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PASTOR KUMUYI'S VIEW ON CHRISTMAS: WHAT MUSLIMS MUST LEARN





By
Ibn Abdillah As-sudaisiy Al-Iloori

I don't really like discussing inter-religious issues on the internet because of the derogatory and blasphemous statements of some people who mày not really get the gist of what is being discussed. But when very important questions are raised, they must be responded to as failure to respond to them may send wrong signals to some quarters.

Honestly, leaving personality out of the debate on the validity or otherwise of Celebration of Christmas in Christendom, was Pastor Kumuyi wrong in his assertions? Pastor Kumuyi said as quoted in the Punch Newspaper:

“We don’t celebrate Christmas. It actually came from idolatrous background. That is why you don’t hear us sing what they call Christmas carol, Never! We always say it is the December retreat. We are only gathering together because it is the holiday period and love the lord more, and rededicate ourselves more.

He equally added;

“I saw him on the television a few days ago. He was in Akwa Ibom State and was the chief preacher during their Christmas celebration event. Kumuyi is just saying what he feels; he is not making any doctrinal statement.” 

In his own view, the Spokesperson for the Christian Association of Nigeria, Oshodi chapter, Lagos State, Pastor Barnabas Otoibhi, said that Christmas was worth celebrating. Otoibhi told the correspondents of the Punch in a telephone interview that the origin of Christmas was not as important as its essence. He said;

“The origin of Christmas, as we know it, could be traced to Roman Emperor, Constantine. Christmas was a day for celebrating the Sun God. However, because Constantine was a Christian, the day was changed to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ. The tradition has continued to date and since the aim of Christmas is to celebrate Jesus since there is nothing bad in honouring Jesus. Also, the worship of the Sun God was done in Rome and not everywhere in the world, so it is not part of our history. We mark Christmas with the singing of songs as a day, which has now been consecrated.”

Having presented the above divergent positions, it is expected that if anyone thinks Pastor Kumuyi was wrong in his submissions, the proper thing to do is to support his or her view with proofs citing authorities from the Bible and the practice of the early Churches. After all, the Bible is believed to be the source of the religion of Christianity. 

One thing I keep thinking about as a reason which make some Christians to reject Baba Kumuyi's submission is that Christmas has long been part of the Christians way of life. So, to take it away from them is trying to take away the whole of their faith. And if we look at it critically, when Christmas is removed from the Christian way of life as suggested by the renown Pastor, what will be left of Christianity?

Having noted the above, it is important for Muslims to learn the proper lessons from the above scenario. From the various comments above against or in support of Christmas celebration, it is crystal clear that all the Pastors agree that Christmas celebration is an innovation because there is no proof for it in the Bible or the practice of the old Churches. Their major area of disagreement is whether or not they can shun its idolatrous origin and go ahead to mark and celebrate it. 

The antagonists of Pastor Kumuyi's school of thought did not provide any evidence from any part of the Bible in support of their claims. They are merely relying on their common sense. This shows how much innovation is condone in Christianity. The case of using one "Father Christmas" to extort money from people is even worse. Pastor Kumuyi is the only Pastor that we have seen to have boldly and publicly declare Christmas celebration as an innovation. His claim subsists until there are clear cut and incontrovertible evidence from the Bible to the contrary. 

If by Pastor Kumuyi's position, innovation is highly condemnable in Christianity, what more of Islaam where there are Quranic and Sunnatic provisions that forbids introduction of new things in the deen and imitation of the kuffaar. Islaam forbids all kinds of innovations in religious affairs. The Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم warn us not to imitate the kuffar. The fact that an act of innovation had been practiced for a long time does not make it valid. The yardstick for measuring whether or not an act constitutes innovation is to check the Qur'an and Sunnah. If there is no basis for it, it must be rejected. 

The danger of introducing foreign things into religious practices is disastrous because it would be passed ignorantly from one generations to another until the real deen is completely erroded. As we always say: there is no single innovation introduced that would not lead to the extinction of a Sunnah. For instance, the innovation of "Khalwa" (seclusion for the purpose of unorthodox worship) leads to abandonment of the Sunnah of performing the solaat in congregation and at the right time. There are many examples that we can give in this regard. 

What this means, in essence, is that when bid'ah is institutionalized, the real religious values and practice would lose their values. Another common thing about bid'ah is that once it is introduced, it is always difficult to scrap because the ignorant and arrogant ones would not quit it even in the face of glaring evidences. This is what has happened in the debate on the validity or otherwise of the Celebration of Christmas by Christians. They know it is not provided for in their Book, but they are arrogant to quit it because of its long term practice. We wouldn't stop emphasising that the fact that a wrong thing has been going on for a long time does not make it right. And the fact that the right thing had been abandoned for a long time does not make it wrong. 

Whether the Christians celebrate Christmas or not, it is not really our own problem. What we are meant to note and understand from the debate is that Islaam forbids innovations and Allaah and His Apostle صلى الله عليه وسلم always want to us to learn from the mistakes of the Jews and Christians. If the Jews and the Christians had left the message of prophets sent to them intact without adding and subtracting from it, it would have been easy for them to be guided to this righteous path of Islaam. But in spite of all the evils perpetrated against the Words of Allaah, some of them are still embracing Islaam. We pray Allaah guides others too aright

َI use this great opportunity to appeal to Muslims who would not mind their own business during Christian festive weeks to turn a new leaf. If the politicians can be bold enough to lie in public, swear by the Holy Book and rejoice over it, why should a Muslim feel reluctant to tell his Christian friends and associates that his religion (Islaam) does not allow him to celebrate their festivals, congratulate  or dine with them in the process. This doesn't call for any side-talk or hatred if we really understand what religion is. The so called "modern or moderate Muslims" are really doing themselves great harm by being apologetic about the only acceptable religion in sight of Allaah (Islaam). Call us fanatics or whatever you like, we wouldn't stop admonishing you in line with ourselves with the Qur'an, Sunnah and the saying of scholars. 

A Muslim shouldn't celebrate Christmas with the Christians just as we do not expect or force them to celebrate our own festivals with us. The provisions of the shari'ah is clear on this. Ordinarily, Muslims are permitted to eat the food of the Jews and the Christians, but the scholars have ruled that eating their food during their festive periods is strongly detested because it amounts to rejoicing with them on that kufr festival. The verse of the Qur'an that generally permit us to eat their food (Q5:5) ought not be interpreted in this context without considering some other relevant verses and hadiths of the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم. Greeting them or eating with them during their festivals would amount to encourage them on their kufr. Allaah says in the same chapter:

I use this great opportunity to appeal to Muslims who would not mind their own business during Christian festive weeks to turn a new leaf. If the politicians can be bold enough to lie in public, swear by the Holy Book and rejoice over it, why should a Muslim feel reluctant to tell his Christian friends and associates that his religion (Islaam) does not allow him to celebrate their festivals, congratulate  or dine with them in the process. This doesn't call for any side-talk or hatred if we really understand what religion is. The so called "modern or moderate Muslims" are really doing themselves great harm by being apologetic about the only acceptable religion in sight of Allaah (Islaam). Call us fanatics or whatever you like, we wouldn't stop admonishing you in line with ourselves with the Qur'an, Sunnah and the saying of scholars. 

A Muslim shouldn't celebrate Christmas with the Christians just as we do not expect or force them to celebrate our own festivals with us. The provisions of the shari'ah is clear on this. Ordinarily, Muslims are permitted to eat the food of the Jews and the Christians, but the scholars have ruled that eating their food during their festive periods is strongly detested because it amounts to rejoicing with them on that kufr festival. The verse of the Qur'an that generally permit us to eat their food (Q5:5) ought not be interpreted in this context without considering some other relevant verses and hadiths of the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم. Greeting them or eating with them during their festivals would amount to encourage them on their kufr. Allaah says in the same chapter:

 (وَتَعَاوَنُوا عَلَى الْبِرِّ وَالتَّقْوَىٰ ۖ وَلَا تَعَاوَنُوا عَلَى الْإِثْمِ وَالْعُدْوَانِ ۚ وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ ۖ إِنَّ اللَّهَ شَدِيدُ الْعِقَابِ)

And cooperate in righteousness and piety, but do not cooperate in sin and aggression. And fear Allah ; indeed, Allah is severe in penalty [Surat Al-Ma'idah 2]

If it is not proper to cooperate upon sin and aggression, how would it be proper to cooperate upon that which is kufr? If verses of the Qur'an are to be interpreted without considering some other relevant verses and hadiths, it would be difficult to identify general rules and exceptions in matters of the deen. And by this, many haram would be declared halal and many halal would be declared haram. 

It is also from 'Saddu Dharee'ah' (blocking the means to evils) to refrain from eating with them during their festivals. If Muslims are to be permitted to eat with them during their festivals, some Muslims would go beyond bounds. Even as scholars have ruled that their food is not permissible during their festivals as a matter of exception, a lot of Muslims still don't care. They eat with them, they do anything you can think of with them. In fact, during the Christian festivals, in some communities, it will be difficult to differentiate some Muslims from the Christians.

The Scholars of Al-Lajnah ad-Dā’imah, including Sheikh Ibn Bāz and Sheikh Abdur-Razzāq `Afeefee and others رحمهم الله stated:

“It is not permitted for the Muslim to eat that which was prepared by the Jews and Christians or idol-worshippers [specifically] for their days of festivities. And it is not permitted for the Muslims to accept a gift from them in celebration of those festivities due to what that contains of honouring and cooperating with them in making apparent their religious symbols and furthering and promoting their innovations and partaking in the happiness of their festivals. And this may ultimately lead to taking on their festivals as our own festivals…” [22/398-399, Fatwa no. 2882]

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