THE BLOG
12/19/2011 05:21 pm ET Updated Feb 15, 2012

Islamic Christmas

There is no such thing as an "Islamic Christmas." In Islam the nativity of Jesus and of any other prophet is not customarily commemorated. However, it cannot be interpreted that Jesus the Son of Mary (Issa ibn Maryam) has little significance or no relevance in Islam. Actually, it is just the opposite. Jesus is recognized in the Qur'an as the Messiah, the Creator's Word and a Spirit coming from Him. Jesus is also mentioned at least on twenty five occasions in The Book (Quran); he is the Creator's Word for the Muslims, for Christians and for humanity as a whole. Muslims believe in him, love him, and honor him.

A Muslim can't profess Islam without accepting the fact that the Messiah was born from the Virgin Mary, and that he returned the sight to the blind, that he healed the lepers and even resurrected people from death. Moreover, Muslims await the second coming of the Messiah as a fulfillment of the signs of the Last Day.

Regarding his miraculous birth, the Qu'ran narrates the transcendent annunciation dialogue between the Angel Gabriel (Jibril) and Virgin Mary: "She said: When shall I have a boy and no mortal has yet touched me, nor have I been unchaste? He said: Even so; your Lord says: It is easy to Me: and that We may make him a sign to men and a mercy from Us, and it is a matter which has been decreed. So she conceived him; then withdrew herself with him to a remote place" (Qur'an; Surah 'Mary'; 19: 20-22)

The message of mercy for humanity that Jesus represents in Islam makes the Muslims feel a sense of belonging for Jesus, the Spirit and Word coming from the Creator: "...the Messiah, Isa son of Mary was a messenger of Allah, and His Word, which He sent down to Mary, and a Spirit from Him." (Qur'an; Surah 'The Women'; 4:171)

Jesus belongs to all Muslims because of what the struggle with his people represents; it resembles that of many Muslims today. His call against corruption of the Children of Israel, for truth and justice, still resonates in the same soil on which he walked and where he was prosecuted, mistreated and condemned. The same land where both Christians and Muslims, followers of the Messiah, still struggling against discrimination and prosecution as they are expelled and displaced from Jerusalem at this very moment, witnessing giant separation walls as tall as three story buildings that divide their communities.

Their access to their places of worship is limited either by age or by restraining physical accesses to their Mosque. Recently an official at the Israeli run Jerusalem City Council's Planning and Construction Committee, Sasson Gabai, called for closing the al-Aqsa Mosque for all Muslim worshipers in an attempt to pressure Muslims into accepting the demolishing of the bridge of the historic al-Magharba Gate that leads to the mosque. Specifically he stated that "all entrances leading to the al-Aqsa Mosque must be closed to Muslim worshipers until the Islamic Waqf Department agrees to the demolishing of the bridge". Yes, this is happening now in the land of Jesus' footsteps. The Palestinian Christians live also analogously bad experiences. You can not contain your tears reading Reverend Mitri Raheb books "Bethlehem Besieged" and "I am a Palestinian Christian". Both are moving narrations on which he uncovered some of the Palestinian Christians' torments, agonies and continuous suffering in an occupied Palestine.

The sad reality is that Christian and Muslim housings is no longer welcomed nor permitted in the Holy City of Jerusalem. We must highlight that Christian and Muslim communities were living together in these lands for generations experiencing a great degree of acceptance and tolerance. It is such a case that every day at around 4 am Waheeh Nuseibeh walks the Old City of Jerusalem to the Church of the Holy Sepulcre. Once there, he takes a nearly twelve inch long iron key, walks up the stairs and wide opens the full-size wooden doors of the venerated place. Various Christian denominations ceded this key, and the responsibility that it carries, to the Nuseibeh family. The Nuseibeh's, a Muslim family, have upheld their obligations and responsibilities towards their Christian neighbors for over eight hundred years; and continue to pass it on generation after generation.

Christmas cannot be fully observed and celebrated without stopping to meditate on the injustice suffered in the same land that Jesus walked. Undeniably Jerusalem is the holy city for the children of Abraham and as such all of them shall be allowed to live and worship there. Anything on the contrary is an affront to the most basic principles cherished by Jews, Christians and Muslims. Our prayers offered for a peaceful Christmas season to all Christians and for a peaceful Hanukkah to the Jewish community; both of them our cousins.