بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ ,
This is no means a fatwa (scholarly edict), but this is an explanation of the reasoning, usage and meaning of the phrase, ‘Merry Christmas‘. The overwhelming majority of scholars have agreed that it is not proper to congratulate the Christians on this celebration as it is an implicit endorsement of their kufr (disbelief).
The term ‘Merry Christmas’ in itself, is meant to be conveyed as, ‘Merry Christ mass’ and is more properly understood as, ‘Happy Celebration of Christ’. Now, we as Muslims have no qualms with celebrating or sending salawat upon our Prophets. Hence after a Prophet’s name is spoken we rejoice and gladly convey our prayers upon them, God’s prayers upon them. We say, ‘alayhi as salaam‘ (May God’s peace be upon him) or ‘alayhi as salaatu wa salaam‘ (May God’s mercy and peace be upon him). When it comes to Christmas however, we must understand several notions about the day and celebration in itself:
- This is not merely a birthday celebration.
- This is primarily about a God becoming incarnate.
- This is secondarily the birth of a God who has no beginning or end, understandably contradictory.
Therefore, when you wish a Christian, ‘Merry Christmas’, as a Muslim you are not celebrating Christ, but you are celebrating the incarnation of God, i.e. God assuming a human form. Thus, it should now be clear why we as Muslims do not endorse such a greeting or pleasantry. It is because this is considered shirk to us Muslims. It is clearly stated in the Catholic Encyclopaedia:
“For the first coming of Our Lord in the flesh [in which He has been begotten], in Bethlehem, took place [25 December, the fourth day] in the reign of Augustus [the forty-second year, and] in the year 5500 [from Adam]. And He suffered in His thirty-third year [25 March, the parasceve, in the eighteenth year of Tiberius Cæsar, during the consulate of Rufus and Rubellio].”
Thus, it is not that Muslims want to be rude, or that we are ill mannered, it is because conveying such a greeting implies that we are embracing the incarnation of Christ and as such, we wholly disagree with such a notion. Even the Catholic Encyclopaedia accepts that gift giving and card giving on this day, or for this season are based on Pagan rituals:
“Pagan customs centering round the January calender gravitated to Christmas. Tiele (Yule and Christmas, London, 1899) has collected many interesting examples. The strenæ (eacute;trennes) of the Roman 1 January (bitterly condemned by Tertullian, de Idol., xiv and x, and by Maximus of Turin, Hom. ciii, de Kal. gentil., in P.L., LVII, 492, etc.) survive as Christmas presents, cards, boxes.”
Therefore, if you are a Muslim and you thought that the scholars were perhaps being a bit too stringent in their rulings, this is not so. The information I have presented is clear and to the point, while you may intend to simply convey pleasantries, the day, its history and its significance in the Christian faith is in complete opposition to the fundamental teachings of tawhid (monotheism), as even the Christians regard it as pagan tradition. In closing, I leave you with an actual fatwa that explains the Islamic ruling on the issue (Darul Fiqh):
Greeting Non Muslims with -MERRY CHRISTMAS?
Question: Is it ok to say to a colleague at work phrases like merry Christmas or have a nice Christmas party?
In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.
As-salāmu ‘alaykum wa-rahmatullāhi wa-barakātuh.
Imān is the greatest commodity a Muslim possesses. Salvation in this world and especially in the hereafter is dependent on nothing but Imān. A billionaire without Imān will not be spared from the painful punishment despite his millions and billions. A beggar with Imān will have access to the Eternal Gardens of Paradise despite his poverty. Imān is the key.
All the dollars and pounds of the world do not equate to the value of Imān. The price and worth of Imān is greater than all the gold, silver and diamonds put together. Our life revolves around the security of our Imān. Preservation of Imān until one’s last breath is obligatory on us. Imān equivalent to the size of a mustard seed is sufficient to purchase the everlasting gardens of Paradise.
Anything which compromises our Imān or contradicts our Imān is hazardous for us. Other faiths contradict our faith. Showing happiness for another faith’s festival is extremely hazardous. Greeting adherents of other faiths well or happiness in their festivals in essence is verbal acknowledgement, recognition and approval of their festival. The Jurists have stated that there is fear of one losing his Imān if he wishes others well in their festivities.
A Muslim should not forsake his principles and beliefs merely to be friendly. Friendliness and foolishness are two poles apart. Friendliness is to be courteous and well-mannered whilst adhering to one’s belief and principles. Foolishness is to risk one’s belief and principles merely to please or to ‘fit in’ to a society.
Thus, greeting others with any phrase indicating a greeting for the Christmas festival is impermissible.
This does not mean we do not be kind and courteous. We must be kind, caring, loving and compassionate to the whole of creation. The Prophet salallahu alaihi wasallam was an embodiment of compassion. He was a fountain of mercy. We must be friendly with all and not foolish with ourselves.
And Allah Ta’ālā Knows Best
 اجتمع المجوس يوم النيروز فقال مسلم خوب رسم نهاده اند أو قال نيك أثرنهاده اند خيف عليه الكفر. (جامع الفصولين ج 2 ص 230 إسلامي كتب خانه)
فتاوى محمودية ج 19 ص 267 إدارة القرآن
For those who would like a video to understand the issue a bit more, here is Shakyh Mumtaz ul Haqq [db] on the issue:
wa Allaahu ‘Alam