Muslim Preachers and Christmas – Wisdom Required
Mohamad Mostafa Nassar
A Muslim speaker in Hyde Park said he “hates Christmas” and advised Muslims not to say merry Christmas, he was subsequently labelled a “hate preacher” as somebody snipped his comment for a YouTube video.
If a phrase conveys a theology that is kufr or shirk then we cannot say this. So if Christmas conveys a theological impermissibility then it would not be allowed.
Many people in the West are attached to Christmas, having a great affection for this tradition and the Christmas festive period. Many of these folks are not even believing-Christians, they follow customs they have grown attached to through their childhood years.
Quite often they are not attached to Christmas due to religious reasons. As rabbi Tovia Singer notices when he meets people who used to be Christians they tell him that their fondest memories as Christians were those of Christmas (these memories were not fond because of Christian religious reasons but due to the festive get-togethers etc.).
The young preacher as Speakers’ Corner, Hyde Park, also railed against the Christmas tree. He used Bible verses to argue against the Christmas tree:
Hear ye the word which the Lord speaketh unto you, O house of Israel:
2 Thus saith the Lord, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them.
3 For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe.
4 They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not.
5 They are upright as the palm tree, but speak not: they must needs be borne, because they cannot go. Be not afraid of them; for they cannot do evil, neither also is it in them to do good. [Jeremiah 10]
Again, speaking about the tree is a matter which has to be undertaken with wisdom too as the tree is something which some people from Christian backgrounds find difficult to let go of; the tree’s lights, childhood nostalgia in decorating and setting the tree up, the way it makes the house look, smell and feel.
It’s hard to let go of the tree and Christmas, you could insult Paul of Tarsus (not recommended) yet you would not receive nearly the same level of opprobrium as you would if you bluntly attack Christmas and the tree. Many cultural Christians, and perhaps some Bible-believing church Christians, may well (deep-down) love Christmas more than the Bible, their prophet Paul of Tarsus and their church councils.
With this in mind, Muslims need to be wise when talking about issues such as Christmas and be mindful of their tone. We don’t want to cause commotions or unnecessary offence but at the same time, no Muslim should feel like they have to compromise on any religious view they hold.
Somebody who does not celebrate Christmas or get involved in the “Christmas spirit” is seen as an oddity in this secular culture. Christmas, in the UK is very much a secularised and commercial event nowadays, there are pockets of traditional folks who take it as a religious event but the vast majority of people see it as more of a cultural event, in my opinion.
Jews and Muslims do not celebrate Christmas. You’ll find many Jews with similar views to the Muslim preacher in the park who is sadly, and unfairly, being labelled as a “hate preacher” by some on the internet.
Rabbi Tovia Singer (~3min) gently and firmly uses the Hebrew Bible (Exodus 23:13) to show Jews they should not get involved in Christmas.
I don’t think anybody would call rabbi Tovia Singer a “hate preacher”. He’s not. He’s just teaching what he believes the Torah is telling Jews.
Rabbi Tova Singer taught his tradition with wisdom and firmness, one can be firmly against Christmas without using an aggressive tone which offends people. I think the Muslim, although he’s teaching the same thing as Tovia Singer, was misperceived to be “hate-preaching” due to his tone and the fact that he was shouting to project his voice outdoors to a crowd.
What Muslims should learn from this is that sensitive teachings and subjects should always be expressed in a befitting tone. Wisdom is required otherwise one could be perceived to be offending what is somebody’s most cherished memory and custom.
Rabbi Mizrachi calls Christmas “foolish” and one of the biggest tragedies in the world which symbolises all the negativity which we can think of.
I can imagine, like with the Muslim in the park, it’s difficult for Christmas-celebrators, to be fair to rabbi Mizrachi, he’s not in a setting where he’s addressing Christians.
Jehovah Witness Christians do not approve of Christmas, they consider it to have no Biblical basis. We must also mention the Christians in the 17th Century who railed against Christmas to the extent of banning it, this is important to stress as it shows the cultural oddity with respect to not celebrating or recognising Christmas is not only limited to Jews, Muslims and Jehovah Witness Christians,
Muslims can gently mention all this when discussing these matters with Christmas-celebrators and some of this can be raised to help persuade any emotional-types that you’re not a “hate-preacher”:
The original war on Christmas was waged during the sixteenth and seventeenth century by Puritans, or Protestant Christians who believed that people needed strict rules to be religious and that any kind of merrymaking was sinful.
“Shocking as it sounds, followers of Jesus Christ in both America and England helped pass laws making it illegal to observe Christmas, believing it was an insult to God to honor a day associated with ancient paganism,” according to “Shocked by the Bible” (Thomas Nelson Inc, 2008). “Most Americans today are unaware that Christmas was banned in Boston from 1659 to 1681.”
All Christmas activities, including dancing, seasonal plays, games, singing carols, cheerful celebration and especially drinking were banned by the Puritan-dominated Parliament of England in 1644, with the Puritans of New England following suit. Christmas was outlawed in Boston, and the Plymouth colony made celebrating Christmas a criminal offense, according to “Once Upon a Gospel” (Twenty-Third Publications, 2008).
Christmas trees and decorations were considered to be unholy pagan rituals, and the Puritans also banned traditional Christmas foods such as mince pies and pudding. Puritan laws required that stores and businessesremain open all day on Christmas, and town criers walked through the streets on Christmas Eve calling out “No Christmas, no Christmas!” [LiveScience]