In the Name of God: The Extremely and Eternally Loving and Caring
All throughout my life – in various months of the year, in various mosques across the world – I have heard, in beautiful and melodious Arabic, the story of Christmas:
AND CALL to mind, through this divine writ, Mary. Lo! She withdrew from her family to an eastern place and kept herself in seclusion from them, whereupon We sent unto her Our angel of revelation, who appeared to her in the shape of a well-made human being. She exclaimed: “Verily, ‘I seek refuge from thee with the Most Gracious! [Approach me not] if thou art conscious of Him!” [The angel] answered: “I’ am but a messenger of thy Lord, [who says,] `I shall bestow upon thee the gift of a son endowed with purity.'” Said she: “How can I have a son when no man has ever touched me? – for, never have I been unchaste?” [The angel] answered: “Thus it is; [but] thy Sustainer says, `This is easy for Me; and [thou shalt have a son,] so that We might make him a symbol unto mankind and an act of grace from US. And it was a thing decreed [by God].
At one time, I did not understand the Arabic being recited. As I became older, however, God opened up to me the doors of Arabic understanding, and my admiration and love for the passages in the Qur’an about the birth of Christ only grew in strength. The verse quoted above is only a small part of a longer passage that details the birth of Christ and the scandal it engendered among the people at the time. And that passage also includes the miracle of a newborn Jesus speaking to the people in defense of his mother:
[But] he [Jesus] 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]!”
These verses occur in the 19th chapter of the Qur’an, aptly named “Mary,” and it isn’t the only place in which the story of the birth of Christ is recounted. There are dozens of verses in the Quran that speak about the miracles of Jesus (5:110), the Last Supper (5:113-115), among many others. His mother, the Virgin Mary, is the only woman mentioned by name in the Qur’an. Christ, in fact, is mentioned more times in the Qur’an than the Prophet Muhammad himself.
If only more people knew this truth about Islam and its deep love and honor for Jesus Christ. If only more people knew that belief in, and love for, Jesus Christ and his mother is an essential aspect of Islamic faith. If only more people knew that no devout Muslim would dare attack and malign Jesus Christ or his mother as some purported followers of Christ have done with the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon them both).
In our world today, in which the rhetoric against Islam and Muslims is so toxic – frequently for craven political or financial gain – Christians and Muslims need to come together on areas in which they agree: a common love for Jesus Christ. Ideally, Christians, Muslims, and Jews should be the closest of religious communities, for they have so much in common as the living spiritual children of Abraham.
Yes, there are savages (“barbarian” is too nice a word) who claim to act in Islam’s name that commit horrific crimes against Christians. These satanic monsters betray both the letter and spirit of Islam, which teaches deep love for Jesus Christ and respect and honor for his followers.
“Peace was upon me on the day when I was born,” the infant Jesus says in the Qur’an.
As we approach December 25, the day Christians celebrate this momentous occasion, I pray that this very same peace reigns over our world and over all of us who live on it. I pray that this very same peace reigns over all communities of faith, so that the forces of hatred and division do not win the day. And I pray that this very same peace reigns over our country in the months and years ahead, and that we emerge an even greater people than we already are.