The prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Do you know what is better than prayer and fasting and charity”? It is keeping peace and good relations between people as quarrels and bad feelings destroy mankind.” In another hadith, the prophet (pbuh) says; “What actions are most excellent? To gladden the heart of human beings, to feed the hungry, to help the afflicted, to lighten the sorrow of the sorrowful, and to remove the sufferings of the injured.”
There is no doubt that wishing someone a Merry Christmas brings joy to their heart and plays a role in keeping the peace and good relations. The only source that can be used to argue against wishing someone a Merry Christmas is the one that warns against imitating the followers of other religions (though, no one seems to have a problem with this when it comes to receivng social security and other worldly benefits). There are two issues with the application of this teaching in this instance;
1. One would not be following the Christian’s religious belief as the concept of Christ is different between Muslims and Christians. i.e. the Christian when stating Merry Christmas can conjure merriment at the birth of God or a portion of God. The Muslim is acknowledging the birth of Christ being an anointed apostle of God.
2. I would agree with the fatwa if it was in relation to the Muslim initiating the celebrations and following the customs i.e. putting up a Christmas tree, believing in Santa Claus as a youth, celebrating the birth or reincarnation of the divine with a feast, presents and thanks giving etc. This is an issue for the scholars who issue fatwa to debate. The intention behind a Muslim wishing somebody a Merry Christmas is certainly not to imply that he believes the divine was born, but that a messenger was born (at that alleged date).
As intentions hold the highest weight, in this regard, we are not imitating the Christians when we say Merry Christmas. On the contrary, the inward dimension of the well wishes is in fact completely contrary. Somebody can give charity to show off to the public and better their political career. Another can give charity to the same organisation,for the same amount of money but purely for the sake of earning God’s pleasure. Outwardly it appears the same but inwardly (which is most important) it is completely different.
By Sheikh Soner