Peace, one and all…
As is obvious, the Christmas holiday season is firmly upon us. The shops are full, it’s impossible to find a parking space and people are desperately running around trying to find someone a last minute gift. As some of our Christian friends sometimes say, the materialism that runs rampant at this time of year often serves to obscure the real meaning behind this festival – that is, Jesus (alaihi al-salam – upon him be peace) and his message of peace and goodwill. Although, as a Muslim, I have a different take on the person of Jesus (alaihi al-salam), I would certainly agree that remembering him and his life is vitally important.
And so, over the Christmas period (time and internet access permitting) I hope to write a number of posts on Jesus (alaihi al-salam) from a Muslim perspective. My aim in doing this is twofold: firstly, to remind myself and others of the teachings of this noble prophet (alaihi al-salam); and secondly, to express my love and admiration of our beloved master Isa ibn Maryam (to use the Arabic form of his name).
In this first post, I wanted to share a beautiful recitation of Surah Maryam, as well as some sayings attributed to Jesus in the Prophetic Tradition (hadith) literature.
Jesus (alaihi al-salam) in the Quran
Jesus (upon him be peace) is mentioned numerous times in the Quran. Those familiar with the Christian story of Jesus will recognise many elements of the Quranic narrative – such as his relationship with the family of Yahya (John the Baptist, alaihi al-salam), his miraculous conception and birth and his ministry of healing. The Quran also refers to his Disciples (under the Arabic term Hawwariyun). However, perhaps the most notable difference in the Quran is that Jesus is never accorded divinity: he is always, rather pointedly, referred to as Jesus the son of Mary. At any rate, in spite of such theological differences (which are of course important), Christianity and Islam do indeed have much in common.
Surah Maryam deals with the ‘pre-history’ to the story of Jesus (alaihi al-salam), namely the story of Zakariyya (Zechariah, alaihi al-salam) and Mary. The recitation below also includes translation of the text.
Jesus in the Prophetic Traditions (Hadith)
The Prophetic Traditions (hadith) form the second most important body of religious literature in the Islamic tradition. There is a great wealth of material regarding Jesus (alaihi al-salam) in this vast literary corpus. Within the Sufi tradition, there is also a great amount of textual material. To summarise this material is difficult, but in essence, Jesus is presented here as a wandering ascetic prophet, preaching love for God and renunciation of worldly attachments. Here is are two small offerings from that vast feast.
“My daily bread is hunger, my badge is fear, my raiment is wool, my mount is my foot, my lantern at night is the moon, my fire by day is the sun, and my fruit and fragrant herbs are such things as the earth brings forth for the wild beasts and cattle. All the night I have nothing, yet there is none richer than I!” (A.J.Arberry, Sufism)
According to Ibn al-Mubarak, in his book al-Zuhd, Jesus (alaihi al-salam) said:
‘Do not talk without mention of God, lest your hearts grow hard; for the hard heart is far from God, but you do not know. Do not examine the sins of people as though you were lords, but rather, examine them as though you were servants. Men are of two kinds: the sick and the healthy. Be merciful to the sick and give thanks to God for health’ (taken from T. Khalidi, The Muslim Jesus)
In closing, here is a poetic reference to Jesus (alaihi al-salam) taken from the writings of Mevlana (God sanctify his noble soul):
‘The hermitage of Jesus Is the Sufi’s table spread;
Take heed, O sick one, Never forsake this doorway’