The imam began by referencing the 19th ayat of Sura Imran which is translated to say:
Indeed, the religion in the sight of Allah is Islam
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 religion 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.
As Muslims, if we understand the definition of Muslim correctly then we know that those who followed their messengers in the past were also Muslim as the message revealed came also from Allah SWT.
However, since the Prophet Muhammad SAWS came down with the final message, it is a fact that the religion of Islam will be valid from his time and until the end of time. There is to be no other religion or message that comes after this.
We are explicitly told in ayat 85 of Sura Imran that:
And whoever desires other than Islam as religion – never will it be accepted from him, and he, in the Hereafter, will be among the losers.
The imam also mentioned a hadith in which this point is mentioned. It is translated to say:
“The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) delivered a moving speech to us which made our eyes flow with tears and made our hearts melt. We said: ‘O Messenger of Allah. This is a speech of farewell. What did you enjoin upon us?’ He said: ‘I am leaving you upon a (path of) brightness whose night is like its day. No one will deviate from it after I am gone but one who is doomed. Whoever among you lives will see great conflict. I urge you to adhere to what you know of my Sunnah and the path of the Rightly-Guided Caliphs, and cling stubbornly to it. And you must obey, even if (your leader is) an Abyssinian leader. For the true believer is like a camel with a ring in its nose; wherever it is driven, it complies.”
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.
And to accept our religion is to accept our obedience, which is to follow the commandments at all times, even when the going gets a bit tough. We had an example from back then when Muslims used to pray facing towards the city of Jerusalem before the order came to face towards the Qibla. This was done immediately and without question and that is the level of worship we look to attain.
And therefore as we have been given clear direction in our religion, some of it will overlap previous religions but some of it will be different. The celebration of Christmas is one of these examples and it is something which is not considered permissible to celebrate and so we should follow the correct religion and avoid doing so.
Dear brothers and sisters, 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.
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.