Somalia has issued a ban on Christmas celebrations in the Muslim-majority country after the Southeast Asian sultanate of Brunei announced a similar prohibition earlier this month with the threat of five years in jail.
Sheikh Mohamed Khayrow, director general of Somalia's religious affairs ministry, said on Tuesday that Christmas and New Year celebrations threatened the country's Muslim faith.
"There should be no activity at all," he told reporters, adding security forces had been ordered to break up any such festivities.
"All events related to Christmas and New Year celebrations are contrary to Islamic culture, which could damage the faith of the Muslim community."
Sheikh Nur Barud Gurhan, of the Supreme Religious Council of Somalia, also warned against celebrations, saying they could provoke al-Shabab "to carry out attacks".
Last year, the armed group launched a Christmas Day attack on the African Union's heavily fortified headquarters in the capital Mogadishu, killing three AU soldiers and a civilian.
Somalia, which issued a similar ban in 2013, follows the Islamic calendar that does not recognise January 1 as the beginning of the year.
There are almost no Christians left living in the country, although a bombed-out Italian-built Catholic cathedral remains a city landmark Mogadishu.
Foreign diplomats, aid workers, and soldiers living in the AU compound are permitted to mark the day privately.
Santa hats banned
Similarly, Brunei's Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah has also banned public celebrations of Christmas.
Religious leaders in the oil-rich sultanate warned the ban on Christmas would be strictly enforced, with violators facing up to five years in jail.
"Using religious symbols like crosses, lighting candles, putting up Christmas trees, singing religious songs, sending Christmas greetings ... are against Islamic faith," imams said in sermons published in the local press.
The government warned last year that Muslims would be committing an offence if they so much as wore "hats or clothes that resemble Santa Claus".
Christians represent about nine percent of Brunei's 430,000 population.
Businesses have been warned to take decorations down and authorities have stepped up spot checks across the capital. Hotels popular among Western tourists that once boasted dazzling lights and giant Christmas trees are now barren of festive decor.
Best Answer: Hi,
I am an islamic research scholar and I have researched this subject in detail. For something to be forbidden in Islam the rule is simple. Either Quran (Word of God) should forbid it or the Sunna (Prophets saying) or the thing should be harmful/evil.
THIS IS ONE OF THE CONTROVERSIAL ISSUES LIKE MUSIC, PICTURES AND HIJAB. FOLLOWING IS THE WAY I DEEM THE MOST CORRECT BUT IF YOU ARE CONVINCED BY THE OTHER VIEW...ITS OKAY...
Islam teaches Muslim to have a unique character and to be distinguished. A Muslim is weaned on morality and avoiding blind imitation. Islam supports the celebration of a birthday if it is an expression of gratitude to Allah for His bounties, sustenance and blessings in man’s life, as long as that celebration does not include anything that may displease Allah, the Almighty.
Focusing on the issue of celebrating birthdays, we would like to start by citing the following:
"In Islam, birthdays are not considered `eid (a festival) like `Eidul-Fitr or `Eidul-Adha, because `eids have conditions and guidelines such as not being allowed to fast during the days of Eid. Therefore, birthdays are simply occasions of a person's date of birth and are a matter of culture. If a person wants to commemorate his/her date of birth, then he/she may do so, especially if he/she takes the opportunity to reflect on the past and pledge to be better during the following year. However, to make the birthday an important occasion is not recommended or encouraged." (Excerpted, with slight modifications, from: www.islamicity.com)
Shedding more light on the issue, the prominent Muslim scholar Sheikh Tajuddin Hamid Al-Hilali, Mufti of Australia and New Zealand, states:
"A Muslim has a distinguished personality. He should not imitate others in evil things and leave the good ones. Talking to our children about their birthdays, we should remind them that on such days they should remember the blessings of Allah and praise Him for giving them life and guidance. It would be better if we ask them to offer something in charity as a form of showing gratitude.
Still there is nothing wrong if we try to make them feel happy on that day as long as we are using lawful things. It is better if we make it a day ahead or a day after. You said that your children insist on having such a celebration, and this is really dangerous. If the child insists on having his desires fulfilled at this early age, what is going to happen when he grows older? We need to be alarmed and never allow Western traditions that are based on individualism, to ruin our families. Thus, calling birthdays `eids is not accepted, for this has no basis in Islam. At the same time, there is nothing wrong if we use these occasions to inculcate Islamic principles in our children, like showing gratitude to Allah, praising Him and seizing the chance of this life in performing good deeds since the older we grow the nearer to the grave we come."
Speaking about the same issue Sheikh Faysal Mawlawi, Deputy Chairman of the European Council for Fatwa and Research, adds:
“Permissibility is the original ruling in this case, as there is no evidence of prohibition. The principle of not following the Jews and Christians is really required in matters of their false claims and beliefs in relation to religion. Such beliefs are no more than disbelief from an Islamic perspective.
Islam supports the celebration of birthdays if it is an expression of gratitude to Allah for His bounties, sustenance and blessings in man’s life, as long as that celebration does not include anything that may displease Allah, the Almighty. In this context the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) was asked about fasting on Mondays, and he answered: “It is the day on which I was born.” Muslim scholars take this hadith and the hadith of fasting on the Day of `Ashura’ (10th of Mharram) as evidence on the permissibility of celebrating good occasions, which have special significance in our religion such as occasions like the birthday of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him).
In this context, people must be aware that celebrating such occasions, e.g. the Prophet’s birthday, is no more than a matter of habit, and by no means a religious requirement. However, if it entails any forbidden practices, such a celebration becomes forbidden for that reason alone. Moreover, a celebration of this sort becomes recommended if it includes recommended acts of worship.
It is also right to say that such celebrations contain some aspects of innovation, however it is an innovation in matters of popular habits not in matters of religion. Actually innovation in habits is not prohibited. What is prohibited in this context is innovation in religion, as indicated in a well-known Prophetic hadith.
By analogy, there is nothing wrong in celebrating birthdays, as long as the celebration does not include any forbidden practices. People used to share sweets on an happy occasion and there nothing wrong if ca