Some reflections on Christmas
In the name of the Almighty, the Beneficent, the Merciful
“The similitude of Isa (Jesus Christ, upon him be peace) in the reckoning of Allah, is like Adam (upon him be peace); He created him from the earth and He said unto it Be! and it was” (Qur’an 3:59)
ON Friday, December 25, 2015, our compatriots who follow the teachings of Prophet Isa (Jesus Christ), upon him be peace and blessings of Almighty, will be celebrating his birthday. Though much controversy exists over his birth and death, there is consensus among Christians on his mission while on earth; whereas much ignorance exists outside Islam on his position and status in Islamic annals and culture, Prophet Isa remains an adorable Prophet and one in whom, in addition to other Prophets of Allah, Muslims must express their belief and strive to emulate.
In other words, “many Christians are unaware that the true spirit of reverence which Muslims display towards Jesus and his mother, Maryam (upon them be peace and blessings of the Almighty) spring from the fountainhead of their faith as prescribed in the Holy Qur’an. In Islam, there are six articles of faith. These include belief in the unity of the Almighty as the Lord, Creator and Sustainer of the world, belief in His angels all of whom are immaterial beings, belief in all the books He revealed to His prophets to guide humanity at all times and climes and one which finds completion and conclusion in the Qur’an, belief in His messengers all of whom were humans sent to guide humans away from servitude to themselves to penitence and glory in their Creator, belief in the day of resurrection and belief in destiny. The religion of Islam, therefore, seeks to preserve the fundamental and eternal messages brought by all those Prophets of the Almighty without exception. In fact, as far as Islam is concerned, one measure of the treasure of the religion is its refusal to seek to exclude or demean the personality or message of any of the Prophets of the Almighty. Islam is unique in affirming that all the Prophets of the Almighty were men of excellence; that they were all sent to show humanity how to rise above its infernal predilections for the mundane and the plebeian and celebrate the ethereal, the seraphic, the spiritual and the beatific in which lies its eternal success.
It is ironic however that despite its universal approach to the subject matter of prophethood, contemporary politics in Muslim-Christian relationships has functioned in constructing Islam as anti-Christ and, by extension, anti-Semitic. An ordinary non-Muslim reader of Islam who pays attention to existing sensationalism and subterfuge which is often woven around the Cross and the Crescent all around the world, would likely be disinclined and not be interested in pondering the reason Jesus Christ is mentioned by name twenty-five times in the Qur’an. He would not pause to ask the question: why is it that the Almighty says as follows: Behold! the angels said: “O Mary! The Almighty gives thee glad tidings of a Word from Him: his name will be al-Masih Isa (Christ Jesus), the son of Mary, held in honor in this world and the Hereafter and of (the company of) those nearest to Him (Q3:45); Christ Jesus the son of Mary was (no more than) an apostle of the Almighty… (Q4:171)
Thus a Muslim who scorns at or treat Prophet Isa (alayhi salaam) with disrespect has disbelieved a cardinal aspect of Islam. In fact, to read and reread his life history, though short but eventful, is to lead a successful life here on earth and partake of the eternal bliss in the hereafter.
Aside from the Qur’an, one book which constantly reminds me of Prophet Isa (a.s) is al-Mawardi’s Adab al-din wa Dunya (Ethics of Religion and the World). I am always fascinated by the report that Prophet Isa (as) was once asked by his followers: why don’t you get married? He was reported to have said: “We prefer the prosperity and the plenitude of the hereafter.”
Brethren, I sought to know whether Prophet Isa had a means of transportation. What type of ‘car’ was he using while on earth? What type of mansion did he live in while he was busy ministering to the bearish Jewish society? Did he own a private Jet? Brethren what I found is his refusal to own even a camel. He said he did not want to become a servant to a mule or a donkey. I thought that is highly useful and full of wisdom. His abode consequently became the emptiness of the cathedral. His wealth became the constant search for the blessing of the Almighty. Prophet Isa (a.s) led a life he knew could end the next moment. He was wise enough to know that all material acquisitions are destined for ruin.
But the irony of human life lies in this seeming tendency in us to refuse to learn lessons which life constantly teaches. Or how else could life teach us lessons other than for it to show us that wealth and authority here on earth are like dreams, or like water we put in our palms or like mirages the thirsty see on the road? I thought there is enough lessons for us to learn in the way the powerful seeks an escape from his destiny on the land only to meet it in the skies. I thought it is high time we learnt that there is simply no escape from our destiny other than self-immolation in the sanctuary of the Almighty.
Brethren, the birth of Prophet Isa (a.s) was a sign of and from the Almighty. His prophetic enterprise while on earth, like that of all Prophets of the Almighty who came before him, was a touchstone of service, integrity, love and compassion. Thus his life on earth will forever remain an important point of reference particularly for those who truly identify with his path and desire eternal redemption.
Dear compatriots, let us all ponder the eternal messages brought by Prophet Isa more closely. Let us reflect on his message of abstinence and continence and contemplate his epistle of ascetism and humility. I must use this medium to encourage my compatriots who congregate under the canopy of Prophet Isa (as) to critique the current missive or “gospel” of prosperity and success which has become emblematic of the evangelistic podia of today. In a conference organized by the Dominican Institute a couple of years ago, one of the questions I sought answers to is whether Muslims and Christians have indeed not completely deviated from the noble teachings of the Prophets of the Almighty they claim to follow? In other words, should Prophet Isa (upon him be peace) appear today, which of these Churches would he identify with? Should Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w) rise up in Madina today, would he not take flight from these oddities in Muslims’ existential realities? To what extent is the argument valid that material prosperity occupies the epicenter of Jesus Christ’s ministry? Is it true that to be a true Christian is to be rich and affluent? Does it mean that to believe in the Almighty is to be insulated against earthly tribulations and afflictions? (08122465111 for texts only)