The sound of a peaceful and cheerful tune of a song with children hustling around asking for colorful gifts in a delightful atmosphere decorated with illuminated pine-trees depicts a typical Christmas. Every December 25th, Christmas is recognized throughout the Christian world with great pleasure. It brings families together and rejoins those who may have been in conflict with each other prior. While Christians are getting ready to celebrate Christmas, Muslims also feel the joy of Jesus’ birth.
It is a little known fact that as of 2010 Muslims, who make up 23.2% of the world’s population, love Jesus as much as Christians and celebrate his birth with love and joy in their own way. As Christmas is not a Muslim holiday, both Muslims and Christians assume that Muslims are prohibited to celebrate the birth of Jesus, yet this is contrary to the essence of the Quran, the holy book of Islam. Indeed Islam commands Muslims to respect Christians’ and Jews’ observance of religion and the protection of synagogues and monasteries. According to classic historians Ibn Hisham and Ibn Sa’d, the Prophet Muhammad allowed a Christian delegation to celebrate their religious services in his own mosque. Certainly, Muhammad loved Christians and there are many Islamic resources that tell about the practice of religious tolerance and inclusiveness. Thus, rejoicing over the birth of Jesus befits a Muslim very beautifully.
This year, as a matter of fact, the birth of two prophets is commemorated around the same days; the birth of Prophet Muhammad and the birth of Prophet Jesus, both dear to Muslims. Prophet Muhammad’s birth is recognized on the 12th day of the third month of lunar calendar. The observance of Prophet Muhammad’s birth is called Mawlid an-Nabi. Lengthy poems in Arabic are recited during this day.
Loving Prophets actually means getting to know them and their devotion to God. We learn of the Prophets’ lives as they are told in the Qur’an, the Gospels and the Torah, as well as authentic hadith narrated by the Companions.
Jesus is beloved to Muslims in the same way as Muhammad is. The Qur’an commands Muslims to regards all prophets equal and love them all without any discrimination. Moreover, the ordeals that Mary and Jesus went through as told in the Gospels and the Qur’an makes our love for him to be very strong.
Both Christians and Muslims believe in the second coming of Jesus to earth and are in anticipation of a great savior who will come and save the world of today’s scourges. Jesus’ second coming to earth will end this world's all-pervading bloodshed, cruelty and injustice and transform it into a place of peace, abundance, and justice.
Some British researchers, Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln voiced this fact in their book, The Messianic Legacy (Dell: 1989), in which they examined Prophet Jesus and this expectation. They commented as follows:
“As in Jesus's time, we live, quite palpably, in the shadow of an impending apocalyptic event… We are all helpless hostages to a reality we no longer fully control… And beneath the general anxiety, the maddening sense of impotence, the disillusionment with inept or irresponsible politicians, there is a profound longing for a genuine spiritual leader… who will understand, will take charge and – without of course violating established democratic freedoms – assume the role of guide, conferring meaning once again on lives which have grown increasingly empty.”
The fact that he is a person belonging to the world of 2000 years ago, yet will come to our modern world is astonishing. When he returns to earth, one of his distinct features will be his wet-looking and reddish-brown hair, his freckled face, and his broad shouldered athletic body. He will be very handsome so much that he will not escape attention in a crowd. The expression on his face will be loving and tender. He will have no parents and no relatives, according to the hadith. He will know no one and speak no other language other than Aramaic at first, but then will learn many languages in no time as he has an amazingly sharp intelligence. He will then have a small group of believers around him and he will covertly direct the affairs of the world.
In these days when the birth of Jesus is drawing near, we believe he is an important tie that bonds Christians and Muslims. This year Turkish leading politicians’ celebrating Christmas of Christian citizens is one of the footsteps of his coming. In the past Muslim countries used to react to Christmas and would refrain from taking delight in this beautiful day. However, this year Turkey’s former and present President pioneered in celebrating Christmas and became an exemplary model for other Muslim countries.
Turkey, a special geography that hosts the House of Virgin Mary, a place of pilgrimage for Christians and a sacred shrine for Muslims as well, has a rich history of Christianity. The country is visited by thousands of pilgrims every year.
Anatolia, now Turkey, a country in which 99 percent of population is Muslim, is one of the locations on earth that was the birthplace of many Christian apostles and saints such as Paul of Tarsus, Timothy, Nicholas of Myra, Polycarp of Smyrna and many others. Antioch, a city in Anatolia, now called Antakya, housed the followers of Jesus when they were called Christians for the first time in history, writes Luke in the Acts of the Apostles. At the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers such as Barnabas, Symeon known as Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen, and Saul, according to Luke. The Book of Revelation addresses seven churches of Asia Minor which were Laodicea (near Pamukkale), Sardis (east of Izmir), Philadelphia (Alasehir), Thyatira (Akhisar), Ephesus, Smyrna(Izmir), and Pergamum (Bergama). The caves of Cappadocia were perfect places for prayer for believers in the early monastic movement. The legendary city Constantinople, now Istanbul, was the capital of the Roman Empire and still harbors the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, the leader of worldwide Orthodoxy for centuries. Iznik, former Nicaea, was the place where 1st Ecumenical Council was held. Last, but not least, Hagia Sophia, an architectural masterpiece, was the greatest heritage of the Byzantine Empire, a former Christian basilica, later an imperial mosque. Consequently calling Anatolia, generally called the cradle of civilization, the cradle of Christianity is not an overstatement.
Throughout history Turkey had always been a touchstone in terms of its compassionate and loving attitude towards members of other faiths. In our day both Turkey and the believers of the world, be they Christians or Muslims, have another significant mission to fulfill, that is to welcome with open arms an era that will see Jesus’ returning to earth and filling the earth with his love. Peace, love and prosperity for humanity are very close as the time of Jesus’ second coming draws nearer and nearer.