Christmas is revered in the Quran but whether or not Muslims can or should celebrate it is a much more complicated subject.
It seems fitting to go beyond the festivities and into the heart of the subject of Christmas and the Nativity. Let's talk about Jesus, and let's talk about how he relates to Islam.
Let's start with where Christianity and Islam differ. Islam does not consider Jesus a deity nor the son of God, which are arguably the central tenets of Christianity.
It does, however, hold Christ in extremely high esteem. He is regarded as Prophet Muhammad's precursor and one of God's most prominent messengers. And Christmas is regarded as a miracle.
Jesus and Islam are not at odds, these facts prove it:
1. Islam considers Jesus a Messiah
In the Quran, Jesus is referred to as "Essa al-Maseeh", Jesus the Messiah or the Savior.
Muslims believe Prophet Muhammad came to complete Jesus' message, rather than refute it. The Qur'an states that disrespecting Jesus is a sign of disbelief.
In the Quran, God commands Muslims to regard Jesus as his messenger, as he holds the "Word of God".
"The Christ Jesus, son of Mary, was but God's Apostle - [the fulfilment of] His promise which He had conveyed unto Mary - and a soul created by Him. Believe, then, in God and His apostles." An-Nisa (The Women) [4:171]
2. The Quran considers Jesus's birth a miracle
The Qur'an contains a chapter (soora) entitled 'Maryam' (Mary), which tells the story of Mary and the birth of her son Jesus.
According to the Qur'an, Jesus was born without a father by the command of God. Virgin Mary gave birth under a palm tree.
3. Jesus is mentioned 25 times in the Qur'an, the Prophet Muhammad just 4
The name of Prophet Muhammad appears in the Qur'an 4 times, while that of Jesus (Essa) appears 25 times. Jesus Christ is discussed directly and indirectly over 180 times.
4. According to the Quran, Jesus's miracles are unmatched by any other prophet
Muslims believe that some prophets were given a divine ability to perform miracles. Jesus' miracles are unmatched by any other prophet.
He is believed to be the only person in history to talk and give a sermon as a newborn.
Among Jesus' abilities according to the Qur'an are curing the blind, resurrecting the dead and turning clay to a live bird.
“I have come to you with a sign from your Lord. I make for you the shape of a bird out of clay, I breathe into it, and it becomes a bird by God’s permission. I heal the blind from birth and the leper. And I bring the dead to life by God’s permission. And I tell you what you eat and what you store in your houses....” Al-Omran [ 3:49]
5. The Virgin Mary is the most esteemed of women
"And [mention] when the angels said, "O Mary, indeed Allah has chosen you and purified you and chosen you above the women of the worlds." Al-Omran [3:42]
The Virgin Mary is the only woman mentioned by name in the Qur'an and she is among only eight people to have a Qur'anic chapter named after them. Other virtuous women are discussed, but their names were passed on through Islamic tradition.
6. The Prophet Muhammad had a deep and profound appreciation for Jesus and Mary
According to some reports, Prophet Muhammad entered the Kaaba after defeating the Quraysh tribes and found religious paintings and sculptures, many depicting pagan gods. He demanded that every icon be destroyed, except those of Jesus, Mary and Abraham.
7. Muslims believe in the second coming of Christ, too
Muslims believe Jesus was never crucified. Instead, a traitor (known as Judas Iscariot in Christian scriptures) was transformed to look like Jesus, as a divine punishment for betraying him. Jesus’ enemies crucified Judas, thinking that he was Jesus.
According to Muslim tradition, Jesus elevated to heaven only to return to earth near the Day of Judgment to restore justice and defeat al-Masih ad-Dajjal ("the false messiah" known as the Antichrist).