The Muslim Story of Christmas

The Muslim story of Christmas

By  Hesham A. Hassaballa

She was alone, as she was wont to do, worshiping in the eastern section of the temple. Suddenly, she was startled by a strange presence: a man with whom she was not familiar. “I seek refuge from thee with the Most Gracious,” she said, “(Approach me not) if you are conscious of Him!” He sought to calm her by saying, “I am but a messenger of your Lord, (who says,) `I shall bestow upon thee the gift of a son endowed with purity.’”

This startled her most of all. She replied, in shock: “How can I have a son when no man has ever touched me? – for, never have I been an unchaste woman!” The presence replied: “Thus it is; (but) your Lord says, `This is easy for Me; and (thou shalt have a son,) so that We might make him a symbol unto humanity and an act of grace from Us. And it was a thing decreed (by God).”

And so she conceived the child, withdrawing to a far-off place. And when the pangs of childbirth overtook her, she was driven to sit under the trunk of palm tree, and she exclaimed in anguish: “Oh, would that I had died before this, and had become a thing forgotten, utterly forgotten!” Yet, she had the child, and she then came back to her people carrying him, who were clearly shocked.

They exclaimed, “Thou hast indeed done an amazing thing!” They continued: “O Sister of Aaron,” an honorific title for this heretofore pious woman, “Your father was not a wicked man, nor was thy mother an unchaste woman!” She pointed to her newborn child, whereupon they said: “How can we talk to one who (as yet) is a little boy in the cradle?”

The child then said:

Behold, I am a servant of God. He has vouchsafed unto me revelation and made me a prophet, and made me blessed wherever I may be; and He has enjoined upon me prayer and charity as long as I live, and (has endowed me with) piety towards my mother; and He has not made me haughty or bereft of grace. Hence, peace was upon me on the day when I was born, and  (will be upon me) on the day of my death, and on the day when I shall be raised to life (again)!

This story, that of the birth of Christ, was culled, not from my copy of the Bible, but rather from the nineteenth chapter of the Koran. It is the second mention, in fact, of this story, the first being in the third chapter. This should come as no surprise, really, for Jesus (and his mother) are very prominent in Muslim belief and reverence.

The Koran is full of passages about Jesus and Mary. The Muslim holy book describes Jesus as being “honored in the world and the hereafter, and one of the intimates of God” (3:45). Christ is also “in the ranks of the righteous” (6:85), described as “a word from God which He send down to Mary (and) and a spirit from Him” (4:171). The Koran even says that Jesus Christ “was strengthened with the Holy Spirit” (2:253, 5:110), although classical exegesis notes that “Holy Spirit” means either divine inspiration or the Angel Gabriel. Jesus, in fact, is mentioned more by name in the Koran than the Prophet Muhammad himself.

That’s why it perplexes me to hear some Christians talk about Muslims “not having Jesus.” We have Jesus all over our faith and belief, we just don’t believe he is the son of God or part of a triune deity. Muslims maintain that Christ was a prophet. It is a major difference in belief, to be sure, but it is not something over which Christians and Muslims should have any enmity or animosity.

Yes, some Muslims claim that Christians and Jews are “enemies,” but I pay no heed to such rabble. It is the product of a criminal, twisted mind, and the overwhelming majority of Muslims do not subscribe to such beliefs. And sadly, there are some Christians who say the same about Muslims and Islam: that we are “enemies,” not to be trusted or accepted into the fabric of society, and our faith is “evil.” Such voices, in both communities, must be ignored and marginalized.

No, Muslims may not adorn their houses with lights during this season, but it does not mean that Jesus does not light their hearts with love and reverence. Muslims may not take Christmas Day off as a religious holiday, but that does not mean that Jesus means nothing to them at all. Yes, it may be that the only businesses open on Christmas Day may be the Muslim-owned ones, but that does not mean that Jesus is not near and dear to those business owners’ hearts.

This common love for Jesus – and all the prophets of God – should be the force to bring American Muslims and Christians together. As we all think about Jesus this holiday season, it is my hope and prayer that the forces of hatred and division are no longer paid heed, and Americans of all faiths and creeds come together in peace. I know that it would be what Jesus would want for us; I know that it is what God wants as well.

Jesus in Islam

From time to time, I use the media of my Blog to educate its readers about Islam.  In the light of Christmas, I took the opportunity to enlighted those about the beliefs of Jesus in Islam.  In unusual fashion, I have copied and paste the below post from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesus_in_Islam, in order to save time and secure accuracy.

In Islam, Jesus (Arabic: Isa) is considered to be a Messenger of God and the Messiah who was sent to guide the Children of Israel with a new scripture, The Gospel. The belief in Jesus (and all other messengers of God) is required in Islam, and a requirement of being a Muslim. The Qur’an mentions Jesus twenty-five times, more often, by name, than Muhammad. It states that Jesus was born to Mary (Arabic: Maryam) as the result of virginal conception, a miraculous event which occurred by the decree of God (Arabic: Allah). To aid in his ministry to the Jewish people, Jesus was given the ability to perform miracles (such as healing the blind, bringing dead people back to life, etc.), all by the permission of God rather than of his own power. According to the popular opinion and Muslim traditions, Jesus was not crucified but instead, he was raised up by God unto the heavens. This “raising” is understood to mean through bodily ascension.  Muslims believe that Jesus will return to earth near the Day of Judgment to restore justice and to defeat the Antichrist.

Like all prophets in Islam, Jesus is considered to have been a Muslim (i.e., one who submits to the will of God), as he preached that his followers should adopt the “straight path” as commanded by God. Islam rejects the Christian view that Jesus was God incarnate or the son of God, that he was ever crucified or resurrected, or that he ever atoned for the sins of mankind. The Qur’an says that Jesus himself never claimed any of these things, and it furthermore indicates that Jesus will deny having ever claimed divinity at the Last Judgment, and God will vindicate him. The Qur’an emphasizes that Jesus was a mortal human being who, like all other prophets, had been divinely chosen to spread God’s message. Islamic texts forbid the association of partners with God, emphasizing a strict notion of monotheism.

The Qur’anic account of Jesus begins with a prologue, which describes the birth of his mother, Mary, and her service in the Jerusalem temple, while under the care of the prophet and priest Zechariah, who was to be the father of John the Baptist. The Qur’an then goes on to describe the conception of Jesus. Mary, whom the Qur’an states was chosen by God over the women of all the worlds, conceives Jesus while still a virgin.

Annunciation of the birth of Jesus

Mary had withdrawn into the temple of prayer, where she was visited by the angel Gabriel (Arabic: Jibrail) to give the glad tidings of a holy son. The Qur’an states that God sent the message through the angel Gabriel to Mary that God had honored Mary among the women of all nations. The angel also told Mary that she will give birth to a holy son, named Jesus, who will be a great prophet, to whom God will give the Gospel. The angel further told Mary that Jesus will speak in infancy and maturity and will be a companion to the most righteous. When this news was given to Mary, she asked the angel how she can to conceive and have a baby when no man has touched her? The reply of the angel to Mary was, ” “Even so: Allah createth what He willeth: When He hath decreed a plan, He but saith to it, ‘Be,’ and it is!”. The Qur’an, therefore, states that Jesus was created from the act of God’s will. The Qur’an compares this miraculous creation of Jesus with the creation of Adam, where God created Adam by His act of will (kun-fa-yakun, meaning “Be and it is”). According to the Qur’an, the same answer was given to the question of Zechariah, when he asked how his wife, Elizabeth, could conceive a baby as she was very old.

Birth of Jesus

Virgin Mary nurtured by a palm tree, as described in the Qur’an.

The Qur’an narrates the virgin birth of Jesus numerous times. The Qur’an states that, Mary was in the midst of the desert in Bayt Lahm (Bethlehem), when the pains of childbirth came upon her, amidst Mary’s agony, God made a small river run under Mary from which she could drink. Furthermore, as she was near a palm tree, Mary was told to shake the trunk of the palm tree so that moist dates would fall down from which she could eat and be nourished. Mary cried in pain and held onto the palm, at which point a voice came from “beneath her”, understood by some to refer to Jesus, who was yet in her womb, which said “Be not grieved; God has provided a rivulet under thee; and shake the trunk of the palm and it shall let ripe dates fall upon thee, ready gathered. And eat and drink and calm thy mind”. That day, Mary gave birth to her son Jesus while she was in the desert.

Forty days later she carried him back to her people. The Qur’an goes onto describe that Mary vowed not to speak to any man on that day, as God was to make Jesus, whom Muslims believe spoke in the cradle, perform his first miracle. The Qur’an goes onto narrate that Mary then brought Jesus to the temple, where immediately she began to be taunted by all the men, excluding Zechariah, who believed in the virgin birth. The Israelites accused Mary of being a loose woman and having touched another man whilst unmarried. In response, Mary pointed to her son, telling them to talk to him. They were angered at this and thought she was mocking them by asking them to speak with an infant. It was then that, God made the infant Jesus speak in the cradle, and he spoke of his prophecy for the first time. He said, which are verses 30-33 in the chapter of Mary in the Qur’an:

“I am a servant of Allah. He will reveal the Book to me and make me a prophet. He blessed me wherever I am. In the rules revealed to me there will be a special attention given to prayers and charity. Allah predestined that I will be kind to my mother and not a tyrant with a bad ending. Peace was on me the day I was born, peace will be on me on the day I will die, and on the day I am raised alive again!”—Qur’an, sura 19 Maryam, ayat 30-33

Mission

According to Islamic texts, Jesus was divinely chosen to preach the message of monotheism and submission to the will of God to the Children of Israel (banī isrā’īl).

Scripture given to Jesus

Muslims believe that God revealed to Jesus a new scripture, the Injīl (English: Gospel), while also declaring the truth of the previous revelations – the Tawrat (English: Torah) and the Zabur (English: Psalms). The Qur’an speaks favorably of the Injīl, which it describes as a scripture that fills the hearts of its followers with meekness and piety. The Qur’an says that the original biblical message has been distorted or corrupted over time from what was revealed to the messengers. In chapter 3, verse 3, and chapter 5, verses 46-47, of the Qur’an, the revelation of the Injil is mentioned:

It is He Who sent down to thee (step by step), in truth, the Book, confirming what went before it; and He sent down the Law (of Moses) and the Gospel (of Jesus) before this, as a guide to mankind, and He sent down the criterion (of judgment between right and wrong).—Qur’an, sura 3 (Al-i-Imran) ayah 3.

Spend More Time With Your Kids – 10 Day Challenge!

I was busy cleaning the house the other day and I hear in the other room, “Mom! Come play with me.”  It was my little lady, asking me to play with her once again.  She asks all day for me to play with her.  Literally, she asks ALL DAY for me to play with her.  I have had many conversations that start with, “Honey, I would LOVE to play with you, but right now I have to….”  It is heartbreaking to tell her that, yet it is the reality.  Mommies can’t just play all day.

Then the other day, I got to thinking.  What would it hurt for me to just drop the dish towel for 10-20 minutes and chase her around the house, make her/make them laugh as I tickle her and her brother for a few minutes.  A few minutes.  Really, I had to think about it?!  Heartbreaking.

Next, I went on Facebook and asked my trusted girlfriends how much time they spend playing with their kids during the day.  Honestly, I figured the amount of time I spent with my kids was normal, about an hour each day, but I wanted to hear from them.  Sure enough, about an hour is the norm in my circle of friends.  It didn’t matter if they worked full-time or stayed home with the kids, the amount we spent playing with the kids was around an hour on an average day.  (Time spent with the kids such as bathing them, cooking for them, cleaning up after them, meeting their daily needs, and tasking all their never-ending requests was not included in the time spent playing, because playing means playing and that was the question).  This reality got me thinking further.  Drop that damn dish towel and play more with my kids!  After all I stay home with them to do just that…to be their Mommy and to play with them!

I came up with a personal challenge and posted it on my Facebook wall asking my friends to join me.  A 10 Day Challenge to Spend More Time With Your Kids!  I promised to update my FB status daily with my success or non-success story for the day.  Currently, I have completed Day 2 of my Challenge and both days have been successful!  It is interesting for me to see how easy it is for me to find the extra time, yet how driven I am to say “Just a minute, I just have to…”  During these first two days, I have not said, just a minute, unless I have one kid on the toilet and while the other hanging off my breast as I feed him (not an uncommon sight in my home)!  These two days I have spent an average of 3 hours playing with the kids, which is up from the usual 1 hour of playing a day!  I am having so much fun with them and they with me.  They are only young once.  I need to do this for them.  For me.

We have spent the hours coloring together; painting pictures; cooking breakfast, lunch, and dinner together; baking cookies; squeezing fresh orange juice; talking about school; chasing and tickling the kids; teaching the 2 month old how to smile, laugh and play with his rattle; acting silly and playing the silly games that kids love.  It is the same things we always did, just more of it.  We are happier together.  Less fighting.  More smiles!

I was concerned (still am a bit curious to see how the rest of the days will go) about how I will keep the home clean.  With three little ones (ages 4.5 years, nearly 3 years, and 2 months) who are home all day, who all day make their needs known only to me; who need at minimum 3 meals a day, which requires at minimum 3 complete wash downs of the kitchen a day; who make trails of messes everywhere they go; who are always losing toys and think I know where they last put them; two of whom are arguing half the day and require me to be the referee; on average I do 1-2 loads of laundry every day; two kids who need help to go to the toilet, wash their hands, and blow their noses; and a 2 month old who is feeding every 2 hours and demands to take his naps in my arm most days – how will I ever keep the home clean if I stop to play?!  Well, well, well, Miss Worry, I am so glad to announce that so far the house hasn’t fallen apart – in fact it is just as clean as it was before I started the challenge, the kids are happier, I am happier, and we are all going to bed a little earlier!  Who knew?!

Who knew that doing what you do all day, everyday, doing things the same way each day the same way, and doing so because you think that what you are doing is best, can actually be worse.  One day I heard my daughters usual request to play with her, reflected on it, questioned about it, and decided to try a new routine and found out that my four and a half year old has a lot to teach me about what is important not only to her, but to us! Alhumdillah!

Here’s to my Spend More Time With Your Kids – 10 Day Challenge! ……Are you in?!

Kids as Babies…

Aisha 5 months.   Omar 3 months.   Abdallah 2 months.