President Al-Sisi at the Coptic church- December 6, 2018
CAIRO – 7 January 2018: Christmas celebrations of Egyptian Copts have been always accompanied by a controversial topic for years, ‘Are Muslims allowed to send their greetings to the Copts on the Christmas occasion?’
Although Egypt’s Dar Al-Iftaa has stated several times that greeting non-Muslims over their religious holidays is permissible under Islamic Sharia, some extremists have attempted to raise controversial topics to drive a wedge between Muslims and Copts in Egypt.
Nageh Ibrahim, founding member of jihadist movement of the Islamic Group, defended the Iftaa’s opinion allowing sending greetings to non-Muslims on their religious occasions.
“Greeting Copts by a Muslim does not mean he converts to Christianity and vice versa,” Ibrahim said to Egypt Today.
He manifested that such greetings are part of the art of social communication, adding, “Islam allows men to get married to Christian women. As a result Islam premises physical and spiritual communication. Therefore, greeting the Copts can never be forbidden.”
Who is Nageh Ibrahim?
Ibrahim was elected as a member of the Shura Council of the Islamic Group (Al-Jamaa Al-Islamiya). He led the reformist stream within the group and carried out intellectual revisions while he was still in prison during former President Hosni Mubarak’s era.
He was the emir of the Islamic Group in the late 1970s until Sadat was assassinated in 1981. Ibrahim was not only the emir of the Islamic Group but the emir of violence in Assiut and its surroundings.
In the late 1990s, Ibrahim represented the so-called intellectual revisions of the Islamic Group’s members. Early in the 1990s, the group killed dozens of foreign tourists in Luxor. It has been designated as a terrorist group by the U.S. since 2011. The spiritual leader of the group is Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman who was convicted and jailed in the U.S. on charges of inciting the World Trade Center attacks in 1993.
Extremist views vs. Dar al-Iftaa
On the other hand, following the revolution of 2011, General Adel Abdul Maqsoud, former chairman of the Salafist Asala Party, made a statement, announcing that his party would neither greet Christians nor take part in their Christmas celebrations.
Abdul Maqsoud is a former Police General who served as an assistant to the Minister of Interior. In December 2011, he justified his opinion by claiming that Christians had described Muslims as invaders and were calling for liberating Egypt from them.
In 2011, Egypt’s Dar al-Iftaa issued a fatwa quoting a Quranic verse, “Allah does not forbid you from being kind and thoughtful towards those who did not fight with you over religion and did not expel you from your houses.”
According to the fatwa Department, it is allowed to accept a gift from non-Muslims; the action of accepting gifts from non-Muslims is considered a Sunnah (following the footsteps of Prophet Mohammad) since the Prophet accepted gifts from non-Muslims. Prophet Mohammad's cousin Ali bin Abi Taleb said that Prophet Mohammad had accepted gifts from Persia's King and from Rome's Caesar and from other kings.
“Jesus the son of Mary (Peace Be Upon Him) is among the `uli al-‘azm (the prophets and messengers who experienced great tribulations during their mission). The Prophet (Peace and Blessings Be Upon Him) said, “I am the nearest of all the people to Jesus, son of Mary, both in this world and in the hereafter; no prophet was sent between me and him,” the Fatwa stated.
“Every Muslim believes that Jesus is a prophet from among mankind who performed great miracles such as reviving the dead and healing the ill by the will of God Almighty, not as God or the son of God. Therefore, celebrating Christmas regardless of the Christian doctrine of the sonship of Jesus, is an aspect of faith,” the Fatwa stressed.
Muslims’ greetings to Copts
Despite political and religious debate over the greeting of non-Muslims on religious occasions, Egyptians have always exchanged greetings in religious celebrations. Muslims go to churches to attend their friends’ engagement and wedding ceremonies and send them greetings on Christmas. On the other side, the Copts greet the Muslims on Adha and Fitr Eids (the two Muslim festivals) and other religious occasions.