Dispatches from the War on Christmas
A couple of years ago now, I saw a video on YouTube where this passage from the Qur’an was read to passersby in a park somewhere in the United States (I can’t remember where) and they were asked where it was from.
“(And mention) when the angels said, ‘O Mary, indeed God gives you the good news of a word from Him, whose name will be the Messiah Jesus, the son of Mary, held in honor in this world and in the Hereafter, and of those who are near to God.’ ‘He will speak to the people in the cradle, and in old age, and he will be of the righteous.’ She said, ‘My Lord, how can I have a son when no man has touched me.’ He said, ‘So (it will be,) for God creates what He wants. When He decides something, He only says to it, ‘Be,’ and it is. And He will teach him the Book and wisdom and the Torah and the Gospel. And (will make him) a messenger to the Children of Israel (saying), ‘Indeed I have come to you with a sign from your Lord. I make for you out of clay the likeness of a bird, then breathe into it, and it becomes a bird by the permission of God. And I heal the blind and the leper, and I bring the dead to life by the permission of God. And I inform you of what you eat and what you store in your houses. Surely, there is a sign for you in that, if you are believers. And (I have come) confirming the Torah that was (revealed) before me, and to allow you some of what was forbidden to you. And I have come to you with a proof from your Lord, so fear God and obey me. Indeed, God is my Lord and your Lord, so worship Him. This is the straight path.” (Quran 3:45-51)
The quote drew a lot of puzzled looks. It sounds familiar, most said, although the ignorance of the Qur’an (and probably the Bible, too) is vast. Some said it’s from the New Testament. One person expressed the opinion that it was from the Book of Luke. (Close, but no cigar.)
All were surprised to learn that the passage was from the Qur’an. But the Gospel story is really all there: a visit by angel (although Gabriel is not IDed), the identification of Jesus as the Messiah, and Mary being a virgin mother.
According to Middle Eastern scholar and professor Juan Cole, there is a lot more veneration of Mary and Jesus in the Qur’an, too. (There is a terrific article by Professor Cole at the link.) The Prophet Muhammad clearly respected Jesus as a prophet, but as a man, not a deity. Even early Christians were divided on the issue of Jesus’ divinity. (Three of the four Gospel writers don’t mention it; only the writer of the Gospel According to John does. Kind of an important point for the other three to miss, don’t you think?)
Muslims regard Jesus as a great prophet, just not the last one. Muslims don’t regard the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) as a deity, either.
You will notice how the Torah gets a shout out in the above-quoted passage, too.
These are things our Muslim friends, neighbors, and co-workers would tell us, I am sure, if we just shut up long enough to listen.
So let’s do that a little, okay, and not get so hung up on the cultural appropriateness of holiday greetings.
By the way, Merry Christmas.
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