By Afis A. Oladosu
20 December 2013
In the name of Allah, the beneficent the merciful
“The similitude of Isa (Jesus Christ, upon him be peace) in the reckoning of the Almighty, is like Adam (upon him be peace); He created him from the earth and He said unto it Be! and it was-” (Quran 3:59)
BRETHREN, the 25th of December every year, is usually dedicated to the celebration, by our compatriots, the birth of Prophet Isa –Jesus Christ-( Alaihis Salaam).
Though much controversy exists over his birth and death, there is consensus among Christians on his mission while on earth; whereas much ignorance exists outside Islam on his position and status in Islamic annals and culture, Prophet Isa remains an adorable prophet and one in whom, in addition to other prophets of Allah, Muslims must express their belief and strive to emulate.
In other words, many Christians are unaware that the true spirit of reverence that Muslims display towards Jesus and his mother Maryam (upon them be peace and blessings of the Almighty) is an injunction from the fountainhead of their faith (Q2: 285).
Islam is, therefore, a religion that seeks to preserve the fundamental and eternal messages brought by all the prophets of the Almighty without exception. Thus a measure of the treasure of Islam is its refusal to seek to demean, impugn or disparage the personality or message of any of the prophets of the Almighty. It is unique in its affirmation that all the prophets of the Almighty were men of excellence; that they were all sent to show humanity how to rise above its infernal predilections and move up to the ethereal, the seraphic, the spiritual and the beatific.
Thus it is not how many churches or mosques the “believer” attended while on earth that counts; what shall be counted is whether his heart was indeed a cathedral where only the Almighty operates as the sovereign.
But despite its universal approach to the subject matter of prophethood, Islam continues to be misunderstood. It is seen as anti-Christ. When a Muslim laughs, his laughter is seen as a mirror of Islam; when he cries, critics of Islam would say that is Islam. The conflation of Islam with the Muslim and the assumption that the religion is an eternal enemy of the Cross usually gain strength in the hands of “that Muslim”.
Living in a hungry land which suffers lack of bread, water and light, “that Muslim” sees the non-Muslim other as his enemy. Basking in half knowledge of the Quran and Islamic history, he proceeds to interpret the Quran in a way that would validate his heinous activities. Having lost the opportunity to live today, he tries to kill tomorrow.
Thus face-to-face with “that Muslim”, the follower of Jesus Christ throws away the opportunity to read the Quran. It does not matter to him anymore that Jesus Christ is an adorable personality in the Quran; that he is mentioned by name 25 times in that Glorious Book; that his birth is beautifully and briefly captured in that book as follows: “Behold! the Angels said: “O Mary! The Almighty gives thee glad tidings of a Word from Him: his Name shall be al-Masih Isa (Christ Jesus), the son of Mary, held in honour in this world and the hereafter and of (the company of) those nearest to the Almighty”- (Q3: 45; Q19: 16-35).
Thus a Muslim who scorns at or treats Prophet Isa (Alaihis Salaam) with contempt has committed a grievous sin in Islam. In fact, to read and reread his life history, though short but eventful, is to lead a successful life here on earth and partake of the eternal bliss in the hereafter.
Aside from the Quran, one book which constantly reminds me of Prophet Isa (Alaihis Salaam) is Al-Mawardi’s Adab Al-Din Wa Dunya (Ethics of Religion and the World). I am always fascinated by the report that Jesus Christ was once asked by his followers: why don’t you get married? He replied: “We prefer the prosperity and the plenitude of the hereafter.”
Brethren, I wanted to know what type of car was he using while on earth? How big was his mansion? Did he live in barb-wired houses like the Imams and pastors of today? Did he own a private jet? Brethren what I found is his refusal to own even a camel. His abode consequently became the emptiness of the cathedral. His wealth became the constant search for the blessings of the Almighty. Brethren, Jesus led a life he knew could end the next moment. He was wise enough to know that all material acquisitions were destined for ruination.
But the irony of human life lies in this seeming tendency in humans to refuse to learn lessons which life constantly teaches. Or how else could life teach us lessons other than for it shows us that wealth and authority here on earth are like dreams; that they are like water we put in our palms or like mirages the thirsty see on the road?
I thought there is enough lessons for us to learn in the way the powerful seeks an escape from his destiny on the land only to meet it in the skies. I thought it is high time we learnt that there is simply no escape from our destiny other than self-immolation in the sanctuary of the Almighty.
Brethren, the birth of Prophet Isa (a.s) was a sign of and from the Almighty. His prophetic enterprise while on earth, like that of all prophets of the Almighty who came before him, was a touchstone of service, integrity, love and compassion. Thus his life on earth will forever remain an important point of reference particularly for those who truly identify with his path and desire eternal redemption.
Dear brethren let us use this occasion to enjoin our Christian compatriots to ponder the eternal messages of Prophet Isa (Alaihis Salaam) more closely. Let me use this podium to encourage them to reflect on his message of abstinence and continence and contemplate his epistle of ascetism and humility. I must use this medium to encourage my compatriots who congregate under the canopy of Prophet Isa (a.s) to critique the current missive or “gospel” of prosperity and success, which has become emblematic of the evangelistic podia of today.
In a conference organised by the Dominican Institute, one of the questions I sought answers to is whether Muslims and Christians have indeed not completely deviated from the noble teachings of the prophets of the Almighty they claim to follow?
In other words, should Prophet Isa (upon him be peace) appear today, which of these churches would he identify with? Were Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w) to rise up in Madina today, would he not take flight from these oddities in Muslims’ existential realities? To what extent is the argument valid that material prosperity occupies the epicenter of Jesus Christ’s ministry? Is it true that to be a true Christian is to be rich and affluent? Does it mean that to believe in the Almighty is to be insulated against earthly tribulations and affliction?
Brethren, let my Christian compatriots ask themselves a simple question today: should Prophet Isa (a.s), Christ, emerge today, would he be happy to find you where you are presently?