Living in a multi-racial and multi-religious community my whole life, it is inevitable that my circles of friends will extend beyond the muslim community. Be it Christmas, Deepavali, Chinese New Year, Easter, and other festivities outside the Muslim practices – an invitation is more than likely to come my way.
All of the hosts mean well. They are happy hosts that just want us to grace their festivities and join them in just some fun, laughter and a good day well spent. Sounds pretty harmless, yes? But let me just go through the storm of thoughts that go through my end every time one of those invitations come my way.
1. Can I go?
Every year, at every festivity – particularly Valentine’s Day and Christmas, there will be several articles circulating online about whether or not Muslims should be involved in these festivities. The gist of these articles is basically that as muslims, we shouldn’t be following the ways of those that do not practice the faith. I don’t know if these people writing these articles actually know that they are contributing to a whole lot of confusion for the simple me.
Is it wrongful for me to honour the invitation? At the same time, does Islam encourage me to be a recluse, and not be friends with non-muslims?
So to make things less confusing, I told myself – Islam is a simple religion, don’t make it complicated. If a celebration involves me having to do something that is against Islamic practices, or adopt a belief that is not a belief of Islam, then it is best that I do not attend the festivity. But if the celebration doesn’t involve such things, and it is purely cultural then it should be safe to honour that invitation.
Besides, I do have Chinese friends who are Muslims and do celebrate their New Year. It is kind of the same as us welcoming Muharram and/or the 1st of January with a get together with the family during the day with loads of food, and taking the opportunity to catch up with friends and family. The complication now comes when the host is not muslim.
2. Am I infringing?
After I’ve sorted out whether or not I can attend the event, the concern now shifts to the details. I would then need to inform my host about my halal diet. I don’t want to seem rude if I attend the celebration and then decline almost all food that has been offered to me just because I know it’s not halal.
So, should I attend and decline certain foods? Or should I prior inform them of my diet?
From my experiences, if I were to inform my host about my diet, they will either change the whole menu, or have selections just for me. Sometimes, my lovely lovely friends will ensure that they cater all the food from a halal caterer just so that I could be their guest. Yikes!
To reciprocate their kindness, I would try to bake a cake or offer something for their table ☺
3. Is it a means of Da’wah?
Amidst all the discussion on whether or not muslims should be celebrating festivities outside of the Islamic faith, I can’t help but see the benefit of being with my non-muslim friends and honouring all their invites to festivities and gatherings.
One of the primary reasons for this is that at some point in time during that merry-making, this would happen.
“Tell me about wearing the hijab. I knew you in school where we all wore school uniform, so how was the transition?”
“So how was it travelling Europe as a muslim? Was halal food hard to find?”
“I hear you didn’t date your husband, and you agreed to marry your husband just 3 months after knowing him. How did that happen?”
“How do you get by during fasting month?”
The moment one person starts asking any of the questions above, I notice that the room will fall silent, anticipating my answers and the opportunity to do Da’wah just presents itself to me. Alhamdulillah. As I answer the questions one by one, I realize how true is the hadith below.
“Islam began strange, and it will become strange again just like it was at the beginning, so blessed are the strangers.” [Sahîh Muslim]
So yes, honour the invitations and visit your friends, but also know your responsibilities as a muslim. We are strange to some of our neighbours and it takes just a little friendship to break down that ice so that they know Islam a little better. Be that person that delivers the religion to them because the reward is tremendous, insyaAllah.