By guest blogger Fizza Hussain-Razvi
With due respect to the holiday traditions, for a moment I would plead to set aside the trees, Santas, shopping, and decorations because the superficial symbols overshadow the great man being celebrated. Celebrating the birth and the inspirational personality of Jesus, the ‘Spirit of God’ as he is referred to in Islam, becomes an obligation and a pleasure.
Growing up as a Muslim in a multi-religious community in India, we shared everyone else’s celebrations and sometimes joined each other in prayer services. There was not a day that our ears did not witness church bells, calls to prayer, and a bhajan (Hindu praise to God) or two.
In the midst of this rich environment, Jesus was always amongst my favorite personalities, my hero, and my inspiration as far back as I can remember. The person responsible for this inspiration was my very dear and wise paternal grandmother from Iran who would read and narrate to us stories from Islamic traditions about the life and teachings of Jesus the Messiah and his virtuous mother Mary.
Through Islam I learned that both Mary and Jesus are highly esteemed and are greatly revered and admired for their virtues in the Noble Quran. Mary is honored by Prophet Mohammad as one of the four greatest women who ever lived, and Jesus’ life and teachings abound in Islamic narrations. It is narrated that Jesus was a humble man with no desire for the material world. He draws an analogy that the love of God and love of the world cannot dwell in the same heart—like fire and water cannot be in the same container.
I was taught that Jesus the Messiah, the Spirit of God, came at a time and to a people who had become devoid of spirituality and morality. In times when spiritual darkness prevails and arrogant, corrupt men proclaim their rule over the people, then the spirits and souls of the common masses become worn out, weary, and shattered. Such was the time of Jesus when inner beauty had lost its charm, overshadowed by vulgarity and shallowness. In that spiritless darkness Jesus’ fearless stance became the beacon for rekindling dwindling spirits of those who desired his radiance.
When Jesus tried to spread this light amongst the decaying spirits, he was dealt arrogance, harshness, and contention, for the dark spirits were fearful of the awakening to humility and loss of power. Thus they defamed him, humiliated him, and called for his crucifixion. Yet nothing shook this solid pillar of uprightness and morality—this pillar was so deeply rooted in God’s love that no amount of hatred or cruelty would sway him in the slightest towards hurting, hating, or subjugating another.
Along with Jesus I came to revere other inspirational personalities and found deep-rooted commonality amongst them which attracted me deeply to their message. They displayed intense compassion towards their fellow humans; they unwaveringly stood up for truth, justice, and equality under all circumstances; and they were passionate and reverent about their mission. They defied oppressive and immoral social norms and threats to their life, preferring their own suffering over accepting injustices and the suffering of others—in short they were selfless.
As we prepare to celebrate the birth of this great man, Jesus the Messiah, the Spirit of God, are we ready Christians, Muslims, and people of the world? Are we ready and willing to walk in his footsteps? To live in his image with compassion towards all our fellow beings? To uphold truth, justice and equality? To make these ideals our passion, and, finally, are we ready to make this celebration worthy of the man we are setting out to celebrate? Let Jesus’ words echo as we humbly worship this season, “How many lamps the wind has put out, and how many worshippers pride has corrupted.”
A blessed Christmas season to all,
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