By Ibrahim Hooper
During the Christmas season, Christian families seek to maintain a focus on Jesus and his legacy.
Many of our Christian brothers and sisters may be surprised to know that Muslims love and revere Jesus as one of Godâ€™s greatest messengers to mankind, just as we love and revere the Prophet Muhammad (s), may peace be upon them both.
The Prophet Muhammad (s) sought to erase any distinctions between the message he taught and that taught by Jesus, whom he called Godâ€™s â€œspirit and word.â€
Prophet Muhammad (s) said: â€œBoth in this world and in the Hereafter, I am the nearest of all people to Jesus, the son of Mary. The prophets are paternal brothers; their mothers are different, but their religion is one.â€
â€œBehold! The angels said: â€˜O Mary! God gives thee glad tidings of a Word from Him. His name will be Jesus Christ, the son of Mary, held in honor in this world and the Hereafter and in (the company of) those nearest to God.â€™â€
The quote above is not from the New Testament. It is taken from the Quran, Islamâ€™s revealed text. (3:45)
Other verses in the Quran, regarded by Muslims as the direct word of God, state that Jesus was strengthened with the â€œHoly Spiritâ€ (2:87) and is a â€œsign for the whole world.â€ (21:91) His virgin birth was confirmed when Mary is quoted as asking: â€œHow can I have a son when no man has ever touched me?â€ (3:47)
An entire chapter of the Quran (Chapter 19) is named after Jesusâ€™ mother Mary, â€œMaryamâ€ in the Arabic of the Quran.
The Quran shows Jesus speaking from the cradle and, with Godâ€™s permission, curing lepers and the blind. (5:110) God also states in the Quran: â€œWe gave (Jesus) the Gospel and put compassion and mercy into the hearts of his followers.â€ (57:27)
Muslims believe Jesus will return to earth in the last days before the final judgment. Disrespect toward Jesus is very offensive to Muslims.
The message of love, peace and forgiveness taught by Jesus, and accepted by both Christians and Muslims, can serve as a unifying force in a troubled world.
It is the same message of unity expressed by another verse in the Quran:
â€œSay ye: â€˜We believe in God and the revelation given to us and to Abraham, Ismail, Isaac, 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 any of them, and it is unto Him that we surrender ourselves.â€™â€ (2:136)
Obviously, Muslims and Christians have differing interpretations of the details of the life and message of Jesus. But by focusing on what we have in common, Christians and Muslims of goodwill can help build bridges of interfaith understanding and serve as a counterweight to the voices of division and extremism.
As the Quran tells us: â€œO humankind! We have created you male and female; and we have made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another. Verily, the most honored of you in the sight of God is the most righteous of you.â€ (49:13)