What do the scholars and experts of Shari’ah say about celebrating the Gregorian new year? Can we congratulate non-Muslims on this occasion?
Celebrating and expressing gratitude to Allah ﷻ is a sign of thankful servant. Being blessed with health, family, safety, and wealth are all different favours of Allah ﷻ upon us. As long one stays within the parameters of Shari’ah, there is no harm in showing happiness and congratulating others on such occasions, such as the entrance of a new year.
A Muslim believes in Allah ﷻ and all the Prophets (Peace be upon them all) that He ﷻ sent. We do not differentiate between them and consider them all to be Prophets of Allah ﷻ. They all propagated the pure message of tawhid, divine unity, and we show happiness and joy on the days of their births. Allah ﷻ sent Prophets as sources of light and mercy to guide mankind. This is a blessing all believers are thankful for and hence the day of the birth of a Prophet is marked with great happiness. The days in which Prophets and Messengers were born have been called days of ‘peace’ in the Holy Qur’an.
It has been mentioned about Sayyiduna Yahya in the Holy Qur’an, “Peace be upon him the day he was born, the day he will die and the day he will be resurrected.” (Al-Maryam: 15) Likewise the Holy Qur’an states about Sayyiduna Isa, “Peace be upon me the day I was born, the day I die and the day that I am resurrected.” (Al-Maryam: 33) Exclamations of peace have also been made for other Prophets, Allah ﷻ mentions, “Peace be upon Nuh of all people.” (Al-Saffat: 79) and “Peace be upon Musa and Harun.” (Al-Saffat: 120). The Holy Qur’an further says regarding all the Prophets of Allah ﷻ, “And peace be upon the Messengers and all praises are for Allah, Lord of the worlds.” (Al-Saffat: 181-182)
Great honour has been given to the Prophets and the days they were born, therefore it permissible to celebrate their births, show happiness on such days and express thanks to Allah ﷻ. These are all means to pleasing Allah ﷻ and entering His ﷻ mercy.
The Prophet ﷺ also marked certain days as a means of thanking Allah ﷻ. The Prophet ﷺ kept a fast on the day that Sayyiduna Musa was granted safety from the Pharaoh. Imam Bukhari mentions a hadith where Sayyiduna Ibn Abbas narrates that when the Prophet ﷺ arrived in Al-Madinah Al-Munawwarah, he saw that the Jews would keep a fast on the ‘ashura. The Prophet ﷺ asked them, “Why do you keep a fast on this day?” They replied that this is a great day for us, Allah ﷻ saved Prophet Musa and his nation by drowning the Pharaoh and his followers. The Prophet ﷺ replied, “We have a greater right over Prophet Musa than you.” The Prophet ﷺ fasted on that day and ordered others to do so. He ﷺ did not state that showing happiness on this day would equate to the beliefs of the Jews and oppose Islam.
Similarly, it is permissible for Muslims to celebrate the day of the birth of Sayyiduna Isa. In doing so we are also honouring our Beloved Prophet ﷺ. Imam Bukhari mentions a beautiful narration where the Prophet ﷺ said, “I am the closest to Isa, son of Maryam, then everyone else in this world and the hereafter. There were no prophets between me and him.”
The Prophet ﷺ is the best of creation and was exemplary in his dealings with Muslims and non-Muslims alike. This should be reflected in our dealings and character as well. There is no harm in congratulating your fellow citizens, neighbours, and those you come across in your day-to-day life. Especially non-Muslims who are related to you, your neighbours, friends, and those who congratulate you on the days of Eid. The Holy Qur’an reminds us, “When anyone greets you, respond with a better greeting or at least return in kind.” (Al-Nisa: 86) In greeting them there is no acknowledgement of their beliefs. Rather it is enjoining good and being just, central characteristics of a believer, which are pleasing to Allah ﷻ.
It is mentioned in the Holy Qur’an, “Allah does not forbid you from being good and just to those who have not fought against you due to religion nor expelled you from houses. Allah loves just people.” (Al-Mumtahinah: 8) This verse emphasises the importance of social relations and harmony. It encourages us to maintain cordial ties with non-Muslims, show them kindness, give, and receive gifts from them. All these actions are considered mustahab in Shari’ah. Imam Qurtubi mentions in Ahkam al-Qur’an, “The statement in the verse ‘from being good’ means, those people who have not fought you then Allah ﷻ has not prohibited you from being good to them. The statement in the verse ‘from being just’ means, due to their being a relation between you then give to them from your wealth.”
And Allah ﷻ knows the best
Dr Musharraf Hussain Al-Azhari
Director of British Fatwa Council