File Photo: Egyptians celebrate Christmas Eve mass in the Coptic Orthodox Church of Virgin Mary in Cairo, Egypt, 6 January 2014 (Photo: AP)
The International Electronic Fatwa Centre of Egypt's Al-Azhar Mosque has said that Muslims may greet and exchange gifts with Christians during their religious celebrations and on social occasions.
In a fatwa, or religious edict, published on its official Facebook page, the centre said that tolerance and coexistence between Muslims and Christians, and courtesy for each other during holidays, weddings and social events, is not only acceptable but “desirable.”
“The Islamic religion urged followers to strengthen the bonds of friendship and compassion among the people of the same country,” the centre said.
The centre provided evidence from the hadith that Prophet Muhammad himself used to accept gifts from some kings and emperors during his lifetime.
Some hardline Egyptian Islamic clerics have argued that Muslims should not greet Christians on religious or social occasions.
Al-Azhar scholars in recent years have individually stated that greeting Christians and non-Muslims on their celebrations is acceptable, but until now without issuing an official institutional fatwa.
Coptic Egyptians, who make up 90 percent of all Christians in the country, celebrate Christmas on 7 January. However, several other denominations observe the holiday on 25 December.