First Published: 2017-12-21

I Will Be One of the Many Muslims Around the World Marking Christmas
Jesus has such a significant presence in Islam, he is referred to in the Quran as the Word of God and as One Drawn Near, observes Aaqil Ahmed.
Middle East Online

Christmas in Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus, is a front line in the battle for the Holy Land. Like everything in this contested land, nothing is what it seems. There are Palestinians who say the birthplace is not in the celebrated Church of the Nativity but further down the road. Many academics claim this is the wrong Bethlehem, the real birthplace is under a highway.

What cant be called into question is Muslim belief that Jesus is a prophet and a very important one at that. Perhaps this clear dividing line between Islamic prophethood and Christian divinity is the reason many non-Muslims dont see Jesus and Islam as linked. Perhaps many Muslims dont talk about their interpretation of the life and death of Jesus for fear of offending Christians.

This, however, is changing. Earlier this year, The Islamic Jesus by Mustafa Akyol was released. Now, Karl-Josef Kuschel has written Christmas and the Quran, in which he points to Islamic narratives around Jesus that are not in the gospels.

In one example, Jesus moulds clay birds and breathes life into them. A similar tale appears in the apocryphal Infancy Gospel of Thomas, second-century Christian writings about Jesus childhood.

Akyol explores the commonality and extraordinary historical connections, particularly among early Christians and Muslims in his book. He urges Muslims to discover Jesus and to read the New Testament.

To discover or rediscover Jesus does bring up key questions. How do you navigate the big elephant in the room: Is he or is he not the son of God?

Maybe it doesnt matter. Jesus has such a significant presence in Islam, he is referred to in the Quran as the Word of God and as One Drawn Near. So perhaps it is enough just to say that both Muslims and Christians revere him and that he has a central space in the kingdom of God.

The Prophet Mohammad has no place in Christianity yet members of the Christian clergy navigate the finality of his Islamic Prophethood with elements of his message about which they agree.

The Roman Catholic Bishop of Salford John Arnold recently spoke at a parade in Manchester, England, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Mohammad. Arnolds motives may have been more about building community cohesion by celebrating the festival of a local community but attend and celebrate he did.

With Christmas a few more shopping days away, there will be silly tabloid and far-right stories about Muslims who stole Christmas because they hate it so much. Recently, a British superstore got into a spot of bother with those groups for including a Muslim family in their Christmas celebratory TV ad campaign.

For many, however, celebrating Christmas is less about faith and more about being together as a family. Even so, its possible that superstore was on to something. Perhaps that Muslim family was celebrating Christmas because it marks the birthday of the prophet Jesus.

Either way, I will be one of the many Muslims around the world marking Christmas. The bishop of Salford has shown that celebrating what we have in common is better than division and misunderstanding. Im sure Jesus would agree.

Aaqil Ahmed, the former head of Religion and Ethics for the BBC, is a professor of media at Bolton University and a consultant in digital media, broadcasting and leadership.

Copyright 2017 The Arab Weekly


UN in security talks with Syria on chemical probe

Libya to clamp down on fuel smuggling

In Iraq's oil-rich Basra, shanty towns flourish

Riyadh says two al Qaeda militants killed in Yemen

Saudi women embrace sports headscarves

Syria regime forces caught in surprise IS attack

Turkey sentences 18 to life for killing ‘hero’ coup soldier

Exxon faces setback in Iraq as oil and water mix

Yemen to arrest colonel for overlooking African migrant rape

Erdogan sends Turkey to snap polls on June 24

Qatar joins Gulf military exercise in apparent compromise

Saudi-Russia oil alliance likely to undercut OPEC

Record of women candidates in Lebanon, but you can't tell from TV

Sudan protests to UN over Egypt voting in disputed area

Erdogan calls Turkey snap polls for June 24

Rights watchdog say African migrants face rape, torture in Yemen

Nine years since last vote, Lebanon in election fever

Israeli fire neat Gaza border injures five Palestinian

Egypt army says killed jihadist leader in Sinai

Iraq sentences over 300 people to death for IS links

Syria chemical weapons visit delayed after gunfire

Syria regime shells last jihadist pockets in Damascus

After the war is won, ‘we shall not return’ to Mosul

Saudi Arabia to host cinema test screening with 'Black Panther'

Trump voices support for US pastor jailed in Turkey

Rouhani says Iran will make or buy any weapons it needs

US fears ceding influence to Russia, Iran in Syria

Nationalist Erdogan ally calls for snap Turkey elections

Saudi renews offer to deploy troops to Syria

Kaveh Madani, Iran’s expat eco-warrior who was on too many fronts

UN to launch new Yemen plan to restart negotiations

Russia dismisses West's 'untimely' push on Syria

Turkey, Iran to press on with Russia alliance on Syria

Iraq sentences French IS member to life in jail

Inspection of Syria chemical attack scene in limbo

Golan Druze rally in support of Syria's Assad

Macron admits Syria strikes ‘solve nothing’

Rebels, regime agree new deal for exit from Syrian town

Syria retracts ‘false alarm’ missile attack report

Gulf split deepens in Somalia's Puntland region

MENA countries must spend $260 billion to meet power demands

Kuwaiti crown prince heads to the US for medical tests

Arab leaders unlikely to act on US Jerusalem move

EU to start talks with Morocco on new fishing deal inclusive of Western Sahara

Saudi-led coalition warns of 'painful' response over Yemen drones