"Mom, do we celebrate Christmas?"
"Dad, do we believe in Jesus?"
"Are we going to get gifts for Christmas?"
Come the Christmas season, non-Christians face these questions from their children. Fortunately, Muslim parents find it easy to deal with the curiosity of their children. They welcome these questions as an opportunity to educate them.
Muslims generally don't celebrate birthdays of prophets. There is a difference of opinion among Muslims even about celebrating the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. However, they love and respect these mighty messengers of God and strive to walk in their footsteps.
The Qur'an is replete with stories of Adam, Noah (Nuh), Abraham (Ibrahim), Isaac (Ishaaq), Ishmael (Ismail), Jacob (Yaqoob), Joseph (Yousuf), Job (Ayub), Jonah (Younus), John the Baptist (Yahya), Jesus (Issa/Al-Masih ), Mary (Maryam), and Muhammad (peace be upon them all). These stories serve as the moral compass for Muslims as they navigate the maze of life.
It may come as a surprise to Christian readers that Muslims believe Jesus to be one of the mighty messengers of God. They believe in his miraculous virgin birth to Mary. The Qur'an mentions Jesus 25 times by name and an entire chapter of the Qur'an (chapter 19) is named after Mary, the mother of Jesus.
This powerful relationship of Muslims to Jesus and Mary serves as a common ground with Christians. It is typical for Muslims to name their children after these prophets as a mark of respect. Issa, Maryam, Ibrahim, Musa, Yousuf, Younus, Ishaaq, Ismail, Muhammad, etc. are common names among Muslims.
As a child, I was fascinated by the narration in the Qur'an about the birth of Jesus (peace be upon him). The riveting dialogue between Angel Gabriel and Mary almost always makes for an extremely spiritual reading. The Qur'anic narration goes as follows:
"[And mention] when the angels said, "O Mary, indeed God gives you good tidings of a word from Him, whose name will be the Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary – distinguished in this world and the Hereafter and among those brought near [to God].
He will speak to the people in the cradle and in maturity and will be of the righteous."
She said, "My Lord , how will I have a child when no man has touched me?" [The angel] said, "Such is God; He creates what He wills. When He decrees a matter, He only says to it, 'Be,' and it is.
And He will teach him writing and wisdom and the Torah and the Gospel.
And [make him] a messenger to the Children of Israel, [who will say], 'Indeed I have come to you with a sign from your Lord in that I design for you from clay [that which is] like the form of a bird, then I breathe into it and it becomes a bird by permission of God. And I cure the blind and the leper, and I give life to the dead – by permission of God. And I inform you of what you eat and what you store in your houses. Indeed in that is a sign for you, if you are believers.
And [I have come] confirming what was before me of the Torah and to make lawful for you some of what was forbidden to you. And I have come to you with a sign from your Lord, so fear God and obey me.
Indeed, God is my Lord and your Lord, so worship Him. That is the straight path." (Qur'an 45-51)
Of particular interest to me was the narration about Jesus speaking from the cradle:
"Then she brought him to her people, carrying him. They said, "O Mary, you have certainly done a thing unprecedented.
O sister of Aaron, your father was not a man of evil, nor was your mother unchaste."
So she pointed to him. They said, "How can we speak to one who is in the cradle a child?"
[Jesus] said, "Indeed, I am the servant of God. He has given me the Scripture and made me a prophet.
And He has made me blessed wherever I am and has enjoined upon me prayer and charity as long as I remain alive
And [made me] dutiful to my mother, and He has not made me a wretched tyrant.
And peace is on me the day I was born and the day I will die and the day I am raised alive." (19 27-33)
For the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims, these words are part of their faith based on the authority of the Qur'an.
Excessive consumerism and materialism might obliterate the footprints of these great personalities. If we are to walk in their footsteps, we may have to look for the footprints outside of the malls and the shopping centers.
I would like to wish Christian readers a joyous and peaceful Christmas holiday season.