On the meaning of Easter in Islam
In the Name of the Almighty, the Beneficent, the Merciful
“The Messenger believes in the Guidance revealed to him from his Lord and so do the Believers. They all believe in the Almighty, His angels, His books and His Messengers. They say: "We do not discriminate against anyone of His Messengers." And they say: "We hear and we obey. Grant us your forgiveness, O Lord; to You we shall all return". (Q2: 285)
Today’s sermon is not meant for you but for us. But in dedicating the sermon to our Christian compatriots who are marking the Easter Friday today, we are equally drawn into a dialogic encounter with aspects of the Christian faith from which creedal postures in Islam take shape and derive strength. In other words, today’s sermon ponders the enigma, named Isa (Jesus Christ) – upon him be peace. In pondering his personality, we have an opportunity to review commonalities between Islam and Christianity. In ‘looking’ at the figure of Jesus Christ, we have the opportunity to look at our world through a new window, a window which brings humanity face to face with the Truth; the Truth which is and has remained one and indivisible since the beginning of the world and so shall it be till the end of life.
In other words, brethren, the persona of Prophet Isa calls attention to our world- a world in which that which is right could be multifarious. Any mention of Jesus Christ, therefore, functions as a solemn reminder to humanity that our world is designed by the Almighty as a conundrum or a jigsaw puzzle. The more of the world you know, the more ignorant you become. Without divine intervention, in the absence of His direction and instruction, through His books, Prophets and messengers humanity would have had to wallow in the abyss of ignorance.
Imagine a situation where no answers are available in the revealed books on the beginning and ending of the world, scientists would have become gods; atoms would have occupied the cathedrals as objects of worship and adoration.
Brethren, in the absence of the Glorious Quran, the question ‘who is Prophet Isa?’ would have remained unanswered till today. But dear brethren, it was beyond him. It was not his choice- that he is probably the only personality in the ‘house of God’ in whose birth, life and death much controversies and polemics exist. It was not his choice that he was born by a woman whose personality was equally a matter of controversy. In other words, Prophet Isa’s mother was born to the family of a chaste woman and a righteous man by name Prophet Imran (a.s). Both husband and wife had desired the fruit of the womb.
They had toiled and laboured so that the wife could become a mother. I remember that sister too. She has been married now since a couple of years ago. She is still waiting. Imran’s wife had to wait too. She had to wait because Prophet Ibrahim’s wife (a.s) equally had to wait. But keep this in mind. Throughout the ‘waiting period’, the wife of Prophet Imran never despaired in the mercy of the Almighty. She knew that when the Almighty enters into a covenant with the righteous, He is faithful and bonded by His words. She knew that one measure of the treasure of faith is the extent to which we are ready to outstay the challenges which faith is putting us through. She knew the Almighty stands not in need of a child; she knew He has not yet said ‘be’ to the ‘union’ not because He is callously unwilling –fal iyadhbillah- but because He has a better plan for her, for him, for them. Would you wait for your Lord? Would you stand by and beside your creator? Would you wait for His plans for you? Would you be patient?
Eventually, she became pregnant. The wife of Prophet Imran (a.s) became pregnant. It happened with ease; it was like a play. Suddenly hope rose once again. Faith became strengthened by the power of faith. The wife of Prophet Imran reaped the fruit of standing by the Almighty. Thus she teaches this to me- those who stand by the Almighty are never let down in time of adversity.
Pushed more by faith and strengthened more by commitment she immediately made a vow: “I dedicate to you whatever is in my womb please accept it from me, You alone hear and knows all” (Q3:35) . In other words, long before the fetus became a child, the bearer of the womb had delivered her to her Creator. She had vowed to put the unborn child into the service of the Almighty in the monastery. The wife of Prophet Imran, cared less about what was in her womb; she cared more about what would become of it.
Eventually she put to bed. She said, as if she was telling her creator: “I have brought forth a female child” (Q3: 36). She probably expected a male; the Almighty gave her a female. She was given a female child because it is only the latter who could bear the burden of bringing a great man to the world. This is probably what the Almighty alludes to when He says: the Almighty knew very well what she had delivered” (Q3: 36). In other words, the wife of Prophet Imran wanted an heir, someone who would carry on and carry through the divine ordinance, the Almighty chose for her instead an ‘heir’ who was destined to bring forth to the world a wonder. Thus the moment the cord which binds the womb to the fetus was separated, she named the new child Maryam. She said: “I have named her Maryam and I seek Your protection for her and her children from the mischief of Satan, the accursed."[Q3:36]