(RNS) — “So, what are you doing for Christmas? ” asked a pastor, a good friend of mine, after a recent interfaith panel discussion on Zoom that we’d both participated in. I responded, “Saving my money!”
He jokingly responded, “Oh, OK, I’ll make sure to hit you back up on Eid, and we’ll see how that money-saving is going.”
Then we had a nice conversation about holidays and rituals — why we Muslims don’t try having an Eid Santa (we agreed he could have the same beard!), and our favorite topic: Jesus (peace be upon him).
Jesus (peace be upon him) is truly special to Muslims, and not in any superficial or ambiguous sense. One of the highest prophets and messengers of God, Jesus is mentioned in the Quran 25 times, with an entire chapter named after his honored mother, the Virgin Mary, to whom he was born miraculously, and who some Muslim scholars have deemed a prophet herself.
For Muslims, Jesus is also the chosen Messiah to return to this earth in its final days (though the implications of the term Messiah differ between Muslims and Christians), and distinguished in the hereafter with a special place in paradise.
But in our talk this time, my pastor friend asked me something that I’d never been asked before: Do Muslims have any connection to Jesus beyond how he fits into Islam’s overall theological conception as a messenger of God? After all, Muslims don’t celebrate any holidays surrounding Jesus or pray to him. How often does Jesus come up in the average Muslim’s life?