Why I Celebrate Hanukkah as a Follower of the Quran


Our family doesn’t celebrate Christmas, and this has not been much of a topic of conversation until this year as our oldest daughter started preschool where she was exposed for the first time to the excitement other kids felt for all the festivities leading up to December 25th.

For background, the reason we don’t celebrate Christmas is for two reasons.

The first reason is because as followers of the Quran we are not to make distinctions between any of God’s messengers and therefore it is prohibited to celebrate the birth of one of God’s messengers, Jesus, at the exclusion of all the others.

Say, “We believe in GOD, and in what was sent down to us, and in what was sent down to Abraham, Ismail, Isaac, Jacob, and the Patriarchs; and in what was given to Moses and Jesus, and all the prophets from their Lord. We make no distinction among any of them. To Him alone we are submitters.” – Quran 2:136

The second reason is that the Christmas holiday was founded on paganism which is also prohibited in the Quran. This may be controversial to some, but rather than taking my word for it I’ll defer to someone with more credibility amongst the Christian community, Pat Robertson.

Pat Robertson & Christmas

So what were we to do? In one hand, we would be defying the commandments of the Quran if we celebrated Christmas, and in the other hand we would be alienating our child for not being able to experience the excitement that her peers were having.

Therefore, we settled for a third option. We decided that as a family we would celebrate Hanukkah. While Hanukkah is traditionally only celebrated by people of Jewish decent its origins comes from the principle of freedom of religion.

The Story of Hanukkah

In summary, Hanukkah was founded to celebrate the victory of the Maccabees, who were fighting on the side of religious freedom to worship God freely, against Antiochus IV, who wanted to force people to worship his gods. This is a principle anyone can stand for despite the name of their faith, and is a truth that is heavily advocated in the Quran.

There shall be no compulsion in religion: the right way is now distinct from the wrong way. Anyone who denounces the devil and believes in GOD has grasped the strongest bond; one that never breaks. GOD is Hearer, Omniscient. – Quran 2:256 

Had your Lord willed, all the people on earth would have believed. Do you want to force the people to become believers? – Quran 10:99

O people, we created you from the same male and female, and rendered you distinct peoples and tribes, that you may recognize one another. The best among you in the sight of GOD is the most righteous. GOD is Omniscient, Cognizant. – Quran 49:13

To most people it may seem strange to follow the Quran and celebrate Hanukkah, but do you know which people are addressed the most frequently in the Quran? It is the Children of Israel. In fact, the Quran is replete with the history of the Jewish people.

O Children of Israel, remember My favor which I bestowed upon you, and that I blessed you more than any other people. – Quran 2:47, 2:122

What unites us as believers is the devotion to God alone, and as believers we should put aside our prejudices and cherish the victories that grant us the freedom to worship God freely by the believers who came before us, irrespective of the name of their faith. 

Surely, those who believe, those who are Jewish, the Christians, and the converts; anyone who (1) believes in GOD, and (2) believes in the Last Day, and (3) leads a righteous life, will receive their recompense from their Lord. They have nothing to fear, nor will they grieve. – Quran 2:62 & 5:69

Culture is not something we are born with it is something we adopt. We can’t choose the land we are born, who are parents are, or what we look like, but what we can choose are the decisions we make and the principles we stand by. Hanukkah is founded on a beautiful premise that promotes monotheism and the freedom of religion, and as a follower of the Quran is something that I whole-heartedly adopt as a celebration to have with my family this year and for years to come, God willing.

Then we revealed to you this scripture, truthfully, confirming previous scriptures, and superseding them. You shall rule among them in accordance with GOD’s revelations, and do not follow their wishes if they differ from the truth that came to you. For each of you, we have decreed laws and different rites. Had GOD willed, He could have made you one congregation. But He thus puts you to the test through the revelations He has given each of you. You shall compete in righteousness. To GOD is your final destiny—all of you—then He will inform you of everything you had disputed. – Quran 5:48

May we all be appreciative of the freedoms we have. 

– Salãmun ‘Alaykum (Peace be upon you) & Happy Hanukkah 

Joseph Keeps His Brother (12:70 – 12:81)

Joseph Keeps His Brother

[12:70] When he provided them with their provisions, he placed the drinking cup in his brother’s bag, then an announcer announced: “The owners of this caravan are thieves.”
[12:71] They said, as they came towards them, “What did you lose?”
[12:72] They said, “We lost the king’s cup. Anyone who returns it will receive an extra camel-load; I personally guarantee this.”
[12:73] They said, “By GOD, you know full well that we did not come here to commit evil, nor are we thieves.”
[12:74] They said, “What is the punishment for the thief, if you are liars?”
[12:75] They said, “The punishment, if it is found in his bag, is that the thief belongs to you. We thus punish the guilty.
[12:76] He then started by inspecting their containers, before getting to his brother’s container, and he extracted it out of his brother’s container. We thus perfected the scheme for Joseph; he could not have kept his brother if he applied the king’s law. But that was the will of GOD. We exalt whomever we choose to higher ranks. Above every knowledgeable one, there is one who is even more knowledgeable.
[12:77] They said, “If he stole, so did a brother of his in the past.” Joseph concealed his feelings in himself, and did not give them any clue. He said (to himself), “You are really bad. GOD is fully aware of your accusations.”
[12:78] They said, “O you noble one, he has a father who is elderly; would you take one of us in his place? We see that you are a kind man.”
[12:79] He said, “GOD forbid that we should take other than the one in whose possession we found our goods. Otherwise, we would be unjust.”
[12:80] When they despaired of changing his mind, they conferred together. Their eldest said, “Do you realize that your father has taken a solemn pledge from you before GOD? In the past you lost Joseph. I am not leaving this place until my father gives me permission, or until GOD judges for me; He is the best Judge.
[12:81] “Go back to your father and tell him…

Was Joseph wrong or lying when he placed the king cups in his brother’s bag?

Kite Runner Quote – Theft is the ultimate sin
“Baba: There is only one sin, only one. And that is theft. Every other sin is a variation of theft… When you kill a man, you steal a life. You steal his wife’s right to a husband, rob his children of a father. When you tell a lie, you steal someone’s right to the truth. When you cheat, you steal the right to fairness.” 

Was this similar to Abraham destroying the idols?

Joseph is strategizing by thinking levels deep

Game Theory – Guess 2/3 of the Average 
In game theory, “guess 2/3 of the average” is a game where several people guess what 2/3 of the average of their guesses will be, and where the numbers are restricted to the real numbers between 0 and 100, inclusive. The winner is the one closest to the 2/3 average.

Equilibrium analysis In this game there is no strictly dominant strategy. However, there is a unique pure strategy Nash equilibrium. This equilibrium can be found by iterated elimination of weakly dominated strategies. Guessing any number that lies above 66 2/3 is weakly dominated for every player since it cannot possibly be 2/3 of the average of any guess. These can be eliminated. Once these strategies are eliminated for every player, any guess above 44 4/9 is weakly dominated for every player since no player will guess above 66 2/3, and 2/3 of 66 2/3 is 44 4/9. This process will continue until all numbers above 0 have been eliminated.

Game 1: Pick Up Sticks
In this 2-player game, we start with 27 sticks.  The players take turns picking up sticks.  On each turn, a player must pick up 1, 2, or 3 sticks.  The player who picks up the last stick loses.

Usually after playing the game a few times, my students quickly see that forcing the other player to choose from 5 sticks is a winning strategy.  Then, a game or two later, they see that forcing the other player to choose from 9 sticks is a winning strategy.  From there, they quickly back out a winning strategy overall.

60 Minutes – Lost

Jacob Senses Joseph (12:68)

Jacob Senses Joseph

[12:68] When they went (to Joseph), they entered in accordance with their father’s instructions. Although this could not change anything decreed by GOD, Jacob had a private reason for asking them to do this. For he possessed certain knowledge that we taught him, but most people do not know.

Why did Jacob ask them to enter through separate doors?

Maybe because if it is a trap they will be looking for a group of eleven, but if they enter through separate doors they can get in under the radar.

God tells us that Jacob had a private reason for asking this so we shouldn’t extrapolate to make assumptions

[3:66] You have argued about things you knew; why do you argue about things you do not know? GOD knows, while you do not know.

Joseph Attains Prominence (12:54 – 12:67)

Joseph Attains Prominence

[12:54] The king said, “Bring him to me, so I can hire him to work for me.” When he talked with him, he said, “Today, you have a prominent position with us.”
[12:55] He said, “Make me the treasurer, for I am experienced in this area and knowledgeable.”
[12:56] We thus established Joseph on earth, ruling as he wished. We shower our mercy upon whomever we will, and we never fail to recompense the righteous.
[12:57] Additionally, the reward in the Hereafter is even better for those who believe and lead a righteous life.
[12:58] Joseph’s brothers came; when they entered, he recognized them, while they did not recognize him.
[12:59] After he provided them with their provisions, he said, “Next time, bring with you your half-brother. Do you not see that I give full measure, and treat you generously?
[12:60] “If you fail to bring him to me, you will get no share from me; you will not even come close.”
[12:61] They said, “We will negotiate with his father about him. We will surely do this.”
[12:62] He then instructed his assistants: “Put their goods back in their bags. When they find them upon their return to their family, they may come back sooner.”
[12:63] When they returned to their father, they said, “Our father, we can no longer get any provisions, unless you send our brother with us. We will take good care of him.”
[12:64] He said, “Shall I trust you with him, as I trusted you with his brother before that? GOD is the best Protector, and, of all the merciful ones, He is the Most Merciful.”
[12:65] When they opened their bags, they found their goods returned to them. They said, “Our father, what more can we ask for? Here are our goods returned to us. We can thus provide for our family, protect our brother, and receive one more camel-load. This is certainly a profitable deal.”
[12:66] He said, “I will not send him with you, unless you give me a solemn pledge before GOD that you will bring him back, unless you are utterly overwhelmed.” When they gave him their solemn pledge, he said, “GOD is witnessing everything we say.”
[12:67] And he said, “O my sons, do not enter from one door; enter through separate doors. However, I cannot save you from anything that is predetermined by GOD. To GOD belongs all judgments. I trust in Him, and in Him shall all the trusters put their trust.”

12:21 and 12:56 God establishes Joseph – once when he was sold into slavery and then when we was made treasurer.

[12:21] The one who bought him in Egypt said to his wife, “Take good care of him. Maybe he can help us, or maybe we can adopt him.” We thus established Joseph on earth, and we taught him the interpretation of dreams. GOD’s command is always done, but most people do not know.

[12:56] We thus established Joseph on earth, ruling as he wished. We shower our mercy upon whomever we will, and we never fail to recompense the righteous. 

Who is your boss? Who do you work for? If it’s God then you know that God is the one who will promote you and provide you with provisions. So don’t work to impress your worldly boss, we should work to impress our heavily boss.

Joseph didn’t seek to undermine those who enslaved him. He actually helped them to prosper. This happened in the house of Potiphar as well as in prison. They, in turn, recognized his talents and blessings. If you don’t work hard through your adversity, others may never see your true abilities.



God never fails to recompense the righteous

Submitters have to be the best employee

Is 12:59 a historic version of welfare or trade? 

12:63 shows that Joesph’s brothers do not realize who controls the provisions. They think it is coming from the treasurer of Egypt.

Where did Joseph get the experience to become treasurer?

Joseph gave him blessings to be a treasurer and also according to the Bible Joseph got experience of managing from working for the governor and when he was in prison

[12:37] He said, “If any food is provided to you, I can inform you about it before you receive it. This is some of the knowledge bestowed upon me by my Lord. I have forsaken the religion of people who do not believe in GOD, and with regard to the Hereafter, they are really disbelievers. 

[12:22] When he reached maturity, we endowed him with wisdom and knowledge. We thus reward the righteous.

Joseph Interprets the King’s Dream (12:46 – 12:53)

Joseph Interprets the King’s Dream

[12:46] “Joseph my friend, inform us about seven fat cows being devoured by seven skinny cows, and seven green spikes, and others shriveled. I wish to go back with some information for the people.”
[12:47] He said, “What you cultivate during the next seven years, when the time of harvest comes, leave the grains in their spikes, except for what you eat.
[12:48] “After that, seven years of drought will come, which will consume most of what you stored for them.
[12:49] “After that, a year will come that brings relief for the people, and they will, once again, press juice.”
[12:50] The king said, “Bring him to me.” When the messenger came to him, he said, “Go back to your lord and ask him to investigate the women who cut their hands. My Lord is fully aware of their schemes.”
[12:51] (The king) said (to the women), “What do you know about the incident when you tried to seduce Joseph?” They said, “GOD forbid; we did not know of anything evil committed by him.” The wife of the governor said, “Now the truth has prevailed. I am the one who tried to seduce him, and he was the truthful one.
[12:52] “I hope that he will realize that I never betrayed him in his absence, for GOD does not bless the schemes of the betrayers.
[12:53] “I do not claim innocence for myself. The self is an advocate of vice, except for those who have attained mercy from my Lord. My Lord is Forgiver, Most Merciful.”

Joseph probably interpreted a lot of dreams, but God chose to put these examples in the Quran.

The interpretation of the kings dream is a case for saving. 

What are the purpose of emphasizing dreams and their interpretation in the Quran? What are we to learn or understand from this?

Abraham had a satanic dream to sacrifice his son. 

[52:32] Is it their dreams that dictate their behavior, or are they naturally wicked? 

[8:43] GOD made them appear in your dream (O Muhammad) fewer in number. Had He made them appear more numerous, you would have failed, and you would have disputed among yourselves. But GOD saved the situation. He is Knower of the innermost thoughts.

Example of selfishness and ego..

[3:154] After the setb­ack, He sent down­ upon you peaceful slumber that pacified some of you. Others among you were selfishly concerned about themselves.

“It is hard to see when my eyes are on me”

Since Joseph didn’t try to use the information he had in regards to the interpretation of the king’s dream as a negotiating leverage to get out of jail shows that he understands that God is the one who decides when he leaves.

How do you balance between being selfless and being just to one’s self?

Are you trying to please God or please your ego? 

Discovery How Stuff Works : Wheat


The key to transforming yourself — Robert Greene at TEDxBrixton



The King’s Dream (12:43 – 12:45)

The King’s Dream

[12:43] The king said, “I saw seven fat cows being devoured by seven skinny cows, and seven green spikes (of wheat), and others shriveled. O my elders, advise me regarding my dream, if you know how to interpret the dreams.”
[12:44] They said, “Nonsense dreams. When it comes to the interpretation of dreams, we are not knowledgeable.”
[12:45] The one who was saved (from the prison) said, now that he finally remembered, “I can tell you its interpretation, so send me (to Joseph).”

The king’s dream and Joseph’s dream about his brothers both consisted of numbers that represented numbers in real life. 11 planets = 11 brothers. 7 cows = 7 years.