In the name of Allah who states “Thou shalt certainly find Jews and those who associate partners with God to be the most vehement of men in enmity against the believers. And thou shalt assuredly find those who say we are Christians to be the nearest in love to the believers. That is because amongst them are servants and monks and because they are not proud” Q5:83
May the everlasting peace and blessings of Allah be upon His chosen servant, our master Muhammad and his purified progeny.
The significance of birthday cerebrations in respect of the Last Messenger and purified Imams of the Ahlul-bait (AS) where virtues are extolled for emulation cannot be overemphasised. The piece for this week is on the great Prophet, Isah al-Masih, peace be upon him, born on 25th of Zulqaadah according to a narration of the Ahlul-bait. There are so many lessons from the miraculous life of this messenger popularly related to the lost children of Israelites. As we celebrate, we invite Christians to share the Islamic view on the Messiah. With respect, the holy Qur’an addresses Jews and Christians as people of the book who were sent the monotheistic mission. Narrating the historic account of Jesus’ life, the noble Qur’an began with his grandmother’s pregnancy: “Remember, when the woman of Imran said, My Lord, I have vowed to Thee what is in my womb to be dedicated to Thy service. So do accept it of me. Verily, Thou art alone all-Hearing, all-Knowing. But when she was delivered of it, she said, My Lord, I am delivered of a female – and Allah knew best what she had brought forth and the male she was thinking of was not like the female she had brought forth, and I have named her Mary, and I commit her and her offspring to Thy protection from Satan, the rejected” Q3:35-36.
Highlighting his miracles, the Qur’an states: “When Allah says; O Jesus, son of Mary! Remember my favor to you and your mother, how I strengthened you with the holy spirit so that you speak to mankind while you were in cradle as in maturity, and how you shaped of clay the likeness of a bird by my permission and blew upon it and it was a bird by my permission and you healed him who was born blind and the leper by my permission” Q5:110
Like his predecessors, he was blessed with miracles to prove his link to Allah for people to believe; “And remember, Jesus, the son of Mary, said: O children of Israel! I am the messenger of Allah (sent) to you, confirming the law (which came) before me, and giving glad tidings of a messenger to come after me, whose name shall be Ahmad” Q61:6. However, throughout his missionary period, they neither accepted him nor the prophesied successor. In fact, they attempted to kill him but for Allah’s intervention; “They said in (boast), we killed the Christ, Jesus the son of Mary, the messenger of Allah-but they killed him not, neither did they crucify him but confusion overtook them …” Q4:157
Although, both Jews and Christians believe he was killed, Allah disproved them as the above verse highlighted. With the ancient phrase “the Jews killed Jesus, Christians generally blame Jews on crucifixion until it was agreed to absolve them after series of international conferences such as the First Assembly of the Protestant World Council of Churches, Amsterdam, 1948, the third Assembly, New Delhi, 1961 and the declaration on the Jews by the Second Vatican council, 1965 among others that led to friendly ties between them. As opposed to Jews who believe in messengers before Christ and Christians to Christ, Muslims believe in all messengers to the last, Muhammad son of Abdullah (S) who said: “among my progeny is Mahdi. When he emerges, Jesus, the son of Mary will descend to help him, send him ahead and pray behind him”. Some traditions and statements in his respect as narrated in Bihar al-Anwar include:
- “Blessed is he whose silence is contemplation, whose view is clear understanding, whose total space is his house, who weeps on his errors, and people are safe from his hands and tongue.”
- “I sleep while I have nothing, and I rise while I have nothing and yet there is no one on earth more wealthy than I. He also said “I began the morning with my Lord, the Blessed and Supreme above me and the Fire (of hell) before me, I have not obtained that for which I wished and I cannot keep away the things I hate. So, who of the poor is poorer than I?”
- “Jesus passed by a blind man, leprous and paralytic and Jesus heard him giving thanks saying ‘praise be to Allah Who has protected me from the trials with which He afflicts the majority of men. Jesus said “what trial remains which has not visited you? He said; he protected me from a trial which is the greatest of trials and that is disbelief. Then Jesus touched him and Allah cured him from his illness and beautified his face. Then he became a companion of Jesus and worshipped with him.”
- “Jesus passed by a grave whose occupant was being chastised. Then he passed it the following year, when he was not being chastised. He said O Lord! I passed through this town last year and he was being chastised and I passed it through this year while he is not being chastised. Then Allah revealed to him “O spirit of Allah! One of his children matured and cleared some way and sheltered an orphan. Then I forgave him for the deeds of his child.”
- “World is an ailment to religion, and the scholar is the doctor for religion, therefore, if you see a scholar drawing the ailment towards himself you should accuse him and know that he cannot admonish anyone.”
In the light of the above traditions, the significant position accorded the pious scholars is very obvious. In relevant 1978 well wishes to the Christian community of Iran, the late Imam Khomeini’s address read:
“Salutations and peace of Allah be upon Jesus the son of Mary, the spirit of Allah and His great prophet, who used to raise the dead and waken the sleeping ones. Salutations of the exalted Lord and His mercy be upon his great mother, the virgin Mary, the pure and truthful lady, who presented, through divine blowing, this type of child for those who burn in love of divine mercy. Greetings to the clergymen and monks who forsake the sinful self in favor of contentment with the teachings of the Messiah and to the independent Christian community who get inspiration from the heavenly teachings of the Messiah. I call upon you Christians in the name of the oppressed nation of Iran, to pray in your blessed days for our nation that has been in calamities under an oppressive ruler, and pray unto Allah to bless it with a relief”. As a great Islamic scholar and pious personality that led oppressed nations to freedom and development, the Imam was greatly respected across the world. The Christians in Iran supported him, and endured persecution after the success of Islamic revolution in the imposed war. Many Armenian Christian youths were martyred alongside their Muslim brothers. Commemorative programmes were organised in their respect at various places including mosques in attendance of officials. Examples of such martyrs include soldier martyr Vartan Abrahamiyan, killed in Kurdistan, 1980; soldier martyr Razmik Davitiyan, killed in Abadan, 1981; soldier martyr Joseph Shahiniyan, killed in Ahwaz, 1985; soldier Haraj Hakobiyan, (missed in action), 1987; Qasreshirin and civilian martyr Matus Banusiyan killed in Tabriz, 1987 among others.
After the Imam’s death, his promising disciple, Sayyid Ali Khamne’i, an erudite Islamic scholar and authority per excellence, succeeded him. Through his fatherly and spiritual guidance, the country has recorded tremendous achievements in all sectors of human endeavour. Like his predecessor and mentor, he is highly respected as a man of letters, human liberator and man of Allah. President Vladimir Putin of the Russian federation said in his respect: “I have met many world leaders whom I came to respect such as Jacques Shirac, the French president, Mikhail Gorbachev, the head of state of the U.S.S.R, and Helmut Koh, Chancellor of Germany, but none of these men touched me the way Ayatollah Khamenei did. In my meeting with him, I forgot everything else as I was overwhelmed by his spirituality. I don’t know much about the Messiah, the Christ, just what I have heard or read in the Bible, but I saw Christ, the Messiah, in the leader of the Islamic republic of Iran (referring to the Supreme leader, Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Khamenei).”
Allah states “O people of the book! Do not go to extremes in your religion: nor say of Allah anything but the truth. Verily; Christ Jesus the son of Mary was no more than a messenger of Allah, and His word, which he bestowed upon Mary. And a spirit proceeding from Him; as believe in Allah and His messengers ……” Q4:171. At this juncture, I emphasise good exhortation on the basis of knowledge and reasoning, peaceful coexistence through good neighbourliness, cordial relations and mutual respect based on heavenly teachings for peaceful co-existence and societal advancement. Allah also states “O men! We have created you all out of a male and a female, and have made you into nations and tribes, so that you might come to know one another; verily, the noblest among you in the sight of Allah is the one who is deeply conscious of Him. Behold, He is all knowing, all aware. Q49:13
The effort of Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky (H), leader of the Islamic Movement in promotion of peaceful coexistence, ethno-religious understanding and tolerance is worth mention at this point. So also, Pastors Yonana Buru of Peace Revival and Reconciliation Foundation of Nigeria and Maxwell Sanda of Evangelical Intercessory Fellowship, Kaduna. The trio should be emulated as no development is ever possible under chaos and bloodshed.
Allah states, “You are the best community raised for the good of mankind. You enjoin what is good and forbid what is wrong, and you believe in God” Q3:110. A prominent saying of Imam Ali (AS) “do not despise a human being; for he is either a brother to you in religion or a partner in creation.”
While urging Nigerians to live in peace and respect one another, I pray for better health to the oppressed leader of the Islamic Movement, Shaikh, el-Zakzaky and wife reiterating the need for their unconditional release.