Nowadays people have all sorts of celebrations such as Christmas and other celebrations that people around the world take part in. However, Muslims do not always take part in such celebrations so some people might get the wrong idea and think that they are being anti social.
There are many celebrations nowadays that many people attend including those who participate perhaps simply because they enjoy parties. People do not always stop however to look at the background behind the actual celebrations. Here are some examples:
Christmas: this is a Christian celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, who they believe was the Son of God (Muslims believe he was one of the greatest prophets and is known as “Isa” in Arabic). it is interesting that Christmas does not always take place on 25 December as there are some Christians who celebrate it on 7 January. Even more interesting is that there was a time when Christmas was banned in England due to its pagan roots such as being related to the winter solstice and Roman festivals. You can find out more from here.
Easter: this is a similar Christian festival based on the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This also has some pagan roots and possibly relates to a goddess of fertility. You can read more from here.
Halloween: this was a pagan festival by the Celtic people in England who offered harvests to spirits. You can find out more from here.
Valentine’s Day: there is dispute over its origins but some think it relates to a Roman festival about two people known as St Valentine. During that time men and women were paired together. You can find out more from here
Nowadays this is seen as a day of love but involves men and women having relations with each other, sometimes involving young girls or women, which could possibly put them at risk if someone were to take advantage of them. Is this a good thing? I have written a separate article about this that you can read from here.
Mother’s Day: Ironically Mother’s Day never had anything to do with respecting one’s mother but actually started off as an anti war movement. You can find out more from here.
Mother’s Day is relatively new but that does not mean that nobody loved or respected their mother before that if they do not celebrate this day. Some people might not designate a special day to their mothers but respect them throughout the year. From an Islamic point if view, women and mothers in particular are given a high status.
Abu Huraira reported: A man asked the Messenger of Allah PBUH (Peace Be Upon Him), “Who is most deserving of my good company?” The Prophet said, “Your mother.” The man asked, “Then who?” The Prophet said “Your mother.” The man asked again, “Then who?” The Prophet said, “Your mother.” The man asked again, “Then who?” The Prophet said, “Your father.” (Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 5626, Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 2548)
There are many more celebrations all of which have different meanings and backgrounds.
Some people might argue that while such celebrations might have pagan or other origins they are now social /community events such as the Olympic Games (historically this was done as a religious practice by the Ancient Greeks at Olympia but now it is perhaps the largest sporting event in the world). While that might be true in some cases, it is not always the case and not everyone agrees with the background behind every celebration.
To put things into perspective; imagine for a moment that you went out and found a group of people happily celebrating and they gave you some sweets /snacks but then you found that rather than hosting a “Holocaust Memorial Day” they were hosting a “Holocaust Celebration Day” in honour of the killers! How would you feel? Would you be willing to participate and /or take any of the sweets or snacks that they were offering? While this might sound extreme, there are celebrations such as Christopher Columbus Day in honour of Christopher Columbus for discovering America. The reality however is that many people had already been to the Americas before him and his actions led to the killing of many native Americans, their homes being taken away from them and the enslavement of many Africans. Despite this he is still celebrated as a hero and credited with discovering America. I have written a separate article about him which you can read from here.
From an Islamic point of view, other celebrations such as Christmas or other religious festivals contradict the teachings of Islam, which is why you might find Muslims who do not attend such events.
Despite what Muslims might think of others beliefs they are still required to respect them.
It is mentioned in the Quran:
وَلَا تَسُبُّوا۟ ٱلَّذِينَ يَدْعُونَ مِن دُونِ ٱللَّهِ فَيَسُبُّوا۟ ٱللَّهَ عَدْوًۢا بِغَيْرِ عِلْمٍ ۗ كَذَٰلِكَ زَيَّنَّا لِكُلِّ أُمَّةٍ عَمَلَهُمْ ثُمَّ إِلَىٰ رَبِّهِم مَّرْجِعُهُمْ فَيُنَبِّئُهُم بِمَا كَانُوا۟ يَعْمَلُونَ
And do not insult those they invoke other than Allah, lest they insult Allah in enmity without knowledge. Thus We have made pleasing to every community their deeds. Then to their Lord is their return, and He will inform them about what they used to do. Surah Al anaam 108
It is also explained in Surah Al mumtahana 8-9:
Allah does not forbid you from those who do not fight you because of religion and do not expel you from your homes – from being righteous toward them and acting justly toward them. Indeed, Allah loves those who act justly. Allah only forbids you from those who fight you because of religion and expel you from your homes and aid in your expulsion – [forbids] that you make allies of them. And whoever makes allies of them, then it is those who are the wrongdoers.
The Prophet PBUH never participated in other religious celebrations but still respected followers of other religions. Here is an example:
Qays ibn Sa’d reported: A funeral passed by the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, and he stood up. It was said to him, “It is a Jew.” The Prophet said, “Was he not a soul?”
In another narration, the Prophet said, “Verily, you stand to glorify Allah, who is the receiver of souls.”
In Islam there are two celebrations of Eid (“Eid” means “celebration” in Arabic). There is Eid Al Fitr (“Celebration of Breaking Fast” after the month of Ramadan, the month of fasting) and “Eid Al Adha” (“Celebration of the Sacrifice”, which occurs around the Hajj /Pilgrimage to Makkah; this follows the tradition of prophet Abraham /Ibrahim PBUH when he had a vision that he was slaughtering his son so he was about to do that when he heard a call that he fulfilled the vision and he was allowed to slaughter a cattle instead. Muslims now slaughter cattle and give the food to the poor and needy or have a feast with their family or friends). How people celebrate is described here.
Some people with good intentions like to celebrate “Milad Nabawi” /the Prophet’s Birthday not realising its origins and the background behind it.
This practice never existed in the early generations of Muslims. The practice was introduced hundreds of years after the death of the Prophet PBUH by the Fatimids of Egypt. The Fatimids were very much despised by Muslims so they were also known as Kalbids (dogs). Also, the exact date of birth of the Prophet PBUH was never known and his birth was never described in great detail as he was not a prophet yet but his death was described in great detail. The date that is now celebrated as the Prophet’s birthday is actually the date that the Prophet PBUH died! Is it a celebration of the Prophet’s birth or of his death? You can find out more from here.
Some Shia sects also remember the Day of Ashura during the first month of the Islamic calendar. I have translated a separate document about this, which you can see from here
Muslims can however participate in other activities and other community events outside of their celebrations. An example of this is referenced in the Quran in Surah Abasa regarding when the Prophet PBUH met up with the heads of the Quraysh tribe when a blind companion entered so the Prophet PBUH frowned. There were also occasions when he met up with people such as Jews or Christians and ate with them.
In modern times Muslims have participated in all walks of life such as with sports events. For example, they have also greatly excelled at sports and there are some notable examples such as football player Mohammed Salah, Tae Kwon Do champion Kubra Dagli and Fencing champion Ebtihaj Mohammed. There are even some famous Muslim comedians such as Guz Khan and Preacher Moss. They can also participate in interfaith events within the community. Some organisations that do this in the UK include IERA and Al Hikma Media that are open to people of all religions /no religion.