Every year around this time I get a little nostalgic. What can I say? I’m a visual person and sometimes I wish the Muslims of America would take Eid decorations to the streets a little more like the Christians of America. Every Ramadan, I talk myself out of putting lights on our tree outside and try not to shop in the stores during Christmas time for fear of getting carols stuck in my head–I still know the words (though those sales are hard to turn away from, aren’t they?)
It’s gotten easier–I mean, I don’t need Christmas. But I do not appreciate it when some in our ummah take it upon themselves to preach hate over Christmas at this time of year. Yes, Christmas has been corrupted. It has turned into consumerism and a horrible tradition of people asking things of created beings rather than Allah. But have you ever truly thought of the underlying basis of Christmas? It’s a mawlid. It’s a celebration of the birth of a beautiful example of human being. Yes, for the most part, it’s done completely wrong, but today, I’m going to celebrate Jesus (as), one of the beautiful prophets of God, the best way I know how…because frankly, what other time of the year is there that I think of him more (peace be upon him)? Shoot! When do I even think of the other prophets in such a focused manner? Let alone send salawat on them…So today I am going to celebrate the legacy of one of the most revolutionary prophets…one who has moved the world…one who yes, even Muslims love.
And by celebrate, I do not mean that I have a tree with lights. Nor am I attending a family supper. I do have on a bit of red and green on a background of cream…but that’s because I’m wearing a Palestinian thobe. And I’m wondering if Maryam, the mother of Jesus (pbuh) ever wore one like it. Did she know the art of tatreez and make dhikr while cross-stitching patterns taught to her by her mother, Hannah? She was Palestinian, you know. She lived in Baitul Maqdis. And so I’m looking back at my pictures of Palestine and trying to remember…or reconjure, if you will, the past. I’m even presenting some to you that you’ve never seen (see slideshow below). I’m remembering climbing the Mount of Temptation where Jesus (as) is believed to have meditated frequently and the Church of Nativity where he is believed to have been born. And how directly across from the Church of Nativity is the Mosque of Omar in Bethlehem. I’m carried away to another time and place. And I’m taking you with me. And not because today is Jesus’ birthday. It’s not. It’s a date fixed on an incorrect calendar. I’m thinking of Jesus today because I ought to. Because being Muslim means I love Jesus, too.
I mean, can you imagine being a part of that family? A part of the house of Imran? MashAllah…so many great prophets and people came from that line of people…from the progeny of Prophet David. They have among their ranks Zakariya and Yahya (John the Baptist). And two people who were never touched by Satan*, and consecrated for the service of The One since being in the womb: both Mary (ra) and Jesus (as). And what other prophet can you think of wherein you know so much about his mother? Wherein his mother’s name is mentioned right along with his own? Isa ibn Maryam..Jesus son of Mary. His mother’s name is blessed in being an entire chapter of the Qu’ran. Their family name and the events surrounding “The Last Supper” hold the titles to two other chapters of the Qur’an (see surahs Maryam (19), Ali Imran (3), and Al Maidah (5). They were both so unique…Jesus (peace be upon him) was the first of three babies who spoke and Mary (ra) was one of the best of women, the first woman named in the hadith of the four women who attained perfection in this dunya. These are our role models–a man, and his mother…a single, unmarried woman who both achieved perfection in worship.
And as I read the biography of this man who people love so much that they began to worship him, I’m trying to imagine myself as a single mother giving birth to him in the desert. Can you imagine? In the company of angels? With dates provided specifically from Allah to relieve you of your pains? There’s no epidural in the world like that…And you baby’s first words being:
[...] “I am indeed a servant of Allah. He hath given me revelation and made me a prophet; And He hath made me blessed wheresoever I be, and hath enjoined on me Prayer and Charity as long as I live; (He) hath made me kind to my mother, and not overbearing or miserable; “So peace is on me the day I was born, the day that I die, and the day that I shall be raised up to life (again)”!” (Surah Maryam 19: 30-33)
Subhanallah. Jesus (pbuh) was a sign of the Power of Allah. He creates what He wants without cause or effect. He created Adam without father or mother, and Eve out a of man without father or mother, and He created Jesus out of a woman without a father. He just says to a matter “Be” and it is. Just like that. And then he bestows these gifts…these blessings that we can never count…these talents and skills…and some are blessed with abilities like no human eye has ever seen. Like the miracles of Jesus (pbuh). Allah says in the Qur’an that He will say on the day when He gathers the prophets together:
[...]“O Jesus the son of Mary! Recount My favour to thee and to thy mother. Behold! I strengthened thee with the Holy Spirit, so that thou didst speak to the people in childhood and in maturity. Behold! I taught thee the Book and Wisdom, the Law and the Gospel and behold! thou makest out of clay, as it were, the figure of a bird, by My leave, and thou breathest into it and it becometh a bird by My leave, and thou healest those born blind, and the lepers, by My leave. And behold! thou bringest forth the dead by My leave. And behold! I did restrain the Children of Israel from (violence to) thee when thou didst show them the clear Signs, and the unbelievers among them said: ‘This is nothing but evident magic.’ (Al Maidah 5:110)
The will of Allah is not magic. His power is not magic. Why do we accept and believe in so many unique things and not accept that it stems from The Unique? I learned so many things today in reading the chapter on Jesus (as) in Ibn Kathir’s Stories of the Prophets (pbut)…especially in thinking of Ramadan as the month of revelation. Did you know that all the books that we believe in..the Torah (of Moses), the Zabur (Psalms of David), Gospel (of Jesus), and Qur’an (of Muhammad), peace be upon them all, were revealed in Ramadan? The Gospel was revealed on the 18th of Ramadan, when Jesus (pbuh) was 30 years old. It makes you wonder…are we really getting the most out of Ramadan?
Which brings me to a time back in the day when I was a librarian and Muslim (though an incognito one), and an evangelical woman came up to me and said, “are you saved?” I gave the woman a discerning look–I knew her type already from sixteen years of being a Christian. I asked her what she meant…she tried to explain. I asked her, “Are you saved?” She said, “Yes” without pause. I said, “Are you sure?” She began to think…she changed her strategy. “Don’t you love Jesus?”
“Oh, yes, ma’am! I love Jesus so much!”
“Do you know that Jesus loves you?”
“Yes I do, and I love him, too. But do you know who I love more? And who he loves more?…The One who Created him.”
The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said:
“Whoever witnesses that there is no god worthy of worship but Allah alone and He has no partner, and that Muhammad is Allah’s slave and His Messenger, and that Jesus is Allah’s slave and His Messenger, and His Word which He breathed into Mary, and a spirit created by Him, and that Paradise is true and Hell is true, Allah will admit him into Paradise regardless of what he has done.” (Bukhari and Muslim)
And I have the feeling that if Christians and Muslims both started acting a little bit more like Jesus (peace be upon him), we would hardly be able to tell one from the other.