HOW MUSLIMS CELEBRATE JESUS

We as Muslims share with the Jewish and Christian communities many points of commonality. These include: belief in God, belief that He revealed scriptures to humanity and sent a succession of prophets. The Quran, we notice, addresses the Jews and Christians from the vantage point of these points of agreement. We are concerned in this article with a particular point of commonality between Muslims and Christians - and that is our reverence for Jesus and our recognition that he is the Messiah, the Christ. The Christian world recently celebrated the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ with the Easter.

Though we as Muslims do not believe in the death and crucifixion of Jesus, but we nevertheless celebrate Christ in our lives in a complete way, with constancy and steadfast devotion. Our celebration of Christ is one of faith, remembrance, and emulation. Muslims honour Christ (alayhi salaam) through their faith. What follows is stated in the Quraan: Faith in Him as a messenger of Allah Throughout the Quraan, Jesus is identified fundamentally as a messenger of Allah.

In As-saff (61:6) Allah quotes Jesus as follows : And [remember] when Jesus, son of Mary said: O children of Isreal, I am the messenger of Allah sent to you, confirming the Torah [which came] before me. There are many verses in the new testament supporting the messengership/prophethood of Jesus. The following are only a few: In Mattew 21:11, the people of His time were recorded as referring to Jesus as prophet and the crowd said: This is the prophet, Jesus of Nazareth of Galilee.

In the following verse Jesus was refered to as having been sent as a messenger. In John 17:3, Jesus is also quoted saying: And this is life eternal that they might know thee the only true God and Jesus Christ whom thou has sent . Faith in him as a man The Quraanic revelation not only affirms Jesus' prophethood, but it clearly denies Jesus divinity. In al-Maa'idah [5]: 75, Allah points that Jesus ate food, which is a human act, obviously not befitting to Allah.

Allah says: The messiah, son of Mary, was no more than a messenger and many messenger passed away before him. His mother was exceedingly truthful and they both ate food, see how I have made the signs clear for them, yet see how they are deluded. There are numerous accounts in the new testament which also deny Jesus' divinity. For example in Mattew 19:17, Jesus responded to one who addressed him as  O good master saying: why callest me thou good? There is none good, but one, that is God.

If he rejected been called "good" and stated that only God is truly good, He clearly implies that He is not God. In John 20:17, Jesus told Mary magdalene to tell his followers: "I ascend unto my Father and your Father; and to my God and your God." Jesus reference to God as my Father and your Father" further emphasizes the distinction between himself and God. Furthermore, by referring to God as "his God", he left no room for anyone to intelligently claim that he was God.

There are also verses in the Quraan which confirm Prophet Muhammads humanity, in order to prevent his followers from elevating him to a divine or semi divine status, as was done to Prophet Jesus. For example, in al-Kahf (18):110, Allaah instructs the Prophet Muhammad (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) to inform all who hear his message: "Say: Indeed, I am only a man like you to whom it has been revealed that your God is only one God." In al-Araaf (7):187, Allaah also directed Prophet Muhammad (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) to acknowledge that the time of the Judgement is known only to Allaah. "They ask you about the Final Hour: When will its appointed time be? Say: Knowledge of it is with my Lord. None can reveal its time besides Him:"

In the Gospel according to Mark 13:31-32, Jesus is also reported to have denied having knowledge of when the final hour of this world would be, saying:"Heaven and the earth shall pass away but my word shall not pass away, but of that day or hour no man knoweth, neither the angels in the heaven nor the Son but the Father." One of the attributes of God is omniscience, knowledge of all things. Therefore, his denial of knowledge of the Day of Judgement is also a denial of divinity, for one who does not know the time of the final hour cannot possibly be God.

An Immaculate Conception

The Quraan confirms the Biblical story of Jesus virgin birth. However, in the Quraanic account of Jesusbirth," Mary was an unmarried maiden whose life was dedicated to the worship of .God by her mother. While she was worshipping in a place of religious seclusion, angels came and informed her of her impending pregnancy. Allaah says "When the angels said: O Mary indeed Allaah gives you glad tidings of a Word from Him, whose name will be the Messiah, Jesus the son of Mary. He will be honored in this world and the next and will be of those close to Allaah: " ... "She said: :O my Lord, how can I have a son when no man has touched me? He said: Even so-Allaah creates what He wishes. When He decrees something, He only has to say to it: "Be!" and it is: "(Q3 [Aal-lmran]:45-4 7)

This miracle of Christs birth continued with the miracles of his infancy. Allaah says  (Q19[Maryam]: 29):"At length she brought the (babe) to her people, carrying him (in her arms). They said: "O Mary! Truly you have brought an amazing thing! O sister of Aaron! Your father was not a man of evil, nor your mother an unchaste woman!" But she pointed to the babe. They said: "How can we talk to one who is a child in the cradle?" He said: "I am indeed a servant of Allah: He has given me revelation and made me a prophet; and He has made me blessed wheresoever I be, and has enjoined on me prayer and charity as long as I live. He has 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 back to life." However, the Quraan clarifies that Jesusvirgin birth did not change the state of his humanity. His creation was like the creation of Aadam, who had neither father nor mother.

Allaah says: "Surely, the example of Jesus, in Allaah's sight, is like that of Aadam. He created him from dust and said: モBe!and he was:(Q3[Aal-Imran]:59) Faith in the miracles that took place at Christs hands Jesus Christ performed numerous miracles during the time of his preaching. For instance, the Quran tells us [Surah AI "lmran:49]: And (Allaah) will make him a messenger to the Children of Israel, (with this message): "I have come to you, with a sign from your Lord, in that I make for you out of clay as it were, the figure of a bird, and breathe into it, and it ,becomes a bird by Allaahs leave: And I heal those, born blind, and the lepers, and I quicken the dead, by Allaah's leave; and I declare to you what you eat, and what you store in your houses. Surely therein is a sign for you if you did believe." The Quraanic account of Jesusministry confirms most of his miracles mentioned in the Bible and identifies some not mentioned in the Bible. For example, the Quraan informs that Jesus was a messenger of God from his birth, and his first miracle was speaking as a child in the cradle. After Mary had given birth to Jesus, people accused her of fomication.

Instead of responding to their accusations, she pointed to her newly born child: "[When) she pointed to him, they asked, "How can we talk to a child in the cradle? He [Jesus] said: Indeed, I am a servant of Allaah. He gave me the scripture and made me a prophet." (Q 19[Maryam] :29-30) Aside from his other miracles like bringing the dead back to life, healing lepers, and making the blind see, the Quraan records another miracle not mentioned in the Bible.

Prophet Jesus fashioned birds out of clay, blew on them and they flew away, living birds. However, the point which is emphasized throughout the Quraan is that whenever Jesus performed a miracle, he informed the people that it was by Allaahs permission. He made it clear to his followers that he was not doing the miracles by himself, in the same way that the earlier Prophetsmade it clear to those around them. Unfortunately, those who claim divinity for Jesus, usually hold up his miracles as evidence. However; other prophets were recorded to have done the same or similar miracles in the Old Testament. Check the following examples: Jesus fed 5,000 people with five loaves of bread and two fishes. Elisha fed 100 people with twenty barley loaves and a few ears of com (II Kings 4:44) Jesus healed lepers. Elisha cured Naaman the leper (II Kings 5: 14).

Jesus caused the blind to see. Elisha caused the blind to see (II Kings 6: I7&20). Jesus raised the dead. Elijah did the same (I Kings 17:22). So did Elisha (II Kings 4:34). Even Elishas bones could restore the dead (II Kings 13:21). Jesus walked on water. Moses and his people crossed the dead sea (Exodus 14:22). There are also texts in the New Testament which confirm that Jesus did not act on his own. Jesus is quoted in John 5:30, as saying: "I can of mine own self do nothing ...and in Luke 11:20, as saying, "But if I with the finger of God cast out devils, no doubt the Kingdom of God is come upon you.

Faith in Christs ascension Muslims believe that Allah saved Jesus (alayhi salaam) from the schemes of his enemies, by having Jesus ascend unto Him. We read in the Quran: "And because of their saying (in boast), "We killed Messiah Eesa [Jesus], son of Maryam (Mary), the Messenger of Allaah," - but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but the resemblance of Eesa [Jesus] was put over another man (and they killed that man), and those who differ therein are full of doubts. They have no (certain) knowledge, they follow nothing but conjecture. For surely; they killed him not [i.e. Eesa [Jesus], son of Maryam (Mary)]. But Allaah raised him [Eesa (Jesus)] up (with his body and soul) unto Himself (and he is in the heavens). And Allah is Ever All Powerful, All-Wise." (Q4[Nisa]:157)

Faith in the Gospel of Jesus

Muslims believe in the scripture that Allah revealed unto Jesus. The following verses of the Quran attest to this:

A. "It is He who sent down to you (O Muhammad), in truth, the scripture, confirming what went before it; and He sent down the Torah and the Gospel before this, as a guide to humanity." (Q3[Aal-Imran]:3)

B. "And We caused Jesus, the son of Mary to follow in their footsteps, confirming that which was (revealed) before him in the Torah, and We bestowed on him the Gospel wherein is guidance and a light. confirming that which was (revealed) before it in the Torah  a guidance and an admonition unto those who ward off (evil). " [Surah al-Maidah: 46]

C. Allaah describes the followers of Muhammad in terms of the Gospel, saying: "Their similitude in the Gospel is like a seed which sends forth its blade, then makes it strong; it then becomes thick, and it stands on its own stem, (filling) the sowers with wonder and delight." [surah al-Fath (48): 29]

Our belief in the Gospel of Jesus is a tenet of faith for Muslims, in and of itself, that is part of the Muslim belief in the scriptures - which is one of the essential six pillars of the Islamic faith. Allah says in the Quran: "The messenger believes in what has been revealed to him from his Lord, and (so do) the believers; they all believe in Allah and His angels and His books and His messengers, saying: We make no difference between any of His messengers." (Q2 [Baqarah]: 285)

This means that a Muslims belief in the Quran is not valid unless that Muslim also believes in the Gospel that was revealed to Jesus (alayhi salaam). Why is this the case? This is because the Quran came confirming the Gospel as well as the Torah. Allaah says: "It is He who sent down to you (O Muhammad), in truth, the scripture, confirming what went before it; and He sent down the Torah and the Gospel before this, as a guide to humanity." (Q3[A1lmran]:3)

Another reason why our faith in the book revealed to Jesus (alayhi salaam) is essential is because we as Muslims are required to believe in all of the scriptures that Allaah has revealed. Allaah commands us: "Declare: I believe in what A1laah has revealed of scriptures." (Q42[Shura]: 15)

Faith in the message of Christ

The Message of Jesus, is perhaps the most important point to consider. For; if Jesus was not God incarnate , but a prophet of God, the message which he brought from God is the essence of his mission. Submission The foundation of Jesusmessage was submission to the will of Allaah, because that is the foundation of the religion which Allaah prescribed for man since the beginning of time.

Allaah says in Aal-mraan verse 19 :"Truly, the religion in the sight of Allaah is Islaam [submission]." In Arabic, submission to Allaah's will is expressed by the word lslaam.ln the Gospel according to Matthew 7:22, Jesus is quoted as saying: "Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord,shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father in heaven." In this statement, Jesus places emphasis on "the will of the Father", submission of the human will to the will of God.

In John 5:30, it is narrated that Jesus also said: "I can do nothing on my own authority; as I hear, I judge; and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of Him who sent me." The Law The "will of God" is contained in the divinely revealed laws which the prophets taught their followers. Consequently, obedience to divine law is the foundation of worship. The Quraan affirms the need for obedience to the divinely revealed laws in al-Maaidah, verse 44: "lndeed, I did reveal the Torah in which was guidance and light, by which the prophets, who submitted to Gods will, judged (the Jews) ...and whoever does not judge by what Allaah has revealed is a disbeliever," Jesus was also reported in the Gospel according to Matthew 19:16-17, to have made obedience to the divine laws the key to Paradise: "Now behold, one came and said to him, "Good teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?" So he said to him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good but One, that is, God.

But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments." Divine law represents guidance for humankind in all walks of life. It defines right and wrong for them and offers human beings a complete system governing all of their affairs. The Creator alone knows best what is beneficial for His creation and what is not. Thus, the divine laws command and prohibit various acts and substances to protect the human spirit, the human body, and human society from harm. In order for human beings to fulfil their potential by living righteous lives, they need to worship God through obedience to His commandments.

This was the religion conveyed in the message of Jesus; submission to the will of the one true God by obedience to His commandments. Jesus stressed to his followers that his mission did not cancel the laws received by Prophet Moses. As the prophets who came after Moses maintained the law, so did Jesus. Chapter al-Maaidah, verse 46 of the Quraan indicates that Jesus confirmed the Laws of the Torah in his message. And in their footsteps, Isent Jesus, son of Mary, confirming the Torah that had come before him, and I gave him the Gospel, in which was guidance and light and confirmation of the Torah that had come before it," In Matthew 5: 17-18,Jesus stated: "Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the [way of] the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfil them.

For, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished." However, Paul, who claimed to be a disciple of Jesus, systematically cancelled the laws. In his letter to the Romans, chapter 7:6, he stated, "But now we are discharged from the law, dead to that which held us captive, sothat we serve not under the old written code but in the new life of the Spirit." Faith in at-Tawheed (Unitarianism ) Jesus came as a prophet calling people to worship God alone, as the prophets before him did.

Allaah says in chapter an-Nahl (16):36, of the Quraan: "Surely, I have sent to every nation a messenger (saying): Worship Allaah and avoid false gods." In Luke 3:8. the Devil asks Jesus to worship him, promising him the authority and glory of all of the kingdoms of this world, And Jesus answered him. It is written, You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve.~ Thus. the essence of the message of Jesus was that only God deserves to be worshipped and that the worship of anyone or anything besides God or along with God is false. Jesus not only called people to this message but he also practically demonstrated it for them by bowing down in prayer and worshipping God himself. In Mark 14:32, it states: "And they went to a place which was called Gethsemane; and he [jesus] said to his disciples, Sit here, while I pray... And in Luke 5:16, "But he withdrew to the wilderness and prayed." Jesus called them to worship the one true God who is unique in His qualities. God does not have the attributes of His creation, nor does any creature share any of His attributes.

The vast majority of Christians today pray to Jesus, claiming that he is God. The philosophers among them claim that they are not worshipping Jesus the man, but God who was manifest in Jesus the man. This is also the rationale of pagans who bow down in worship to idols. When a pagan philosopher is asked why he worships an idol which was made by human hands, he replies that he is not really worshipping the idol. Furthermore, he may claim that the idol is only a focal point for the presence of God. and thereby claim to be worshipping God who is manifest in the idol, and not the physical idol itself.

There is little or no difference between that explanation and the answer given by Christians for worshipping Jesus. The origin of this deviation lies in the false belief that God is present in His creation. Such a belief justifies the worship of Gods creation. Jesusmessage, which urged mankind to worship one God alone, became distorted after his departure. Later followers, beginning with Paul. turned that pure and simple message into a complicated trinitarian philosophy which justified the worship of Jesus, and then the worship of Jesus mother.

Mary, the angels and the saints. Catholics have a long list of saints to whom they turn in times of need. If something is lost, Saint Anthony of Thebes is prayed to in order to help find it. St. Jude Thaddaeus is the patron saint of the impossible and is prayed to for intercession in incurable illnesses, unlikely marriages or the like. The patron saint of travelers was Saint Christopher, to whom travelers used to pray for protection up until 1969, when he was officially struck off the list of saints by papal decree, after it was confirmed that he was fictitious. Although he was officially crossed off the list of saints, there are many Catholics around the world today who are still praying to St. Christopher.

Worshipping saintscontradicts and corrupts the worship of One God; and it is in vain, because neither the living nor the dead can answer the prayers of mankind. The worship of God should not be shared with His creation in any way, shape or form. In this regard, Allaah said the following in al-Araaf (7): 194: "Surely, those whom you call on in prayer besides Allaah are slaves like yourselves": This was the message of Jesus Christ and all the prophets before him. It was also the message of the last prophet, Muhammad  may peace and blessings be upon all of them.

Thus, if a Muslim or a person who calls himself a Muslim prays to a saint, he has stepped out of the bounds of lslaam. Islaam is not merely a belief, wherein one is only required to state that he or she believes that there is no God worthy of worship in truth but Allaah and that Muhammad was the last of the messengers, in order to attain paradise. This declaration of faith allows one who declares it to enter the doors of Islaam, but there are many acts which may contradict this declaration and expel the doer from Islaam as quickly as he or she came in. The most serious of those acts is praying to other than God. Muslim not "Mohammedan" Since Jesus religion, and that of all of the earlier prophets, was the religion of submission to God, known in Arabic as Islaam, his true followers should be called submitters to God, known in Arabic as Muslims.

In Islaam, prayer is considered an act of worship. Prophet Muhammad (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) said, "Supplication is an act of worship." (Abu Dawud) Consequently, Muslims do not accept being called Mohammedans, as followers of Christ are called Christians and followers of Buddha are called Buddhists. Christians worship Christ and Buddhists worship Buddha. The term Mohammedans implies that Muslims worship Muhammad, which is not the case at all. In the Quraan, Allaah chose the name Muslim for all who truly follow the prophets.

The name Muslim in Arabic means "one who submits to the will of God." Allaah says: ...It is He who named you Muslims both before and in this [scripture, the Quraan]." (Q22 [Hajj]:78) Consequently, the essence of Jesusmessage was that man should worship God alone. He should not be worshipped through his creation in anyway. Consequently, His image cannot be painted, carved or drawn. He is beyond human comprehension.

Avoidance of Images Jesus did not condone the pagan practice of making images of God. He upheld the prohibition mentioned in the Torah, Exodus 20 verse 4: "You shall not make for yourself a graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. モ Consequently, the use of religious images, called icons, was firmly opposed by the early generation of Christian scholars.

However, in time, the Greek and Roman tradition of image-making and portraying God in human form eventually won out. The prohibition is to prevent the eventual deterioration of worship of God into the worship of His creation. Once a human being makes a picture in his or her mind of God, the person is, in fact, trying to make God like His creation, because the human mind can only picture the things which it has seen, and God can not be seen in this life. Prophesy of Jesus Part of Prophet Jesusmessage was to inform his followers of the prophet who would come after him. As John the Baptist heralded the coming of Jesus Christ, Jesus in turn heralded the coming of the last of the prophets of God, Muhammad.

In the Quraan, as-Saff (61):6, Allaah quotes Jesusprophesy about Muhammad (salallahu alayhi wa sallam): "(Remember) when Jesus, son of Mary said, O Children of Israel, I am the Messenger of Allaah sent to you, confirming the Torah before me, and giving glad tidings of a Messenger coming after me, whose name will be Ahmad." There are also some references in the Gospels which seem to refer to the coming of Prophet Muhammad may Gods peace and blessings be on all the prophets. In the Gospel according to John 14:16, Jesus is quoted as saying, "And I will pray the Father; and he will give you another Counselor; to be with you for ever." Christian laymen usually interpret the "Counselor" mentioned in John 14:16 as the Holy Spirit.

However, the phrase "another Counselor" implies that it will be someone else like Jesus and not the Holy Spirit, especially considering John 16:7, in which Jesus is reported to have said, "Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you." The term "Counselor" could not be referring to the Holy Spirit here, because - according to the Gospels - the Holy Spirit was already present in the world prior to Jesusbirth, as well as during his ministry. This verse implies that the "Counselor" had not already come. Jesus foretelling the coming of Muhammad- may Allaahs peace be upon both of them confirmed the prophesies about Prophet Muhammad (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) in the Torah.

In Deuteronomy 18:18 & 19, it is written that the Lord said to Moses, "I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brethren; and I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. And whoever will not give heed to my words which he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him." In Isaiah 42, Isaiah prophesies about a chosen "Servant of the Lord" whose prophetic mission would be to all mankind, unlike the Hebrew prophets whose missions were limited to Israel. "Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him, he will bring forth justice to the nations... He will not fail or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his law...Let the desert and its cities lift up their voice, the villages that Kedar inhabits." This particular servant of the Lord is the only one identified with Kedar, the Arabs.

Conclusion

This celebration of Jesus Christ (alayhi salaam) - including his conception, his birth, his miracles, his scripture, and his message is not merely an idea; it is a lived reality for the Muslims, infused every day in the most essential practices of our faith and worship. When a Muslim recites the Quran and especially the chapters entitled "Mary", the "Family of Imran" and "The Table Spread" (which refers to the supper that Jesus- peace be upon him had with the disciples) - this entails reciting the teachings about Christ as a form of worship. The verses honouring and praising Christ are also recited within our daily prayers. Belief in Christ is part of the essential Islamic beliefs that every Muslim is taught from earliest childhood. Allaah says in the Quran: "(This is) the truth from your Lord, so be not of those who doubt.

Then whoever disputes with you concerning him [Iesa (Jesus)] after (all this) knowledge that has come to you, [i.e. Iesa (Jesus)] being a slave of Allah, and having no share in Divinity) say: (O Muhammad) "Come, let us call our sons arid your sons, our women and your women, ourselves and yourselves - then we pray and invoke (sincerely) the Curse of Allah upon those who lie." Verily! This is the true narrative [about the story of [Iesa (Jesus)], and, La ilaha ill-Allah (none has the right to be worshipped but Allah, the One and the Only True God, Who has neither a wife nor a son). And indeed, Allah is the All-Mighty, the All-Wise.

And if they turn away (and do not accept these true proofs and evidences), then surely, Allah is All Aware of those who do mischief. Say (O Muhammad): "O people of the Scripture (Jews and Christians): Come to a word that is just between us and you, that we worship none but Allah, and that we associate no partners with Him, and that none of us shall take others as lords besides Allah. Then, if they turn away. say: "Bear witness that we are Muslims." (Q3[Aal-lmran]: 60-64)

This article was culled from the publications of Deen Communication Limited

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