As Muslims living in the West, the Christmas season is one of the most challenging times we face. From answering our children’s never ending questions about why we don’t celebrate Christmas to answering our colleagues or neighbours about our religious differences, many Muslim parents are caught in a fix.
It becomes tricky to be respectful of other people’s traditions while strictly staying within our boundaries. As a minority, it is only natural that we face curious questions. Most of the time, people just want an explanation to understand our values. Their questions come from a place of curiosity, not offence. Working through these conversations can bring about a strong harmony, helping us build bridges with other communities rather than being looked upon as the “odd one out”.
How do we address these issues from an Islamic perspective?
How do we teach our children about tawheed, moderation in celebrations and the importance of akhirah?
This article is here to answer all your questions inhsaAllah.
#1 Allah is our focus
The key to help your child understand what’s allowed and what’s not is to start with Allah. Make Allah your focus in everything you do. Begin each task with “Bismillah” and redirect all your efforts towards Allah and His pleasure. Your child will soon learn that if it is something Allah dislikes, they are better off not taking part in it.
Go back to the Quran and sunnah for every doubtful matter you face. This way, it gets embedded in your child’s subconscious mind that we are here to please Allah alone. Once their minds are programmed to keep Allah as their end goal, it will get easier to teach them the permissible and impermissible matters in Islam.
#2 Hype up Eid
Christmas has become synonymous to exchanging gifts and indulging in excessive consumerism. These concepts are heavy for children to understand. While they may accept us not celebrating Christmas, they might wonder what is wrong in giving gifts to each other, or more importantly, receiving gifts from others. Who doesn’t love gifts afterall!
Be firm yet gentle when letting your children know about why Christmas is not celebrated by Muslims. Let them know that we have two Eids where we can celebrate to our hearts’ content. Give them Eid gifts that truly hype them up. Teach them that on Eid, we share gifts with our loved ones, and extend this happiness to the poor and needy too. Teach them the importance of charity and how we Muslims go above and beyond in making those less fortunate feel equally important during our festivals.
As parents, we must go out of our way to make Eid look exciting (without being extravagant) so our child knows that they have something exciting to look forward to, twice a year!
Teach them we don’t celebrate Christams just as how Ramadan is not celebrated by their Christian, Hindu, Jewish or non-Muslim friends.
#3 We will always be “Strangers”
Normalize the concept of being a stranger in this world. Let them know that we were not created to fit into worldly expectations, because we are here to please Allah, and not the creation. From a young age, let your child know that we as Muslims, do certain things that may seem to be “strange” or “weird” for the majority of the population around us. Right from what we eat to how we dress up, our morals and values might look “backward” to people around us, but that should not deter us from sticking to the Quran and Sunnah.
When our children learn that we as Muslims are expected to adhere to certain rules and regulations that may seem too “rigid” for people around us, they will quickly understand that they need not do what their friends do in order to look “cool”.
Raise them up to be proud of their Islamic identity so they don’t feel pressured to conform to the norms of Western media or expectations of their friends from school. This will make them more comfortable in their skin and give them the confidence needed to face the world. Always let them know that when they strive to please Allah, He will make everything easy for them and pour success in every single endeavour they set out to do.
#4 Respect each other’s differences
While making them understand that Christmas or any other non Islamic ritual is not something we follow, don’t forget to equally emphasize that we need to respect other people’s religious beliefs and traditions.
Teach your child to be respectful of others so they learn concepts of peace, tolerance and compassion – lessons that are highly emphasized in the Quran. This way, while being firm about not indulging in Christmas celebrations, they will also learn to be respectful towards their friends, making it easier for their friends to reciprocate the same respect towards our beliefs and values.
Being empathetic and understanding of others is a life skill that will make our children succeed in dunya, and akhirah.
#5 Jesus (AS) in Islam
We are sometimes extremely overwhelmed with the celebrations that come with Christmas that we totally avoid the topics of Jesus (AS) and Mariam (AS).
Let’s teach our children that Jesus (AS) is a very beloved and highly respected Prophet in Islam. Teach your children about the miracles that Prophet Jesus (AS) was blessed with. Let them know how he (AS) could bring the dead back to life, could heal the blind, cure leprosy,etc. Children love listening to superheroes and fairytales because they excite and appeal to their young minds.
Let them know that we as Muslims respect and adore prophet Jesus (AS), just as much, if not more than Christian peers and friends. Take this month as an opportunity to introduce the life of Prophet Jesus (AS) to your children, so they learn the miraculous nature of his birth.This way, they will understand that they have a much deeper connection with Jesus (AS), making them feel that they are not left out from their Christian peers.
When we introduce such concepts to our children from an early age, they will feel more confident to talk about what Islam has to say about Jesus (AS) to their friends and teachers.
Let’s face it! Our non Islamic neighbors or co workers have no idea that Islam places immense importance upon Prophet Jesus (AS). Many are unaware about the high status that Maryam (AS) has been given in the Quran. They don’t even know that Islam talks about the Prophet Jesus (AS). It is our responsibility to stand up and be the spokesperson of our deen, because if we don’t, who else will? We must strive to educate our children and make them confident enough to talk about these topics instead of shying away or feeling left out.
This will open up beautiful doors of communication and acceptance from both communities
#7 Be open to questions and discussions
As much as it is important to teach them about the similarities between Islam and Christianity we must also teach them about the differences. Teach them about tawheed and why we worship Allah alone, unlike Christians who believe in trinity.
Be open to having discussions with your children. Let them know that we are not rigid, but we as Muslims, follow rules and boundaries that have been set by Allah and we do not go beyond them. Encourage them to share their thoughts and discussions that happened at school, so you have an idea about what your child is going through when they are at school. This is a great way to let your child know that you are there for them, and they need not battle all alone