Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Celebrate all that unites not divides

IN THE aftermath of the trouble on Sydney's beaches, there has been a lot of talk about riots, race and religion. And with Christmas coming up, I have a confession to make.

I will be joining readers in celebrating Christmas.

So what? You may ask. But in my case, the difference is that I come from a Muslim cultural and religious background. And some people tell me that my culture doesn't allow me to celebrate the birth of Christ.

As usual, I will spend Christmas day having lunch with my best mate. We both attended Sydney's only Anglican Cathedral School.

Some years ago, I introduced him to a Japanese friend of mine. They instantly clicked. I was best man at their wedding. It was a truly Australian event -- an Anglican boy marrying a Buddhist girl with a Muslim best man, all taking place at St Andrew's Cathedral.

At 14, I was given my first translation of the Koran in English. It was a very old translation first published in Lahore in the 1930s. The translator was an Indian named Abdullah Yusuf Ali who rose to the highest posts in the Indian Civil Service that formed the administrative bedrock of the British Raj. His is perhaps the most popular and widely used translation.

It was at school that I discovered the story of the Koranic Jesus. The story can be found in a chapter of the Koran named Maryam (which is Arabic for Mary).

It begins with the usual supplication that commences all but one chapter of the Koran: In the name of God, Most Gracious and Most Merciful. This supplication is used not only when starting a reading of the Koran, but precedes virtually all the daily actions of a Muslim, both mundane and devotional.

The chapter then goes into how John the Baptist appeared on the scene. John (named Yahiya in classical Arabic) was born to Zachariah, and father and son are revered as prophets.

Once John has been mentioned, Mary is introduced. She is described as withdrawing from her family to a place in the East, locking herself away from the rest of society. A man mysteriously appears in her private chamber. The following dialogue ensues:

MARY: I seek refuge from thee to God Most Gracious: come not near if thou dost fear God.

MAN: Nay, I am only a messenger from the Lord, to announce to thee the gift of a holy son.

MARY: How shall I have a son, seeing that no man has touched me, and I am not unchaste?

MAN: So it will be: Thy Lord sayeth: that is easy for Me: and We wish to appoint him as a sign unto men and as a Mercy from Us. It is a matter so decreed.

The man was an angel. Christ was conceived miraculously. Following birth, Mary took her son back to her family. Her father was a respected rabbi and Mary was always known for her modesty and chastity. Further Mary had made a vow not to speak to any man for a fixed period of time. When she was first publicly accused of sexual impropriety, she pointed to the baby Jesus.

The Koran thus describes the first miracle of Christ his speaking from the cradle in defence of his mother. His exact words were:

I am indeed a servant of God: He hath given me revelation and made me a prophet. And he hath made me blessed wheresoever I be and hath enjoined on me prayer and charity as long as I live. He hath made me kind to my mother, and not overbearing or miserable. So peace is on me the day I was born, and the day I die, and the day I shall be raised up to life again!

I'm not sure if Joseph or the Three Wise Men appear in the Koranic account. But a number of Jesus miracles are mentioned. These include healing lepers and restoring life to the dead. Christ's ascension is also mentioned. The sayings of Prophet Mohammed mention Christ's return to Earth to establish the kingdom of God toward the end of time.

Given the status of Mary and Christ, it is not surprising that in the place where it all happened, the Palestinian town of Beit Lahm (Bethlehem), Muslims and Christians both celebrate Christmas. In many Muslim countries, Christmas is a public holiday.
And when Christian leaders remind us that Jesus is the reason for the season, our Muslim brethren should find nothing objectionable.

Christmas should remind us that, despite minor cultural and theological differences, the things that unite us are greater in number and more important than those which divide us.

First published in the Daily Telegraph on 22 December 2005.

© Irfan Yusuf 2006

29 comments:

Anonymous said...

Jesus is the Son of God not a prophet.

"I'm not sure if Joseph or the Three Wise Men appear in the Koranic account"

You seem to know more about the truth of the Bible than the assertions of the Quran.

Why don't you convert to Christianity despite Islams proscribed punishment that you be killed?

Anonymous said...

That is the most twisted, perverse, and ridiculous story of Christmas I have ever heard.

Ken Burgin said...

Thanks Irfan - Happy Christmas and thanks for your intelligent commentary throughout the year.

And let's not forget what Bart Simpson told us: Christmas is when we all celebrate the birth of Santa!

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Let us all remember at this time of year the brave young men and women who are away from their loved ones fighting the War on Terror. Let us hope that the muslim murderers and terrorists put down their guns and bombs and let our boys and girls celebrate the birth of Jesus the Messiah Son of God. It was God who so loved us that he gave His only son so that we could choose eternal life.

Please keep all the Allied soldiers safe. May God be on our side because it is in His name that we do Thine work. May all the Christmas Blessings be upon those who follow Jesus. May all men have peace in their hearts and the love of Jesus. Onward Christian soldiers with the Cross of Jesus going on before. Praised be the Lord. Amen.

Warren J said...

Ok Anon, you have said repeatedly you want Muslims out of Australia. However, now you say you also want them removed from Palestine. How does the ethnic cleansing of the occupied territories fit in with your supposed white supremacist program? After all, the only Christians in Bethlehem are speakers of the same "stinking Arabic" as the Muslims there. So what's the deal mr white man? Who get's to stay?

Oh yeah, are you saying you want jews removed from the occupied territories too? Where do you want them to go?

Anonymous said...

Anon @ 1027, does your prayer extend to the protection of Iraqi Christians of various denominations, many (if not most) of whom regard your allegedly Christian beliefs as heresy and idolatry?

Michael Sutcliffe said...

Christmas should remind us that, despite minor cultural and theological differences, the things that unite us are greater in number and more important than those which divide us.

Irf, you have my respect for continuing to blog when you constantly cop vile abuse, and for speaking of Islam in the context of liberal democracy.

But mate, it is not theological matters or minor cultural issues that divide us. Non-Arab Australians aren't devoid of spirituality or so closed minded that they don't value other cultures. It is the fact that there are certain elements of our Middle Eastern and Islamic communities that continually behave in a way that is not compatible with liberal democracy or civil society. Furthermore, it appears that these anti-social elements aren't small, and seem to be over represented in criminal, violent and ant-social behaviour compared to the rest of the population. This is what's creating the divide and resulting in things like Cronulla.

Within the Middle Eastern community I'm not so sure that there are too many voices like yours calling for reason and respect, and 'open society' style values like elected community leaders. Generally non-Muslim Australians consider the leaders of the Middle Eastern community to be the senior Muslims. They don't seem to be doing a particularly good job in calling for change within these anti-social elements of their community, or teaching values of liberal democracy and civil society along with their spiritual teachings.

Anyway, keep up the good work. Reason, tolerance and respect will prevail!

Anonymous said...

You say that the things that unite us are greater in number and more important that those which divide us.

From what you have said the only thing in common between the muslims and the Christians is that one smelly fat paki lawyer will be stuffing as much food as possible into his gob on Christmas Day. Making it no different from any other day. You won't be doing any work either. But how is that different?

You say: "And when Christian leaders remind us that Jesus is the reason for the season, our Muslim brethren should find nothing objectionable."

The muslim brethren who find Christmas objectionable should be deported from this country. We can assume that all muslims are objectionable and all must be deported.

Anonymous said...

Planet Irf the reason you are a sad lonely fat loser is that you constantly mock God and attack Christianity. You occassionally pretend to be a muslim out of sheer evil hate for Christians. Repent and you can be Saved. Or continue to live your miserable life as a propagandist for your hate of Christians and Jews. You have had many chances to be saved and yet you continue to do the work of the Anti-Christ whose gratitude makes you such a pathetic creature damned to the daily torment of self-loathing. Open your heart to the liberating love of Jesus or remain the obese and dysfunctional wretch who is laughed at by everyone. Jesus loves you and you can be a part of His Kingdom if only you accept His Divinity. You need not live an uhappy life of self-destruction and selfishness. Welcome Jesus into your life and cast aside your lonely worthless useless past life. May God Bless You this Christmas.

Anonymous said...

Could all muslims do the decent thing and either kill themselves or leave the country. It doesn't say anywhere in the Bible that we have to let muslims into Australia.

Anonymous said...

That mad cleric should inspire a whole new wave of hatred towards Indonesian and Australian Muslims.

Anonymous said...

If the commentors attacking the blog author with malicious racist Islamophobic smear were leading examples of modern Christianity, then I (as a former Catholic) would hate Christians. But I don't and I doubt Irfan does too. Because authentic Christians are nothing like the vile shit-slingers above. You hypocrites! First remove the beam out of your own eye, and then you can see clearly to remove the speck out of your brother's eye (Matthew 7:5).

Warren J said...

Whimandaprayer. Anonymous is not a Christian, although he/she wants us to think so. Even the most right wing Christians don't make such a mockery of their own religion.

Anonymous said...

Some of the anonymous posters are Christians, some follow other religions, and some follow no religion at all.

The Bali slaughters, and the other murders across the globe this century, show how Islam is incompatible with the modern world and Western civilisation.

Muslims Out of all Western countries! You have shown that you cannot live amongst us.

Anonymous said...

anon @ 1104pm, are you banjo? have you been having too much Tamworth weed again?

wali said...

Anonymous said...
"The Bali slaughters, and the other murders across the globe this century, show how Islam is incompatible with the modern world and Western civilisation."

And yet numerically speaking, Christian and atheistic countries have murdered literally MILLIONS more people over the course of the 20th-21st centuries.

If number of killings is the criterion, then it seems the Western world is more incompatible with the modern civilisation than the Muslim world.

Yet again, your logic eats itself.

Merry Christmas.

Anonymous said...

In this modern world this century we have had people murdered by Muslims in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania in 2001, and in the few years since then Muslims have murdered people in London, and in Bali (twice), and the list continues....

If you want to detail each historical battle and event of the 20th Century, then give us a history lesson by all means, but these things do not concern me now.

Anonymous said...

Anon @ 905, John Howard once remarked that Hitler's Reich was launched in a Catholic Church.

Please name me a mosque from which a movement was founded to massacre 6 million Jews in the 20th century.

wali said...

Anonymous said...
"In this modern world this century we have had people murdered by Muslims in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania in 2001, and in the few years since then Muslims have murdered people in London, and in Bali (twice), and the list continues...."

Oh - so the Christian-and-secular-country atrocities of the 20th century have now been consigned to the memory-hole, have they? Interesting.

Alright - if reality now only begins on the 1st of January 2000, let's stick with the 21st century.

Tell me: which Muslim-influenced governments have destroyed entire countries and consequently murdered hundreds of thousands of civilians since the 1st of January 2000? Ah yes - none. And which which Christain-or-secular-based governments have destroyed entire countries and consequently murdered hundreds of thousands of civilians since the 1st of January 2000? The U.S.A., the U.K., Australia, and so on and so forth.

Yep - even if you restrict yourself to the 21st century, by your own criterion, Muslim countries still come out smelling sweeter.

Baaahahaha. What a loser you are. Please get an education.

Anonymous said...

I agree the West has to avenge New York, Pennslyvania, Washington, London, Bali and Lakemba. It's time to take back everything we have given the muslims and bomb all the muslim countries back into the Dark Ages. Even when the muslims are pleading for mercy we should continue to slaughter them. We have the power. There is no reason not to exterminate them. The sooner the West exterminates the muslims the sooner they will get to the muslim heaven. God wanted us to have Stealth Bombers and Napalm and the Atom Bomb. Instead of brother wars of white man vs white man it is better that we unite against the muslims. Let the bodies hit the floor. Wet the sands with muslim blood. Watch the cities of the muslims burn. Hear the women and children scream until they are silenced by the executioners bullet. See Mecca vanish in a Nuclear Flash. Begin the alcoholocaust. It is time to proceed towards the historical destiny. The genocide of the muslims will be a new chapter of Western Victory.

Anonymous said...
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Irfan said...

Anon @ 1049, you are seriously a demented and delusional creature. To suggest that Jews or Catholics or Callithumpians or anyone else are involved in some huge conspiracy to control Australia is madness.

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Anonymous said...
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BanJoh said...

anon 112 & 117, when are you going to get a real job and a real life? or would you rather sit on your useless lazy far-right arse smoking banjo's grass and writing posts that read like something out of the letters column of the Telegraph?

Irf, stop letting this idiotic goose's comments through.

Anonymous said...

Is banjoh from Queensland? He sounds like a certain peanut farmer. What else does he want to ban?

Anonymous said...

Mr Irfan, its very commendable that you celebrate christmas, but what are you gonna do about the millions of young muslims who want to slaughter christians and Jews?

Irfan said...

Anon @ 813, why don't you show me where these alleged millions are. Then you can explain to me exactly what I, sitting in Australia, can do.