Exchanging Gifts with Non-Muslims on their Holidays

Sheikh Rashîd b. Hasan al-Alma`î, professor at King Khâlid University

The basic ruling regarding the gifts given by the People of the Scripture and other non-Muslims is that their gifts are lawful for a Muslim to accept.

`Alî b Abî Tâlib related that “The ruler of Persia sent a gift to the Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) and he accepted it. The ruler of Rome sent him a gift and he accepted it. The kings sent gifts to him and he accepted them all.” [Musnad Ahmad (1/96). See also Sunan al-Tirmidhî (1576)]

Al-Bukhârî, has placed a chapter in his Sahîh, specifically in the Book of Gifts, entitled: “Accepting the Gifts of the Polytheists”.

Under this chapter heading, he relates: “The king of Aylah sent to the Prophet (peace be upon him) a white mule and a robe.” [Sahîh al-Bukhârî (1481) and Sahîh Muslim (1392)]

Elsewhere, Anas relates that the ruler of Doma (in Syria) gave a gift to the Prophet (peace be upon him). [Sahîh al-Bukhârî (2616) and Sahîh Muslim (2469)]

This indicates that it is permissible for Muslims to accept gifts from non-Muslims as long as the gifts themselves are not things that are unlawful. This permissibility is general, and it is not restricted by considerations of whether or not the gift is being given on one of their religious holidays.

Ibn Taymiyah, while discussing the question of accepting gifts from non-Muslim on their religious holidays, mentions that `Alî b. Abî Tâlib was presented a gift on the Zoroastrian holiday of Nairuz, and he accepted the gift.

A woman once asked `Â’ishah: “Among us are communities of Zoroastrians and they give us gifts on their religious festivals.” `Â’ishah said to her: “As for what they slaughter on that day, do not eat of it. However, eat of their fruits and vegetables.” [Musannaf Ibn Abî SahybahM (24361)]

The Companion Abû Barzah mentioned that there were Zoroastrians living in his area and they used to give him gifts on Nairuz and Mehrgan. He would instruct his family: “What they give you of fruit you may eat. What else they give you, return it.” [Musannaf Ibn Abî Sahybah (24362)]

After mentioning these instances, Ibn Taymiyah observes [Iqtidâ’ al-Sirât al-Mustaqîm (2/552-553)]:

All of this indicates that the fact that a gift is given on the occasion of one of their holidays has no effect on the permissibility of accepting the gift. Indeed, the ruling on accepting their gifts is the same whether or not it is one of their holidays. This is not in any way giving them help in their religious rites. Rather, the question of accepting gifts from the unbelievers who are hostile to us and with those who are under a covenant with us is an independent issue wherein there is disagreement and detailed rulings that we are not discussing right now.

We are allowed to eat the food of the People of the Scripture during their holidays that we receive by way of purchase, a gift, or other means as long as it is not meat of animals that are slaughtered as part of the religious festival. As for the animals slaughtered by the Zoroastrians, it is well known that such meat is unlawful according to the general view.

Ibn al-`Uthaymîn observes [Majmû` al-Fatâwâ fî al-`Aqîdah (3/33)]:

Scholars have differed regarding the permissibility of accepting the gifts given by non-Muslims on the occasion of their religious festivals. Some scholars have prohibited it, considering such acceptance to be an indication of approval for the festival. Others have said that there is nothing wrong with accepting those gifts. In any case, as long no unlawful situation arises where the giver of the gift believes that you are pleased with what they are upon, then there is nothing wrong with accepting their gifts. Otherwise, it would be better to refrain from accepting them.

As for a Muslim giving gifts to non-Muslims, this is permissible as long as it is not done with the intention of celebrating their holidays or out of love for their religious festivals. We should rather give them gifts with the general intention of endearing their hearts and as means of calling them to Islam.

And Allah knows best, and He is the one who gives guidance.

[Islam Today]

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