By A. Zeynep Donmez – Ozlem Ata Translated from Turkish by Yilmaz Kaso
A chapter from the book “Friday of the Youth” Sydney, AUSTRALIA
THE NEW YEAR
بِسْمِ اللَّهِ ٱلرَّحْمـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ
وَكَذٰلِكَ جَعَلْنَاكُمْ أُمَّةً وَسَطاً لِّتَكُونُواْ شُهَدَآءَ عَلَى ٱلنَّاسِ وَيَكُونَ ٱلرَّسُولُ عَلَيْكُمْ شَهِيداً
“Thus, We have made you a community at the center (of the civilizations) so that you may be a model for the people and that the Messenger (what he brought as a Messenger) may be the model for you.” (al- Baqarah 2:143)
مَنْ تَشَبَّهَ بِقَوْمٍ فَهُوَ مِنْهُمْ
“He who copies any people is one of them.” (Sunan Abi Dawud, Book of Clothing –Libas, 4031)
As you know, on the evening of December 31st, the new year starts. In some non-Christian countries, including some Islamic countries, some people hold celebrations that night under the name “New Year’s Eve.” However, in most Christian communities, these celebrations start on December 25th for Christmas and continue even after the beginning of the new year. The reason for the Christmas celebrations is that according to the Christian belief, Jesus (PBUH) was born on that day. That is, they are not celebrating the New Year but a religious holiday. These celebrations have no place in the religion conveyed by either the Prophet Jesus (PBUH) or the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Therefore, Christmas celebrations are not related to Muslims and are not celebrated in Islamic countries anyway.
In some non-Christian countries, the new year, rather than Christmas, is celebrated on 31st of December, even by Muslims. However, there is no scientific or Islamic basis that the celebrated day is indeed the beginning of a new year. December 31st or January 1st are ordinary days; they don’t have any unique attributes concerning astronomy or nature. For this reason, as Muslims, we should continue our daily life as usual and behave in moderation. In some countries, many acts that are forbidden (haraam) according to Islam are committed in entertainments held under the name “New Year celebrations.” People consume alcoholic drinks and drugs, play games used as an instrument of gambling, and hold raffles to encourage easy money-making. Unfortunately, in these celebrations or parties, situations that are forbidden to look at and encourage people to approach immoral acts may emerge. In Quranic verses Al-Maidah 90 and Al-Isra 32, we see that all the actions mentioned above are the work of the Devil and that not only committing these actions but also approaching them is prohibited (haraam). Therefore, we should avoid all celebrations that contain such elements. We need to emphasize that God says, “stay away” instead of “do not do” while imposing these prohibitions. Staying away is a more comprehensive ban than not doing. Let us consider the example of petrol stations. In there, even approaching the station with a burning cigarette is forbidden, let alone lighting a fire! You understand the difference between them, right? Likewise, we should avoid the prohibitions which Allah says, “do not approach,” the same way we avoid approaching a petrol station with a burning cigarette.
Now some of you may wonder, what’s the harm in celebrating the New Year? Some of you gather with your family, eat and spend time together on New Year’s Eve, just to take advantage of the next day’s holiday opportunity. That is fine since it is not for a different purpose than other days. However, some people celebrate New Year’s Eve by practicing Christian customs, such as decorating a Christmas tree, buying and giving gifts special to that night. According to the hadith we read above, a community that looks like another community loses its identity. Therefore, we should avoid resembling non-Muslim societies. If we neglect this and start to act or look like other communities, we may lose our own culture within their culture and traditions over time. Many of our national and religious values can disappear in this way. That’s why we shouldn’t say, “just a celebration,” but be more conscious on days like this. Instead of copying these customs, we must revivify our own religious holidays, the Eids, with our own customs.
In verse we read at the beginning of our speech, Allah (SWT) says that He has made the believers a community at the center (of the civilization) to set an excellent example for the people. To achieve this, we must not imitate others but set an example to other communities with our own lifestyles, principles, and values. Our source for doing this is the Quran, which is a clear book. If we put the Quran in the center of our lives and live according to its commands and prohibitions, all communities will admire us and see us as a good example.
Thus, we hope that we will be among the saved ones.