I’d like to hear about the intention behind an action according to Islam. If I for instance, wish others a happy new year, why am I considered a bad Muslim if my intention is to be humble and respect other people’s culture and days of celebrations? How is the Islamic code of good ethics weighed in the eyes of others if I have to turn away from them or not answer them on their saying of ‘happy new year’ etc?
Likewise, if I decide to visit my old parents celebrating Christmas, who would cry all night if I didn’t visit them – how am I considered a bad Muslim when the Islamic code of ethics tells me that my parents are of high value and should be treated accordingly? My intention is to give them a good evening. Not to support or accept their un-Islamic celebrations – there is nothing Christian about their invitation. I’m doing it for their sake.
Till now, I receive judgemental comments from other Muslims regarding my choices. Some even say that the action overshadows the intention, but if this is so, then explain to me the following: if I pass a hot plate to my mother and while I perform that action, I drop it – my intention was not to burn or hurt her, but it happens – does the action then overshadow the intention?
1. Definitely there is no problem from the Islamic point of view to greet people for the new year, especially replying to their greetings by saying things like ‘happy new year, or ‘wish you a blessed Christmas and prosperous new year’. The holy Quran says: “When you are greeted with a greeting, greet in return what is better than it, or (at least) return it equally.” (Surah 4, Ayah 86)
Note, that the Almighty Allah says: “When you are greeted…” which means that it does not matter who is greeting you – whether Muslim or non-Muslim.
In addition, Islam is not against Christmas celebrations, or the celebration of the new year of different cultures. What Islam condemns is various sins associated with these celebrations such as drinking, wrong music, dancing etc.
Therefore, it is well permissible for Danish Muslims for example, to celebrate their national new year as long as they avoid Haraam acts as mentioned above. Also, it is well permissible for them to celebrate the birth of Prophet Jesus (P) – whether in December or on some other date – in as much as it is permissible, rather, recommended to celebrate the birth of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (P). “We make no distinction between one another of His Messengers” (Surah 2, Ayah 285). As long as there is no Haraam action associated with it.
I wish Muslims residing in the West would come up with a new way of celebrating Jesus’ birth and the new year, a way which would be more Islamic, rather than merely mimicking the Christian culture.
2. Visiting parents and being kind and dutiful to them is a sign of piety in Islam – whether they are Muslims or not – again, on the condition that they don’t pull you to committing a sin such as drinking alcohol, eating non-Halal food, etc. Therefore, please do visit your parents from time to time, especially on occasions they are expecting to see their child. However, you need to introduce your protocol to them in terms of observing Hijab-for ladies-, not shaking hands with non-Mahrams, not eating pork and not drinking alcohol.
3. On the issue of intention versus action: it is narrated from the holy Prophet (P): “Intention of a believer is better than his/her action, and the intention of a disbeliever is worse than his/her action.” (al-Kaafi vol2 p84).
The wisdom behind this is that a believer always means good and wishes to worship God and not disobey Him, even if unknowingly he/she does what in reality is wrong, but because of his/her good intention the Almighty Allah will not punish him/her for that. For example, you buy a can of beans to use it for your Salad, then after you’ve used it, you find out that there were some pieces of Haraam meat in it. Because you didn’t have the intention of eating Haraam, you are not counted as one who is sinful.
Answered by: Sheikh Mansour Leghaei
Source: Ask the Sheikh