When people think about Christmas, the first thing that comes to mind probably isn’t the Quran, the central religious text of Islam.

Many people assume that the world’s major monotheistic religions differ greatly. But Islam and Christianity share some very basic ideas about who Jesus was and how he lived. The name Jesus is mentioned at least 25 times in the Quran, and many other references are made to the son of Mary or Christ the messenger of Allah.

Meanwhile, many details about the birth of Jesus match those found in the New Testament. Muslims, for example, believe in the Virgin Birth, and the Quran also calls Jesus the Messiah.

The earliest texts of the New Testament are believed to have been written between 50 and 62 A.D. by Saint Paul. Muslims believe the Quran was revealed by God to Muhammad verbally through the angel Gabriel beginning in 609 A.D.

Similar to the Gospel of Luke, the Quran describes the conversation between the Angel Gabriel and the Virgin Mary, in which Gabriel tells Mary that she will have a child.

“O Mary! Allah gives thee glad tidings of a Word from Him: His name will be Christ Jesus, the son of Mary, held in honor in this world and the Hereafter and of those nearest to Allah,” reads the Quran 3:45.

“Christ Jesus, the son of Mary, was an apostle of Allah,” adds the Quran 4:171.



What Christmas Means to This American Muslim

5a3dbcd821000018005f59d8Every Christmas, my wife, kids, and I make a road trip from Southern California to Texas to spend Christmas with my in-laws and my wife’s extended family. My wife’s parents and family members are Christians. One of my favorite things about visiting them during the Christmas holiday is the chance to be a part of such a warm, large, and loving gathering, typical of most Latino families. The food is amazing and our Christian family always makes sure to accommodate our Islamic dietary restrictions by ensuring there isn’t pork in any of the dishes.

My family’s story is the story of thousands of American Muslim families across our diverse nation who bond with their Christian family members every Christmas season and throughout the year.

For me, Christmas is always a reminder of the commonalities Christians and Muslims share. Honoring and revering Jesus is a part of our core Islamic teachings and it is a beautiful tradition I have enjoyed being a part of even before I began traveling to Texas with my wife and kids every Christmas.

I spent my childhood in Beirut, Lebanon, alongside Christian family members, neighbors, and close friends where we all lived in a close-knit community. My parents, practicing Muslims themselves, sent me to Catholic and Protestant schools to benefit from the high academics and to prepare me for our world’s diversity. Every Christmas, I was inspired by the love my Christian classmates and neighbors demonstrated for Jesus, a love Muslims have always sincerely shared.

After moving to the U.S. in my late teens, and even today, I am pleased to see that same love for Jesus shared amongst Christians in my community in the Greater Los Angeles area and the rest of the country.


How did Victorian Muslims celebrate Christmas?

e8044ae19f00415c934078617b3365b9_18At 6am on December 25, 1888, the winter sun was yet to rise over the English city of Liverpool.

A Victorian terrace house was feverish with activity.

The soft glow of candlelight emanating from 8 Brougham Terrace revealed men and women busily putting up decorations and preparing food for the big celebration ahead, Christmas Day.

In one corner, a familiar Victorian scene of a woman playing the piano and directing hymn rehearsals, the singers’ voices muted by the howling of a bitter northeasterly wind as it rattled the thin panes of glass.

This was Britain’s first mosque and Muslim community preparing for their very first Christmas Day.

At 8am, having led the tiny congregation in the early morning prayer, the Imam finally opened the mosque doors.

Imam William Henry “Abdullah” Quilliam founded the mosque after embracing Islam in 1887, aged 31 years old.

He was greeted by more than 100 of the city’s poor, who had been invited to enjoy a charitable Christmas breakfast inside what locals called “Islam Church”.



The Muslim Jesus provides common ground for Christianity, Islam

Iraqi man carrying cross and Quran attends Mass  in BaghdadAs the country sits transfixed with one of the strangest, divisive and most unpredictable presidencies in the history of the United States, lost in the madness has been the increase in Islamophobia since Donald Trump was elected president.

Islamophobia, defined as “unfounded hostility towards Muslims and therefore fear or dislike of all or most Muslims” has become frighteningly commonplace in the U.S. and this hatred and misinformation has found fertile soil in the past eight months of the Trump presidency.

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The Council on American-Islamic Relations has documented 451 incidents that stemmed from anti-Muslim bias between April 1 and June 30, 2017, 15 percent of which were acts of violence against Muslims. This represents a 91 percent increase in anti-Muslim hate crimes during that time compared to the same time period in 2016.

These crimes occur in a conducive environment. A Pew Research Center survey in 2017 rated Muslims at 48 degrees, the lowest on a 0-100 “feeling thermometer” out of nine religious groups in the United States, two points lower than atheists. Particularly negative feelings towards Muslims were harbored by Republicans and those who were Republican-leaning.

The irony here is that most Americans really have no idea what is in the Quran, the Muslim equivalent of the Bible, beyond the mostly negative and out of context soundbites they hear on talk radio, cable TV or the internet. They have no idea that the three monotheistic religions that follow the same Abrahamic tradition, namely that Abraham was the first prophet of God, are Judaism, Christianity and yes, the third sibling, Islam.

All three religions were born in the Middle East and are inextricably linked to each another. While Christianity was born from within the Jewish tradition, Islam developed from both Christianity and Judaism. In fact, Islam sees itself as the culmination of the Abrahamic faiths, the final revelation by God in the monotheistic tradition.

The Quran specifically protects Jews and Christians as Peoples of the Book, the “Book” meaning revelations from God to Jews and Christians which gives them a spiritual connection to Islam.



Muslims revere Jesus too, but this Turkish author sees the Islamic Jesus in a new light

RTX35KZENewcomers to the Quran might be surprised to find that the Prophet Muhammad is only mentioned a handful of times in the Muslim holy book.

The prophet whose name is mentioned most? That would be Moses — indeed, the very same Moses from the Book of Exodus.

Jesus, the son of Mary, is mentioned numerous times in the Quran. And the Islamic version of the Jesus story, it turns out, tracks quite closely to the one that Christians know.

The Quran has a whole chapter about Mary, who is the only woman mentioned by name in the holy book.

In one scene after the birth of her child, Mary is confronted by holy men accusing her of being impure. That is when baby Jesus speaks up in his mother’s defense, performing one of a couple of miracles that never show up in the New Testament version of the Jesus story.

About 15 years ago, the Turkish writer Mustafa Akyol was handed a copy of the New Testament for the first time by a missionary on the street in Istanbul. Akyol says he went home and started reading it, and what struck him most was how much of the story of Jesus was already so familiar to him as a Muslim.

Such as the angel visiting the Virgin Mary to tell her that she would give birth to a son, and the description of Jesus as a messenger of God.

“It was so similar,” Akyol says.

The author took out a pen and started underlining the passages about Jesus in the Bible that he agreed with as a Muslim. Those sections turned out to be extensive. And they prompted Akyol to start working on his new book, “The Islamic Jesus: How the King of the Jews Became a Prophet of the Muslims.”

While both the Quran and mainstream Muslim teachings emphasize the importance of Jesus as a prophet, Akyol is going a bit further.




Interfaith Healer: The Surprising Role of Jesus in Islam

51nMpVg+XhL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_How did a Jewish preacher who became the Christian Messiah also become one of the most admired figures in the Quran? Mustafa Akyol, a Turkish journalist and contributing opinion writer for The International New York Times, sets out to explore this apparent conundrum.

The result will come as something of a revelation to many non-Muslim readers, since Jesus is revered in Islam’s sacred text as a great teacher and prophet, while his mother, Mary, gets more ink — and praise — than in all four New Testament Gospels put together.

If the Quran’s portrayal of Jesus is familiar in outline, however, its details are sometimes not, especially to Western Christians used to a single canonical version. The Quran is more ecumenical, dipping into the rich mélange of Middle Eastern traditions contained in the apocryphal and “gnostic” gospels and still very much alive in the popular lore of Eastern Christianity. It shows Jesus making clay birds and then breathing life into them, for instance, or Mary giving birth not in a Bethlehem stable with Joseph in attendance but alone under a palm tree, deep in the desert.

Akyol makes good use of both canonical and noncanonical sources, tracing where and why the Islamic approach agrees with Christian tradition (yes to Jesus as the messenger, prophet, word and spirit of God), and where it disagrees (no to the Resurrection, and no to divinity). Along the way, he ups the ante by finding what he calls “astonishing” parallels between the Quran and early Christian texts, though such astonishment seems unnecessary to this reader. Given the fertile interchange of ideas and lore in the multiethnic Byzantine Middle East, such parallels were not only likely, but even inevitable.



10 points Christians should know about Muslims and Jesus

  1. bible_001bMuslims love Jesus. We also love Abraham, Moses, and Noah, to name just a few other Prophets Muslims revere. May God’s peace be upon all of these great messengers of God.
  2. Muslims also love the mother of Jesus, the Virgin Mary. We believe she was a pious and noble woman chosen over all of the women of the world.
  3. Muslims believe that Jesus was born miraculously of a virgin mother and no father. His birth is miraculous like the birth of Adam, the first human being, who was created with neither mother nor father.
  4. Muslims do not believe that Jesus was the son of God. God is so powerful and self-sufficient that He does not need a son or any kind of partner.