Before I answer this question, I would like to share a beautiful poem from Rumi. Rumi is a poet and Sufi Islamic thinker that is adored by both Muslims and Christians.
My heart is open to all forms;
It is a pasture for gazelles
And a home for Christian monks,
A temple for idols,
The Black Stone of the Ka‘bah,
The tablet of the Torah
And the book of the Quran.
Wherever God’s caravans turn,
The religion of love shall be my religion
And my faith.
All my life, I have been connected with Catholic schools. I was raised in Notre Dame School from elementary and high school. Studied law in a Catholic school, and now even working in a Catholic, Jesuit, Filipino University. I have memorized a quite number of Catholic prayers and know a lot of saints and good practices of the Christian faith.
I always believed that I need to understand the Western civilization (which is closely linked to Christianity) and the need to explain and present the Islamic civilization for my own understanding and how will I be able to teach them to my children and family.
This past few weeks, we are in the mood of the holiday season and the Christmas celebration. A lot of my friends are asking, what do we do during Christmas?
Dr. Zeyd Ali Merenkov, M.D. wrote in his blog saying that, “To a Muslim living in the West, the Christmas Holiday period is one of the most stressful times because of the differences in our attitudes towards holidays and celebrations of the status quo. Even in Islamic countries, there can be misunderstandings on these issues with our Christian colleagues.” But in the Philippines, specially in Mindanao and Davao City, Christmas Holiday is not a stressful week for most Muslims like us. We do have clear differences about the nature and definition of Christmas.
In the same article, Dr. Merenkov said that “the word Christmas comes from the Old English term Cristes maesse, meaning “Christ’s mass.” This was the name for the festival service of worship held on December 25th to commemorate the birth of Jesus (in Islam we call him as Nabi Isa (peace be upon him). Thus, the way we look at Nabi Isa is different from our Christian brethren, and the way we look at Christmas is naturally different as well.
In the our local setting, we do not feel obligated to celebrate Christmas. None is forcing us to celebrate this. But we choose to join the holiday season in the spirit of the value of giving and solidarity of our humanity. Not so much on the religious doctrines but more on the point that Allah (SWT) mandates us to Love our neighbor.
My sufi master, Prof. Roque Morales told me that, “moments of celebration need not focus on the difference of one’s belief or the belief of others, it should be a reason for celebrating humanity for all of its diversity. we may not have same beliefs but we all believe that there is a divine all transcendent One (Al-Ahad) who gave us that humanity. and for that there is more reason to rejoice. Let us celebrate each day as Ayamullah (Days of Gd) as each of us chooses one special day to thank Him. A Blessed day to you and may the new cycle of life give us joy.
I share this sense of openness and warm embrace of our commonality as human beings.
Yes. Islam is a complete way of life. It is more than a religion. It is also a religion that teaches us to Love God and to Love our neighbor.
Every December, my family, friends and relatives, respect and join our Christian brothers and sisters in the time of joy and understanding of the season. We share gifts not because we are Christians nor overshadow our Islamic faith. We do this simply because our faith in Islam is embedded in our hearts and soul.