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Do Muslims Celebrate Christmas?


I really don’t know if my fellow 1.8 billion Muslims’ celebrate Christmas. However, in my case and in my family, we do celebrate Christmas; not, however, as a religious ritual but more of a cultural norm, albeit essentially recognizing that the nativity of Jesus is the reason for the season. This social event that we observe is done jointly in merriment with all people of like mind around the world.

I am a Muslim but my 8 children and I have been celebrating Christmas annually. At home, we put up the Christmas tree (that’s the one in the picture with me), we spruce up the living room with Christmas lights and décor, and we do engage in Kris Kringle, or gift exchange, on the 25th of December.

The circumstances of my family are quite unique – six of my children are Muslims, since their Mom is a Muslim, and the two are Christians, because their Mom is a Christian.

When I was a child, my two siblings and I have celebrated Christmas with my parents despite my late father, Ulbert Ulama “Bob” Tugung, Al Haj, was a full-blooded Muslim; more so, he was a beloved and respected Muslim national and regional leader (former Assemblyman and he was the first Chairman of the Regional Autonomous Government, which is the forerunner of the current ARMM).  My mother, Elnorita “Noring” Pamaran-Tugung (former Congresswoman, Lone District of Basilan), is a devout Christian. And like my nuclear family, my two siblings are Christians while I am a Muslim.

As it relates to the celebration of Christmas, what is my point here then? As a Muslim parent and head of the family, my late father and I have steadfastly practiced RELIGIOUS TOLERANCE as part of the family’s core values i.e., allowing and respecting our children and mankind, in general, in their thinking or practice of other religions and beliefs.

While my religion (Islam) is a private matter, and yet, in the public realm, my family and I have been using our conviction and faith to preach and forge peace and unity in the community; instead of using it to drive a wedge, or cause fissure and schism in society. After all, we only have One Creator, One God, whether it is Allah, God or Yahweh. Having the same God that Abraham, Jacob and Isaac worshipped, which is the same Creator God who not only covenanted with Abraham but the same Creator God that Muslims worship today. In short, Christians and Muslims (the mainstream Muslims, that is) worship the same God!

We always endeavor to find ways – looking for a common thread that would help bridge mutual understanding between the Muslims and Christians. Accentuating its commonality, instead of the differences, anchored on the irrefutable fact that biblically and historically we all came from the same progenitor, Abraham, whom we all know is the common patriarch of the three Abrahamic religions i.e., Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

Who is Jesus in Islam and Christmas? Christmas is a Christian holiday that celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ. And as it relates to Islam, significantly, the story of the birth of Christ is actually narrated in the Holy Qur’an, in Sura 19:16-35. The facts are the same – the Virgin Mary is told by an angel that she will give birth to a “pure” son, “as a sign unto men and a mercy from us.” She withdraws to a desert place to give birth, alone, under a palm-tree, and then returns with the infant to her people. When they chided her, supposing she has been unchaste, Jesus speaks up from the cradle in her defense, announcing himself to be a prophet.

Muslims believe that his mother Mary is one of the greatest women to ever live, and a chapter of the Qur’an is devoted to her. Meaning, Muslims acknowledge Christ’s miraculous birth of a virgin and we also believe that Jesus Christ [Sallallahu Alayhi Wasalam (S.A.W.), which means (Peace be upon him)] was sent as a beloved Prophet of God to deliver the word to the people of his time.

What does Jesus and Christmas mean to Muslims then? As far as my family is concerned, Muslims can celebrate a traditional Christmas. After all, Muslims love Jesus. Jesus is a prophet in the Islamic tradition, like Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W). Muslims also believe Jesus is the Messiah, and will return at the end of time. Muslims even hold Jesus in great respect as one of the greatest prophets. Jesus is mentioned by name in twenty-five places in the Holy Qur’an. He is addressed with respect as: “Ibn Maryam” - son of Mary; as Masi (Heb) Messiah - translated as Christ; “Abd-ullah” servant of Allah; “Rasul -Ullah” - Messenger of Allah.

Moreover, Jesus is spoken of as “the word of God”, as “the spirit of God”, as a “Sign of God”, and numerous other epithets of honor spread over fifteen different chapters. Meaning, therefore, the Holy Qur’an honors this great Messenger of God, and over the past fourteen hundred years Muslims continue to hold Jesus as a symbol of truth.

With that being said, it is critical therefore for Muslims to remember that a person is not considered a Muslim unless he/she believes in Jesus. This love for this noble Prophet ties us to the Christian community in a special way. Moreover, it is important to remember that Muslims always stand for a society where the rights of all individuals are not only tolerated, but respected and protected.

Here’s my final take. For as long as my fellow Muslims do not take Christmas as a religious event, what’s wrong with celebrating Christmas [the birth of Jesus Christ or Nabi Isa ibn Maryam (S.A.W.)] with our Christian brothers and sisters? I know for a fact that we do not celebrate birthdays – not even the births of the prophets – including that of Prophet Mohammad (S.A.W.). But as part of the world’s social and cultural mores, I don’t find it sinful, or “haram”, if we join with other faiths to celebrate Christmas. Islam requires Muslims to respect the faith of others and Prophet Muhammad was always very respectful towards the Christians. If at all, the least that a Muslim could do is to stress the secular aspects of the holiday. And greeting “Merry Christmas” should not be considered blasphemous in that regard for I find the greeting “Happy Holidays” not only hypocritical but meaningless; for Jesus is the reason for the season!

In the spirit of love, peace and unity, my family and I greet all my brothers and sisters in Christendom a joyful and blessed Merry Christmas. (By: Yusuf Ashraf “Joey” Tugung | 12/20/17)

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