December 25th was an an average day for the majority of the world’s Muslims, but for some, it signified Christmas along with its variety of associated meanings. Muslim beliefs related to Christmas and its celebration vary considerably–from a fun-loving holiday, to a dangerous heretical practice. The majority of the world’s Muslims don’t give the 25th of December much thought at all, but with increasing numbers of Muslims living in the predominately Christian West and Christians living in the predominately Muslim Middle East, it’s difficult not to have some kind of opinion or interpretation of Christmas.
On our latest radio show, Jean spoke with Professor Suleiman Mourad about Jesus in Islam and Christianity. They discussed a number of topics, ranging from the importance Islam gives to Mary–the Qur’an dedicates an entire chapter to her, Sura 19, Maryam–to Islam’s take on prophethood. A number of callers’ comments during the show added other interesting perspectives, but what struck me most was the symbolism that Mourad used to describe the theological differences between Jews, Christians, and Muslims. He sees the theological disagreements among followers of Abrahamic traditions as similar to siblings vying for parental attention. He sees the differing views on Jesus as
part of the terrain, competition over attention of the parent. Often we mistake this [as] anxiety; this [is] eagerness on the part of each member of this community of believers to receive the complete attention of their Father. … There is an excessive protectiveness of God. … We need to be more scholars and historians than religious defenders.
Our latest Inside Islam Radio Show will air live today at 3 PM (GM+6), as Jean will speak with Professor Suleiman Mourad and Todd Lawson about the commonalities and differences of Jesus in Islam and Christianity.
In the Qur’an, Jesus is mentioned 25 times, and more often by name than the Prophet Muhammad. For Muslims, Jesus is usually referred to as the Prophet Jesus, or
Musa Isa in Arabic. In total, Islam says there are 124,000 prophets, but the Qur’an highlights Jesus as one of the most important. Although Christianity and Islam both revere Jesus of Nazareth and largely agree upon the foundational principles that he spoke of and practiced, the two faith traditions differ greatly in their opinions of who he was.
Most Christians believe Jesus to be the Son of God or God Himself in human form, while Muslims view him as a prophet and believe the worship of him as anything more to be heretical. In Islam, Jesus is considered to be a Muslim, or one who submits to the will of God. Conversely, most Christians do not recognize the Prophet Muhammad as religiously significant so the idea of a Muslim version of Jesus is usually ignored. However, because of the tensions between the two faiths, and the centrality of Jesus in both, when the topic does come up, it can invoke strong emotional reactions.
We’ve decided to explore the issue head-on, and hope that you get a chance to tune in and share your thoughts.
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Building bridges between different faith communities can be a challenge, especially if the end goal is conversion. Part of true interfaith dialogue is an acknowledgment that the real goal is finding common spaces and that conversion is unlikely. When the focus is on winning adherents to a faith, it ceases to be a bridge-building exercise and becomes missionary work. This is the case with the Camel Method, developed by Kevin Greeson to bring Muslims to Christianity by using the Qur’an.
Camel is an acronym for Chosen Angels Miracles Eternal Life. This method aims to win Muslim converts to Christianity by beginning with passages about Jesus in the Qur’an. For example, a missionary using this method would make reference to the 19th chapter, Surah Maryam, which tells the story of the birth of Jesus, Isa in the Qur’an, and ask if any other prophet had such a miraculous birth. Continue reading