[OPINION] A very merry Muslim Christmas

Truth bomb: Muslims believe in Jesus even though we don’t celebrate Christmas. Or… do we?

In the Quran, Jesus is referred to by his Arabic name Isa (Peace be upon him) and he is mentioned 27 times. His mother, Mary (Maryam in the Quran) has an entire chapter in her name – this is where you will find the story of the virgin birth and learn more about Jesus who is also known as “the healer” and the one who “brought life to the dead”.

Like Christians, Muslims believe he is the Messiah and that he will return at the end of time. They also believe in the Immaculate Conception. What Muslims don’t believe is that the virgin birth took place on the 25th of December and, even if we did, there is no tradition in Islam that celebrates the birthday of any prophet. Not Muhammad’s, not Moses’s and not Jesus. And that, effectively is what Christmas is: it’s the celebration of the birth of Christ.

Muslims always receive a healthy amount of sympathy and condolences from Christian friends when asked if they celebrate Christmas.

“So you don’t get any gifts?” No. “Do you guys put up a tree or some lights?” No. “And presents?” No. We don’t get any presents. There is no mistletoe, there is no Santa Clause and no cookies are left out on Christmas Eve before bedtime.

But the truth is, you don’t have to have a religious link to anything to be able to enjoy it, do you? Spending time on a holiday with loved ones is not the requirement only of the Christian faith. The season is for everyone, why not enjoy it?

Some really super conservative Muslims even believe that just saying Merry Christmas is blasphemy and un-Islamic because, in a way, it condones the biggest Christian holiday of the year and forsakes their own beliefs. Hell awaits those apparently. So the only way to get around all of this and get the point of non-celebration across is to try and forget about Christmas.

How do they do this? They distract themselves. Malls are packed on Christmas day. The 25th of December is the biggest movie-going day in the Muslim family’s calendar. There’s also a lot of shopping and most times, there’s a lot of braaing and hanging about with family and friends. It’s a lot of fun. Christmas day is a lot of fun for Muslims even though they don’t technically celebrate it.

I say Merry Christmas all the time. I buy presents for my friends every year – a lot of them are atheists anyway – but who doesn’t like to give and who doesn’t like to get? I have been to midnight mass and thoroughly enjoyed it. I’ve been some one’s secret Santa, and lots of friends and colleagues have been mine. And I’ve enjoyed many a Christmas dinner and pulled apart more crackers than I can count. I think Santa is super creepy (but that’s a story for another day), but I do love his hat, so over the festive season I wear one. And my partner and I fill a stocking for each other each year with little knick-knacks we will never use.

The whole saying “Merry Christmas is blasphemy” thing is actually just a heap of rubbish. So, go on, have yourself a merry Muslim Christmas. You kind of do anyway, even if you won’t say so.

Haji Mohamed Dawjee is a commentator on gender equality, sexuality, culture, race relations and feminism as well as ethics in the South African media environment. Follow her on Twitter.