Billions will celebrate Christmas this week. People will celebrate Christ’s life and his teachings – especially love and compassion.
Jesus Christ is recorded to have said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with your entire mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” [Luke 10:27].
People of all faiths live as neighbors in America. Loving our neighbors as ourselves requires us to understand one another, to appreciate the immense similarities we share and to be tolerant enough to keep our petty differences from propagating hate. As a Muslim-American, I take this opportunity to highlight similarities between Islam and Christianity.
It is recorded that when early Muslims were persecuted in Arabia, Prophet Muhammad advised them to migrate to Abyssinia, the land of a ‘just’ Christian king. An envoy from Mecca reached King Negus asking him to return the Muslims to Mecca. When the King heard Islam’s teachings and its view on Jesus and Mary, he replied, “The difference between us and you is not more than a line”. He granted asylum to these Muslims in his land and asked the Meccan envoy to leave. “Not for a mountain of gold will I give them to you”, he said. King Negus valued the similarities between his faith and Islam and ignored the trivial differences he found.
Prophet Muhammad exhibited a similar spirit of understanding when, as ruler, he drafted a charter of privileges to Christians in Mt Sinai in 628 CE. “We are with them”, he declared. “Christians are my citizens; and by Allah! I hold out against anything that displeases them.No compulsion is to be on them. Neither are their judges to be removed from their jobs nor their monks from their monasteries.”
He went on to announce, “Verily, Christians are my allies and have my secure charter against all that they hate.No one is to force them to travel or to oblige them to fight. The Muslims are to fight for them. If a female Christian is married to a Muslim, it is not to take place without her approval. Their churches are to be respected. No one of the nation is to disobey [this] covenant till the Last Day”. This is the enormous respect and love that Prophet Muhammad had for Christianity.
As a Muslim, my faith is not completewithout faith in the truth of Jesus. Islam preaches that Jesus was a true prophet of God. The Quran mentions Jesus nearly 30 times and presents the piety of Mother Mary as an example for mankind. It praises her patience and chastity and speaks of the virgin birth of Jesus. Islam also exhorts that Jesus was exceptionally intelligent and wise and was eloquent in speech even as a child. It is these similarities between the two faiths that we must focus on to foster amity and love.
Prophet Muhammad taught, “You will not enter Paradise until you have faith and you will not have faith until you love one another.” One way to love one another he said was to give gifts and presents.In celebrating Jesus’ teachings, let us share presents and spread interfaith love and harmony. Let us heal any misunderstandings and save our society from disintegration. To my fellow Christian neighbors, “I love thee”.