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the christmas musings of a muslim

by Arcticus

First of all, Christmas greetings in advance to those of you who celebrate it.

I hope you're all warm (or cold, depending on where you are) and in loving company right now, whether virtually, or in person, or in thoughts.

As you already know, to your detriment, I gush and I go on and on for ages and don't stop talking. I wanted to share my experience of this particular day in the year, even though I've only been present at Christmas celebrations once or twice in my life.

Even though Christmas today has, to a certain extent, become more of a cultural holiday, and only a few devoted and practicing people care to go beyond the X-Box-es and the iPads to actually pause and reflect upon the birth and life of the figure that it seeks to celebrate, let me share my own unique experience of this, because it's something you might've not heard often, and let me gush all of my fondness, as I always do, because I never withhold anything, and I love reflecting on religious similarities and differences in particular, and I feel like stories and insights like this are important because of the aura of bitterness that has often surrounded media conversation regarding Muslims, which misses out on so much detail of real lives lived.

I'm addressing this essay to my imaginary Christian reader, or even the general athiest or agnostic Christmas-celebrating reader, who may (or may not) have some negative or misinformed feelings about me, or my faith. In understanding each other, I feel like it's important to acknowledge our shared humanity first and foremost, and then proceed to truthful understandings of our similiarities and differences so that, even in our points of confluence and departure, we can be fair to each other, rather than enter as unaware hostiles into each other's lives, with false assumptions and preconceived notions, and create harm for each other in places where there could've been simple and clear understanding.

I hope you're all cozy and not tired of my narrative already, don't worry. On the 25th of this month, many of you will be celebrating the birth of Jesus (peace be upon him), so it's your time of the year, and it's not my right to really walk up to the podium and speak. But still, if you're interested in listening to an outsider's experience of the whole thing, feel free to keep reading. I won't keep you for long, so let me just begin my piece now:

As Muslims, we honor Jesus (peace be upon him) because honoring him is part of the Islamic faith. We honor him because Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) also honored him, even though he preached to a community that wasn't really familiar with Jesus (peace be upon him) in any meaningful way. The polytheist communities of 6th Century Arabia didn't really have any good reason to be aware of Jesus (peace be upon him), or his message of monotheism, despite the debates regarding Christology that were going on around these times in the faraway Byzantium.

Muslims all around the world for more than a millenium and a half have shared, read into, and reflected over the life of Jesus (peace be upon him) because our Prophet (peace be upon him) spoke highly of him, and referred to him, in a hadith, as the one 'closest' to him in prophetic brotherhood, referring not only to their shared lineal ties through Abraham (peace be upon him) (the Arab people being Ishmaelites, and the Jewish people being Israelites) but also to the Islamic idea that all messengers of God came with the same message of monotheism and morality, and were hence, brothers.

You'll find Jesus (peace be upon him) in the poems of Rumi as a metaphor for spring, in a couplet of Ghalib as a healer of ills, some of the most famous compendiums of Islamic tradition, narrate many sayings of Jesus (peace be upon him) with varying levels of authencity.

A reader of the Qur'an finds Jesus' story come up throughout the scripture, not just in the entire chapter dedicated to Mary (peace be upon her). You'll hear the biography of Mary (peace be upon her) in her own right in the occasional Friday khutbah in literally any mosque in the world. You'll find Muslim boys named Eesa (the name phonally more closer to Jesus' actual name in Hebrew: Yeshua). You'll find Muslim girls named Maria and Mariam. As you may have already noticed in my writing, never once is the name of Jesus mentioned in a Muslim home but that it is followed by alayhi salam - which means "peace be upon him".

Jesus is also fondly called roohullah - "spirit from God" - Allah being the Arabic-Abrahamic word for God, just as Dios is the Spanish word for God, and Gott - the German word, just as Eloah is the generic Hebrew word for God, and Elah or Alaha the Syriac-Aramaic words for God, the latter being the language Jesus (peace be upon him) spoke in.

Obviously, since it's not part of our tradition, I don't celebrate Christmas. But, I do celebrate Jesus (peace be upon him) β€” in a different way β€” as a divinely-inspired messenger, as the messiah to the bani isra'il - the Children of Israel, the messenger who taught and clarified the spirit of the Mosaic law in a time when its leaders and custodians had forgotten what it essentially meant and were caught up in its minutiae, he worked miracles, performed healing, and preached mercy in a time of hard-heartedness in the midst of an overbearing Roman occupation, he was rejected by the establishment, but found a number of dedicated companions, to whom he continued his teaching. This is, of course, not the entireity of how the life of Jesus (peace be upon him) is understood in the mainstream Christian tradition, or how it is celebrated on Christmas by those (admirable) people who like to stay in touch with the religious side of the holiday rather than only its festivity (and I respect and acknowledge those important and evident differences), but all of this is, for me, nevertheless, a remembrance, and a fondness, and a lightness in the heart, so when I see my Christian counterparts decorate their homes, and put on all kinds of decorative lights - I understand, and I relate, and I know that even in our distinctions, we share a lot in common. And sometimes some of this fondness is reciprocated by others towards me and my faith as well (even though that's kind of rare) but is, nevertheless, something I deeply treasure whenever, and in whatever form I receive it.

I hope reading this lettery, informal essay makes you more aware of me, and hopefully, less assumptive.

Once more,

Merry Christmas in advance to all those celebrating.

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166 Reviews

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Reviews: 166

Sun Dec 27, 2020 5:42 pm
DreamyAlice wrote a review...

There is no mistake in this essay it is so well written.
And just like Mage I also loved this particular passage

"I see my Christian counterparts decorate their homes, and put on all kinds of decorative lights - I understand, and I relate, and I know that even in our distinctions, we share a lot in common."

We really share so much in common Christians celebrate his birthday as The son of God and we know him as an inspired messenger that Allah send to guide us. We just have different beliefs but we all have the same respect and thought for jesus.
The unity is the most important thing.

Very well written
Keep writing!!!

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217 Reviews

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Fri Dec 25, 2020 9:37 pm
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EllieMae wrote a review...

Hi! Thank you so much for the essay! I really appreciate it!

I myself am a Christian, so I celebrate Christmas πŸŽ„

I really enjoyed reading this, because to be honest I don’t know that much about your faith. It was wonderful to read. Thank you for sharing and I completely understand and support you. I think it is so wonderful to be able to read and learn about other peoples religions. Honestly, where I live, certain religions are not treated as well as they could be (me being included, as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). It makes me so happy to be able to read this. It also makes me happy to know that your faith makes you happy. I believe it religious freedom. Even if I have my own beliefs, I would rather have everyone be able to make their own decisions as to what they believe, because I believe that agency (the ability to choose) it vital to us developing our faith.

Overall, this was very well written. Thank you for sharing, I wish you a merry Christmas, holidays, and happy new year.


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590 Reviews

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Thu Dec 24, 2020 1:21 pm
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Mageheart says...

I don't think I can possibly critique this essay, but I just wanted to leave a comment to say how much I love it. I currently go back and forth between identifying as atheist and agnostic. Despite that, I'm really interested in learning about religion in general. I'm most familiar with Christianity because America has a strong Christian push and because I went to a Protestant church for a few years when I was younger. This essay gave me insight into a religion I sadly haven't learned nearly enough about. It was really cool seeing your views on Christmas, and this part in particular made me smile:

I see my Christian counterparts decorate their homes, and put on all kinds of decorative lights - I understand, and I relate, and I know that even in our distinctions, we share a lot in common.

I might not identify as Christian anymore, but that's such an important thing to feel. The unity, respect and understanding is something we should all strive for.

Thank you for taking the time to write this essay - I'm really glad I was able to read it on the morning of Christmas Eve. <3

Mageheart says...

(If you get two notifications from me but only see a single comment, it's because I accidentally marked this as a review and deleted it to change it to what it was originally supposed to be.)

Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.
— Martin Luther King Jr.