Before getting to the main part of this post, thought it might be worth mentioning these comments from Al-Azhar University (P52 of this pdf) on exchanging Christmas Greetings with non-Muslims :
"There is no harm in congratulating non-Muslims with whom you have a family relationship, or that are neighbours of yours. Regarding their festivals, however, do not participate in the rituals of Christians, or those in a similar religious category [i.e. non-Muslims]."
Having got that out of the way, the main part of this post relates to the following fascinating account of how British Muslims celebrated Christmas in Liverpool back in 1905 comes from a Facebook posting by Ron Greaves (Chair in the Comparative Study of Religion at Liverpool Hope University) at the "Happy Christmas 4ALL Campaign" (a campaign that aims to combat media stereotypes of minorities attempting to "ban" Christmas)
Christmas amongst the British Muslims - December 1905
The British muslims celebrated the anniversary of the traditional birthday of Nabi Issa (E.P. be U.H) by feeding a large number of poor persons at the Liverpool mosque.
No less than 269 persons sat down to breakfast, and 386 were provided with tea, making a total of 655 poor persons who were thus provided with a substantial meal by the true-believers in Liverpool. In the evening, at the close of the feasting, an excellent musical entertainment was given in the large lecture hall of the british muslim institute to the poor people. At the meeting the shikhzade ahmed quilliam bey, ottoman consul-general at Liverpool presided, and the major portion of the musical evening was provided by professor fry’s amateur pierrot troupe.
The whole of the arrangements for the free meals were under the supervision and personal directions of h.e. sheikh Abdullah quilliam bey, who was assisted by a large body of workers.
The British Press on the Proceedings
Christmas amongst the Muslims
It is generally considered that Islam is an anti-Christian faith, but this accusation Muslims always indignantly deny, claiming that they reverence the name of Christ with the greatest respect, hailing Him as ‘Sidna Issa’, one of the inspired messengers sent by the Almighty to enlighten mankind and to lead them into the path of righteousness and truth. The Koran contains a history of the birth and life of Christ, which although differing in some respects from that contained in the four Gospels, yet is highly eulogistic of Jesus and His mother.
It is an Islamic custom to celebrate the birthdays of illustrious men by feeding the poor, and although Muslims believe that Christ was not born in December but at the latter end of September, yet in England it has always been the custom of British Muslims to celebrate the event upon what they term the ‘English official birthday of Christ’. This year was no exception to the rule, and Mussulmans entertained over 700 poor people to substantial meals (breakfast and tea) at the Mosque, West Derby Road. The arrangements were carried out by an efficient committee, of which Sheikh Abdullah Quilliam Bey was president, he being ably supported by a host of workers, some of whom came from distances so widely apart as Hong Kong, Egypt, Kumasi (Ashanti), Baghdad, Trebizonde, Constantinople and India. In the evening, after tea, the poor people were entertained with a concert, the principal artistes being members of Mr Fry’s amateur pierrot troupe, who kindly gave their services on the occasion.
It is worthy of observation to note that during the last 18 years, the British Muslims have entertained in this manner nearly 10,000 persons, and no attempt has ever been made on such occasions to proselytise the recipients of this charity. In this course of conduct the local Muslim community are only acting in accordance with the teachings of their faith, there being a tradition that the Prophet Mahomed said, ‘O true believers, when ye give alms or bestow charity do it for the glory of God, and ask not the recipient thereof to what religion he belongs, and scorn to seek to take advantage of a poor man’s necessities by forcing thy religion upon him. For God knoweth all things, and the innermost parts of men’s breasts are not hidden from Him.’
THE LIVERPOOL COURIER
26th DECEMBER 1905.