Questions for Christians in Christmas
“The similitude of Isa (Jesus Christ, upon him be peace) in the reckoning of the Almighty, is like Adam (upon him be peace); He created him from the earth and He said unto it Be! and it was” (Quran 3:59)
Brethren, today is the 25th of December. It is a day that is usually dedicated to the celebration, by Christians all over the world, the birth of Prophet Isa – Jesus Christ-(upon him be peace). Though many controversies exist 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 the Almighty, 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) is an injunction from the fountainhead of their faith (Q2: 285). Islam is, therefore, a religion, which seeks to preserve the fundamental and eternal messages brought by all those Prophets of the Almighty without exception. Islam is therefore in its affirmation 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 and move up to the ethereal, the seraphic, the spiritual and the beatific. As far as Islam is concerned, it is not how many churches or mosques the ‘believer’ attended while on earth that counts; what shall be ‘counted’ is whether his heart was indeed like an empire where only the Almighty operates as the Sovereign.
But despite its universal approach to the subject matter of Prophet hood, Islam continues to be misunderstood. It is seen by some as anti-Christ; it is conflated by others with the Muslim particularly ‘that other Muslim’ whose knowledge of Islam is slippery; ‘that Muslim’ who sees the non-Muslim other as his enemy; ‘that Muslim’ who constantly interprets the Quran in a way that would validate his heinous activities; ‘that Muslim’ who having lost the opportunity to live today, now tries to ‘kill’ tomorrow, both for himself and others. Yes, indeed. There are people who posture as Muslims. They perpetrate all sorts of evil acts you can imagine. They kill. They maim. They abduct innocent citizens of the land. Yes. They kidnap young boys and deprive them of their innocence by turning them into weapons of death and destruction. They put the hijab on their female captives. Whether or not the latter embrace Islam by choice as demanded by Islam does not matter to them. These are the persona of the Muslim that enjoy patronage of the media. However, they do not and cannot represent Islam.
On this occasion of the birth of Prophet Isa (a.s), therefore, I wish to call the attention of our compatriots to the position of reverence that Jesus Christ occupies in Islam; that he is an adorable personality in the Quran; that he is mentioned by name twenty-five times in that Glorious Book; that his birth is beautifully and briefly captured in that book as follows: Behold! the Angels said: “O Mary! The Almighty gives thee glad tidings of a Word from Him: his name shall 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 the Almighty (Q3:45; Q19: 16-35). Thus, a Muslim who scorns at or impugns his personality is a sinner. 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 Quran, 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 Jesus Christ was once asked by his followers: why don’t you get married? He replied: “We prefer the prosperity and the plenitude of the hereafter”. Brethren, I wanted to know how big his mansion was when he was alive? Did he live in barb-wired houses like the Imams and pastors of today? Did he own a private Jet? No. Never. Jesus Chris did not even own a camel. He led a life he knew could end the next moment. He was wise enough to know that all material acquisitions are destined for ruination.
Shall we then admonish our compatriots who are celebrating Christmas to critique the current missive or “gospel” of prosperity and success, which has become emblematic of the evangelistic podia of today. 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? Should Jesus Christ emerge today, would he be happy to find you in this abyss of opprobrium, in this very austere spirituality and in this raunchy and sloppy vegetative and appetitive state?
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Afis Ayinde Oladosu is a professor of Middle Eastern, North African and Cultural Studies,Dean, Faculty of Arts, University of Ibadan, Nigeria