I think this is an appropriate time of year to make people more aware of the fact that Jesus – or Isa عليه السلام as we call him – is a prophet in Islam. He is an extremely revered prophet and in fact we know that there were no prophets in between him and the last prophet Muhammad ﷺ, with just under 600 years between them. Isa عليه السلام is mentioned by name in the Qur’an 25 times. Muhammad ﷺ is the best of all prophets, the Qur’an was revealed to him and he was the last and final messenger which is why he is so important to us as Muslims. There are four other prophets who have a significant mention above other prophets which are Abraham, Noah, Moses and Jesus. Many people in this country including Christians, atheists and followers of other faiths, are not aware of the fact that Muslims do believe in Jesus عليه السلام.
I recall when I had fairly recently reverted and an acquaintance of mine who was Christian was asking me about Islam and what do Muslims actually believe. I explained to her that the core principle of Islam is believing in Allah as the One God and not associating any partners in association with him. As she was a Christian I felt it relevant to inform her that as Muslims we do believe that Jesus was a prophet of God, but an important difference being that we do not believe he was the son of God. When we discussed this in more detail she was not able to offer me any explanation for her beliefs and she vaguely said “we are all children of God”, to which I responded, “no, we are all the creations of God.”
My point for bringing this up is that Jesus (Isa عليه السلام) simultaneously demonstrates a similarity between Islam and Christianity as well as the biggest difference.
Christmas has many pagan roots and many of the practices and traditions we see today are not Christian at all. In fact, the celebration of Christmas was banned in this country between 1647 and 1660 by Puritan Christian leader Oliver Cromwell as he regarded feasting and revelry on a supposed holy day as immoral. However, most people in this country are probably not aware of this and assume the roots are solely from Christianity and associate it with the birth of Jesus. Despite this, what has caught my attention is that I have come across people expressing disrespect, discomfort and disdain when even Christianity is highlighted at Christmas.
Nigel Farage has made arguments about Islam being problematic and has expressed that this country needs to fight to be able to practice traditional Christian celebration without being infringed upon by Islam in any way. Bearing this in mind, on Christmas Day he tweeted, “Merry Christmas. Ignore all negative messages from the Archbishop of Cantebury and have a great day!”. So the guy who tells people to fight for the Christian traditions of this country also tells people to ignore an important figure in the church in this country. Imagine if a Muslim had tweeted that. Nigel Farage is definitely not a representative of the majority of the population but a worrying number nonetheless.
What gets me is that the majority of people in this country don’t follow Christianity and I would argue do not feel comfortable with it being bought into and integrated into the celebrations and traditions – which may or may not have Christian roots – but when Islam is presented as a threat, it is portrayed as infringing upon the Christianity of this country.
I was sitting with my mum on Christmas Day when the Queen’s speech came on. When the Queen started talking about Jesus Christ (who that day is supposed to be all about) my mum started rolling her eyes and making comments. No one can express their faith or religion, apparently even the head of the Church of England, without making people feel uncomfortable.
However, no matter how uncomfortable Christianity may make a number of people feel, it can be nowhere near the discomfort levels which Islam provokes. A Christian could walk past you without offending you at all however a Muslim could be wearing ‘headgear’ or they might have a scary beard or be talking in another language. What people seem to like least of all is that Muslims always have to be different. When Christmas time comes and they don’t see Muslims saying Merry Christmas or putting up trees this is offensive and ‘other’.
Christmas can be a difficult time for reverts. A struggle to balance the principles of one’s faith and trying to maintain strong ties with your family – which is extremely important in Islam. On one side there are born Muslims rebuking any utterance of ‘Merry Christmas’ and on the other there are close family members waiting for you to shun them or to offend them in any way, as they always said you couldn’t become a Muslim without it impacting on your relationship with your family.
It is not as simple as some people seem to think and I feel that some born Muslims need to be more considerate of this. Some reverts have been completely disowned by their family so Christmas time can be a difficult period simply because it reminds them that their family will all be gathering and sharing happy times without them.
I came back down to my hometown to visit my mum and stay with her for a few days at this time. She bought a halal chicken and she made roast chicken, potatoes and all the traditional vegetables. And I bought gifts for my family with my own intentions. My best friend and I exchanged gifts and she is completely understanding of my religion and doesn’t blink twice at me putting my headscarf on.
Although Christmas is not a part of my religion at all and I know it has pagan roots which are against my beliefs, I still use this time of year to try and strengthen ties with my family and to try and make them comfortable and more accepting of the fact that I am a Muslim.