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White snow fell gently and quietly on the ground. Lights strewn around the front porch looked like miniscule bright stars which had fallen from the sky. A fully decorated tree stood proudly in the window as wrapped presents lay lazily underneath.
A scene such as this was more than common in most homes back in the 1970s. But this was no ordinary home: This was a Muslim home, my home.
My earliest memories of growing up in a small southern Indiana town remind me of how I was raised as a Muslim girl. My parents, immigrants from Pakistan, always instilled in me the understanding and love for my religion and made sure I knew who I was.
But in these teachings, I also was taught to understand and respect people of other faiths. For example, every Christmas my mother would put up a tree and invited our non-Muslim and Muslim friends to help decorate. She would serve homemade desserts, hot chocolate and even some Pakistani dishes to our guests.
I loved this about my mom. She was teaching me the importance of inviting others into our home during Christmas to learn, to share, to grow as Muslims. By doing so I wasn’t losing anything from my own faith. In fact, I was gaining the perspective that the principals of humanity across all faiths are universal.
Over the years, my Christian friends always asked me what Islam says about Jesus and Christmas. My response was that though Muslims do not believe that Jesus was the son of God, he is a very special prophet who is the Spirit and the Word of God.
The account of his holy birth from the Virgin Mary and the miracles of his life are described in the Quran as well: “Behold! The angels said: ‘O Mary! God giveth thee glad tidings of a Word from Him: his name will be Christ Jesus. The son of Mary, held in honor in this world and the Hereafter and of the company of those nearest to God. He shall speak to the people in childhood and in maturity. And he shall be of the righteous.” Chapter 3: Verses 45-46.
Additionally, Jesus is mentioned in the Quran more than 25 times while the Prophet Mohammad is mentioned by name four times. In Islam, the status given to the Virgin Mary is higher than all the women in this world and in the world hereafter. Similar to Christian teaching, Islam tells us that Jesus ascended to heaven and will return at the end of times.
As I raise my own children today, we talk about the importance of Christmas to us.
Just as my mother did, I too put up a Christmas tree, make festive food and invite dear friends. We talk about the role of Jesus in Islam. We talk about what Christmas teaches us: to give, to love, to care, to share, to respect and to understand.
To me, no matter what faith you possess, the spirit of Christmas has a lesson to teach us all.
Tehmina Haider is an Elizabethtown resident.