By Prof R. A. Ipinyomi, University of Ilorin, Nigeria
Nigeria Muslims have to be Christmas-friendly Muslims and they are right if they can see it from the point of view of the Quran rather than anyone trying to persuade them. It is on the basis of facts in Quran alone and not simply because anyone is preaching respect for other religions is a virtue.
For example at least two chapters of the Muslim Holy Book give detailed accounts of the birth of Jesus, which partly resemble the account in the Gospel of Luke. The miraculous birth of Jesus, which is a powerful theme not just in the New Testament, but also in the Quran. This is the celebration we both share at Christmas.
As the Quran narrates, an angel approached Mary (Maryam) one day and told her that God had decided to give her “a pure boy.” Mary objected: “How can I have a boy when no man has touched me?” The angel responded, “God creates whatever he wills.” Then God “breathes into Mary of our spirit,” and she conceives Isa (Jesus). Only the two religions Christianity and Islam give these narratives about Jesus and His holy mother Mary.
No one is saying that all the narratives in the Bible and Quran agree entirely without some variations, contradictions, disagreements but the common areas of agreement on the birth of Jesus suffice for Nigeria Muslims not to shy away from Christmas celebrations; could be celebrated with less excitement than their Christian brothers and sisters.
Our point is not to simplify or unify the Islamic Jesus and the Christian Jesus. Far from it, but we believe that they both refer to same personality only holding different levels of belief on that same person they have come to so respect. In particular it is the Islamic Jesus that to them gave the promise “another Prophet”.
Merry Christmas to all Nigeria Christians and Muslims, not just because we are interrelated biologically but also in our beliefs and faith.