Monday 25 December 2017

Christmas as a Muslim Convert

I sit here on Christmas Eve contemplating Christmas past and present. Christmas has always been a difficulty for me since my conversion to Islam. In fact, it was one thing I worried over before my conversion; would I be able to give up Christmas?

Why should I have to give it up? Well, as a Muslim I should only celebrate the festivals my religion prescribes; the two Eids. Christmas is a Christian festival where Christians all over the world celebrate the birth of Jesus, their saviour. As a Muslim I do not believe Jesus is the son of God or that he came to save our sins. Instead, I believe him to be a prophet sent by God to guide mankind, as all prophets do. Jesus is special but we do not celebrate his birthday just as we do not celebrate the birthday of our special prophet Muhammed, peace be upon him.

However, living in a country that celebrates Christmas in a big way makes it difficult to ignore. There are reminders everywhere you go. Christmas memorabilia takes over the shops while Christmas songs blast out from the radio. Christmas lights decorate streets and houses. It is difficult to ignore.

Growing up as a Catholic, I celebrated Christmas. I loved the atmosphere and anticipation created during advent. I loved the lights, the songs, the food, the presents, even going to church had a special significance. How could I ever give this up? It was my favourite time of year.

I remember the first Christmas after my conversion. I was adamant I was not celebrating Christmas. I decided I should not go to visit my family on Christmas day and luckily I had the perfect reason to excuse myself from the celebrations; a Kurdish concert had been organised on the same day. So off we went to London, my husband and I. I was pleased I had something to do that day to take my thoughts away from what I had known as my favourite day of the year.

That was the one and only time I withdrew completely from the celebrations. You see, as a Muslim convert, it is not so easy. We often feel pulled between two realities; our past and our present. It is hard to ignore the traditions we were brought up with. It is also hard to ignore the family ties and we shouldn't anyway. Family is very important in Islam and keeping good relationships with our family is essential. Therefore, when we convert, it is important not to turn our backs and shut our family out.

I feel that some people who were born Muslim forget that. I have been told by some, not to go to my parents house on Christmas day, not to participate in Christmas dinner and gift giving. But in reality, what is wrong with sharing a meal with your family? What is wrong with giving your loved ones gifts? It is the intention that is important. Going to eat dinner with my family on Christmas day does not mean I am celebrating Christmas because that is not my intention. My intention is simply to go and share a meal with my family.

The older I get, the more I realise how important family is. Maintaining a good relationship with your family is crucial. We have a responsibility to Allah, but we also have a responsibility to our families. It is important not to forget that. 

We cannot ignore the past and the way we were brought up but we also cannot full blown celebrate something that goes against what we believe in. We need to find some kind of balance. Have you found it yet?

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