Congratulating the Christians on their festivals is a dangerous trend headed by some of those who are attributed to Da‘wah (Islamic propagation) and knowledge. They appear before the world in the media, newspapers and satellite channels congratulating Christians on their special occasions and sharing in their Christmas celebrations under the pretext of "respecting the other", "coexistence of religions", "diversity of civilizations", as well as similar terms which aim at establishing equality between Islam and Christianity, Judaism and other beliefs.
This is also forbidden when the intention behind it is based on compliments and flattery. It is impermissible to deceive them so that they falsely believe that they are following a true religion. Rather, it is obligatory to make them feel that they are following a false religion, no matter how strong they are. It is obligatory to openly indicate this whenever there is an opportunity. Consequently, when they ask why you do not celebrate their festivals with them and congratulate them just as they do with you, the answer should be: We do not do so because our religion prevents us from doing that, and you are following a false religion. This should be said to them with true devotion and sincerity, with the intention of saving them from the punishment of Allah The Almighty. Muslims should show love of goodness for them to be safe from this deviation and enjoy a good life while worshipping only one God, with neither partners beside Him nor children, and call to Islam with mercy and kindness.
There is only one exceptional case where participating and congratulating them is permissible: It is when a Muslim lives among them and fears harm if he does not do that. In this case, he is blameless and even rewarded by Allah The Almighty (for the affliction he undergoes). This is the same ruling of the one who is forced or compelled to do that.
Nevertheless, there are many Muslims who live among non-Muslims and do not celebrate their festivals with them or congratulate them and they are afflicted with no harm for obvious reasons.
Celebrating the festivals of non-Muslims and congratulating them is prohibited not only because of their false belief, but even if they are following the true religion with which ‘Eesa, may Allah exalt his mention, was sent. This is because Allah The Almighty sent Muhammad with the last religion to all people. Assuming that there are some nations who are following the true religions of their Prophets, with neither distortion nor alteration, they are required to abandon their religions and follow the Sharee‘ah (Islamic legislation) of Muhammad . Even if there had been other Prophets during his lifetime or next to him, they would have been required to follow him. Allah The Almighty took the covenant of the Prophets on this, the Prophet verbally expressed it, and ‘Eesa, may Allah exalt his mention, will follow him when he descends (shortly before the Last Day).
It has been proved that embracing Christianity is prohibited, either because it is distorted or because Islam has abrogated it, if we assume that it is not distorted. Christianity is a false religion and it is impermissible to follow it, and its festivals are likewise false and innovated. Consequently, Muslims are not permitted to celebrate these festivals with them or congratulate them because they are false and based on false beliefs.
Although the aforesaid clarification is enough to prevent participation and congratulation; there are also Sharee‘ah texts to indicate this, including:
- It was narrated that during the time of the Prophet a man said that he took a vow to slaughter a camel at Buwaanah. The Prophet asked: "Did the place contain any idol that was worshipped in the pre-Islamic era? Was there any pre-Islamic festival observed there?”He (the man) replied, “No.” The Prophet said: "Then, fulfill your vow.” [Abu Daawood]
For the vow to be fulfilled under Sharee‘ah, the Prophet made a condition that it should not be done in a place that includes a trace of those who were non-Muslims, such as a place of festivity or an idol, and this reported narration indicates that if there is a festival which is held in a certain place or there is an idol in that place, the Muslim is not permitted to hold a festival in that place or perform any religious ritual, particularly when this has been a regular previous practice in that place. This is likely to prevent imitation of non-Muslims, even apparently, and also prevent the Muslims from expressing inclination to such idols and festivals.
In the case mentioned in the Hadeeth, the Muslim neither venerated the non-Muslims' festival, nor celebrated it with them, nor congratulated them; rather, he undertook an approved ritual and an act of worship. Nevertheless, he was prevented from doing so if there was even a trace of an act of worship or festival relevant to the non-Muslims. Which is greater: to directly celebrate with them and keep in touch with them during one of their festivals, or to worship Allah The Almighty in a place where there is a trace of them?
When you celebrate with them, you have committed an invalid act of worship (which is participating in a celebration that is disapproved by the Sharee‘ah), intermixed with them, imitated them in fulfilling their ritual, attended their place of worship and performed their acts of worship along with them in its fixed time and place. These are three violations versus one violation when you perform an act of worship for Allah The Almighty Alone, but in a place that includes a trace of their religious rituals or imitating them in going to that fixed place. Participation and imitation, which imply three violations, are indeed greater than that act which implies only one violation. The Prophet forbade imitating them in only one violation, then what is the case in something that is more than this?
Congratulating them does not imply emotional participation, but it implies advancing an illusion and deception that they are following a true religion. Congratulating them is only permitted when one congratulates them but simultaneously indicates his denial of their religion, as when he says, "Congratulations on your festival and I ask Allah The Almighty to guide you to His straight path, which is Islam, and enable you to avoid saying that ‘Eesa is the son of Allah,"…as well as other similar statements.
If he does this, it will be good, like when a righteous man attends a gathering of evil to refute this evil. This implies fulfillment of the trust by clarifying the truth. However, simply congratulating them, which implies emotional participation in their religious festivals, deceives them as it encourages them to remain steadfast on their religion. Muslims are the worthiest people to indicate the truth for them, as they have the Book (the Quran) and guidance. If they remain silent, then who would clarify the truth for them?
Muslims are not permitted to remain silent, because Allah The Almighty took the covenant from them to guide people, by His permission, to His straight path.