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Christmas Trees and Fake Nasihah

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This is part of my installment of old posts from 2008 and early 2009 which I have chosen to republish. Some links may be dead and I will try to fix them as I go.

I usually don’t go out on the “Command the Good and Forbid the Evil” tip because too often it turns into pseudo-dogmatic judgemental drivel whose only result is driving people away from Islam. When in doubt, unless someone is telling me straight-up kufr, I shut my mouth. A lot of times, I find that people who want to give so-called nasihah are doing it for themselves and not for me. Once this person who shall remain nameless, gave my husband a lecture about how I needed to pray more. This person had seen me pray every prayer I was supposed to pray on time in this person’s presence, and yet still felt the need to give me fake nasihah on how I needed to pray. Now was that for me or for this person? This person wasn’t even talking about sunnah prayers, this person was talking about fard. If this person had said sunnah I would have been like ok whatevers and considered it nasihah. Misguided nasihah but still. One of the rules of nasihah is to be reasonably sure of what you are going to talk about. So if this person had SEEN me pray all fard, why was this person all up in my grill about fard? I think it was more for this person’s need to feel spiritually and morally superior, because why do you tell someone that if you were in a position to see them pray every day yet still felt the need to give that little precision? I call bullshit. The end result was that it pissed me off. It didn’t make me question my deen and try to be a better Muslim, it made me angry against these so called pious people who do nothing but judge other Muslims about how Muslim they should be. So when you talk about deen with people, filter it. I am not saying kiss up and bow down to the kuffar, but when in doubt, shut it, or do like NH does- say it once, nicely, and then drop it because you have done the minimum of commanding the good. That is how I roll. And if a Kabyle has enough self-restraint to drop a subject because he knows it will make people mad, that should tell you something about nasihah, because Kabyles NEVER LET ANYTHING GO. You will never find another culture more hardheaded. Talking deen with some people only raises your blood pressure. And your response can sometimes drive someone away from Islam insted of towards Islam. There is nothing I hate more in Muslims than fake nasihah. I hate it. People forget that we are accountable to God, not the Joneses. And at the end of the day, who cares, you or God, if I didn’t pray 43 times that day or do 200 subhas? It is real easy to judge someone and far harder to walk the walk. Anyways.

So my point is that I am going to have a little rant about Christmas trees and I apologize in advance if I offend any mixed families here but I just want to rant about how I roll, as I generally avoid sensitive subjects here. I ain’t judging, and I don’t consider myself holy pious enough to give advice, but this is how I do. So not advice, just complaining. If you don’t like it, carry on.

For those of you who read French, I read this article in the Bondy Blog about whether or not Muslims should be celebrating Christmas in France. It had my blood boiling, and I don’t get mad easily.

There is this family where the wife wants a Christmas tree, and the husband, in good holy pious patriarch fasion, says no. Typical sterotypical set up. The wife says (they ALWAYS DO) “Oh I’m a practicing Muslim, I pray but I want my kids to be integrated in [French] society so let’s put a Christmas tree at home.” She goes on to say, “oh but it is not religious for me, I just like the idea of family and presents.”

Then they set up the dude in the article to be this Fred Flinstone fist banging dude who says no, and the wife goes on gushing about how it is the social part of Christmas she wants her kids to be a part of. Oh come on. The best part was when the husband said, “In Islam,”I am the God of my household so what I say goes until the kids leave the house.” Audhu billah.

As a general rule, the Bondy Blog isn’t so much interesting for its articles, but for the little comment wars that go on, and the comments are hilarious knee-slappers for this article.

So here’s my rant. Aside from the fact that the article was written to set up the husband as a dumbass, when, except for the God of the House comment, he had a defendable point of view. The wife, on the other hand, was set up to be this integrative, introspective, wanting the best for her kids chick. Let’s get to my opinions regarding Christmas trees.

The short version is no, no way, no how, I will not have a Christmas tree in my house if I have kids. Yeah, I think the lights are pretty, yeah I remember having the nice pine smell in the living room growing up, but I don’t think having a Christian symbol in the privacy of my own home is a symbol of our multiculturalism. If a Muslim cannot be 100% Muslim in his own home, where can we live our Islam? So I don’t get the wife’s premise- how is a Christmas tree at home going to help my kids function in society?

I am not even going to get into the discussion about other Muslim holidays because it has already been said before- there are so many other opportunites to give gifts and connect as a family on Muslim holidays. That is a given.

BUt as far as the social aspect of Christmas is concerned, I agree that when you live in a non-Muslim society, you need to be aware of what is going on around you even if you don’t participate. NH and I have both been down the road where we had to go to office Christmas parties because they were part of working hours, or because it was understood that if you didn’t go it looked really bad. And Big Beard Police better not come up in here and say that “you just think it looks bad”- no, I can tell you stories about it getting noted down on performance reviews. That’s how the Swiss roll, they like their office Christmas parties. I know sometimes kids are forced to draw stuff at school or make pictures of Santa Claus or whatever. You can fight some of it but you can’t win every battle on the outside. There is a difference between “being aware of Christian holidays” and inviting the Christian holidays into your house. That is where I draw the line. I want my house to be a Christmas free zone because I have already spent all my Christmas capital dealing with coworkers, busy stores, stuff being closed etc etc.

I don’t have kids yet, maybe it is different or something, but I am just having trouble of following the logic that Christmas trees make children better citizens. I just get so tired of having Christmas shoved down my throat that i don’t understand when people pick Christmas to be “multicultural.” Also I am pissed off about it. My former job forced me to take a week off at Christmas because the office closes, but because of that, I had to work on Eid. I usually have to work on Eid. Both Eids. The most I ever got off of work was a half day once, except for one year when it fell in the magic Christmas-New Years window. I am not going to celebrate Christmas when I can’t even make it to the mosque for “my” holidays. Of which there are tons.

So I ain’t gonna hate for your Christmas trees if I don’t know your deal, no fake nasihah here so don’t get me wrong. I just don’t find this particular woman’s point of view particularly defendable and it made me mad.

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Author: Nicole Cunningham

American Expat and convert to Islam living and working between Lausanne and Zurich, Switzerland.

9 thoughts on “Christmas Trees and Fake Nasihah

  1. no no no don’t delete. I like and i agree.

  2. Amen, Sister. I agree with the idea that it is unnecessary to take Christmas into your own home in order to be multicultural. Kids or no kids. I have kids and I will not do such things for them. They get exposed to non-Muslim holidays and cultures just by going shopping and visiting their maternal relatives. The same goes for any other Christian holidays, Halloween, Easter, Valentines Day etc. If it’s just an excuse to give the kids gifts and candy, we have enough days in the year to do it and different ways to do it that we do not have to conform to any pre-established non-Muslim holidays / traditions in order to ‘have fun with the kids’. I have loads of fun with my kids that are in no way related to any holiday, and they think so to.

  3. As long as I live, I will never understand the non-religious having any Christmas traditions. I can understand that in America and other Westernized countries, there’s a tradition about gift-giving and Jingle Bells and whatnot, but let’s not forget the fact that it IS a Christian holiday. It is a holiday surrounding the birth of the Christians’ central figure. Why would anyone who doesn’t believe in Jesus celebrate it? It seriously makes no sense.

    If you’re a practicing member of a completely different religion, it makes even less sense. (Yes, less than none.) Presumably, you have your own holidays which can be celebrated with family and friends that brings up the warm fuzzies. I mean let’s not even lie here – if you’re a practicing Muslim and you’re putting up a Christmas tree and handing out presents on Christmas Eve, you’re just getting caught up in consumerism. You just want presents.

    (This is all the general “you,” not you specifically, DP.)

    So no, what she’s doing is not best for her kids, if her aim is to bring up her children in a Muslim household. I will TEACH Ace about the holidays of other religions so he knows about them, but I’m not celebrating them, for heaven’s sake. I will teach him about Hanukkah, but I’m not going to give him little presents for 8 nights. I will teach him about Ramadan, but we’re not going to fast. If she wants to bring her children up as Muslims with respect for other religions and their traditions, it can be done without immersing her family in other religions.

  4. I just went and trudged through the article (I’m so ashamed of my diminishing francais skillz) and she IS all about doing it for the gifts and “spending time with family.”

    She can spend time with family every day. She really needs to check herself, for real.

  5. Salaam Alaikum,

    “I usually don’t go out on the “Command the Good and Forbid the Evil” tip because too often it turns into pseudo-dogmatic judgemental drivel whose only result is driving people away from Islam.”

    Oh yes! I love it when you go into rant mode because I usually agree with every single word you write and you express it better then I could, masha Allah.

    As far as our household goes, Christmas is a non event, but for Mum and Dad Outlines (My parents), it is something special and we respect that and exchange gifts. Bear in mind, my Mum has managed to get a halal turkey for us, always puts a jug in the toilet for us when we visit and makes sure my prayer outfit that I keep there is freshly washed. So I don’t feel that a little compromise there is really hurtful.

    Insha Allah, for the little one (currently feeling like a very heavy one inside me) we’ll explain about Xmas and why Nana and Grandad celebrate it, but I’ll make sure that the big decorations/ parties and presents time is Eid. We are meant to celebrate Eid and I want my insha Allah, children to grow up realising that fun is permissible in Islam.

  6. I’m not a fan of celebrating Christmas either. I’m not too hard-core, I go to Christmas parties, will do the Secret Santa thing if everyone else is doing it and even say happy holidays and merry christmas to those that celebrate the holiday…but that’s it. My parents always said that if i wanted to look at a christmas tree, I could go to a friend’s house and look at it. Simple. Now, there are no trees in my own home or anything else. I’m not Christian and I don’t believe in celebrating a holiday that’s not my own.

  7. Salaam, Ms Outlines pretty much took the words right out of my mouth 😀

    My siblings and I have been born and raised here in the UK, and never have we felt the need to celebrate Christmas with trees, presents, etc. The farthest we go is sending happy holidays card to our elderly English neighbours (who always send us cards). I agree with you that if we can’t practice Islam 100% in our own homes, then where else?

  8. I read this post and thought of the Christmas tree lady.

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