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Unto Us a Child is Born

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For northern Europeans a mid-winter festival has occurred for as long as there have been people to celebrate it.  Reassurance has always been needed in the dark depths of winter that the spring will come again, and with it another season for planting crops and rearing animals.  The early Christians overlaid the story of the Nativity of Jesus onto the existing festival, so as with other festivals in the Christian calendar, it was never entirely spiritual in its intention.


As Muslims living in this country, we are surrounded by preparations for Christmas, based almost entirely upon the secular aspects of the celebration.  For most people this is all there is to it, but we should not ignore the subject altogether.  The Christmas season gives us a chance to think about Jesus, one of the Prophets of Islam, and about the Blessed Virgin Mary (Maryam), who is revered by both Christians and Muslims.  The Quran relates the story of the conception and birth of Jesus and tells us  about Mary, the daughter of Imran and Hanna, who were unable to have children until Hanna prayed to Allah and vowed to consecrate any child she might bear to his service.
“Lord I vow to you the fruit of my womb as a consecrated offering.  Accept it from me.  You are All-Hearing, All-Knowing.” (Q.3:35)
Hanna became pregnant and in due course gave birth to a baby girl.  Although there was no precedent for the admission of a girl into the sacred service of the Temple, Hanna’s brother in law, Zachariah, advised her that she should still fulfil her vow.
“When she was delivered, she said: “O my Lord, I have borne a female child, as You know best.  The male is not like the female.  I have named her Mary, and I commend her and her offspring to Your protection from the accursed Satan!”
Her Lord accorded Mary a noble reception, and  made her grow in purity and beauty.” (Q. 3:36-37)
Mary devoted herself to the worship of her Lord, and the first miracle associated with her was the provision of fruits from Paradise for her sustenance.  These she shared with the poor.  Then one day the Angel Gabriel appeared to her with this message:
“O Mary, Allah has selected you and purified you.  He has chosen you above all womankind.  Mary, be devoted to your Lord, prostrate yourself and bow with those who bow in worship.” (Q. 3:42-43)
Later, Gabriel appeared again and gave her the news that she would conceive and bear a child.
“Mary, Imran’s daughter, guarded her virginity, and so We breathed Our Spirit into her; and she testified to the truth of the words of her Lord and His scriptures, and she was one of those who are devout.” (Q.66:12)
“We breathed Our Spirit into her, and made her and her son a sign for all mankind.” (Q.21:91)
The Holy Quran reveals the miraculous birth of Jesus, may peace be upon him.  Mary had retired to a remote place during her pregnancy and the baby was born beneath a palm tree on a simple bed of palm leaves.  After the birth she was filled with anxiety as she wondered what she would say in defence of her virtue when people saw the child.
A voice cried out near her saying: “Do not grieve!  Your Lord has placed a rivulet beside you.  Shake the trunk of the palm tree, and you will cause ripe dates to fall.  So eat and drink and be comforted.  And if you catch sight of any mortal, say: “I have vowed a fast to the All-Merciful, so I may not speak to any human being.” (Q.19:24-26)
When Mary took the infant Jesus back to her people after 40 days, they were able to witness that the baby had the power of speech.
“They said: “How can we talk to him who is but an infant in the cradle?”
Jesus replied: “I am indeed a servant of Allah.  He has given me Revelation and appointed me His Prophet.
He has made me blessed wherever I may be, and has ordained me to pray and to serve as long as I live.
He has made me kind to my mother, and has not made me arrogant or rebellious.
Peace is upon me, the day I was born, the day I die and the day I shall ascend to Paradise.
Such was Jesus, son of Mary.  This is a clear statement of the truth about which they argue.” (Q.19:29-34)
Muslims recognise Jesus, upon him be peace, as the sublime servant of God and as one of His Divine Messengers.  Knowing Jesus to have been created without a father, he is called Ruhullah, the Spirit of God.

Written with reference to Blessed Virgin Mary by Sh. Muzaffer Ozak Al-Jerrahi.

 

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