In the Name of God, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful
As I was rounding today, ON CHRISTMAS, I was thinking about why I had to work today when everybody else is off. Well, the answer is quite simple: I am the only Muslim in my group…it is natural that I, therefore, work on Christmas. It’s not a big deal. Christmas is just another day for me, and it has been typically pretty boring in the past.
I mean, there is NOTHING open…not even Taco Bell. Not even Taco Bell! I can remember SO MANY past Christmas Days when my cousins and I would have NOTHING to do. Once, the only place that was open was a Dunkin’ Donuts, and I don’t want to get into that (very pathetic that we were hanging out at a…Dunkin Donuts!) Ah, such is the fate of a Muslim living in a majority Christian society.
Yet, despite this fact, there is something my Christmas-celebrating fellow Americans and I have in common. When I greeted my neighbors or Christian friends this holiday season, I said to them, “Merry Christmas.” Some, in fact, said to me, “Hey, Dr. Hassaballa, Happy Holidays!” And I said back to them, “Merry Christmas.”
Have I sold myself out to the “infidels”? No, not really. As a Muslim in a majority Christian society, I have respect for the holidays and special occasions of my fellow Americans. Thus, with the respect demanded by Islam to non-Muslim compatriots, I say to other Christian Americans: “Merry Christmas.” It’s very similar to saying “Happy Birthday” to someone on their birthday, isn’t it? I mean, “merry” means “happy.” I think that, in some countries, they in fact do say “Happy Christmas” instead of “Merry Christmas.” Whatever the case may be, I gladly say “Merry Christmas” to my Christian friends and neighbors.
In fact, this whole thing about not saying “Merry Christmas” because it is not politically correct is pretty pathetic. If I know someone is Christian, I will tell them, “Merry Christmas,” not “Happy Holidays.” What holiday are you talking about besides Christmas in this time of year? The phrase “Happy Holidays” is so generic that it could apply to any time of year, right? But, people will look at me very funny if I happily burst out to them, “Happy Holidays!” around the 4th of July. So, I say “Merry Christmas.”
Does this mean that I am celebrating the holiday? No. All I am saying is “I hope your 25th day of December is a happy day.” In fact, the greeting “Merry Christmas” really is not enough: it should be “Blessed Christmas,” like we Muslims say to each other on our Eid days. The day supposedly commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ (pbuh), right? That was a pretty blessed event! But, that’s not what our society does. I do the same thing to my Jewish friends and co-workers (yes, I do have them). When Rosh Hashannah, the Jewish New Year, comes around, I tell them, Shana Tova, or “Happy New Year.” Again, I am not “taking up the customs of the infidels.” I am simply wishing a fellow human being goodness on his or her special religious day.
There was a time when I did not believe as I do now. I thought, back in my days of darkness, that it was wrong to say, “Merry Christmas” or even “Happy New Year” to any of the “infidels.” Thank God I was cured of that religious world view. In fact, I plan, God willing, to tell everyone I see, “Happy New Year!” towards the end of next week. The same principle applies. There will be, however, only one difference. When that time comes, I won’t be saying it in the hospital. I will be saying it on the streets and sidewalks outside, because I am not scheduled to work that weekend! Woohoo!
“Merry Christmas” y’all!