By Hesham Hassaballa
"Peace was upon me on the day when I was born, and [will be upon me] on the day of my death and on the day when I shall be raised to life [again]!"
These are the words of the baby Jesus Christ, just days after he was born, to a shocked community that saw his mother Mary, a virgin, carrying a newborn child. Yet, these words are not found in the Bible. Rather, they are located in the 33rd verse of the 19th chapter of the Quran.
The hostility towards Islam from some quarters of the Christian community pains me deeply. Most recently, Wheaton College, just outside my hometown of Chicago, suspended a tenured Professor because she dared claim that Muslims and Christians worship the same God.
NPR reported that Rev. Robert Jeffress — pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas, one of the largest and most influential institutions of the Southern Baptist Convention — declared from the pulpit on theSunday after the Paris attacks: "Make no mistake about it. Islam is just not another way to approach God. Islam is a false religion, and it is inspired by Satan himself."
This pains me because Islam has so much honor and respect for both Jesus Christ and his mother Mary. They are all over the Islamic scripture. The Quran speaks about the miracles of Jesus (5:110) and the Last Supper (5:113-115). Chapter 19 of the Quran, which was mentioned above, is named “Mary,” and she is the only woman to be mentioned by name in the Quran.
The story of the birth of Mary, which Catholics commemorate in the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, is detailed in chapter 3 of the Quran. In fact, the Quran states that, although Mary's mother expected a male child, “No male child [she might have hoped for] could ever have been like this female [Mary]…”
The story of the birth of Jesus, which is the entire reason for Christmas, is located in two major passages in the Quran, one of which states: Lo! The angels said: "O Mary! Behold, God sends thee the glad tiding, through a word from Him, [of a son] who shall become known as the Christ Jesus, son of Mary, of great honor in this world and in the life to come, and [shall be] of those who are drawn near unto God. And he shall speak unto men in his cradle, and as a grown man, and shall be of the righteous." (3:45-46).
In fact, the Qur'an mentions Jesus Christ by name many more times than the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) himself. Thus, it puzzles me to read that a pastor in Texas, or anywhere else for that matter, can claim to his congregation that Islam is "inspired by Satan himself."
Christians and Muslims do not have to agree on theology; they do not have to agree on the nature of Jesus (early Christians themselves did not agree, either). Yet, Christians and Muslims can agree — and come together — on the fact that Jesus Christ was one of the most special human beings ever to grace this earth. Any Muslim across our globe would agree wholeheartedly with this statement.
If the Christians who attack Islam would just learn the truth, they would see that there is so much love and honor for Jesus in this faith. They would see that the Islamic scripture is full of praise and love for Jesus Christ and his mother. They would see that, the disagreement over Jesus notwithstanding, there is so much in common between Christianity and Islam. And they would see, I hope and pray, that their Muslim neighbors are not their enemy, but their brothers and sisters under God, and who love Jesus so very much.
Hesham Hassaballa is a Chicago-based doctor and writer. He is the author of Noble Brother: The Story of the Last Prophet in Poetry (Faithful Word Press) and, most recently, Code Blue, a work of fiction, (Faithful Word Press).