New Age Islam
Fri Jul 10 2020, 02:17 AM

Islam and Pluralism ( 23 Dec 2009, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Comment | Comment

Muslims can well celebrate Christmas in a spirit similar to Milad-un-Nabi

By Mustafa Akyol

Sunday, December 20, 2009

A few weeks ago I had the chance to visit Antakya, the southern Turkish city whose name derives from the ancient city of Antioch. The latter, as New Testament readers would know, was a chief center of early Christianity. Evangelized by both Peter and Paul, the two main founding fathers of the new faith, Antioch was actually the place where the very word “Christian” was born.

Yet I was not expecting to come face to face with this Christian heritage of the city when I walked into the historic mosque in the very heart of Antakya’s downtown. I was wrong. The first thing I realized was the unusual name of the mosque: “Habib-i Neccar,” which literally meant, “the lover of the carpenter.”

The lovers of the carpenter

Then I had a little chat with the imam of the mosque, and he confirmed my guess. The “carpenter” here was none other than the Jesus of Nazareth, and the “lover” in question was one of the earliest Christians of the city. The latter, like many other early followers of Christ, was executed by the pagan inhabitants of the town for “heresy.” The place of the mosque, the imam explained, was the very location that this “lover of the carpenter” was beheaded.

Then the old man surprised me even more. “Have you not seen our tomb?” he asked.

“No,” I replied. “What tomb?”

“Oh, the tomb of John and Paul.”

Then he led me to a little building adjacent to the mosque. Here were two coffins decorated in the classical Islamic shrine style. Both had white turbans on top, and both were covered with dark green velvet with golden inscriptions from the Arabic Koran.

But the name tags on the coffins had Greek, not Arabic, names: “Yuhanna ve Pavlus,” which means, yes, “John and Paul.”

The imam went on to explain that these two apostles of Jesus were, too, martyred in Antioch and were buried right there. “Our mosque is built upon the foundations of the Christian temple that the Romans later destroyed,” he said. “We Muslims, you know, see those early Christians as our brothers in faith.”

I found it a bit hard to believe that the actual bodies of John and Paul were really lying there. Yet I also found it quite fascinating that this is what the Muslims of Antakya believe in, and that some even visit this shrine to honor the memories of the two main authors of the New Testament.

Jesus in the Koran

In fact, this Islamo-Christian connection is not too surprising. You just need to read the Koran to see why.

The Muslim scripture is full of praises to Jesus, who is defined as a prophet, and his mother, Mary. The “Chapter of Mary” speaks in detail about the virgin birth and other miracles of Jesus. In another chapter, Muslims are told to take his disciples as examples to follow. In one verse of the Koran, Jesus is even referred to as "the Word of God," a term which has a curious resemblance to the introduction of the Fourth Gospel.

To be sure, the Koran rejects that Jesus is God, and denounces the doctrine of the Trinity. This is the deepest theological gap between Islam and mainstream Christianity.

Yet still, the fact remains that Muslims are the only faith community on Earth who, besides the Christians, revere Christ.

This theological connection is leading some Muslims to take fresh perspectives on the birthday of Christ as well. One such figure, the Sufi-minded Niyazi Öktem, a Turkish professor of law, has been arguing that Muslims can well celebrate Christmas in a spirit similar to the “mevlid kandili,” or, the celebration of the birth of Prophet Muhammad.

I agree. As a Muslim, I see no reason to dismiss the celebration of the birthday of another beloved prophet.

So, as a non-Christian but a “lover of the carpenter,” let me extend my Christian friends a heartfelt wish:

Merry Christmas!

Source: © Copyright 2009 Hurriyet Daily News and Economic Review. All Rights Reserved.


URL of this Page:

Compose your comments here

Total Comments (3)

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the articles and comments are the opinions of the authors and do not necessarily reflect that of

Total Comments (3)

  1. If you are interested in some new ideas on religious pluralism and theTrinity, please check out my website at It previews mybook, which has not been published yet and is still a “work-in-progress.” Yourconstructive criticism would be very much appreciated.


    My thesis is that an abstract version of theTrinity could be Christianity’s answer to the world need for a framework ofpluralistic theology.

    In a constructive worldview: east, west, and far-east religions present athreefold understanding of One God manifest primarily in Muslim and Hebrew intuitionof the Deity Absolute, Christian and Krishnan Hindu conception of the UniverseAbsolute Supreme Being; and Shaivite Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist apprehensionof the Destroyer (meaning also Consummator), Unconditioned Absolute, orSpirit of All That Is and is not. Together with their variations andcombinations in other major religions, these religious ideas reflect andexpress our collective understanding of God, in an expanded concept of the HolyTrinity.

    The Trinity Absolute is portrayed in the logic of world religions, as follows:

    1. Muslims and Jews may be said to worship only the first person of theTrinity, i.e. the existential Deity Absolute Creator, known as Allah orYhwh, Abba or Father (as Jesus called him), Brahma, and other names; representedby Gabriel (Executive Archangel), Muhammad and Moses (mighty messengerprophets), and others.

    2. Christians and Krishnan Hindus may be said to worship the first personthrough a second person, i.e. the experiential Universe or "Universal”Absolute Supreme Being (Allsoul or Supersoul), called Son/Christ orVishnu/Krishna; represented by Michael (Supreme Archangel), Jesus (teacher andsavior of souls), and others. The Allsoul is that gestalt of personal humanconsciousness, which we expect will be the "body of Christ" (Mahdi,Messiah, Kalki or Maitreya) in the second coming – personified in history byMuhammad, Jesus Christ, Buddha (9th incarnation of Vishnu), and others.

    3. Shaivite Hindus, Buddhists, and Confucian-Taoists seem to venerate the synthesisof the first and second persons in a third person or appearance, ie. theDestiny Consummator of ultimate reality – unqualified Nirvana consciousness –associative Tao of All That Is – the absonite* Unconditioned Absolute Spirit“Synthesis of Source and Synthesis,”** who/which is logically expected to beAllah/Abba/Brahma glorified in and by union with the Supreme Being –represented in religions by Gabriel, Michael, and other Archangels, Mahadevas,Spiritpersons, etc., who may be included within the mysterious Holy Ghost.

    Other strains of religion seem to be psychological variations on the thirdperson, or possibly combinations and permutations of the members of the Trinity– all just different personality perspectives on the Same God. Takentogether, the world’s major religions give us at least two insights into thefirst person of this thrice-personal One God, two perceptions of the secondperson, and at least three glimpses of the third.

    * The ever-mysterious Holy Ghost or Unconditioned Spirit is neither absolutelyinfinite, nor absolutely finite, but absonite; meaning neitherexistential nor experiential, but their ultimate consummation; neither fullyideal nor totally real, but a middle path and grand synthesis of thesuperconscious and the conscious, in consciousness of the unconscious.

    ** This conception is so strong because somewhat as the Absonite Spirit is asynthesis of the spirit of the Absolute and the spirit of the Supreme, soit would seem that the evolving Supreme Being may himself also be asynthesis or “gestalt” of humanity with itself, in an Almighty UniverseAllperson or Supersoul. Thus ultimately, the Absonite is their UnconditionedAbsolute Coordinate Identity – the Spirit Synthesis of Source and Synthesis– the metaphysical Destiny Consummator of All That Is.

    After the Hindu and Buddhist conceptions, perhaps the most subtle expressionand comprehensive symbol of the 3rd person of the Trinity is the Tao;involving the harmonization of “yin and yang” (great opposing ideas indentifiedin positive and negative, or otherwise contrasting terms). In the Taoist iconof yin and yang, the s-shaped line separating the black and white spaces may beinterpreted as the Unconditioned “Middle Path” between condition andconditioned opposites, while the circle that encompasses them both suggeststheir synthesis in the Spirit of the “Great Way” or Tao of All That Is.

    If the small black and white circles or “eyes” are taken to represent a nucleusof truth in both yin and yang, then the metaphysics of this symbolism fitsnicely with the paradoxical mystery of the Christian Holy Ghost; who is neitherthe spirit of the one nor the spirit of the other, but the Glorified Spiritproceeding from both, taken altogether – as one entity – personally distinctfrom his co-equal, co-eternal and fully coordinate co-sponsors, whodifferentiate from him, as well as mingle and meld in him.

    Formore details, please see:


    Samuel Stuart Maynes


    By Samuel Stuart Maynes 08/06/2014 16:17:16
  2. Eid-e-Milad-un-Masih is a great idea, Bhandari Saheb.

    By Sultan Shahin
  3. Eid-e-Milad-un-Masih

    From Pawittar Bhandari
    To Sultan Shahin

    subject:  Christmas and eid Mailad-un-Nabi

    Dear Sultan Sahib,

    Read about koran and Christ. it is recorded  that the Holy prophet named Mariam as one of the five great Ladies.
    If Koran has accepted many prophets and Christ is one of them the idea to celebrate Christmas as Eid-e-Milad -un- Nabi is a noble one.
    In order to designate this exclusively To Jesus, we may name it as Eid-e-Milad-un-Masih if it is not contrary to Islam.
    With profound regards:

    Pawittar Bhandari, Montreal, Canada

    By Pawittar Bhandari, Montreal, Canada