Thursday, December 22, 2005

The Christmas story in the Qur’an

The Christmas story is not only told in the bible of the Christians, it is also in the Qur’an of the Muslims. I went over the Qur’an which is not familiar terrain for me, I also browsed through an Islamic website where I found interesting stuff.

In the Qur’an one will find an account of Mary’s own birth, the Annunciation and later, the Nativity and Jesus’ public life. Mary is mentioned in the Qur’an 34 times. But before Jesus’ birth is the story about the miraculous conception and birth of John the Baptist, the precursor of the Messiah that was to come.

The Qur’an says that Mary was the daughter of the wife of Imran. When Imran’s wife was pregnant, she made a vow that she would offer her child to be raised and serve at the Temple. She thought she would give birth to a son, but when she delivered, the child turned out be a girl. The mother was disappointed.

She named the child Mary which meant servant. Mary’s father Imran had died before she was born, so her mother brought her to the temple to be reared by the priests. Zakariyya (John the Baptist’s father?) was one of them. Unable to decide who would have the privilege of having custody of Mary, the priests drew lots. Zakariyya’s name was drawn and he became Mary’s guardian.

When Mary reached the age of puberty, Zakariyya saw to it she was protected from the eyes of men. Mary worshipped Allah in a special partition where nobody could enter except Zakariyya. Whenever Zakariyya came in he always found her with food.

``O Mary! Whence comes this to you?’’ Zakariyya would ask. Mary would answer: ``It is from Allah, and surely Allah gives sustenance to whom He pleases, without measure.’’

From the Qur’an here is the word-for-word account on the Annuciation:

This is one of the announcements of things Unseen by thee: To thee, O Muhammad! Do we reveal it; for thou wast not with them when they cast lots with reeds which of them should rear Mary; nor wast thou with them when they disputed about it.

Remember when the angel said, ``O Mary! Verily God announceth to thee the word from Him: His name shall be, Messiah Jesus the son of Mary, illustrious in this world, and in the next, and one of those who have near access to God;

``And he shall speak to men alike when in the cradle and when grown up; And he shall be one of the just.’’

She said, ``How, O my Lord! Shall I have a son, when man hath not touched me?’’ He said, ``Thus: God will create what He will; When He decreeth a thing, He only saith, `Be,’ and it is.’

``And he will teach him the Book, and the Wisdom, and the Law, and the Evangel; and he shall be an apostle to the children of Israel. `Now I have come,’ he will say, `to you with a sign from your Lord: Out of clay will I make for you, as it were, the figure of a bird: and I will breathe unto it, and it shall become by God’s leave, a bird. And I will heal the blind, and the leper; and by God’s leave will I quicken the dead, and will tell you what ye eat, and what ye store up in your houses! Truly in this will be a sign for you, if ye are believers….’’

But this is getting ahead of the story. In a later chapter (vide xix), the Annunciation scene is repeated. Mary gives birth, not in a stable, but beside the truth of a date palm. This is a rather colorful birth scene, what with dates falling on her.

And make mention of the Book of Mary, when she went apart from her family, eastward,
And took a veil to shroud herself from them: and We sent Our spirit to her, he took before her the form of a perfect man.

She said: ``I fly for refuge from thee to the God of Mercy! If thou fearest Him, begone from me.’’

He said, ``I am only a messenger of thy Lord, that I may bestow on thee a holy son.’’

She said, ``How shall have I a son, when man hath never touched me? I am not unchaste.’’

He said: ``So shall it be. They Lord hath said: `Easy is this with me;’ and `We will make him a sign to mankind, and a mercy from Us. For it is a thing decreed.’

And she conceived him, and retired with him to a far-off place.

And the throes came upon her by the trunk of a palm. She said, ``Oh, would that I had died ere this, and been a thing forgotten, forgotten quite!’’

And one cried to her from below her: ``Grieve not thou, thy Lord hath provided a streamlet at thy feet:--

And shake the trunk of the palm tree towards thee: it will drop fresh ripe dates upon thee.

Eat then and drink, and be of cheerful eye: and shouldst thou see a man,

Say,--``Verily, I have vowed abstinence to the God of mercy.—To no one I will speak this day.’’

Then came she with the babe to her people bearing him. They said, ``O Mary! Now hast thou done a strange thing!

O sister of Aaron! Thy father was not a man of wickedness, nor unchaste thy mother.’’

And she made a sign to them pointing towards the babe. They said, ``How shall we speak with him who is in the cradle, an infant?’’

It said, ``Verily, I am the servant of God; He hath given me the Book, and He hath made me a prophet;

He hath made me blessed wherever I may be, and hath enjoined me prayer and almsgiving so long as I shall live.

And to be duteous to her that bare me: and he hath not made me proud, depraved.

And the peace of God was on me the day I was born, and will be the day I shall die, and the day I shall be raised to life.’’

This is Jesus, the son of Mary; this is a statement of the truth concerning which they doubt.

It beseemeth not God to beget a son. Glory be to Him! When He decreeth a thing, He only saith to it, ``Be,’’ and it is.

Peace be to all the warring Christians and Muslims. Maligayang Pasko sa inyong lahat!