Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas, Jesus and Islam

This year the Christmas fell on Friday, which is also a day of Jumu’ah or the weekly gathering for Muslims when they pray together in mosques. To the Muslims, the Ashura, the tenth day of the blessed month of Muharram, falls on Sunday. Christmas is a holiday for most Americans who love to celebrate the occasion indoors with their loved ones. With colleges and universities closed and students returning homes to spend their winter vacation, air traffic during this time of the year is always very heavy and tickets are more expensive.
In my neighborhood there are quite a few churches. Most of these churches are non-Catholic ones. This explains why most of the parking lots were empty on this cold December day.
To a serious student of Christianity, much of Jesus’s life – from his birth and ministry to ascension unto heaven are all shrouded in mystery and myths. There is no way even to coincide Christmas with the actual birth day of Jesus. Christianity preceded Islam by roughly six centuries and is considered a sister religion. Jesus is known as ‘Isa (Alayhis Salam – meaning: peace be upon him) in the Islamic sources. For centuries, Muslim jurists and scholars have maintained that real Jesus - his life and mission – could only be understood from the Islamic sources. To them, it is the sole vantage point, from which it can be surveyed, because Islam is, after all, the inheritor of Christianity. Islam is the only religion that recognizes ‘Isa (AS) as what he was all about.
Let us now look at what the Qur’an says about this mysterious personality, ‘Isa (AS), the son of Maryam.
Birth:
And make mention of Maryam in the Scripture, when she had withdrawn from her people to a chamber looking East, and had chosen seclusion from them. Then We sent unto her Our Spirit and it assumed for her the likeness of a perfect man. She said: Lo! I seek refuge in the Beneficent One from you, if you are God fearing. He said: I am only a messenger of your Lord, that I may bestow on you a faultless son. She said: How can I have a son when no mortal has touched me, neither have I been unchaste? He said, So (it will be). Your Lord says, “It is easy for Me. And (it will be) that We may make of him a revelation for mankind and a mercy from Us, and it is a thing ordained. And she conceived him, and withdrew with him to a far place. And the pangs of childbirth drove her unto the trunk of a palm tree. She said: Oh, would that I had died before this and had become a thing of nothing, forgotten! Then (one) cried unto her from below her, saying: Grieve not! Your Lord has placed a rivulet beneath you. And shake the trunk of the palm tree toward you; you will cause ripe dates to fall upon you. So eat and drink and be consoled. And if you meet any mortal, say: Lo! I have vowed a fast unto the Beneficent, and may not speak this day to any mortal. Then she brought him to her own folk, carrying him. They said: O Maryam! You have come with an amazing thing. Oh sister of Harun! Your father was not a wicked man nor was your mother a harlot. Then she pointed to him. They said: How can we talk to one who is in the cradle, a young boy? He spoke: Lo! I am the slave of Allah. He has given me the Scripture and has appointed me a Prophet. And has made me blessed wheresoever I may be, and has enjoined upon me prayer and almsgiving so long as I remain alive. And (has made me) dutiful toward her who bore me, and has not made me arrogant, unblest. Peace on me the day I was born, and the day I die, and the day I shall be raised alive. Such was ‘Isa, son of Maryam, (this is) a statement of truth concerning which they doubt. (Surah Maryam, 19:16-34)
(And remember) when the angels said: O Mary! Allah gives you glad tidings of a word from Him, whose name is the Messiah, ‘Isa, son of Maryam, illustrious in the world and the Hereafter, and one of those brought near (unto Allah). He will speak unto mankind in his cradle and in his manhood, and he is of the righteous. She said: My Lord! How can I have a child when no mortal has touched me? He said: So (it will be). Allah creates what He wills. If he decrees a thing, He says unto it only: Be! And it is. (Surah Al-e-Imran, 3:45-47)
His likeness:
Lo! The likeness of ‘Isa with Allah is as the likeness of Adam. He created him of dust, and He said unto him: Be! And he is. This is the truth from your Lord (O Muhammad), so be not you of those who waver. And whoso disputes with you concerning him, after the knowledge which has come unto you, say (unto him): Come! We will summon our sons and your sons, and our women and your women, and ourselves and yourselves, then will pray humbly (to our Lord) and (solemnly) invoke the curse of Allah upon who lie! (Surah al-e-Imran, 3:59-61) [Note: The challenge of Mubahala (solemn meeting) was issued by Prophet Muhammad (S) against Christians from Najran in 10 AH. They opted to pay jizya, instead.]
Mission and Miracles:
And He (God) will teach him the Scripture and wisdom, and the Taurat and the Injil. And will make him a messenger unto the children of Israel, (saying): Lo! I come unto you with a sign from your Lord. Lo! I fashion for you out of clay the likeness of a bird, and I breathe into it and it is a bird, by Allah’s permission. I heal him who was born blind, and the leper, and I raise the dead, by Allah’s permission. And I announce unto you what you eat and what you store up in your houses. Lo! Herein verily is a portent for you, if you are to be believers. And (I come) confirming that which was before me of the Taurat, and to make lawful some of that which was forbidden unto you. I come unto you with a sign from your Lord, so keep your duty to Allah and obey me. Lo! Allah is my Lord and your Lord, so worship Him. That is a straight path. (Surah Al-e-Imran, 3:48-51)
When Allah said: O ‘Isa, son of Maryam! Remember My favor unto you and unto your mother; how I strengthened you with the holy Spirit (Ruhil Qudus), so that you spoke unto mankind in the cradle as in maturity; and how I taught you the Scripture and Wisdom and the Taurat and the Injil; and how you did shape of clay as it were the likeness of a bird by My permission, and did blow upon it and it was a bird by My permission, and you did heal him who was born blind and the leper by My permission; and how did you raise the dead, by My permission; and how I restrained the Children of Israel from (harming) you when you came unto them with clear proofs, and those of them who disbelieved exclaimed: This is nothing else than mere magic. And when I inspired the disciples, (saying): Believe in Me and in My messenger, they said: We believe. Bear witness that we have surrendered (as Muslims). When the disciples said: O ‘Isa, son of Maryam! Is your Lord able to send down for us a table spread with food from heaven? He said: Observe your duty to Allah, if you are true believers. (They said): We wish to eat thereof, that we may satisfy our hearts and know that you have spoken truth to us, and thereof we may be witnesses. ‘Isa, son of Maryam, said: O Allah, Lord of us! Send down for us a table spread with food from heaven, that it may be a feast for us, for the first of us and for the last of us, and a sign from You. Give us sustenance, for You are the Best of Sustainers. Allah said: Lo! I send it down for you. And whoso disbelieves of you afterward, him surely will I punish with a punishment wherewith I have not punished any of (My) creatures. (Surah al-Ma’idah 5:110-115)
When ‘Isa came with clear proofs (of Allah’s sovereignty), he said: I have come unto you with wisdom, and to make plain some of that concerning which you differ. So keep your duty to Allah, and obey me. Lo! Allah is my Lord and your Lord. So worship Him. This is the right path. (Surah al-Zukhruf, 43:63-4)
And when ‘Isa son of Maryam said: O Children of Israel Lo! I am the messenger of Allah unto you, confirming that which was (revealed) before me in the Taurat, and bringing good tidings of a messenger who comes after me, whose name is Ahmad. Yet when he (Muhammad) has come unto them with clear proofs, they say: This is mere magic. (Surah as-Saff, 61:6)
His identity:
O People of the Scripture! Do not exaggerate in your religion nor utter anything concerning Allah save the truth. The Messiah (Christ) ‘Isa, son of Maryam, was only a messenger of Allah, and His word which He conveyed unto Maryam, and a spirit from Him. So believe in Allah and His messengers, and say not “Three (Trinity)” – Cease! (it is) better for you! – Allah is only one God. Far it is removed from His transcendent majesty that He should have a son. His is all that is in the heavens and all that is in the earth. And Allah is sufficient as Defender. The Messiah will never scorn to be a slave unto Allah, nor will the favored angels. (Surah an-Nisa, 4:171-2)
The Messiah, son of Maryam, was no other than a messenger, messengers (the like of whom) had passed away before him. And his mother was a saintly woman. And they both used to eat (earthly) food. See how we make the revelation clear for them, and see how they turned away. (Surah al-Ma’idah, 5:75)
Plot to kill him but God saved him:
And they (the disbelievers) schemed, and Allah schemed (against them): and Allah is the best of schemers. (And remember) when Allah said: O ‘Isa! Lo! I am gathering you and causing you to ascend unto Me, and am cleansing you of those who disbelieve and am setting those who follow you above those who disbelieve until the Day of Resurrection. Then unto Me you will (all) return, and I shall judge between you as to wherein you used to differ. (Surah al-e-Imran, 3:54-55)
And because of their (Israelites) saying: We slew the Messiah ‘Isa, son of Maryam, Allah’s messenger – They slew him not nor crucified, but it appeared so unto them; and lo! those who disagree concerning it are in doubt thereof; they have no knowledge thereof except pursuit of a conjecture; they slew him not for certain. But Allah took him up unto Himself. Allah was ever Mighty, Wise. (Surah an-Nisa, 4:157-8)
When Allah said, O ‘Isa, son of Maryam! Remember My favor unto you and unto your mother; how I strengthened you with the holy Spirit (Ruhil Qudus), …and how I restrained the Children of Israel from (harming) you when you came unto them with clear proofs, and those of them who disbelieved exclaimed: This is nothing else than a mere magic. (Surah al-Ma’idah, 5: 110)
His second coming:
There is not one of the People of the Scripture but will believe in him before his (‘Isa’s) death, and on the Day of Resurrection he will be a witness against them. (Surah an-Nisa, 4:159)
He (‘Isa) is nothing but a slave on whom We bestowed favor, and We made him a pattern for the Children of Israel. … And lo! he (‘Isa) shall verily be a Sign for the coming of the Hour. So doubt you not concerning it, but follow Me. This is the right path. (Surah al-Zukhruf, 43:59,61)
Happy holidays!

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