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Religious Unity: In Blessed Memory of Jesus Christ (peace be upon him)

By Yusuf M. Abdullahi
In the name of Allah who states "certainly, you will find the most violent of people in enmity for those who believe (to be) the Jews and those who are polytheists, and you will certainly find the nearest in friendship to those who believe (to be) those who say: we are Christians; this is because there are priests and monks among them and because they do not behave proudly" Q5:82

May the everlasting peace and blessings of Allah be upon His chosen servant, our master Muhammad and his purified progeny.
The piece for this week is on the great Prophet of Allah, Isa al-Masih,-Jesus Christ, peace be upon him, born on 25th of Zulqaadah according to a narration of Ahlul-bait. There are many lessons in the miraculous life of this messenger popularly related to children of Israelites.
The importance of birthday cerebrations in respect of the last messenger Muhammad and purified Imams of the Ahlul-bait (AS), where virtues in their blessed lives are extolled cannot be overemphasized. In the same way, we celebrate that of Jesus, peace be upon him where Christians are invited to share the Islamic view regarding the Messiah. With respect, the holy Qur’an addresses Jews and Christians as people of the book to whom messengers were sent with monotheistic missions. In narrating the historic account of Jesus’ life, the noble Qur’an started with his grandmother’s pregnancy: “When a woman of Imran said; My Lord! Sure I vow to You what is in my womb, to be devoted (to Thy service); accept therefore from me, surely thou Art the Hearing the Knowing. So when she brought forth, she said; My Lord! Surely I have brought it forth a female, and Allah knew best what she brought forth and the male is not like female and I have named it Mary, and I commend her and her offspring into Thy protection from the accursed Satan” Q3:35-36
Regarding his bountiful miracles, the holy Qur’an highlights: “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
The rationale behind his miracles and indeed all other messengers was to prove their truth; “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
Despite his miraculous action and missionary period, most of the children of Israel neither accepted him nor the prophesized prophet. In fact, they attempted to kill him but Allah saved him in His infinite mercy. “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 refuted in the light of the verses above. Christians blame Jews on crucifixion as the ancient phrase “the Jews killed Jesus” until it was agreed to absolve them from the blame after series of international conferences such as the First Assembly of Protestant World Council of Churches, Amsterdam, 1948, the third Assembly, New Delhi, 1961 and declaration on the Jews by the Second Vatican council, 1965 among others, which led to closer friendly ties between the two parties. As opposed to Jews who believe in the messengers before Christ and Christians to Christ, Muslims believe in all messengers to the last, Muhammad son of Abdullah 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 of blessed memory as narrated in Bihar al-Anwar in his respect include:
1. 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.
2. Jesus passed by a blind man, leprous and paralytic. He heard him giving thanks saying ‘praise be to Allah Who has protected me from the trials with which He afflicts majority of men. Jesus said "what trial remains which has not visited you? He said; he protected me from a trial which is 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 his companion and worshipped with him.
3. 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 tradition, we can understand the significant position accorded pious scholars. In his traditional well wishes to the Christian community, 1978 during such occasions, late Imam Khomeini had this to say: "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 nation to freedom and development, the Imam was respected irrespective of religious, racial and geographical inclinations. The Christians in Iran supported him enduring persecution and defending the nation on his orders in the imposed. Thus, many were killed alongside Muslim brothers. Commemorations were organised in their respect at various places including mosques in attendance of important officials. Few examples include soldier martyrs Vartan Abrahamiyan killed at Kurdistan, 1980, Razmik Davitiyan, killed at Abadan, 1981, and Joseph Shahiniyan, killed at Ahwaz, 1985 among others.
The Imam was succeeded by his promising disciple, Sayyid Ali Khamne’i, the leader of the Ummah, an erudite Islamic scholar and authority per excellence. Through his fatherly and spiritual guidance, the country has recorded tremendous achievements in all aspects of its socio-economic life. 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).
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. In line with this, I emphasize good exhortation based on reasoning, peaceful coexistence, cordial relations and mutual respect for our societal development. Allah 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. Imam Ali (AS), said “do not despise a human being; for he is either a brother to you in religion or a partner in creation”
For our country to have the much needed peace and development, the need for mutual respect and ethno-religious tolerance cannot be overemphasized. At this juncture, the widely recognized efforts of Sheikh Ibraheem el-Zakzaky (H), and Pastor Yohanna Buru must be acknowledged in this direction. To the best of ability, Muslims are encouraged to live as good vicegerents of Allah on earth. 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 Allah” Q3:110
While wishing our pilgrims safe return from the holy land after the rite, I reiterate the urgent need for unconditional release of Shaikh el-Zakzaky and all his disciples.
Wassalamu alaikum.

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