Even though I’m working, and Christmas is just another day for me, this doesn’t mean that I’m not pondering about Jesus
Almost every year, I end up working on Christmas Day. It’s not that big of a deal, because I don’t celebrate the holiday, and I don’t mind working for my colleagues who do celebrate this holiday. After all, it’s only fair, because they cover for me when I take off for `Eid.
The only problem is that the day is so boring. There is nothing open! This becomes a challenge if I have to get something to eat.
Last year, I was working the night shift on Christmas, and there was almost no restaurant open to serve me food. Even the Chinese restaurants were closed! Thanks to God, the Muslim-owned restaurant was open.
Yet, even though I’m working, and Christmas is just another day for me, this doesn’t mean that I’m not pondering about Jesus. In fact, I’m thinking about Jesus (and his mother) very frequently. As I walk the hospital halls at which I work, I see several Nativity scenes on display, and it gets me to thinking about Jesus Christ. It reminds me of him and what a powerful and wonderful Prophet and Messenger he was.
Even though I don’t celebrate Christmas, it does not mean I don’t have Jesus in my life.

The story of his birth is told twice in the Qur’an. In addition, the Qur’an recounts how Jesus spoke in his infancy, healed the blind and those stricken with leprosy, and raised the dead back to life. The Qur’an even mentions that Jesus used to fashion birds out of clay and breathe life into them, all by the permission of God, the Almighty, and as well, it recounts the story of what seems to be the Last Supper.
The Qur’an describes Jesus as being {honored in the world and the hereafter and one of the intimates of God} and {in the ranks of the righteous}. He is also described as a {Word, from God, which God sent down to Mary and a spirit from Him}, and a man {strengthened with the Holy Spirit}.
Classical commentators have interpreted the “Holy Spirit” to mean either divine inspiration or Angel Gabriel.

The Virgin Mary

December 8 was the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, one of the Holydays of Obligation in the Catholic Church. During my days as an undergraduate at Marquette University, I always enjoyed the 8th of December, because it would be a day off from school. I had always thought that this day was to commemorate the conception of Jesus Christ, and I was surprised to learn that this day actually celebrates the conception of the Virgin Mary.
Again, although I don’t officially celebrate this day, it still brings a warm feeling to my heart, for it reminds me of the Virgin Mary, who has a very exalted place in Muslim belief. The very story of the birth of Mary, which the feast day commemorates, is found in the Qur’an, too:

{A woman of the Household of Imran prayed, “O my Lord! Actually, unto You do I vow (the child) that is in my womb to be devoted to Your service. Accept it, then, from me; verily, You Alone are the All-Hearing, the All-Knowing!” But when she had given birth to the child, she said, “O my Lord! Indeed, I have given birth to a female” — while God had been fully aware of what she would give birth to — “and the male is not like the female. And I have named her Mary, and verily, I seek Your protection for her and her offspring against Satan, the Accursed.”} (Aal-Imran: 35 and 36)

The Holy Virgin is the only woman mentioned by name in the Qur’an, and the entire 19th Chapter of the Qur’an is named specifically after her. The Qur’an details how she took a special secluded place in the Temple, where she worshipped God devoutly:
{And mention Mary in the Book, when she withdrew from her people to a place in the East and secluded herself from them.} (Maryam: 16 and 17)
It was there that Angel Gabriel appeared to her to give her the good news of the birth of her son, Jesus:
{We sent her Our Spirit, which appeared to her just like a man. She said, “I take refuge from you with the Most Gracious One, if you are pious.” He said, “I am only a messenger from your Lord, to give you a sinless son.”} (An-Nahl: 17-19)
Moreover, God singles out the Virgin Mary as the ideal example of the believer:
{And God cites as an example of those who believed: Mary, the daughter of `Imran. She maintained her chastity, then we blew into her from Our Spirit. And she believed in the Words of her Lord and His Scriptures, and she was obedient.} (At-Tahrim: 11 and 12)
It’s truly amazing that such a prominent figure in one faith tradition is held in such high esteem in another major faith tradition. But, this happens all the time with Islam, as it’s the continuation of the Prophetic Message, which began with our father, Adam, continued through his sons Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and finally Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon them all).
Indeed, we Muslims may not have lights at our houses; we may not have lighted trees in our living rooms; and we may be working the night shift on December 25 and trolling the streets for something, anything, to eat.
But that doesn’t mean we don’t have Jesus and Mary in our hearts. On the contrary, the love we have for them overflows from our hearts each and every day.
In any number of mosques — which, recently, some Americans have attacked in misplaced “revenge” for the acts of extremists — the verses of the Qur’an that extol the holiness and virtue of Christ and his mother are sung out in ritual prayer.
Just because we may not take Christmas as a religious holiday does not mean that we don’t care about Jesus. It doesn’t mean that at all.

Dr. Hesham A. Hassaballa