Many Christians are unaware that the true spirit of reverence which Muslims display towards Jesus and his mother Mary spring from the fountainhead of their faith as prescribed in the Holy Quran. Most do not know that a Muslim does not take the name of Jesus , without saying Eesa alai-hiss-salaam i.e. (Jesus peace be upon him).
Jesus in the Quran
Many Christians do not know that in the Holy Quran Jesus is mentioned by name twenty-five times. For example:
.. We gave Jesus the son of Mary Clear (Signs) and strengthened him with the holy spirit. .. Quran 2:87
Behold! the angels said: “O Mary! Allah gives thee glad tidings of a Word from Him: his name will be Christ Jesus, the son of Mary, held in honor in this world and the Hereafter and of (the company of) those nearest to Allah. Quran 3:45
.. Christ Jesus the son of Mary was (no more than) an apostle of Allah .. Quran 4:171
And in their footsteps We sent Jesus the son of Mary, confirming the Law that had come before him .. Quran 5:46
And Zakariya and John, and Jesus and Elias: all in the ranks of the righteous: Quran 6:85
The Quranic Titles of Jesus
Though Jesus is mentioned by name in twenty-five places in the Holy Quran he is also addressed with respect as: “Ibne Maryam” – son of Mary; as Masi (Heb) Messiah – translated as Christ; “Abd-ullah” servant of Allah; “Rasul -Ullah” – Messenger of Allah.
He is spoken of as “the word of God”, as “the spirit of God”, as a “Sign of God”, and numerous other epithets of honor spread over fifteen different chapters. The Holy Quran honors this great Messenger of God, and over the past fourteen hundred years Muslims continue to hold Jesus as a symbol of truth.
Christmas and 25th of December
Jesus is commonly considered to have been born on the 25th of December. However, it is common knowledge among Christian scholars that he was not born on this day. It is well known that the first Christian churches held their festival in May, April, or January. Scholars of the first two centuries AD even differ in which year he was born. Some believing that he was born fully twenty years before the current accepted date. So how was the 25th of December selected as the birthday of Jesus ?
Grolier’s encyclopedia says: “Christmas is the feast of the birth of Jesus Christ, celebrated on December 25 … Despite the beliefs about Christ that the birth stories expressed, the church did not observe a festival for the celebration of the event until the 4th century…. since 274, under the emperor Aurelian, Rome had celebrated the feast of the “Invincible Sun” on December 25. In the Eastern Church, January 6, a day also associated with the winter solstice, was initially preferred. In course of time, however, the West added the Eastern date as the Feast of the Epiphany, and the East added the Western date of Christmas”.
So who else celebrated the 25th of December as the birth day of their gods before it was agreed upon as the birth day of Jesus ? In India there is the Hindu festival to honor the Hindu deity, Ganesha, where people rejoice, decorate their houses with garlands, and give presents to their friends on this day. The people of China also celebrate this day and close their shops. Buddha is believed to have been born on this day. The great savior and god of the Persians, Mithras, is also believed to have been born on the 25th of December long before the coming of Jesus .
The Egyptians celebrated this day as the birth day of their great savior Horus, the Egyptian god of light and the son of the “virgin mother” and “queen of the heavens” Isis. Osiris, god of the dead and the underworld in Egypt, the son of “the holy virgin”, again was believed to have been born on the 25th of December.
The Greeks celebrated the 25th of December as the birthday of Hercules, the son of the supreme god of the Greeks, Zeus, through the mortal woman Alcmene Bacchus, the god of wine and revelry among the Romans (known among the Greeks as Dionysus) was also born on this day.
Adonis, revered as a “dying-and-rising god” among the Greeks, miraculously was also born on the 25th of December. His worshipers held him a yearly festival representing his death and resurrection, in midsummer. The ceremonies of his birthday are recorded to have taken place in the same cave in Bethlehem which is claimed to have been the birth place of Jesus .
The Scandinavians celebrated the 25th of December as the birthday of their god Freyr, the son of their supreme god of the heavens, Odin.
The Romans observed this day as the birthday of the god of the sun, Natalis Solis Invicti (“Birthday of Sol the invincible”). There was great rejoicing and all shops were closed. There was illumination and public games. Presents were exchanged, and the slaves were indulged in great liberties. These are the same Romans who would later preside over the council of Nicea (325 CE) which lead to the official Christian recognition of the “Trinity” as the “true” nature of God, and the “fact” that Jesus was born on the 25th of December too.
In Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Gibbon says: “The Roman Christians, ignorant of his (Christ’s) birth, fixed the solemn festival to the 25th of December, the Brumalia, or Winter Solstice, when the Pagans annually celebrated the birth of Sol ” vol. ii, p. 383.
Christians opposed to Christmas
There are several Christian groups who are opposed to Christmas. For example, they take the verse from the Bible in Jeremiah 10:2-4 as an admonition against decorating Christmas trees.
The King James Version reads: “Thus saith the Lord, Learn not the way of the heathen…. For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe. They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not.”
In order to understand this subject, it is helpful to trace some of the history of Christmas avoidance, particularly its roots in Puritanism.
The Puritans believed that the first-century church modeled a Christianity that modern Christians should copy. They attempted to base their faith and practice solely on the New Testament, and their position on Christmas reflected their commitment to practice a pure, scriptural form of Christianity. Puritans argued that God reserved to himself the determination of all proper forms of worship, and that he disapproved of any human innovations – even innovations that celebrated the great events of salvation. The name Christmas also alienated many Puritans. Christmas, after all, meant “the mass of Christ.” The mass was despised as a Roman Catholic institution that undermined the Protestant concept of Christ, who offered himself once for all. The Puritans’ passionate avoidance of any practice that was associated with papal Rome caused them to overlook the fact that in many countries the name for the day had nothing to do with the Catholic mass, but focused instead on Jesus’ birth. The mass did not evolve into the form abhorred by Protestants until long after Christmas was widely observed. The two customs had separate, though interconnected, histories.
As ardent Protestants, Puritans identified the embracing of Christianity by the Roman Emperor Constantine in the early 300s CE as the starting point of the degeneration and corruption of the church. They believed the corruption of the church was brought on by the interweaving of the church with the pagan Roman state. To Puritans, Christmas was impure because it entered the Roman Church sometime in this period. No one knows the exact year or under what circumstances Roman Christians began to celebrate the birth of their Lord, but by the mid-300s CE, the practice was well established.
Islam requires Muslims to respect the faith of others
Regardless of historical facts and theological differences that Christians may have among themselves or theological differences Muslims may have with Christianity we cannot disregard the sentiments of practicing Christians who use this occasion to revere Jesus .
Prophet Muhammad was always very respectful towards the Christians. According to Islamic historians, Ibn e Saad and Ibn e Hisham, once there was a delegation of Byzantine Christians, who were traveling from Yemen to Madinah. The delegation was lead by a bishop by the name of Zqyd al-Usquf , who came to discuss a number of issues with Prophet Muhammad . When the time of their prayer came, they asked the Prophet if they could do their worship in the mosque of the Prophet. He answered, “Conduct your service here in the mosque. It is a place dedicated to God.”
A Muslim cannot and should not ridicule the religious beliefs of others, no matter how much they disagree with them. God says in the Quran: “And insult not those whom they worship besides God, lest they insult God wrongfully without knowledge. Thus We have made fair-seeming to each people its own doings; then to their Lord is their return and He shall then inform them of all that they used to do”. Quran, 6:108