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Since converting to Islam I've always attended my (atheist) family's Christmas celebrations (though they are not celebrated in a religious way).

My parents expect me to give gifts to my family, and I know how important this gift giving is to them, and how highly regarded parents are to a Muslim.

I found a hadith (emailed to me by a friend) that seems to support my logic:

Narrated ‘Aisha:

Allah’s Apostles used to accept gifts and used to give something in return.

(Bukhari, Volume 3, Book 47, Number 758).

Is it Halal to reciprocate with gifts in this fashion, though it is haram to celebrate a religious holiday not form Islam?

  • 4
    I think your question makes a key point in this; for many, the time that for convenience/familiarity is known as "Christmas" is not primarily (or even at all) a religious festival - it is simply a time to enjoy company of friends and family, at a time when they might all (rather conveniently) also be available - and a time to think just a bit extra about others, perhaps those with less than us. And just to mark the passing year. I think we can all agree that these are good things. Even for Christians, gift-giving isn't actually part of the religious festival. An excellent question. – Marc Gravell Aug 31 '12 at 20:08
  • Ironically, Christmas is originally a pagan holiday, which would make it even more forbidden to celebrate than if it were a Christian holiday. But few people really take it as either. – Muz Sep 2 '12 at 17:08
  • @Muz yes, but it is (was) pagan in the same way that English month days praise Romans, or week-days praise Thor etc. Going to the trouble of renaming it to remove any legacy is a huge inconvenience for no real benefit. – Marc Gravell Sep 2 '12 at 18:50
  • @MarcGravell check the arabic: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… – Pureferret Sep 2 '12 at 21:47
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This is an excellent question indeed!

Mainly yes, you can both accept and give gifts to non-Muslims. And there are many proofs for that from the Quran and Sunnah (some listed below).

Despite that, some scholars say that it's not permissible to accept gifts (but still permissible to give gifts) from non-Muslims, they have some proofs (listed in the source I provided at the bottom of the answer), but these proofs do not actually prove the prohibition. But there are some considerations on the exchange of gifts with non-Muslims, which are:

  • The gift should not be an interface for a bribe, bribe is utterly prohibited in Islam, it's prohibited to give and accept it from/to Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

  • The gift should not be helping to demonstrate the recipient's religion, like giving him a cross or a bible. Also it should not be a haram gift (this applies to Muslim-Muslim gifts too) such as giving him a bottle of wine or sexy songs... etc. This also includes that gifts shouldn't be given on religious holidays, because that might mean that you encourage and agree with them on their religion, and that's prohibited. However, as you noted in your question and Marc noted in his comment, Christmas is not celebrated in a religious way, it became only a good social interaction day. So this doesn't apply to this particular case.

  • It's recommended to make the gift leave a good impression for the recipient about Islam. In fact, one kind of the people that zakat is given to are new Muslims المؤلفة قلوبهم[Surat At-Tawbah:60], in order to make them love Islam more. In your case you can show how greatly respected parents are in Islam, you might like to try to demonstrate that through your gifts and interactions. Islam orders us to be devoted to our parents even if they aren't Muslims, moreover, even if they wanted us to become non-Muslims. As comes in [Surat Luqmān:15].

  • The gift should not be the result of or result in a bad thing. Such as making the non-Muslim recipient/receiver feel that he is better and his religion is the correct one. If you think he will, don't give or accept it. Another example is that it should not be over expensive, because wasting money is generally prohibited in Islam.

  • It should not be preferred to a more important thing, like helping a Muslim who is in need, priorities should be taken into consideration.

Some proofs that prove it's permissible to accept gifts from non-Muslims:

  • Narrated Anas bin Malik: A Jewess brought a poisoned (cooked) sheep for the Prophet who ate from it. She was brought to the Prophet and he was asked, "Shall we kill her?" He said, "No." I continued to see the effect of the poison on the palate of the mouth of Allah's Apostle .

    حَدَّثَنَا عَبْدُ اللَّهِ بْنُ عَبْدِ الْوَهَّابِ، حَدَّثَنَا خَالِدُ بْنُ الْحَارِثِ، حَدَّثَنَا شُعْبَةُ، عَنْ هِشَامِ بْنِ زَيْدٍ، عَنْ أَنَسِ بْنِ مَالِكٍ ـ رضى الله عنه ـ أَنَّ يَهُودِيَّةً، أَتَتِ النَّبِيَّ صلى الله عليه وسلم بِشَاةٍ مَسْمُومَةٍ، فَأَكَلَ مِنْهَا فَجِيءَ بِهَا فَقِيلَ أَلاَ نَقْتُلُهَا‏.‏ قَالَ ‏ "‏ لاَ ‏"‏‏.‏ فَمَا زِلْتُ أَعْرِفُهَا فِي لَهَوَاتِ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم‏.‏

    [Sahih Bukhari], also in [Sahih Muslim] and other versions in Sunan Abu Dawud[1], [2], [3]

  • Narrated Abu Humaid As-Saidi: We accompanied the Prophet in the Ghazwa of Tabuk and the king of 'Aila presented a white mule and a cloak as a gift to the Prophet. And the Prophet wrote to him a peace treaty allowing him to keep authority over his country.

    حَدَّثَنَا سَهْلُ بْنُ بَكَّارٍ، حَدَّثَنَا وُهَيْبٌ، عَنْ عَمْرِو بْنِ يَحْيَى، عَنْ عَبَّاسٍ السَّاعِدِيِّ، عَنْ أَبِي حُمَيْدٍ السَّاعِدِيِّ، قَالَ غَزَوْنَا مَعَ النَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم تَبُوكَ، وَأَهْدَى مَلِكُ أَيْلَةَ لِلنَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم بَغْلَةً بَيْضَاءَ، وَكَسَاهُ بُرْدًا، وَكَتَبَ لَهُ بِبَحْرِهِمْ‏.‏

    [Sahih Bukhari]

  • Also that the Prophet accepted gift from the the King of Alexandria, of which was his wife Maria.


Some proofs that prove it's permissible to give gifts to non-Muslims:

  • لَّا يَنْهَاكُمُ اللَّهُ عَنِ الَّذِينَ لَمْ يُقَاتِلُوكُمْ فِي الدِّينِ وَلَمْ يُخْرِجُوكُم مِّن دِيَارِكُمْ أَن تَبَرُّوهُمْ وَتُقْسِطُوا إِلَيْهِمْ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يُحِبُّ الْمُقْسِطِينَ

    Muhsin Khan Translation:

    Allah does not forbid you to deal justly and kindly with those who fought not against you on account of religion and did not drive you out of your homes. Verily, Allah loves those who deal with equity.

    [Surat Al-Mumtaĥanah:8]

  • Narrated Ibn Umar: Umar saw a silken cloak over a man for sale and requested the Prophet to buy it in order to wear it on Fridays and while meeting delegates. The Prophet said, "This is worn by the one who will have no share in the Hereafter." Later on Allah's Apostle got some silken cloaks similar to that one, and he sent one to Umar. Umar said to the Prophet "How can I wear it, while you said about it what you said?" The Prophet said, "I have not given it to you to wear, but to sell or to give to someone else." So, `Umar sent it to his brother at Mecca before he embraced Islam.

    حَدَّثَنَا خَالِدُ بْنُ مَخْلَدٍ، حَدَّثَنَا سُلَيْمَانُ بْنُ بِلاَلٍ، قَالَ حَدَّثَنِي عَبْدُ اللَّهِ بْنُ دِينَارٍ، عَنِ ابْنِ عُمَرَ ـ رضى الله عنهما ـ قَالَ رَأَى عُمَرُ حُلَّةً عَلَى رَجُلٍ تُبَاعُ فَقَالَ لِلنَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم ابْتَعْ هَذِهِ الْحُلَّةَ تَلْبَسْهَا يَوْمَ الْجُمُعَةِ وَإِذَا جَاءَكَ الْوَفْدُ‏.‏ فَقَالَ ‏"‏ إِنَّمَا يَلْبَسُ هَذَا مَنْ لاَ خَلاَقَ لَهُ فِي الآخِرَةِ ‏"‏‏.‏ فَأُتِيَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم مِنْهَا بِحُلَلٍ فَأَرْسَلَ إِلَى عُمَرَ مِنْهَا بِحُلَّةٍ‏.‏ فَقَالَ عُمَرُ كَيْفَ أَلْبَسُهَا وَقَدْ قُلْتَ فِيهَا مَا قُلْتَ قَالَ ‏"‏ إِنِّي لَمْ أَكْسُكَهَا لِتَلْبَسَهَا، تَبِيعُهَا أَوْ تَكْسُوهَا ‏"‏‏.‏ فَأَرْسَلَ بِهَا عُمَرُ إِلَى أَخٍ لَهُ مِنْ أَهْلِ مَكَّةَ قَبْلَ أَنْ يُسْلِمَ‏.‏

    [Sahih Bukhari]

  • Narrated Asma' bint Abu Bakr: My mother came to me during the lifetime of Allah's Apostle and she was a pagan. I said to Allah's Apostle (seeking his verdict), "My mother has come to me and she desires to receive a reward from me, shall I keep good relations with her?" The Prophet said, "Yes, keep good relation with her. "

    حَدَّثَنَا عُبَيْدُ بْنُ إِسْمَاعِيلَ، حَدَّثَنَا أَبُو أُسَامَةَ، عَنْ هِشَامٍ، عَنْ أَبِيهِ، عَنْ أَسْمَاءَ بِنْتِ أَبِي بَكْرٍ ـ رضى الله عنهما ـ قَالَتْ قَدِمَتْ عَلَىَّ أُمِّي وَهْىَ مُشْرِكَةٌ، فِي عَهْدِ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم، فَاسْتَفْتَيْتُ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم قُلْتُ ‏{‏إِنَّ أُمِّي قَدِمَتْ‏}‏ وَهْىَ رَاغِبَةٌ، أَفَأَصِلُ أُمِّي قَالَ ‏ "‏ نَعَمْ صِلِي أُمَّكِ ‏"‏‏.‏

    [Sahih Bukhari], In fact this is very close to your case.


Source: this research paper about exchanging gifts and congratulations between Muslims and non-Muslims. By Dr.Ryadh Musaimiri, professor of the University of Al-Imam.

  • And sooo sorry for the long answer, I gust hate giving incomplete knowledge :( – Tamer Shlash Sep 2 '12 at 16:44
  • Okay. I am sorry. But, I do not agree that Christmas is no longer religious. It has its origin from religious reasons and it means different to different people. – Abdullah Sep 2 '12 at 16:53
  • @Ershad: I just follow the supposition in the question that Christmas is no longer religious. If it is, then it's clear from the answer that it's not permissible to exchange gifts in religious holidays. – Tamer Shlash Sep 2 '12 at 16:58
  • @Ershad whether Christmas is religious depends largely on who the individual is. But again: gift-giving is not directly part of any rite at Christmas - it is more a societal tradition (absorbed from older winter-solstice celebrations for marking the passing year) - although it is sometimes dressed up in terms of the "wise men". If I give a gift at Christmas, rest assured there is no religion in it :) – Marc Gravell Sep 2 '12 at 18:55
  • @David I already mentioned the wise men (which, btw, are never listed as 3, iirc) - but in practical terms: Christianity merely took over existing celebrations that involved gifts – Marc Gravell Sep 5 '12 at 21:38

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