The imam began by referencing the 140th ayat of Sura An-Nisa which is translated to say:
He has already revealed to you in the Book that when you hear Allah’s revelations being denied or ridiculed, then do not sit in that company unless they engage in a different topic, or else you will be like them.1 Surely Allah will gather the hypocrites and disbelievers all together in Hell.
Dear brothers and sisters, it is clarified by Allah SWT in the Glorious Quran that there is no religion to be followed except the religion of Islam. That is not to say that the religions that predated Islam were invalid, it is simply that the religion of Islam, which is to submit to Allah SWT alone and to worship Him alone, is now conveyed through the teachings revealed to the final Prophet Muhammad SAWS.
We are to believe in his message but also to believe in all the messengers that came before the Prophet Muhammad SAWS and all their messages, provided that they do not contradict the message of the Quran.
Dear brothers and sisters, we live in a country in which we have celebrations that are both religious and secular. We need to be mindful that we do not imitate the celebrations of a religion that is not ordained in our own.
One such example of this celebration is the one we have at this time of year. In a festival that involves Christmas Trees and Santa Claus, both by the way that have no origin in Christianity either, we need to be clear that this is not a religious holiday that we celebrate.
The imam warned us of following in the footsteps of other religions and imitating them by relaying the following hadith which is translated to say:
The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “You will follow the wrong ways, of your predecessors so completely and literally that if they should go into the hole of a lizard, you too will go there.” We said, “O Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ)! Do you mean the Jews and the Christians?” He replied, “Whom else?” (Meaning, of course, the Jews and the Christians.
Dear brothers and sisters, to accept our religion is to accept our obedience, which is to always follow the commandments, even when the going gets a bit tough. This may appear like a difficult ask and in the current climate asking this may raise the question of us being perceived as intolerant to others. However, this raises a wider question of mutual respect.
You see, we live in a city in which people are from many different faiths and backgrounds. The local children for example attend a school in which all different faiths are taught. They are taught how Muslims and Jews do not eat pork. They are taught Hindus do not eat beef. And they are taught how Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ on December 25th.
But alongside these facts about their faiths, the children are taught respect for one another. Growing up they have friends from all different religions but they are taught that if they are to progress in society then having a difference in faith does not mean having intolerance for the other person.
They are taught that if a Hindu is present, offering beef may be disrespecting that person’s faith. They are taught that if a Muslim is present, offering bacon may be disrespecting that person’s faith.
And so they are taught that being different is OK, provided you do not force your opinion onto others. Provided you do not be hateful towards others. Provided you show kindness, respect and tolerance towards others.
Dear brothers and sisters, this is what is taught to us in the Glorious Quran. Understand the message of Sura Kafiroon and you will see that difference in opinion on the most important of topics, faith, can exist in a society and yet still have a society that functions. This is what our faith teaches us and what we must teach ourselves and our children.
The imam reminded us of the 72 ayat of Sura Al-Furqan which is translated to say:
˹They are˺ those who do not bear false witness, and when they come across falsehood, they pass ˹it˺ by with dignity.
Dear brothers and sisters, Christmas is a time when living in the UK it is impossible to escape this festival. But actually we don’t have to. Take happiness from the fact that others are using this time to think of family and of friends. Take happiness from the fact that this is the time when schools are off, family-friendly movies are on TV, adults have holiday leave from work and even as Muslims, we get the time together with our family and our loved ones.
We don’t need to believe in Christmas to take all that is good from this time of year. We do though need to remind ourselves that our identity cannot be compromised during this time of year. We need to hold firm to our belief on who Prophet Jesus or Isa was. What he stood for and why we don’t celebrate this festival. We need to use this opportunity to create common bonds with those people who also think of Prophet Jesus, peace be upon him. But alongside that, we hold firm to our teachings of tolerance, respect and kindness to all of Allah SWTs creation, Muslim or otherwise.