Input by Ustazah Siti Nuurunnuur
In extending our rahmah towards our non-Muslim friends, Muslims are encouraged to share food, exchange gifts and wish each other good will. We have always been encouraged to live alongside those of other faiths and to get to know one another.
Adapted from Ramadan For All Booklet published by Office of the Mufti.Download the booklet by Mufti here
"People, We created you all from a single man and a single woman, and made you into races and tribes so that you should recognize one another."
However, occasionally, you may receive a well-intended gift from a neighbour or friend from another faith, and it may not be appropriate for you based on your understanding of Islam. For example, it may involve food of questionable halal (permissible) status according to your particular comfort level.
What do you do then? Do you reject the gift outright? Doing so might risk hurting the other person’s feelings.
To help you out, here are 3 tips for responding without offending anyone:
Sincerely thank the person who has given you the gift with a smile. Appreciate the thought that they had put into getting you a gift in the first place. Remember that it is their intention that counts.
As the Prophet s.a.w. said,
"He who does not thank the people is not thankful to Allah."
Perhaps you would not eat that particular brand of chocolates, but you know someone else who can and would. Instead of throwing away the whole box, you could give it to that person instead. As a bonus, no food gets wasted.
Before doing this, think about the necessity of communicating such information, and how you would do it.
In the Quran, it is written:
"Invite to the way of your Lord with wisdom and good instruction, and argue with them in a way that is best. Indeed, your Lord is most knowing of who has strayed from His way, and He is most knowing of who is [rightly] guided."
If you’re close to your friend or neighbour, you could hopefully find a way to explain to them why the gift was not right for you without offending them. Do your best to make light of the situation because after all, a bad gift is really not a big deal unless you make it one.
If you’re not close to them, you may consider keeping mum.
However, if for some unfathomable reason they just won’t quit giving you the same inappropriate gift over and over, it might be time to say something.
Tell them honestly why the gift is not really for you, but that you really appreciate their effort.
Exchanging gifts can be an awkward occasion with hits and misses even when it is done among people within the same faith. So as a gracious Muslim, try not to take offence from a religious point of view, and instead be grateful for the intention behind the actions of the gift-giver.
After all, how wonderful is it to even have friends and neighbours of other faiths to receive gifts from!