It’s the most wonderful time of the year, right? Christmas has come. The Christmas trees, filled stockings, mistletoe and bright lights are spectacular. What’s not to like?
So how come Muhammad down the street is not soaking up the holiday joy? I don’t see his house decorated with lights, or a tree in his house.
Trust me, your Muslim neighbor isn’t a grinch. He or she just doesn’t celebrate Christmas, and here’s why.
As we know, Christmas is a religious affair celebrating the birth of Christ, whom Christians believe to be the son of God, and a part of God Himself. Unlike our Christian brethren, Muslims don’t ascribe to this belief. Muslims believe, as the Qur’an states, that “The Majesty of our Lord is exalted. He has taken neither wife nor son unto Himself.”
Muslims are also uncomfortable with the possible connections that Christmas may have with pagan traditions. Scottish anthropologist Sir James George Frazer writes, “The coincidences of the Christian with the heathen festivals are too close and too numerous to be accidental. They mark the compromise which the Church in the hour of its triumph was compelled to make with its vanquished yet still dangerous rivals.”
Muslims don’t necessarily believe that Jesus was born on Dec. 25, or even in winter for that matter. The Gospels make no mention of the date of Jesus’ birth and early Christians were not at all interested in the birth of Jesus.
Luke 2:7-8 does tell us that Mary had to give birth to Jesus outside in the open because there was no guest room available to her. The average low temperature in Bethlehem in late December is 40 degrees Fahrenheit, and it rains an average of 11 days in December . Muslims find it hard to believe that a woman could give birth outdoors in near freezing weather conditions while it was likely raining.
So wait, you’re telling me Muhammad down the street hates Jesus?
Quite the contrary, actually. Muslims deeply adore and revere Jesus of Nazareth. In fact, we know him to be a chosen prophet of God. Jesus, peace be upon him, is mentioned more than 100 times in the Qur’an. One such mention is when an angel tells Mary that her child will be “honoured in this world and in the next, and of those who are granted nearness to God” (Q.3:46).
Even Prophet Muhammad expressed his love for Jesus, by saying, ““I am the nearest of all people to Jesus, in this world and the next. We are brothers to one another. Our religion is one.”
Jesus Christ is so central to Islam that most of the world’s Muslims anxiously await his return in the latter days. In fact, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, who the World Christian Encyclopedia cites as the fastest growing Muslim sect in the world, believes that the prophecy of Christ’s second coming has already been fulfilled in the person of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad.
So, although we Muslims may not actively participate in the Christmas festivities, we can use this time to reflect upon and emulate Christ’s noble character. We can give our brethren the miraculous gift of food in these desperate times, as Jesus did. We can raise the spirits of those in anguish and pain. Because who doesn’t want to be a patient child of God who desires humanity to unite in love and harmony?
As a Muslim, I can certainly commemorate and honor that.
The author, Frasat Ahmad is the imam at the Silver Spring, Md.-based national headquarters of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, USA.