of gratitude to Allah." The Prophet (PBUH) said, "I am closer to Moses than them." So, he observed the fast (on that day) and ordered the Muslims to fast on it”.[iv]
Moreover, if it is permissible for us to celebrate a Prophet whose people are the most violent of enmity towards us according to the clear verses of the Qur’an, then the celebration of a Prophet whose people are the most gracious and beloved to us is more worthy. Allah (Glory be to Him) says, “You will surely find the most bitter towards the believers to be the Jews and polytheists and the most gracious to be those who call themselves Christian. That is because there are priests and monks among them and because they are not arrogant”.[v]
In conclusion, it is not allowed for Muslims to prevent or prohibit Christians’ celebrations of Jesus as this is a kind of intervention in the others’ affairs, which is totally against the well-established maxim of "freedom of religion" called for by Islam.
[i] Sahih Muslim, Book of Virtues, Chapter: The Desirability of Observing fasting on Monday and Thursday.
[iv] Sahih al-Bukhari, Book of hadiths of Prophets, Chapter: Allah’s Saying, "And to Moses Allah spoke directly".