ISIS (also known as ISIL, Daeshand IS) is a violent rebellious movement that is spreading falsehood, corruption and harm throughout the middle-east (and beyond). ISIS rebels are frequently in the news – they call themselves “Islamic State” and sadly this is how the media also reports them – thus, they have spread a false impression of Islām to non-Muslims over the globe. Consequently, Muslims living in non-Muslim societies are facing hostility, aggression and even violent attacks from people who are displacing their hatred of ISIS on to any nearby Muslim. The Muslims, in turn, find themselves frustratingly asking: "How can anyone hate Muslims because of ISIS? ISIS is the enemy of Muslims and Islām." Some people may not realise this fact because the media does not really take the time to explain. Each media outlet’s aim is to make the news exciting or interesting (to boost its own circulation and audience) and does not invest time in educating the people.
Nonetheless, the reality of the people who attack Muslims because they see reports of ISIS in the media and think their neighbouring Muslims are like that – their reality is that they are fiery, hate-filled individuals who just need fuel for their fire. Before ISIS emerged, it is likely that these types of people were not hate-free or gripe-free. Let us consider 20 years ago – there was no ISIS then, but Muslims were still attacked in the same societies even then. Of course in those days, they were attacked because they were Asian, or Black or some other ethnic minority. These incidents are few (though worryingly rising in numbers), because these types of people are few. On some occasions in recent times, non-Muslims have been 'mistakenly' attacked by thugs who hate Muslims and thought their victims were Muslim. Should these victims blame ISIS? Or should they blame all Muslims? If so, what description should the victims give to the authorities of their attackers – would they say: “Don’t bother chasing my actual attackers because it was a case of mistaken identity; they meant to senselessly beat someone else”? Of course not, any act of violence by one group of individuals can never justify a further act of violence against other individuals who had nothing to do with the initial violence. The enemy to peace and civilised existence is any form of violence, intolerance, persecution or misconception – all this is injustice. Please read the article on the following link (url) to see what Islām says about peace, tolerance, justice and sanctity of human life:
Prophet Muhammad (صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم - peace be upon him) provided comprehensive guidance to humankind and, thus, he did not leave off warning us against the emergence of groups such as ISIS or Al-Qaeda. These types of rebellious groups are referred to as the Kharijite. Their goal is to seize power and to establish a regime of merciless brutality. Muhammad (peace be upon him) described the Kharijite, explaining that they have no real understanding of Islām. He said: “They will recite the Qurān but it will not go beyond their throats. They will exit the Religion [i.e. Islām] just as an arrow passes swiftly through its target.” The Muslim scholar and historian, Ibn Katheer, who died over seven centuries ago penned the following words that resonate strongly in our times. He said, regarding the Kharijite: “If they ever gained strength, they would surely corrupt the whole of the earth, including Iraq and Syria.” (Al-Bidāyah, 10/584-585)
ISIS started out as a group of thugs (offshoot from Al-Qaeda) who took advantage of the political turmoil in Syria and Iraq. In Syria, from around 2011, there was a national uprising giving rise to a legitimate struggle against the tyrannical Assad government. By the end of 2012, the opposition National Coalition had become internationally recognised as the "legitimate representative" of the Syrian people (see bbc.co.uk). ISIS sabotaged the effort by attacking those who were resisting the oppressive Assad regime. So there was no respite for Syria, parts of it downtrodden by the Assad regime, other parts by ISIS. The situation in Iraq was even more complex and the history of the current turmoil in Iraq goes back at least a couple of decades. The Iraqi people had been subjugated by the government, led by Saddam Hussein, due to whom they became victims of international sanctions and bombings by the US and Britain. Then in March 2003, Iraq was invaded. The US-led invasion toppled the government, captured and executed Saddam (after having put him through trial for crimes against humanity). Most of the foreign troops were withdrawn by mid-2009 and the US pulled out its remaining troops by the end of 2011, but there was still political unrest and internal conflict in Iraq. ISIS capitalised on this and in June 2014 seized Iraq's second city of Mosul and other key towns. Before the end of 2014 they had declared themselves as "Islamic State", despite the fact that their actions harmed the Muslims and gave a false image of Islām (and they continue astray in their wayward, destructive path).
In current times, "Christmas" refers to a set of customs and symbols that appear in a recurring pattern at a certain part of the year (typically from late November through to December). These symbols and customs have been aggressively marketed all over the globe. In the true marketing style of "Think Global, Act Local", the promoters of Christmas have been able to morph it into a celebration that can be adopted by people of varying backgrounds and beliefs. It does not have to be about religion at all; as the key mottoes are "fun" and "togetherness", which are fronts to cover the underlying consumerism.
Few people, nowadays, care about where the symbols of Christmas came from, such as Santa, the Christmas tree, and so on. These symbols now have a more dominant association with Christmas than even Jesus (peace be upon him). This is largely because, in current times, to celebrate Christmas you do not need to believe in Christ. As Bart Simpson (a popular cartoon character) remarked: "Let's not forget the true meaning of Christmas, the birth of Santa!"
In the UK, where there is an overwhelming population of atheists and agnostics, you still cannot avoid the symbols of Christmas. To express even a minor dislike for Christmas is probably 'politically incorrect' and definitely unpopular. However, if it is a celebration and a time of “fun”, then should people be dictated how to celebrate and how to have fun? It must be okay to say “No thanks; you go ahead, but it's not for me.” Of course that's okay; “Bah, humbug” to anyone that says otherwise! ;-)
Origin of Christmas
It is a universally accepted fact that Jesus (peace be upon him) was NOT born on December 25. No person knows the exact date of his birth.
The early Christians did NOT celebrate Jesus' birth. Christmas celebration was not initiated based on any religious evidence; rather a widespread explanation is that it is based on a pagan feast: Saturnalia was a tradition inherited by the Roman pagans from an earlier Babylonian priesthood and December 25 was used as a celebration of the birthday of the sun god. It was observed near the winter solstice.
In any case, this was an innovation into the religion of Christianity and definitely NOT from the teachings and examples of Jesus (peace be upon him). However, the majority of Christians felt that there is some good in this innovation and have chosen to accept this innovation and made it part of their religion.
Excerpt from Encyclopedia Britannica: Christmas – origin and development
The early Christian community distinguished between the identification of the date of Jesus’ birth and the liturgical celebration of that event. The actual observance of the day of Jesus’ birth was long in coming. In particular, during the first two centuries of Christianity there was strong opposition to recognizing birthdays of martyrs or, for that matter, of Jesus. Numerous Church Fathers offered sarcastic comments about the pagan custom of celebrating birthdays when, in fact, saints and martyrs should be honoured on the days of their martyrdom—their true “birthdays,” from the church’s perspective.
The precise origin of assigning December 25 as the birth date of Jesus is unclear. The New Testament provides no clues in this regard. December 25 was first identified as the date of Jesus’ birth by Sextus Julius Africanus in 221 and later became the universally accepted date. One widespread explanation of the origin of this date is that December 25 was the Christianizing of the dies solis invicti nati (“day of the birth of the unconquered sun”), a popular holiday in the Roman Empire that celebrated the winter solstice as a symbol of the resurgence of the sun, the casting away of winter and the heralding of the rebirth of spring and summer. Indeed, after December 25 had become widely accepted as the date of Jesus’ birth, Christian writers frequently made the connection between the rebirth of the sun and the birth of the Son. One of the difficulties with this view is that it suggests a nonchalant willingness on the part of the Christian church to appropriate a pagan festival when the early church was so intent on distinguishing itself categorically from pagan beliefs and practices.
A second view suggests that December 25 became the date of Jesus’ birth by a priori reasoning that identified the spring equinox as the date of the creation of the world and the fourth day of creation, when the light was created, as the day of Jesus’ conception (i.e., March 25). December 25, nine months later, then became the date of Jesus’ birth. For a long time the celebration of Jesus’ birth was observed in conjunction with his baptism, celebrated January 6.
Christmas began to be widely celebrated with a specific liturgy in the 9th century but did not attain the liturgical importance of either Good Friday or Easter, the other two major Christian holidays. Roman Catholic churches celebrate the first Christmas mass at midnight, and Protestant churches have increasingly held Christmas candlelight services late on the evening of December 24. A special service of “lessons and carols” intertwines Christmas carols with Scripture readings narrating salvation history from the Fall in the Garden of Eden to the coming of Christ. The service, inaugurated by E.W. Benson and adopted at the University of Cambridge, has become widely popular.
Contemporary customs in the West
None of the contemporary Christmas customs have their origin in theological or liturgical affirmations, and most are of fairly recent date. The Renaissance humanist Sebastian Brant recorded, in Das Narrenschiff (1494; The Ship of Fools), the custom of placing branches of fir trees in houses. Even though there is some uncertainty about the precise date and origin of the tradition of the Christmas tree, it appears that fir trees decorated with apples were first known in Strasbourg in 1605. The first use of candles on such trees is recorded by a Silesian duchess in 1611. The Advent wreath—made of fir branches, with four candles denoting the four Sundays of the Advent season—is of even more recent origin, especially in North America. The custom, which began in the 19th century but had roots in the 16th, originally involved a fir wreath with 24 candles (the 24 days before Christmas, starting December 1), but the awkwardness of having so many candles on the wreath reduced the number to four. An analogous custom is the Advent calendar, which provides 24 openings, one to be opened each day beginning December 1. According to tradition, the calendar was created in the 19th century by a Munich housewife who tired of having to answer endlessly when Christmas would come. The first commercial calendars were printed in Germany in 1851. The intense preparation for Christmas that is part of the commercialization of the holiday has blurred the traditional liturgical distinction between Advent and the Christmas season, as can be seen by the placement of Christmas trees in sanctuaries well before December 25.
Toward the end of the 18th century the practice of giving gifts to family members became well established. Theologically, the feast day reminded Christians of God’s gift of Jesus to humankind even as the coming of the Wise Men, or Magi, to Bethlehem suggested that Christmas was somehow related to giving gifts. The practice of giving gifts, which goes back to the 15th century, contributed to the view that Christmas was a secular holiday focused on family and friends. This was one reason why Puritans in Old and New England opposed the celebration of Christmas and in both England and America succeeded in banning its observance.
Please see this link (to islamreligion.com) for a very nice article on what Islām says about children. Here are some points of reflection on it:
Children are a blessing and as with all blessings in this life, Allāh, in His infinite wisdom, has given to some and restricted to others...
Those that are bestowed with this blessing should show their gratitude to Allāh and not display pride and arrogance to people...
Anyone bestowed with this blessing should not become insensitive to the feeling of others - for those who want children but do not have them, the last thing they need is people bringing up this subject. They have chosen to endure with patience this test from their Lord, so they should not be made to feel incomplete or inferior; it may be that they gain a high status with Allāh due to their patience.
Below is a brief excerpt of the article: What Islām says about children.
Muslims believe all children are born submitting to Allāh, this means they are born innately [fitrah] inclined to love and worship Allāh alone. In his traditions, the Prophet (صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم - peace be upon him) made this very clear. He said that no child is born except on his true nature (Islām) and that his parents may choose to give him/her a different religion other than submission to One Allāh. (Saheeh Al-Bukhāri, Saheeh Muslim)
When a child is born, it is a cause for much happiness and celebration. In Islām there is no preference for either a male or female child. The Qur'ān says that both the male and the female were created from a single person (Ādām, 'alayhis-salām) and that they are equal except in terms of piety and righteousness.
“And Allāh said, ‘Oh humankind! Be dutiful to your Lord, Who created you from a single person (Ādām) and from Him (Ādām) He created his wife, and from them both He created many men and women.” (Qur'ān, 4:1)
Islām was revealed at a time when the Arabs practiced infanticide and would often bury their female babies alive. This was an ignorant practice and the Prophet (صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم) stated categorically that female children are a blessing and that raising them to be righteous believers is a source of great reward.
“And when the news of the birth of a female child is brought to any of them, his face becomes dark, and he is filled with inward grief! He hides himself from the people because of the evil of that whereof he has been informed. Shall he keep her with dishonour or bury her in the earth? Certainly, evil is their decision!” (Qur'ān, 16:58-59)
We have also learned much about the Islāmic view of children from the Prophet’s (صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم) wife `Āishah. Traditions narrated by her show clearly that male children should not be preferred over female children and that raising daughters is a source of great reward:
"A lady along with her two daughters came to me (`Āishah) asking for some alms, but she found nothing with me except one date which I gave to her and she divided it between her two daughters and did not eat anything herself; then she got up and went away. Then the Prophet (صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم) came in and I informed him about this story. He said, 'Whoever is put to trial by having to raise daughters and he treats them generously (with benevolence) then these daughters will act as a shield for him from Hell-Fire'." (Saheeh Al-Bukhārī)
Whenever a child was born among them, `Āishah would not ask if it were a boy or a girl. Instead she would ask, "Is the child healthy (and without defect)?" If she was told, "Yes", she would say, "All praise is for Allāh, Lord of All the Worlds."
When the great day arrives, a new life joins the imperfect world. Islām sets out very clearly that there are ways of welcoming and dealing with infants and children. They are entitled to have their physical and emotional needs met and they are entitled to being taught how to worship, love and maintain a connection to Allāh.
Parents, extended families, guardians and the Muslim community at large have been given a trust, a tiny life completely dependent upon its caregivers for protection and care. For many children the world is immersed in terror. Hunger, pain, suffering, torture, abuse, and other horrors are the realities of life. When their small attempts to reach for comfort are rejected or their cries are silenced Allāh is watching, and angels are recording.