Explaining Christmas to Your Muslim Children

It’s that time of year again, when we have to discuss Christmas with our children (and sometimes with other (grown) Muslims who are inclined to argue with us about why we don’t have a tree in our living room).

If you are a Muslim parent living in a non-Muslim country, these are all familiar sights you’ve been surrounded by since the beginning of December:

  • Driving with your kids and passing the decorated front lawns of homes decked out with Christmas lights, scenes of figurines that are supposed to be “Mary” and “Joseph” and “baby Jesus” set up
  • Going to the grocery store and being bombarded with “Jingle Bells” and “All I want for Christmas Is You” and other Christmas songs playing loudly from the loudspeakers
  • Going to the bank or any sort of place to run any sort of errand and seeing lit-up decked-out Christmas trees and big Santas and sleds and reindeer and other elaborate displays.

Now. What do we tell our young children who look at this stuff, then look at us with wide eyes, and say the famous words, “Mama? What’s that?”

It’s even more urgent if our children are in public school, where the dose of Christmas they get injected with is much, much higher.

Muslim parents of kids in non-Muslim public schools tell me that their kids have been doing Christmas-themed worksheets since late November! They are asked to participate in Secret Santa gift-exchanges, play Christmas games, sing Christmas songs in the choir in music class, and are generally assaulted with this shirk.

One Muslim mom reached out to me to tell me of this incident: after her 6-year-old son came home from public school one day, he asked her, “Mummy, is Jesus the son of Allah?”

This poor Muslim mom was stunned to be asked this question by her young son. He is only in second grade!

Here is a list of the main concepts that we want to cover with our children. Cover as many of these as your children’s ages and developmental stages will allow:

1. Surat Al-Ikhlas:

قُلْ هُوَ اللَّهُ أَحَدٌ. اللَّهُ الصَّمَدُ .لَمْ يَلِدْ وَلَمْ يُولَدْ . وَلَمْ يَكُن لَّهُ كُفُوًا أَحَدٌ

“Say: He is Allah, One. Allah is As-Samad. He neither begets nor is begotten. And there is nothing like Him.”

Simple summary for our young children: Allah is One! He is the ONLY one to ever be worshipped. We NEVER worship anyone or anything else! He is Samad, which means that everyone and everything needs Him to live, but He doesn’t need anyone or anything ever. He has no family: no son, no daughter, no parents, nothing. He is One. And there’s nothing at all like Him, in any way! He is completely different from anything we can even imagine! This is Allah, our Rabb. We love Allah!

2. Surat Al-Fatiha:

This surah reinforces the simple but powerful concept of Tawhid that is the central theme of Surat Al-Ikhlas. Allah is our Rabb (Lord, Master, Owner, Sustainer). We are His slaves who belong to Him and worship Him and need Him to exist from moment to moment.

He is Ar-Rahman (Extremely Merciful!) and Ar-Raheem (Always Merciful!). We worship only Him and He is the only One we ask for help.

At the end of surat Al-Fatiha, Allah teaches us to ask Him to guide us to the Straight Path, the path of those whom He has favored, not the path of those who have earned His wrath or those who have gone astray.

صِرَٰطَ ٱلَّذِينَ أَنْعَمْتَ عَلَيْهِمْ غَيْرِ ٱلْمَغْضُوبِ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلَا ٱلضَّآلِّينَ

Who are these two groups of people?

These are the Jews (Group 1) and the Christians (Group2).

Why did these groups of people deserve Allah’s wrath and become totally lost?

They went against Tawhid. The opposite of Tawhid is shirk. Tawhid is to know that Allah is One (just like Surat Al-Ikhlas tells us!). Shirk is to think that there are other things worthy of worship besides Allah, to put partners with Allah. This is the WORST thing a human being can do! There’s nothing worse than shirk.

The Christians, who were sent Prophet `Isa by Allah, fell into very obvious shirk because what they started to say is that there are three gods! A`uthu billah!

They made up something called the Trinity, which comes from the word “three.” They think that God, instead of being One, is actually three! Does this sound like Tawhid to you?

Child: No! Tawhid means one. They say three!

Right. The Christians said that Prophet `Isa was the son of Allah! Na`uthu billah. This is unbelievable shirk! We know clearly that Allah has no son or daughter, no family whatsoever! This is clear from Surat Al-Ikhlas.

But this is what these Christians said. This is why they got themselves completely off the Sirat al-Mustaqim (Straight Path) and strayed into shirk and got lost.

The other group (Banu Israeel) also left Tawhid and fell into shirk, like the Christians. (Let’s address the Christians today though, because we want to talk about this holiday called Christmas).

As Muslims, we have to stay upon the Straight Path. We follow the Quran, the sunna of our Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, and the consensus of true scholars (`ulama’) who took their knowledge from the Sahaba, who took their knowledge from Prophet Muhammadﷺ. We don’t deviate from this established path.
Do you know what it’s called when someone tries to introduce a new made-up thing in the deen sent by Allah?

3. Bid`ah (Blameworthy Innovation in deen):

Trying to add anything new to the deen is called بِدْعَة bid`ah. The deen of Allah is already perfect as it is, and we don’t need to change it! In fact, if anyone does try to change anything in it (to add or take anything away), this is haram.

This is what the Jews andChristians did to their deen and this is how they went astray!

4. Tashabbuh (Imitation):

Some Muslims today try to copy the actions of other groups who are not Muslim. For example, some Muslims try to imitate the Christians and do what they do.

These Muslims see that the Christians celebrate Christmas, which is the day on which they claim Prophet `Isa was born (this is not true). They’ve made this day into a big holiday and they do all kinds of nonsensical things to celebrate it, like cutting down a big tree and bringing that inside their house! They decorate this tree with things like lights and ornaments and they put a figure of what they think is an “angel” at the top. Some people also put up decorations in front of their homes, setting up statues and figures that are supposed to be Mary (Lady Mariam `alaiha assalam, the mother of `Isa `alaihiassalam), and an infant they claim is supposed to be “baby Jesus.”

This is all bid`ah for these Christians! When Prophet `Isa alaihi assalam himself came to them, he never taught them any of this! He taught them Tawhid! But they have changed so many of their original teachings and ignored so much of what Prophet `Isa taught them!

So how can *we* as Muslims with the Truth, leave our own Truth and prefer their misguidance??

How can we leave what’s right for what’s wrong?

How can we leave what’s true for what’s false?

This makes no sense at all.

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Ayanna Ali Rassul

Beautiful article. jazakillah khair Umm Khalid

Yusuf

Could you please elaborate more about Jews leaving tawhid? Is that related to “و قالت اليهود عزير ابن الله” ayah in Suratul-Tawba?

Khalid Ibn Jamal

Salaam Yusuf,

The article above mentions that the opposite of tawheed is shirk. Shirk can be a very broad concept and thus can manifest itself in different forms. In Islam, we can distinguish between minor- and major shirk. As you can probably deduce from the wording, the latter is (way) worse than the former. An example of minor shirk can be something very simple like showing off in your worship (for other people) whilst major shirk is directly associating partners with Allah (as the polytheists of Quraysh were doing).

Let me give you one example from the livetime of the prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) where he made mention of the shirk of the jews.

‘Adi ibn Hatim reported: I came to the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, while I had a crucifix of gold around my neck. The Prophet said, “O ‘Adi! Remove this idol from yourself!” I heard him reciting the verse in Surat al-Tawbah, “They have taken their priests and rabbis as Lords besides Allah.” (9:31) The Prophet said, “As for them, they did not worship them, but rather when they made something lawful for them, they considered it lawful. When they made something unlawful for them, they considered it unlawful.”

Sunan al Tirmidhi 3095

From the aforementioned hadith we can conclude that by changing the law of Allah the jews and christians left tawheed and embraced shirk. The jews, for instance, made usury halal whilst this was/is forbidden. I think that is why it is important that we do not associate ourselves with the traditions that are shirk in nature (e.g. Christmas). Even though, some may see this as minor shirk. It will eventually lead to falling into major shirk. And do not be like those that die upon shirk, as this is something that Allah will not forgive.