The Muslim Mind: The story of Christmas in the Holy Quran
This essay is part of a series that explores the Muslim community in Milwaukee. The Milwaukee Independent previously published an extensive interview with Janan Najeeb. It was an effort to help our readers better understand the people of Islamic faith who live in the city, and address questions that were not the usual fear-based reactions to news events. As a result of the positive impact and popularity of Najeeb’s profile, the Milwaukee Independent invited her to offer a continuing editorial voice about our Muslim neighbors and their shared stories from the community.
“Proclaim: We believe in God and the revelation given to us, and to Abraham, Ishmael, Jacob, and the tribes, and that given to Moses and Jesus, and that given to (all) prophets from their Lord: we make no distinction between one and another of them, and to God we submit.” Quran 2:136
In honor of Christmas, this essay is dedicated to explaining the tremendous commonalities between Christianity and Islam, in the hope of creating a greater understanding and better relations. The two do not hold a common faith, but do worship the same God, and adherents of both religions respect Jesus in different ways.
“Behold! The angels said: ‘O Mary! God gives you glad tidings of a Word from Him: his name will be Jesus, the son of Mary, held in honor in this world and the Hereafter and of the company of those nearest to God.” Quran 3:45
Many people may not know of the tremendous position both Mary and Jesus have within the Muslim scriptures, the Quran. Mary is the only woman mentioned by name in the Quran, and there is an entire chapter dedicated to her, titled Mariam. The story of Mary’s birth, childhood, and upbringing are detailed throughout the Quran.
Most Muslims can explain Mary’s lineage better than most Christians, and unlike some Christian denominations that view Mary as simply a vessel that carried Jesus, in the Muslim tradition Mary is a very important figure in her own right, with some Muslim scholars believing she was a prophet.
Mary is regarded as a pious virgin who committed herself in prayer and service to God. Many Muslims name their daughters Mariam. She is considered a role model for her character and is emulated for her modesty. While Muslims believe that Mary was visited by the angel Jibreel (Gabriel), and given good news of a blessed child, they do not believe that Jesus is God or shares divinity with God.
In Muslim tradition, Jesus of virgin birth is viewed as a beloved prophet of God, who was sent with basically the same message as prophets before him: inviting people to the worship of the One God, calling them to righteousness and justice, and imploring them to care for their neighbors, the orphans, and the stranger.
The Quran attributes the miracles performed by Jesus as only possible due to the will of God. Many Muslims name their sons Isa (Jesus). The Quran says that Jesus was rejected and mistreated by his own people in the same way that other prophets were rejected and mistreated by their people. While Christian tradition holds the crucifixion as central to Christian belief, Muslims believe Jesus prayed to God to save him from his enemies, was saved from such a death, and was lifted to heaven.
The Quran refers to Jews and Christians as “people of scripture,” an honorary title referring to communities honored by God and receiving scriptures from God. Islam is also not an exclusivist religion, it does not claim for its adherents a monopoly on God’s mercy or deny it to others.
“Those who believe (in the Quran), and those who follow the Jewish scriptures, and the Christians, and the Sabians, and any who believe in God and the Last Day, and work righteousness, shall have their reward with their Lord, on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.” Quran 2:62