x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Ask Ali: Christmas has its place in the Muslim world

Wishing a Christian person ‘happy holidays’ is never seen as wrong nor haram.

Dear Ali: I’m just wondering how my Muslim colleagues view expats celebrating Christmas here in the UAE? HF, Dubai

Dear HF: First of all, allow me to wish you a happy holiday, so we get that out of the way. Wishing you a happy holiday is never seen as bad or forbidden for a Muslim.

In the Quran, there are a lot of stories about the life and teachings of the Muslim prophet Jesus Christ, who we call “Isa” in Arabic.

The Quran recalls the miraculous birth of Jesus Christ, his sayings and teachings, the miracles he performed by God’s permission and his life as a respected prophet of God.

Not to forget his mother, “Maryam”, whom we see as one of the finest women who ever lived on Earth. Allah chose Maryam as a great example of the best believers in the Quran. (Maryam is one of the most popular names among women in the Arab world.)

But despite the fact that Muslims believe in the virgin birth of Jesus, we do not mark the occasion as a holiday. Muslims respect Jesus as a righteous prophet of God.

So, dear reader, rest assured that we here in the UAE, and many people from the Muslim world, will always wish the best to our brothers and sisters from different religions. Wishing a Christian person “happy holidays” is never seen as wrong nor haram.

And just in case this answer is read by my Muslim friends, fans and readers, remember, wishing somebody a happy holiday doesn’t mean that you have to believe in their religion, just like how people from other religions would wish us a happy Eid, even if they aren’t Muslim.

Let’s all unite our thoughts, love and respect by appreciating each other and realising that we need to accept each other. Merry Christmas.

Dear Ali: Someone told me that toasts – where everyone raises and clinks glasses and say something like “cheers” – are not acceptable in Islamic culture because of their association with alcohol. I heard that there isn’t even an Arabic word for toasting. Is this true? I don’t want to offend any of my Muslim guests over the holiday season. MG, Abu Dhabi

Dear MG: Merry Christmas and happy holidays.

This is a very good question. In short, you are right, the “toasting” culture is not really practised in Muslim societies. There is no specific rule that considers it haram, but we are forbidden to toast if it includes alcohol.

Since this toasting act has been very much associated with alcohol, Muslims often consider it in a negative way, even if there is no alcohol involved.

So, you are right, there is no specific word in the Arabic language for toasting. But our non-Muslim Arab brothers and sisters often use the words “fi sehtak” (singular) or “fi sehatkum” (plural) for such occasions, which simply means “for good health”.

But again, by showing your respect and care with this matter, I have to say that it’s appreciated if the act of toasting is not done with Muslim guests, especially if the glass includes alcohol.

Ali Al Saloom is a cultural adviser and public speaker from the UAE. Follow @AskAli on Twitter, and visit www.ask-ali.com to ask him a question and to find his guidebooks to the UAE, priced at Dh50.

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