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Interfaith Dialogue (26 Dec 2016 NewAgeIslam.Com)

Why It’s Not Wrong to Wish Muslims Merry Christmas

By Mustafa Akyol

December 23, 2016

Billions of Christians around the world are excited to celebrate Christmas this weekend. Those in the world’s second-largest religious community, Muslims, don’t share quite the same excitement. In a few Muslim-majority countries, like Saudi Arabia, Brunei and Somalia, Christmas celebrations are banned. In Turkey, my country, they are not illegal, but some Islamist groups still organize annual protests against Christmas trees and Santa Claus costumes, which they consider Western impositions.

Meanwhile, many other Muslims around the world are rightly respectful to their Christian neighbours and even share in their holy day. They include the owners of a Turkish restaurant in London that decided to offer a free Christmas meal to the homeless and the elderly, and a Muslim businessman in Baghdad who erected a Christmas tree in solidarity with Christians persecuted by the self-declared Islamic State.

These Christmas-friendly Muslims are right, but not simply because respect for other religions is a virtue. They are also right because Christmas is the celebration of the miraculous birth of Jesus, which is a powerful theme not just in the New Testament, but also in the Quran.

Two chapters of the Muslim holy book give detailed accounts of the birth of Jesus, which partly resemble the account in the Gospel of Luke.

Both chapters — one is named Maryam or Mary — feature this admirable Jewish woman whom God has “purified” and “chosen above all other women.”

There are, of course, ways in which the Muslim story of Jesus diverges from the Christian version that is celebrated at Christmas. The New Testament says that Jesus’ birth took place in Bethlehem, in a manger or at an inn, when Mary was with her husband, Joseph. In the Quran, Mary gave birth in “a distant place,” all alone and under a palm tree. It’s worth noting that stories appearing in the eastern apocryphal gospels, as well as recent archaeological findings, correspond to the Quran’s version of events.

Crucially, the Quran differs with the Bible on Jesus’ divinity. The Muslim holy book insists that he was a human and a prophet. It repeatedly defines Jesus as “the Messiah,” but this seems to be a notion of Messiah as described in Judaism: an extraordinary servant of God, not God incarnate. The Quran’s Jesus is also sent to the children of Israel, comes “confirming the Torah” and affirms a strictly unitarian monotheism. The Islamic Jesus, one could say, is a more Jewish Jesus.

Nonetheless, Islam and Christianity share a lot in their adoration for Isa and Maryam, Jesus and Mary. Muslims are in fact the only non-Christians on earth who believe that Jesus was born of a virgin.

For centuries, Muslims have taken this as a literal truth. Medieval exegetes of the Quran debated details like how God’s spirit was “breathed” into Mary, taking as truth that the virgin birth was an act of God. Sayyid Qutb, the 20th-century Egyptian fundamentalist, described Maryam’s pregnancy as “the strangest event that humanity throughout its history has ever witnessed.”

In a 2002 book they wrote to criticize Islam, Emir F. Caner and Ergun M. Caner, two Turkish converts to Christianity who became Southern Baptist ministers, argued that Muslims are more Christian on the issue of the virgin birth than the “liberal ‘Christians’ ” who seek metaphorical interpretations of the amazing miracle.

To add more to Jesus’ extraordinary NATURE, the Quran even calls him “Word of God.” Muslim scholars have been puzzled by this term, which the Quran uses for no one else. Christian theologians have been intrigued, too, for it evokes the Gospel of John, which defines Jesus as the Word of God who “became flesh and dwelt among us.”

Interpreting these parallels between the Quran and the earlier Christian sources depends partly on one’s faith. Christians can think Islam borrowed from their religion. Muslims, on the other hand, can think that much in Christianity foretold theirs. But we can all agree that these two great Abrahamic religions, despite the sometimes bitter conflicts between them, have much in common. This year, with tensions between many Muslims and Christians in Europe, the United States and elsewhere running high, that’s worth remembering.

The people in Saudi Arabia and Brunei who ban Christmas clearly have the wrong idea. Even if this is not a Muslim holiday, we don’t need to object to Christmas. The miraculous birth of Jesus — the prophet, the Messiah and the “Word” of God — should not offend any Muslim. Salaam alaikum, or “peace be upon you,” Muslims should be able to say to their Christian neighbours on Dec. 25, without hesitating to add, “Merry Christmas!”

Mustafa Akyol, a contributing opinion writer, is the author of the forthcoming “The Islamic Jesus: How the King of the Jews Became a Prophet of the Muslims.”

Source: nytimes.com/2016/12/23/opinion/why-its-not-wrong-to-wish-muslims-merry-christmas.html?_r=0

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/interfaith-dialogue/mustafa-akyol/why-it’s-not-wrong-to-wish-muslims-merry-christmas/d/109495


  • Will Durant, Historian and philosopher, was an agnostic. He didn’t believe in the promise of heaven and that as an eternal hope. Once he confided “At times I had sunken into a mood of despondency. All those who believe in God should not be unconcerned about the faith and happiness of others. When we say “Eid Mubarik’ or Happy Deevali” to others we join in their happiness. That happiness diffuses and eventually overwhelm us. Our spirit becomes elated too. Except those believers who live in a smaller circle, we will never feel emptiness in our old age.

    By Royalj - 1/5/2017 10:06:39 PM

  • While the article and several commentators speak about how things should be, Hats Off is busy rubbing it in with the kind of reports that we all have read aplenty!

    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin - 12/29/2016 1:10:37 AM

  • jihadwatch.org/2016/12/switzerland-muslim-attacks-

    By hats off! - 12/28/2016 11:41:50 PM

  • gospelherald.com/articles/69123/20161227/isis-urges-

    By hats off! - 12/28/2016 11:40:30 PM

  • rte.ie/news/2016/1228/841521-bangladesh/
    By hats off! - 12/28/2016 11:39:27 PM

  • express.co.uk/news/world/747941/terror-attack-plot-

    By hats off! - 12/28/2016 11:38:35 PM

  • Ridiculous that someone has to write an article with the above title:       
    Why It’s Not Wrong to Wish Muslims Merry Christmas
    - --------
    What kind of a community we are?
    Now some one should write why it is not wrong to wish Christians or Muslims and others Merry Christmas. Absolutely appalling!!! 

    By Sultan Shahin - 12/27/2016 2:39:36 AM

  • Agreed with Ghulam Mohiuddin Sahab, Muslim should feel no hesitation at all to say "Happy Diwali" or "Happy Hannukah" or to any other festival greeting that may be pleasing to their friends or neighbors belonging to other communities.
    By muhammad yunusm - 12/26/2016 10:14:15 PM

  • Good article stressing the need and religious justification for the Muslims to celebrate the Christmas. "Historically Muslim scholarship has remained silent about the complementarities, and instead, focused on the differences between the two faiths. But today, when increasing gap, hatred and mistrust between Islam and Christianity is leading to terrorism and “Just wars” with terrible consequences, its time that Muslim scholarship takes notice of the common boundaries, and encourages the Muslims to visibly showing devotion to Jesus Christ by celebrating the Christmas, and praying for peace together with their Christian brothers."

    Extracted from an earlier letter to the Editor of Qantara.de dtd Dec. 2009

    By muhammad yunus - 12/26/2016 10:00:03 PM

  • If you say- Mabrook Eid milaadun Nabi Isa ibn Maryam- in the holy  language, the Arabiansed Muslims cannot object because for them Isa is also a Nabi.

    Unfortunately Christ and therefore Christmas is not Arabic.

    Muslims and the idol of Arabic language cannot be separated!


    Wonder if it is OK to say so, for I do not know Arabic?

    juba-e-yaar mun Turki, mun Turki nami daanum!

    By Rashid Samnakay - 12/26/2016 8:34:31 PM

  • It is not wrong to wish Muslims "Happy Diwali" or "Happy Hannukah" either.

    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin - 12/26/2016 1:15:46 PM

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