Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

Merry Christmas to Muslims?

وَالَّتِي أَحْصَنَتْ فَرْجَهَا فَنَفَخْنَا فِيهَا مِنْ رُوحِنَا وَجَعَلْنَاهَا وَابْنَهَا آَيَةً لِلْعَالَمِينَ

And (remember) her who guarded her chastity: We breathed into her of Our spirit, and We made her and her son a sign for all peoples. (Surah Al Anbiyaa 91)

Christmas is celebrated annually to remember the birth of Jesus Christ. The Quran confirms many aspects of that very special event. His mother was a virgin. The miraculous birth was announced by angels and has worldwide significance. It seems fitting, therefore, to wish Muslims a Merry Christmas too.

However, some Muslims forbid participating in Christmas celebrations mainly because they claim that Jesus is worshipped as one of three gods. The Bible clearly says that God is uniquely One and that He became a human being in Jesus (Deut 6:4-5, Zech 14:9, John 1). This is a central teaching held by all major groups in Christianity. One of the main reasons why it is believed to be true is simply because the Bible says so. It may seem easier to believe its message if such shocking statements were omitted. The fact that they always have been contained in God’s Word makes it very unlikely that it was changed. Surely evil people would take out the difficult parts and definitely not add ‘hard-to-believe’ things.  

Most objections Muslims have against Christian teachings focus on how they could be true rather than the reasons why they were given. This is strange because believers readily accept that God is beyond our comprehension, having no beginning, no end and knowing everything. Therefore, it is more important to focus on explaining why God became a man in Jesus rather than how he managed to do so.

First reason for the Christmas season: The seriousness of sin

Our sins are much more serious then we think. Do you know how many of them Adam and Eve committed before God banished them from paradise? Just one! For one act of disobedience to have such disastrous consequences shows that sin is more than just a mistake. According to the Bible, to sin is rebelling against your Creator by wanting, thinking or doing what displeases Him.

The severe nature of sin also becomes apparent in the Islamic teaching of ‘Shirk,’ where the worship of others along with Allah will not be forgiven on the day of judgement. Among the various manifestations of ‘Major Shirk’ listed by Muslim scholars are: Rendering obedience to any authority against the order of Allah; showing love due to Allah alone, to others than him. ‘Minor Shirk’ is also of various kinds: Belief in omens, seeking of help from soothsayers and all other superstitions; belief in the powers of created things, like kissing holy stones, and praying at graves of a holy men; credit people like astrologers or interpreters of dreams with knowledge of the future; acts performed to show off; being inwardly dissatisfied with one’s inevitable condition ordained by Allah. ‘Major and Minor Shirk’ are very serious and easily committed but one is more obvious than the other.

We shall offer an illustration of how deplorable sin is from God’s perspective. Doing so is in line with the Bible and the Quran which use human terms like, ‘He sees’ to describe God. Contrary to us He knows perfectly what is going on. The difference of seeing is in degree not in kind. To say that words describing God have completely different meanings would make any talk about Him pointless. Here now is the illustration on the gravity of sin:

Imagine you own the shiny new car of your dreams. One morning you discover in horror that someone had scratched some marks on to its hood. You ask your children and it turns out that it was 2-year-old Amir! What are you going to do? There would be no way for you to explain to him the meaning of what he had done and what it was going to cost you in money, time and difficulty to get it fixed. Amir has no context for understanding any of that. Maybe it would be fair for him to pay the damage but totally out of reach. Should you stop the relationship or stay angry? No, the best thing would be to tell him not do it anymore, to reprimand him appropriately for his age. You would, of course, continue to love him as much as ever. The basis by which you could treat him with grace and mercy and not according to fairness is because you yourself would pay for the damage he caused.

Second reason for the Christmas season: The greatness of God’s love for us

Similarly as in our illustration, God who is holy and perfect sees our sin as something horrible, a debt we cannot pay. There is no point in asking us to because we have little idea what we have done from His perspective. To think that being good somehow makes us OK before God would be like Amir offering to sit angelically for two minutes on the ‘time-out chair’ after being told how much it would cost to repair the car. Such a nice offer would not pay you back your expenses or fix the car.

God loves us and therefore He wants to forgive our sins. However, His Justice demands our punishment which is eternal separation from Him. The cross is the place on which God has fulfilled both characteristics. Out of love for us He became a man in Jesus who died on our behalf in order to take the punishment we have deserved but were unable to pay. The shame caused by our rebellion against God was taken away through the blood of Jesus. God’s honour was restored through the perfect sacrifice alluded to in both the Bible and the Quran! (Numbers 19:1-10 compared with Surah Al Baqarah, 67-74)

It was God’s will to establish Justice by Himself! A place in heaven is guaranteed to those who change their minds and believe in Jesus as described in the Bible! He is the reason why God is ready to forgive us and why followers of Jesus in turn forgive those who sin against them. Out of thankfulness and in His strength they do good deeds to all, including their enemies. The changed behaviour of Jesus’ followers invites everyone to accept God’s way of dealing with injustice. Those who carry out their own justice by forceful means will ultimately be condemned on the day of Judgement. Peace is available here already to those who please God by accepting His will. No wonder angels declared to shepherds in the night the Saviour of the world was born:

“Glory to God in the heavenly heights,
Peace to all men and women on earth who please him.”
(Luke 2:14)

Love by definition is linked to freedom of choice. We can either accept or reject God’s incredible offer. It should not be discarded however, because we do not understand how it happened. Such reasoning is inconsistent with the teaching about God in general and with passages like Exodus 3:2-4 and Surah Ta Ha, 11-13. There it is recorded that Moses heard God speak to him from within the fire. If He has limited Himself inside a voice and a fire in the past He surely can embody Himself in a human being to bring us back into fellowship with Him! My dear Muslim friend, may God open the eyes of your heart and enable you to have a truly Merry Christmas!

To find out more or to get a free Bible please contact the author.