In the English language, there is a popular saying which goes “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.”
The origin of this saying can be traced to the fourth century when a priest named Augustine moved from Rome to Milan. On arriving in Milan, he found that his congregants would not fast on a Saturday, as was done by the people of Rome. At that time, the bishop of Milan, named Ambrose, advised Augustine saying, “When I go to Rome, I fast on Saturday, but here I do not. You should also follow the custom of whatever church you attend if you do not want to give or receive scandal.”
It was from this supposedly “sage and wise” advice of Ambrose that this saying was coined – “When in Rome, do as the Romans do”.
In complete and stark contrast to this mindset and approach of the disbelievers is the way of Islam. Islam teaches us that “No matter where you are – even if you are in Rome – do as Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) and the Sahaabah (radhiyallahu ‘anhum) did.”
In other words, no matter where a Muslim may be, he must always remain firm and steadfast upon Deen and the sunnah of Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam). He must not be swayed and influenced by the culture and customs of the disbelievers. He must only love and be inclined to the sunnah, as it is to the proportion that he brings the sunnah into his life that he will attain success by Allah Ta‘ala.
Allah Ta‘ala has blessed us with a perfect, comprehensive and complete Deen, and Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) and his Sahaabah (radhiyallahu ‘anhum) have left us a sublime and beautiful example to emulate and follow. From our eating and sleeping, to our acts and rites of worship and even our business dealings, domestic lives and social interactions – a Muslim is totally distinct from the disbelievers as every dimension and department of his life radiates and reflects the beauty of Islam and the sunnah.
Among the aspects in which a believer is totally distinct from the disbelievers is the occasions of happiness and celebration. The disbelievers celebrate Christmas, Easter, New Years, and other similar occasions, while a Muslim’s occasions of joy are the day of Jumu’ah, the two ‘Eids, etc.
In this regard, it is vital for a believer to show utmost importance and significance to the auspicious and joyous occasions of the Muslims, while totally refraining from showing any importance, significance or inclination towards the special celebrations of the disbelievers.
In the Quraan Majeed, Allah Ta‘ala commands the Ummah saying, “And do not incline towards those who have oppressed themselves (by means of committing shirk [idolatry]) or else you will be afflicted by the fire of Jahannam.” (Surah Hood v113)
This aayat clearly prohibits the believers from any type of “inclination towards the disbelievers”. The ‘Ulama explain that “inclination towards the disbelievers” refers to one inclining towards their beliefs, customs, acts of worship, celebrations, dressing and culture, etc.
Therefore, a Muslim should not utter words such as “Merry Christmas” and “Happy New Year”, nor should one admire the Christmas trees or fireworks that are on display, or wait until midnight and participate in the countdown for the new year. To do so is to identify with the disbelievers, who are the enemies of Allah Ta‘ala, and to show an inclination to their ways, instead of the way of Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam). This is such a detestable action that it causes one to attract the anger of Allah Ta‘ala!
In this regard, Sayyiduna Umar (radhiyallahu ‘anhu) once mentioned, “Refrain from (mixing with) the enemies of Allah Ta‘ala, the Jews and Christians, in their celebrations on the day in which they gather, for indeed the anger of Allah Ta‘ala descends upon them. I fear that (if you participate in any of their celebrations,) the anger of Allah Ta‘ala will descend upon you.” (Shu‘abul Imaan #8940)
May Allah Ta‘ala bless us with the love of the sunnah, the aversion for the ways of the disbelievers, and may He resurrect us with Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) and the Sahaabah (radhiyallahu ‘anhum) on the Day of Qiyaamah, aameen.