“It is not permitted to celebrate the New Year or congratulate it or participate in it.” He added, “Participating in their (Christian) celebrations is similar to following their manners [and beliefs], so agreeing with their religious celebrations is agreeing with their infidelity [Kofr]”.
Iraq’s grand Sunni mufti, Sheikh Mahdi al-Sumaidaie, said in his Friday pray lecture in Baghdad that participating in New Year’s celebrations is forbidden for Muslims.
The official Facebook page of “Iraqi Dar al-Iftaa,” the highest Sunni religious authority in the country, quoted him as saying, “It is not permitted to celebrate the New Year or congratulate it or participate in it.” He added, “Participating in their (Christian) celebrations is similar to following their manners [and beliefs], so agreeing with their religious celebrations is agreeing with their infidelity [Kofr]”.
In his lecture, Sumaidaie quoted controversial 14th-century Salafi cleric Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya, who issued a fatwa saying, “Congratulating Christians in their celebrations is as same as congratulating them for worshiping their cross and believing in Jesus as son of the God.”
Ibn Qayyim and his teacher Ibn Taymiyyah (1263-1328) are the most respected Muslim scholars for all Salafi movements.
Sumaidaie’s fatwa sparked a wave of anger among not only among Iraqi Christians, but among other Iraqi minorities, secular activists and even moderate Muslim clerics.
The Chaldean Catholic Church called the fatwa “false, malicious and far from the correct knowledge of religions.”
“Religious clerics must call for brotherhood, tolerance and love, instead of breeding division and rebellion,” the statement reads, adding, “Our people today need our common denominators to be deepened in a way that contributes to coexistence, not expanding hatred.”
The church also demanded that the Iraqi government “take action against these types of speeches and prosecute the promoters, especially when they are issued from official platforms.”
The prominent Yazidi organization Yazda also condemned Sumaidaie’s fatwa, calling upon Iraqi government to dismiss him from his post. Sumaidaie’s official title is “The republic’s mufti” and it is a public post under the authority of the Iraqi government. Yazda called the fatwa an “unbalanced racist statement” that does not fit with the country’s need to establishing tolerance and coexistence among all Iraqis.
But the Iraqi Sunni Endowment, which is under the authority of the prime minister, denounced the fatwa while expressing congratulations to all Christians in Iraq and around the globe for Christmas and New Year’s celebrations.
In a separate statement, the head of the Sunni Endowment, Abdullatif al-Humaim, said Sumaidaie’s fatwa does not represent the organization and called him an extremist self-styled cleric who only represents a small minority of a Salafi group that not only opposes celebrating Christian events but also criticizes celebration of the Prophet Muhammad. Humaim praised Iraqi Christians for their great contributions in the history of Iraq and human civilization.
The head of the Iraqi Ulama Group, Khalid al-Mulla, who is a prominent Sunni cleric from Basra, issued a fatwa against Sumaidaie’s fatwa, calling on Muslims to attend Christian celebrations as part of expressing kindness to them, which God demanded from Muslims.
Christianity is the second most followed religion in Iraq after Islam, followed by other religions such as Sabean, Yezidi, Baha’i and Zoroastrianism.