Muslims greeting non Muslims in holidays and exchanging gifts: is it permissible?
It is known that Islam has commanded humankind to be kind to one another. Is it permissible for a Muslim to give gifts to non-Muslims and to send them special greetings during their holidays?
Maintaining ties, giving gifts, visitation, and congratulating non-Muslims are from the acts of goodness. God has enjoined us to say good things to everyone without distinction. He has stated, “speak fair to the people” and “God commands justice and the doing of good.” Likewise God has not prohibited us from being good to non-Muslims, from visiting them, giving them gifts, and receiving gifts from them. God states, “God forbids you not, with regard to those who fight you not for (your) Faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them: for God loveth those who are just.”
The Messenger of God implemented this in his personal life, as he was a walking Qur’an making its moral code his code. There are many hadith that demonstrate that the Messenger of God accepted gifts from non-Muslims. These hadith are also transmitted through diffuse congruence and are therefore of the highest authenticity. For example, “The Messenger of God sent Hatib ibn Abi Balt‘a to the Christian ruler of Alexandria with a message for him, and the Patriarch accepted the letter, honored Hatib, and made his stay comfortable. The Patriarch then sent him back with a garment for the Messenger of God, a mule with its saddle, and two slave girls as gifts. One slave girl was Um Ibrahim and the other one the Messenger of God gave as a gift to Jahm ibn Qays al-cAbdari.
Another anecdote occurred during the time when Salman the Persian became Muslim. “Salman the Persian came to the Messenger of God when he first entered Madina and had with him a platter of dates. He placed this in the hands of the Messenger of God and the Messenger of God said to him ‘What is this Salman?’ He replied ‘charity for you and your companions’ The Messenger of God said ‘take it since we do not eat from charity.’ Salman took it and returned the next day with a similar platter and gave it to the Messenger of God who asked him ‘what is this Salman?’ and Salman replied ‘charity for you and your companions’ and the Messenger of God told him ‘take it since we do not eat from charity.’ So Salman took it and came the following day with a similar platter and gave it to the Messenger of God who said to him ‘what is this Salman?’ and he replied ‘a gift’ so the Messenger of God told his companions ‘come and have refreshments!’”
The Hadith Master al-‘Iraqi commented on this hadith by saying that “this is proof that accepting gifts from non-Muslims is permissible since Salman was still not a Muslim at this point in time.” These texts demonstrate that receiving gifts from non-Muslims is permissible and is even considered a Prophetic practice. This accepting the gift is not only out of general kindness to humanity, but is also to follow the Sunna. Sheikh al-Islam Zakariyya al-Ansari mentions that, “it is permissible to accept a gift from a disbeliever as to follow the example of the Messenger of God.”
This is further emphasized by the word of Imam al-Sarakhsi who said:
It has been mentioned on the authority of Abi Marawan al-Khuza‘i who said “I told Mujhaid that there is a family relation between me and a certain person from the disbelievers and I owe him money, should I give it to him?” and Mujahid said “yes and you should keep family ties with him.” According to this we can deduce that there is nothing wrong with a Muslim maintaining family ties with non-Muslims whether they be family or otherwise. The Messenger of God also sent 500 dinars to Makkah during their famine and he ordered that this amount be given to Abu Sufyan ibn Harb and Safwan ibn Umaya to disperse the amount amongst the needy of Makka. The two accepted the money and said, “Muhammad only seeks to trick our youth.” Keeping family ties is a praised act according to every sound intellect and every religion, and giving gifts is from good acts as the Messenger of God said, “I was only sent to perfect moral character” so we have come to understand that this act is good as far as Muslims and non-Muslims are concerned.
Ibn Muflih the great Hanbali jurist, after mentioning the verse, “God forbids you not, with regard to those who fight you not for (your) Faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them: for God loveth those who are just” that Ibn Jawzi said, “The exegetes have stated that this verse is a dispensation to maintain ties with those who are not in hostility with Muslims, a dispensation to be kind to them even if there is no relationship between them. Some have stated that this verse has been abrogated with the verse of the sword [i.e. to fight non-believers], however ibn Jarir says that there is no validity in this statement since Muslims treating those at war with them nicely, if these are family members or otherwise, is not prohibited as long as it does not aid the enemy in battle against the Muslims. He then mentioned the two hadith of Umar giving a silk garment to his polytheist brother and the hadith of Asma’, he then said that these are examples of maintaining family ties with those at war with Islam.”
Al-Mardawi the Hanbalite has mentioned that concerning the issue of extending condolences to non-Muslims when necessary, or sending holiday greetings the sound opinion is that it is permissible.
It is also mentioned in the Indian Fatwa Collection that, “There is nothing wrong with being guests to non-Muslims…and there is nothing wrong with having non-Muslims as guests even if the only thing between them is a simple acquaintance…there is nothing wrong with a Muslim maintaining ties with a non-Muslim be they a close relative or not, a person at war with Islam and Muslims or a dhimmi.”
Based on the textual evidence as well as the opinions of the prominent jurists mentioned in this answer, we find that it is from goodness that a Muslim keep ties with non-Muslims during all conditions such as: sick visitations, sending condolences upon death, giving gifts, accepting gifts, and having guests over. Such actions are a way of showing people Islam by demonstrating good character and God is most high and all knowledgeable