Thousands of Muslims living in America interact with millions of Christians who are either their colleagues at work or neighbors next doors to their homes. Is it wrong to wish them Merry Christmas for Christmas? Some Muslims would object to this expression, in the belief that it somehow taints our belief in the humanity of Jesus (pbuh). Some may be opposed to the practice because of the utterances of Donald Trump who promoted it as President, while expressing openly his hostility towards Muslims and orchestrating a Muslim ban to America, from countries where the families of many Muslim Americans lived.
Of course, professionally we are all tuned in to the logic of “Happy Holidays”, because businesses and the government cannot patronize any one religion. That is understandable, but here we are talking about our personal communications with our neighbors we live around and the colleagues we work with. To the extent that we would appreciate a greeting of Eid from our non-Muslim friends, what impact would a similar greeting to Christians from us would have, would be to consider.
Just to be clear, as long as we are surrounded by Christians in every walk of our lives, we might as well know a fact or two about Christmas and what it means to them personally and how their understanding of it religiously, matches or differs from the teachings of the Quran for us.
Christmas is simply a celebration of the birth of Jesus(pbuh). Most Christians decorate their houses with lights on the outside and sometimes with scenes of nativity in their front yards. Added to this is the commercial element of shopping and gift giving. There is no unanimity on the date itself within the Christian community on when Jesus was actually born, so let us put that aside.
The fact however remains that our colleagues and our neighbors are celebrating the birth of the most important religious figure in their lives, Jesus(pbuh). Arguably a tremendously important person in the life of every Muslim as well.
Fact too is their belief in the “immaculate conception” of Mary and the miraculous birth of Jesus(pbuh) without a human interaction.
Notwithstanding any issues from the biologists on either side of the religious divide, both the Quran and the Bible confirm this in no uncertain ways.
For us, where our comfort zone remains in the Quran, here are the verses which tell us most of what we need to know, regarding the “immaculate conception” and birth of Jesus(pbuh).
For those who are already familiar with the verses, I will only mention the references and spare them the details:
19:17-22 Maryam; 19:27-34 Maryam
For those who wish to read the details and recall the teachings, here is what the Quran says:
“So she took a veil (to screen herself) apart from them. Then We sent unto her Our Spirit (Holy Spirit) that presented himself to her as a perfect man.
She said: ‘Verily I take refuge in the Beneficent (Allah) from you! if you are God-fearing.
He (the angel) said: ‘Verily I am only a messenger of your Lord that I bestow on you a pure son’.
She said: ‘How shall there be for me a son while no man has touched me, neither have I been unchaste.
He said: ‘So (it will be)’. Your Lord says: ‘It is easy for Me, and that We will make him a Sign (miracle) unto the people and a Mercy from Us, and it is a matter decreed.
So she conceived him (Jesus) and withdrew with him to a distant place.” (Bethlehem)
“Then she brought the child to her people, carrying him (in her arms). They said: ‘Verily you have done a very indecent thing’.
O sister of Aaron! Your father was not a bad man, nor was your mother an unchaste woman.
Then Mary pointed to him. They said: ‘How shall we speak to one who is (yet) a child in the cradle?’
He (miraculously) said: ‘Verily I am a servant of Allah; He has given me the Book and made me a prophet’.
And He has made me blessed wherever I may be and He has enjoined on me prayer and almsgiving so long as I live.
And (He has made me) kind to my mother, and He has not made me arrogant unblessed.
And peace be on me the day I was born, and the day I die, and the day I shall be raised alive.
This is Jesus, son of Mary, a statement of truth, concerning which they doubt.”
There you have it. The story of Christmas as told in the Quran with no divergence from the popular beliefs of our Christian neighbors. To be sure there is more to the story of Jesus(pbuh), but today’s celebratory story of Christmas is relating to his birth and this much only. It is centered on an event that occurred over two thousand years ago and referenced in the Quran fourteen hundred years ago, as what Muslims universally believe to be the word of God.
The story of “redemption and salvation” relating to the death of Jesus(pbuh) as the “son of God”, belongs to Good Friday and should be left for another day.
Today, it is simply a celebration of his birth and it should be ok to say “Merry Christmas” to our neighbors and not feel in doing so, we will in any way lessen our faith.
Azher Quader is a writer, thinker and community worker. He is founder president of Community Builders Council (www.cbc7.org ) and Compassionate Care Network (www.ccnamerica.com). He can be reached at email@example.com.