On Christmas and New Year Greetings!

Batanes to Tawi-Tawi

Julmunir I. Jannaral

Incidentally, the Digital Online Issue Vol. 1, No. 28 of Philippine Muslim Today falls on inclusive week of December 25-31, 2020, where December 25 is a Christmas Day Celebration for the Christians. On the other hand, December 31 is the Eve of New Year’s Day, where some Muslims though do not celebrate it  but some usually greet each other both Muslims and non-Muslims alike saying, “ Happy New Year.”

Aleem Said Ahmad Basher, an alumnus of Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt finished his Islamic Studies with a Bachelor’s Degree in Islamic Propagation in 1994. He is presently the Islamic Religious Adviser of the Philippine Muslim Today. (Contributed Photo)

Hence, this Batanes To Tawi-Tawi Columnist who has only shallow background on Islamic Teachings formulated this question: Can we greet non-Muslims Merry Christmas or vice-versa, is it just OK for them to greet us Muslims also with the same greetings? 

With this question, I consulted the Philippine Muslim Today Islamic Religious Adviser, Aleem Said Ahmad Basher so that I will not be misled or be writing an unverified facts to avoid ending up as a subject of criticism.  I have a very high esteem on Aleem Said not because he is my fraternal brother in the Alpha Sigma Phi, an international fraternity founded in 1845,  and a brother in Islam, but he is also my personal Consultant every time I wrote subject matters pertaining to Islam and Muslim in a national daily, The Manila Times that I have been writing since 1992 as a Senior Correspondent.

Before going farther to this topic, I would like to share to my readers about who is Aleem Said for everyone to know about his credential as Islamic Religious Adviser. 

He was born, in Makkah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1951 to Sheikh Ahmad and Zinab both of Maranao parents.  He was the second child and son among five children of Sheikh Ahmad to his first wife. 

Because of his passion for the Islamic way of life, like his father, Aleem Said decided to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Islamic Propagation at Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt which he graduated in 1994. 

He has also master’s degree in business administration and a bachelor’s degree in commerce both completed at the Manuel L. Quezon University (MBA-1983 & B.Sc.-1975) in Manila respectively.

Aleem Said is married to Saidah Sambarani, from a prominent family in Tamparan, Lanao del Sur.

For my question on Christmas and New Year greetings to be answered in an Islamic point of view, just like in a Supreme Court Decision, I am glad to present two opinions, the one written by a Ponente or the member to whom the Court, after the deliberation on the merit of the case, assigns the writing of its decision or resolution in the case; and the dissenter, or simply one who writes the dissenting opinion.

So in the case at Bar, Aleem Said is the Ponente. He said and I quote: “Deeds reward base on intention. It is not bad to greet them for social friendship only, without religious aspect.” 

So it is now very clear from the religious opinion of the Al-Azhar University alumnus that greeting a non-Muslim friend with a Yuletide Season’s greetings is not bad or forbidden to greet them, “Merry Christmas or to reciprocate their greetings by saying, Merry Christmas too.”

This is as long as the intention is out of friendship or to socialize with them. And Aleem Said emphasized as long as there is no religious implications, but purely socialization.

In the same manner, with the forthcoming New Year on January 1, 2021, though we have our own Amun Jadid, he said it is also not bad to extend a New Year’s greetings to our Neighbors or Non-Muslim friends by saying, “Happy New Year.”

The justification to this is just the same as what had been explained in extending Merry Christmas. Right at the time I was writing this piece, lots of incoming messages are coming in to the Inbox of my Facebook Messenger extending Christmas greetings from friends. It would be unkind or awkward for me not to reply them, by simply saying, “likewise, or same to you.” Or it would be very much improper if you reply, “I am a Muslim and I don’t celebrate Christmas because that is the religious practice of the Christians.”

Somehow let us go back to the other side of the coin, the dissenting opinion as I have said on the Christmas greetings. To our readers, I am going to present what has been posted in Facebook by the group by calling it as ISLAM TALK.

The one who appears to be a writer of dissenting opinion is undoubtedly our Muslim brother who has converted to Islam that we popularly call them as “Balik-Islam” as to distinguish from a Bangsamoro Muslim. And his name is Joenardson Jalil Satur Divino.

Speaking in Tagalog, Jalil called upon his relatives that he is thankful to them for giving him importance and painstakingly trying to greet him “Maligayang Pasko.”

However, Jalil advised his relatives not to feel bad or get angry at him if he cannot reciprocate their Christmas greetings. He said it is not in conformity or simply against with the teachings of Islam.

In fact he added, “it is not also within the teachings of your faith.”

Jalil said “it is also my wish that we will be together in exploring the truth and that is how important my love and care for all of you.

That is why I hope you will devote your time towards Islam and study the good teachings of this faith.”

Postscript: Be that as it may, Batanes To Tawi-Tawi in particular and the Management and Staff of Philippine Muslim Today in general would like to greet each and everyone of you with a “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year 2021.”

For your comments and suggestions please send an E-mail to: munir1845media@gmail.com

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