‘I will be one of the many Muslims around the world marking Christmas’

Jesus has such a significant presence in Islam, he is referred to in the Quran as “the Word of God” and as “One Drawn Near.”


2017/12/17 Issue: 136 Page: 20


The Arab Weekly
Aaqil Ahmed



Christmas in Bethle­hem, the birthplace of Jesus, is a front line in the battle for the Holy Land. Like everything in this contested land, nothing is what it seems. There are Palestinians who say the birthplace is not in the celebrated Church of the Nativity but further down the road. Many academics claim this is the wrong Bethlehem, the real birthplace is under a highway.

What can’t be called into ques­tion is Muslim belief that Jesus is a prophet and a very important one at that. Perhaps this clear dividing line between Islamic prophethood and Christian divinity is the reason many non-Muslims don’t see Jesus and Islam as linked. Perhaps many Muslims don’t talk about their interpretation of the life and death of Jesus for fear of offending Christians.

This, however, is changing. Ear­lier this year, “The Islamic Jesus” by Mustafa Akyol was released. Now, Karl-Josef Kuschel has writ­ten “Christmas and the Quran,” in which he points to Islamic narra­tives around Jesus that are not in the gospels.

In one example, Jesus moulds clay birds and breathes life into them. A similar tale appears in the apocryphal “Infancy Gospel of Thomas,” second-century Christian writings about Jesus’s childhood.

Akyol explores the commonality and extraordinary historical con­nections, particularly among early Christians and Muslims in his book. He urges Muslims to discover Jesus and to read the New Testament.

To discover or rediscover Jesus does bring up key questions. How do you navigate the big elephant in the room: Is he or is he not the son of God?

Maybe it doesn’t matter. Jesus has such a significant presence in Islam, he is referred to in the Quran as “the Word of God” and as “One Drawn Near.” So perhaps it is enough just to say that both Muslims and Christians revere him and that he has a central space in the kingdom of God.

The Prophet Mohammad has no place in Christianity yet members of the Christian clergy navigate the finality of his Islamic Prophethood with elements of his message about which they agree.

The Roman Catholic Bishop of Salford John Arnold recently spoke at a parade in Manchester, England, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Mohammad. Arnold’s motives may have been more about building community cohesion by celebrating the festival of a local community but attend and celebrate he did.

With Christmas a few more shopping days away, there will be silly tabloid and far-right stories about Muslims who stole Christmas because they hate it so much. Re­cently, a British superstore got into a spot of bother with those groups for including a Muslim family in their Christmas celebratory TV ad campaign.

For many, however, celebrating Christmas is less about faith and more about being together as a fam­ily. Even so, it’s possible that super­store was on to something. Perhaps that Muslim family was celebrating Christmas because it marks the birthday of the prophet Jesus.

Either way, I will be one of the many Muslims around the world marking Christmas. The bishop of Salford has shown that celebrating what we have in common is better than division and misunderstand­ing. I’m sure Jesus would agree.


Aaqil Ahmed, the former head of Religion and Ethics for the BBC, is a professor of media at Bolton University and a consultant in digital media, broadcasting and leadership.


As Printed
MENA Now
Editors' Picks

The Arab Weekly Newspaper reaches Western & Arabic audience that are influential as well as being affluent.

From Europe to the Middle East,and North America, The Arab Weekly talks to opinion formers and influential figures, providing insight and comment on national, international and regional news through the focus of Arabic countries and community.

Published by Al Arab Publishing House

Publisher and Group Executive Editor: Haitham El-Zobaidi, PhD

Editor-in-Chief: Oussama Romdhani

Managing Editor: Iman Zayat

Deputy Managing Editor and Online Editor: Mamoon Alabbasi

Senior Editor: John Hendel

Chief Copy Editor: Richard Pretorius

Copy Editor: Stephen Quillen

Analysis Section Editor: Ed Blanche

East/West Section Editor: Mark Habeeb

Gulf Section Editor: Mohammed Alkhereiji

Society and Travel Sections Editor: Samar Kadi

Syria and Lebanon Sections Editor: Simon Speakman Cordall

Contributing Editor: Rashmee Roshan Lall

Senior Correspondents: Mahmud el-Shafey (London) & Lamine Ghanmi (Tunis)

Regular Columnists

Claude Salhani

Yavuz Baydar

Correspondents

Saad Guerraoui (Casablanca)

Dunia El-Zobaidi (London)

Roua Khlifi (Tunis)

Thomas Seibert (Washington)

Chief Designer: Marwen Hmedi

Designers

Ibrahim Ben Bechir

Hanen Jebali

Published by Al Arab Publishing House

Contact editor at:editor@thearabweekly.com

Subscription & Advertising: Ads@alarab.co.uk

Tel 020 3667 7249

Mohamed Al Mufti

Marketing & Advertising Manager

Tel (Main) +44 20 6702 3999

Direct: +44 20 8742 9262

www.alarab.co.uk

Al Arab Publishing House

Kensington Centre

177-179 Hammersmith Road

London W6 8BS , UK

Tel: (+44) 20 7602 3999

Fax: (+44) 20 7602 8778

Follow Us
© The Arab Weekly, All rights reserved