In the Name of God: the Infinitely Compassionate and Merciful Beloved Lord
I must admit: at this time of year, sometimes it feels lonely. Practically the whole country is gearing up for the Christmas holiday, which is less than two weeks away. And while technically I do not celebrate the religious festival that is Christmas, it would be nice to feel included. I mean, some people are even afraid of saying, “Merry Christmas,” fearing that it would “offend” me. Nothing is farther from the truth. What is more nice than wishing me a happy day on December 25?
Still, as a Muslim, the religious celebration of Christmas is not one of my religious holidays. Yet, that does not mean that Jesus Christ is not on my mind. Far from it. Christ, in fact, is all over my Scripture. There are dozens of verses in the Quran that speak about Jesus, including his birth (3:45-49), his miracles (5:110), the Last Supper (5:113-115), among many others. Chapter 19 of the Quran is named “Mary,” after his mother, who I revere and honor just the same.
Jesus, as the Quran says, “shall be of the righteous” (3:46). “Peace be upon me the day I was born,” says Jesus in the Quran, “and [will be upon me] on the day of my death, and on the day when I shall be raised to life [again]!” (19:33). The Quran also calls upon its readers to remember “she who guarded her chastity, whereupon We breathed into her of Our spirit and caused her, together with her son, to become a symbol [of Our grace] unto all people” (21:91), referring to Mary and Jesus. Many will be surprised to know that Jesus Christ is mentioned by name in the Qur’an many more times than the Prophet Muhammad himself, peace and blessings be upon them both.
Yet, more than Jesus (and Muhammad, of course), many of the Prophets of God are part and parcel of my daily life.
Every day I utter the prayer of Moses, as recounted in the Quran, when he was charged by God to take the Children of Israel out of slavery:
O my Lord! Open up my heart to [Thy Light]; And make my task easy for me; And loosen the knot from my tongue, so that they might fully understand my speech. (20:25-28)
It brings me comfort as I start my day at the hospital.
I utter the same prayer as Joseph, after he was reunited with his family in Egypt after all those years:
Originator of the heavens and the earth! You are near to me in this world and in the life to come. Let me die as one who has surrendered himself to You, and make me one with the righteous. (12:101)
I even turn the praise of God by Jesus Christ, as mentioned in the Quran, into a prayer:
Behold, I am a servant of God. He has vouchsafed unto me revelation and made me a Prophet. And [He has] made me blessed wherever I may be…” (19:30-31).
Thus, there is hardly a day that goes by that I do not ask the Lord: “Make me blessed wherever I may be.”
This is one of the most beautiful things, as far as I am concerned, about being a Muslim: not only am I directly connected to the Lord our God, my Creator and Sustainer, but also to His many Prophets that He sent throughout the millennia, including Jesus Christ. I follow their footsteps as I take this journey back towards to the Lord our God, hoping and praying that I do as good a job as possible. I follow a tradition, starting with my Creator, that dates back to the very beginning of history itself.
That is why I am so utterly outraged at the rabid barbarians – “extremists” is too kind a word – of groups such as Boko Haram, the Taliban, and KIL (a.k.a., “ISIS”). They have resurrected centuries old barbarism – one that Islam came to eradicate – and cloak it with the garbs of faith and righteousness. In the process, they defile Islam with their filth. I hate them, and I pray that they be destroyed once and for all.
But, as far as Christmas Day is concerned, it is likely that I will not be exchanging gifts with my friends and family or having a formal Christmas dinner. Yet, do not think for one second that Jesus Christ will not be on my mind.
A very Merry Christmas to one and all!