Bilal Philips and Innovations (Christmas etc.,) in Islam
Normally, when I receive an e-mail with a link and “Must See!!!”, without any further explanations, I delete it because I do not have the time to check it out to see if the link will actually lead me to an interesting site where I might learn something. I figure if the sender does not have the time to explain what s-he is sending, then it is not worth my time to read it either.
This time, I received an e-mail saying, ” Innovation in the Religion -‘Christmas’, Birthdays’“. Inside was a comment:
Here is one of many Lectures provided by Sheik, Dr. Bilal Philips, on the topic of Innovations in our Religion
“Innovation” as used in Islam, is a re-designing of the religion in a way that is different from the Quran. I had to learn more…
With Christmas approaching, I was once again, seeing opinions flying around that it is “Haram” (forbidden) to celebrate Christmas or, even to respond to someone’s “Merry Christmas”. Not just Haram, it is actually a rejection of Islam to do so!
I also wanted to see what was being identified as “innovation in our religion (Islam)”.
A quick search revealed a Wikipedia source that outlined Dr. Bilall Philips’ life:
- Philips was born on 6 January 1946 in Kingston, Jamaica, but grew up in Toronto, Canada, where he converted to Islam in 1972. He received his B.A. degree from the Islamic University of Medina and his M.A. in Aqeedah (Islamic Theology) from the King Saud University in Riyadh, then to the University of Wales, where he completed a PhD in Islamic Theology in the early 1990s.
I sat through all 42’48” minutes of his talk on the Youtube presentation “Innovations in Religion…Bidah“, I was disappointed and dismayed by what I heard. Here was a scholar, a PhD in Islam, a graduate from a noted university…on Islam and all he could talk about was narrow-mindedness, intolerance and ignorance. I was also ashamed that a non-Muslim might watch this presentation of Bilal’s and believe that this is what Muslims believe in and then turn away from us in disgust.
I fail to understand how people who have studied Islam in-depth, can have such distorted perspective and can be so intolerant of everyone and everything that does not fit within their tight walls of ignorance. I will discuss some of his points in his presentation “Innovations in Religion…Bidah” in a little detail now.
Amazingly, one of his early points was, “Islam promotes knowledge while other religions discourage knowledge“. My own experience of many Churches and Synagogues in the Puget Sound area is that they are eager to have Muslims come and explain Islam to them, they want to compare Islam with their faith and want to find common features that can serve to bring us together. On the other hand, I know of VERY few Mosques in this area that have gone out of their way to get Jews and Christians to come and explain their faiths to Muslims.
He went on to tell his audience that Christmas was false because it was never celebrated by Jesus or his disciples, that the origins of the tree and the lights were Pagan and Christmas is a celebration of a birthday which is a Pagan custom as well therefore, we are abandoning our faith by even acknowledging Pagan things such as Christmas; Christmas is a lie because nobody knows when Jesus was born and by wishing someone “Merry Christmas”, we are joining in the lie. Even celebrating our children’s birthdays is an affront to our faith.
Suddenly, the penny dropped; This man had studied Islam in Arabia and is working in Qatar, he is obviously intolerant of everything outside his own way of thinking…he MUST be a Selafi (a.k.a. Wahhabi)!
Why should it matter that Christmas is not actually Jesus’ birthday or, that the tree and lights are later adaptations? People want a celebration, it gives them joy, why do we want to pour hate on it?
He said, wishing people “Merry Christmas” meant that we were accepting the divinity of Jesus, why should that be the conclusion? Saying “Merry Christmas” simply means, “Enjoy your Christmas” or, “Be happy in your Christmas”. It certainly does NOT mean an embracing of Jesus as god. I don’t see why we cannot be generous enough to allow people their traditional sources of joy.
Bilal Philips gets carried away with his sermonizing and leaps into areas that leave us gasping…some of us anyway; because Christmas is a lie, it is a creation of Satan (Shaitan/Iblis) and therefore, we are joining in a celebration of Satan’s birthday.
This is an absurd leap of logic. People in the past, decided to observe a day marked for the birth of Jesus and in doing so, they co-opted a pagan date so that the pagan day then was replaced by a sanctified day for Christians. This is a classic tactic to make the opposition’s revered traditions disappear and to encourage them to seamlessly join in the new tradition. On a lesser scale, we have, “My country ’tis of Thee“, which co-opted the British national anthem, “God Save the King” (or Queen, as the case may be) and created a de facto national anthem for the US until “The Star-Spangled Banner” in 1931. To say that Americans were embracing the British Monarchy by singing “My country ’tis of Thee” is laughable. Empires co-opt existing practices often and religion often takes the shape of an expanding Empire; the principles for religion and Empire are very similar.
To point to the decadence of the America, he informs us that the days of the week are named after Greek gods. So what is to be done about that? Here he undermines his own earlier thread of “logic”; surely he is not implying that by saying to someone that we will see him on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday or any other day of the week, we are embracing the gods of the ancient Greeks? The days are named, this has become a current convention. The names we use for the days are simply to distinguish one day of the week from another, nobody gives any thought to the Sun-god, The Moon-god or the Norse gods Tiw and Woden.
As if driving the final nail in the Coffin of America, Bilal Philips proclaims that since the nation promotes Santa Claus and since Santa Clause is a lie and the entire nation is involved in this lie, America is a nation of liars!
I will agree that much of the practices in the united States are bothersome, especially as they affect Muslims but one must be fair in dispensing judgments. To be brutally honest, there is more honesty in any one state of the union, than we will find in all of the Muslim-majority nations put together; I have long maintained that while there may be more Deen (Religion) in Muslim-majority countries, there is MUCH more Iman (Faith) in the United States.
Bilal Philips is currently a resident of Qatar and no doubt, gets much of his support from Arabia. If he is looking for places where Islam is truly undermined, he needs look no further than his front door (Qatar) and his backdoor (Arabia). His Selafi brethren have written changes in translations of the Quran and in the Hadith to make them vastly different from what was originally sent down by God or, spoken by the prophet Mohammed (saw) and even vastly different from what we would understand from the original Arabic text that often accompanies the vile translations…if only we understood Arabic! they have erased entire swaths of Islamic history, they have wiped away memories of the prophet Mohammed (saw) and his family, they have changed the very core of Islam so much that anyone going for Haj today, would have his senses overwhelmed by the opulence of the mansions that tower over the holiest sites in Islam, the Ka’aba.
Apparently not satisfied with his attack on Christians and on America, he launches into an attack on Muslims; Because Pagans celebrated birthdays, therefore, celebrating birthdays is an acceptance of Pagan gods and therefore, replacing the God of Islam and Abraham with false gods (Shirk)…including the celebration of the birthday of the prophet Mohammed (saw). Presumably, this includes all anniversaries because they too, are birthdays of sorts…that would include independence days and all other anniversaries we all celebrate and observe.
According to Bilal Philips Music and qawwali (South Indian Spiritual songs) are all Haram (forbidden) in Islam because ‘Islam’ means the worship of God in the purest way possible! He fails to explain what “pure Islam” would look like. There hasn’t been a “pure” Islam since the death of the prophet Mohammed because ever since then, there have been different interpretations of the Will of God and on the meaning of His message in the Quran. Obviously, the Selafis are convinced that theirs is the only practice worth keeping in Islam and this kind of a message is exactly what creates the violent intolerant fanatics that are plaguing this world, especially in Muslim-majority nations.
Instead of telling the world how wonderful Islam is, he focuses on telling the world how evil and disgusting the world is. In a single sermon, Dr. Bilal Philips has succeeded in transforming Islam from a joyful expression of decency that so many people have been attracted to, into a dark, cold, humorless, passionless, practice that sheds no light or joy on the people around it. He has proven that Jahilliyah (Rule of ignorance) cannot be eradicated simply by acquiring a doctorate degree.
One must thank God that there are more people who can show Islam as the representation of Good that it is, than there are Bilal Philips’ who focus only on promoting ignorant fanaticism.
Do you know what is better than charity and fasting and prayer? It is keeping peace and good relations between people, as quarrels and bad feelings destroy mankind. (Bukhari and Muslim)