I was quite moved by this short piece; it was in Faith Central (Times Online), and describes the experience of a young British Muslim woman, Sajda Khan:
I have a very vivid memory of my days in primary school; weeks before school closed for Christmas, the beautifully decorated tree would stand tall and proud in the school hall, with glimmering lights, laden with shimmering tinsel and colourful baubles.
Like all the other children, I too would wait impatiently for Santa Claus I can remember once, all the children in my class given a colouring book with colouring pencils; my friend’s book was much thicker than mine, my heart was spilling with grief as I eyed my friend’s thick colouring book from the corner of my eye.
I am a British Muslim and as a child I never really understood what Christmas was about; all I knew was that it was celebrating the birth of Jesus. Little did I know that Jesus was also a revered Messiah, the anointed one, who will one day, return to earth.
The more I learned about Islam the more I realised that my religion requires me to be tolerant and respectful towards other faiths. The one thing that most disturbs me is that despite the many common theological roots and beliefs that Islam and Christianity have shared throughout history, they have often been depicted as lethal enemies locked in conflict. This so-called clash of civilizations has been marked with episodes of confrontation and conflict from as early as the defeat of the Byzantine empire in the seventh century, to the ferocious Crusades and the current war on terror; a story of mistrust, sometimes spilling into hatred that can only be resolved by one side triumphing over the other. The reality is that Christians and Muslim have lived in peaceful co-existence for centuries throughout the world.
Muslims and Christians share similar theological roots; for example a belief in Jesus as a Messiah. There is a difference: Muslims do not regard Jesus as the son of God but see him as a great Prophet. The Qur’an, mentions Jesus in about 25 different places. Muslims believe in the immaculate conception of Jesus, where God said ‘Be’ and he was conceived. The Qur’an also illustrates the many different miracles he performed; such as healing the leper, raising the dead to life and healing the blind etc. The first miracle of Jesus mentioned in the Qur’an was how he spoke in the cradle as a newborn baby, replying to those who doubted his conception.
Muslims believe that in Islam, all of the Prophets mentioned in the Qur’an are a fraternity, they all had the same core message: to call mankind to the worship of one God and to do good.
For Christians, Christmas is about celebrating the birthday of a sacred person: the embodiment of nobility, generosity, compassion and justice. These characteristics can be emulated by anyone from any religious background. Amid the media hype building up towards Christmas there is little focus on the great characteristics of Jesus and what we can learn from his life.
Even though I do not celebrate Christmas in the real sense – as a university student, for instance I would often work long shifts as a medical operator on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day enabling my non Muslim colleagues to celebrate the birth of Jesus, I do actually celebrate and cherish his birth and his life on this earth by truly loving him and trying to exemplify his noble characteristics in my own life.