This time of year I find Muslim-Christian dialogue less complicated because Muslims worldwide love, respect and revere Jesus. In fact, Islam is the only non-Christian faith, which makes it an article of faith to believe in Jesus' miraculous birth and consider him a very elect and highly esteemed messenger of God.
This time of year I find Muslim-Christian dialogue less complicated because Muslims worldwide love, respect and revere Jesus.
Jesus’ spiritual legacy offers Muslims and Christians a unique opportunity as people of the book to recognize some of our shared beliefs.
In fact, Islam is the only non-Christian faith, which makes it an article of faith to believe in Jesus’ miraculous birth and consider him a very elect and highly esteemed messenger of God. No Muslim is a Muslim if he or she does not believe this.
In the Quran, God describes the birth of Jesus in the chapter titled ‘Maryam’ (Mary):
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‘Behold!’ the Angel said, ‘God has chosen you, and purified you, and chosen you above the women of all nations. O Mary, God gives you good news of a word from Him, whose name shall be the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, honored in this world and the Hereafter, and one of those brought near to God. He shall speak to the people from his cradle and in maturity, and shall be of the righteous.’
She said: ‘O my Lord! How shall I have a son when no man has touched me?’ He said: ‘Even so; God creates what He will. When He decrees a thing, He says to it, “Be!” and it is.’
Quran, 3:42, 45-47
I customarily start by reciting this passage from the Quran when invited to speak at local churches and Christian schools. Then I go on to explain that Muslims believe in the original Psalms and Gospel.
I have found that by focusing on our love for Jesus, we connect. Ask any Muslim, anywhere in the world, if they love Jesus and they will consistently say, “Yes, he is our beloved prophet.” You will find it is considered very offensive in Islam to disrespect Jesus.
We do have some differing perspectives on Jesus’s life and teachings, but his spiritual legacy still offers an opportunity for people of faith to acknowledge their shared religious heritage.
We must strive for dialogue, but in doing so, hold on to our own beliefs. That way, we can learn to live together with people whose beliefs are both common and different.
I remember Pope Benedict XVI once said “Let us, as Christians and Muslims, show that we can live together in true fraternity, striving always to do the will of Merciful God who created humanity to be one family.”
Our world has recently seen too much pain and suffering as the result of a few misguided followers of both faiths who have used political or armed means in an effort to impose their views on others.
It is time to challenge those who would divide our world along religious lines, because without peace and justice between our religious communities, there can be no meaningful harmony in the world.
Let us work harder to feed those who are hungry for accurate information about each other’s faiths rather than focusing on the few who widen the gap with misunderstandings and disinformation.
Our world is in desperate need of unifying forces that can channel the multitudes of both faiths who stand ready to honor the legacy of Jesus by building bridges of dialogue and understanding.
It’s time to embrace the universal message of love, peace and forgiveness. Let us begin to act as one human family because our future depends on peace between our faiths.
Aziz Junejo is host of “Focus on Islam,” a weekly cable-television show, and a frequent speaker on Islam. Readers may send feedback to email@example.com