Imam W. Deen Muhammad
QUESTION: What are your feelings on gift-giving at Eid, and how can we keep this from getting out of hand like Christmas gifts?
IMAM: It's a good habit that Muslims exchange gifts on the day of the Eid. I think the habit goes back to the very early days of the community of Muslims in Arabia.
I would only say that it can get out of hand. Allah says in the Quran that we should not give to be seen of men, and we should not give to obligate or tie people to some kind of responsibility or obligation to us.
What we have to do is to make sure that we are not giving gifts in the wrong spirit. Our gifts should be given out of love for the person, whether it's a relative or non-relative. They should be given out of love for Allah and love for that person — endearness to that person.
We shouldn't fall into the habit of many people in society -- today and I guess yesterday as well -- who give to receive a gift.
The Bible speaks against that too, giving to receive a gift. Christians say that to give is better than to receive, and I think we have to caution ourselves when we are encouraging the giving of gifts because I find a tendency in people that I have been around to give a gift because they feel obligated to give it.
"She's expecting a gift from me," you see — so they give a gift because they feel obligated to give a gift. Many times they don't have money and they can't manage their bills but they are afraid -they dislike giving something that they think is below the value expectations of the person to whom they want to give the gift. So they will stretch themselves too far and go out and get a gift to please what they think is the expectation of the person they're giving the gift to, and to give just because they think it's expected. I think that would be wrong.
There are many, many concerns that we should have. And we should make sure that the giving of gifts on the Eid holidays or any other holiday or any other occasion doesn't get out of hand.