Imitation of the Kuffar? -Shaykh Abdullah bin Hamid Ali

What constitutes ‘imitating the ‘kuffar’? What should Muslims be looking to avoid in this issue. Would passing around a ‘donation box’ constitute unlawful ‘imitation of the Christians? Shaykh Abdullah bin Hamid Ali responds to this question

Our group was passing around a donation box(es) and we were asked to stop because it was not the sunna, and that it was of the Christians. What is the proper understanding of this issue?
Shaykh Abdullah’s response:

As to the imitation of the Christians by passing around a donation box, there is no basis for this understanding. When the Prophet- may Allah grant him mercy and peace-stated “Whoever imitates a people is one of them” his intention was to not imitate them in matters that clearly distinguish them from Muslims, things such as the shaving of the face and letting the mustache grow over the lips (as the Zoroastrians did), the wearing of special sashes around the waist (as many Christians did), prostrating to idols (as the Mushrikin did), or any other act that distinctly identified one religious group from another.

As for things that are not special characteristics of one particular religion, like shows of humility, generosity, courtesy, respect, and the like, the Prophet – may Allah show him mercy and peace- meant nothing like that. This is the reason when he found the Jews of Medina fasting on the 10th of Muharram and was told that they did this in celebration of Allah’s deliverance of the Children of Israel form Pharaoh, he fasted the day and order his companions to do the same, although he ordered them in a later year to add one day before or one day after to not be exactly identical to the Jews in their worship, and so that the Muslims wouldn’t assume that everything the Jews do, they can be followed in it. Finally, as for the issue of the donation box, there is a precedent for it in the Sunna.

Once the Prophet (pbuh) asked the Companions to give charity toward a religious project. They started to take off their jewelry and the like when suddenly a man got up and went around with a cloth in order to collect the charities. Upon this, the Prophet – may Allah show him mercy and peace – (as is in the famous hadith) said, “Whoever initiates in Islam a good practice (sunna), he gets the reward of it and the reward of those who do it after him….(to the end of the hadith).” In this case, the one who initiated the good Sunna, was this man who walked around with this cloth. So there is a precedent for this.