In the name of Allah the Exalted
In terms of giving gifts and presents we learn from the works of Hadhrat Maulana Ashraf Ail Taavi , who based his teaching on the Quran and Sunnah of Rasulullah , that one it allowed to give non-Muslim acquaintances and contacts presents/gifts (Hadya) providing that the following conditions are met:
a) When there is no prospect of harm to ones Deen and to Islam itself when giving the gift. The same will be true if one was to receive a gift from a Non-Muslim.
b) The intention behind the giving of the present should not be that one takes part in the celebrating of a non-Muslim festival, such as Christmas, Easter, thanksgiving etc, but the intention should be to show the good character of a Muslim towards the creations of Allah.
c) The gift should not be something that is symbolic or associated to the non-Muslim religious festivals, such as a Christmas cards, Holly, Christmas trees etc, Easter eggs etc
It could be said that it is permissible to give gifts (which are not from the category listed) if ones intention was not to venerate or partake in the non-Muslim festival, such as Christmas but to show respect to the receiver of the gift, However, in doing so there is a possibility that the onlooker may cast doubts on the action of the Muslim, it would be better to give the gift at a time when there is no such festival taking place.
Therefore, it will be permitted to give and accept gifts during the Winter Break with the intention of bringing a non-Muslim closer to Islam, provided that the above three conditions are met.
Note, that the above three points are also applicable to sending cards, in addition to this the following points must also be taken into consideration when giving cards.
It is not appropriate that a Muslim sends non-Muslim friends Christmas card or other similar items. Basis been that it is trait of the nations who are outside the fold of Islam. The Majority of Christmas cards have religious/ symbolic imagers or pictures which reflect the Christian dogma. This is also true to cards which are associated with other festivals of both Christianity and other world faiths. Thus, if someone is sending such cards to their non Muslim acquaintances to show respect for their religion then this is Haram (forbidden).
To send cards which are not related to non-Muslim festival and are free from pictures and imagers will be permissible but Makruh (disliked), as it is more of a custom of non-Islamic nations and could express emotions which should only be reserved for Muslim. Historically cards developed from the age old custom of sending letters (the same way e-mail is an advancement of regular mail) and become popular in the U.S.A in the mid 19th century. Hence to send a card to express courtesy and good manners is permissible. As it would be the same as sending a letter for the purpose. (In my humble opinion it is better to write letters as one can learn to express ones self and this can sometimes help one to express emotions to Allah).
One should also take note of the kind of messages the cards contain as some express poetry of love which is inappropriate to send and could violate the laws of Hijaab and modesty (And Allah knows best). When taking all of the mentioned points into account, to send a card will be similar to sending a letter and will be permissible as long as the Shariah boundaries are not exceeded.
To send E-cards (to Muslim and non-Muslim) which contain music and other movies or similar clip arts which contain music is not permissible, as one is calling towards Haram. Otherwise it is permissible. Ordinary cards which omit music are also not permissible.
And Allah knows best
Mufti Abubakr Karolia
Founder of the “Islamic Foundation for Theology and Research” (I.F.T.A.R)