WHY I WILL ALWAYS BE A MERRY MUSLIM!
By Raheel Raza
December is a poignant month for us as this is when my family landed in Canada 22 years ago. Christmas lights and the ambience of the season made our adjustment very cheerful, despite the challenges of the freezing weather and being new settlers.
However this is not the only reason we hold the Christmas season near and dear to us. Our association with this celebration goes far back into our childhood, when political correctness wasn’t a word we were familiar with.
My husband studied in a boarding school in Pakistan and spent his winter holidays at the home of his best friend Ahmed. Ahmed’s mother was Christian and celebrated her faith with gusto. On Dec 24 she would ask the boys to accompany her to church for midnight mass and Sohail remembers the beauty of the readings, the lilting music of the choir and of course the treats. Next day there would be visits and exchange of gifts and sometimes a tree because Christmas trees were hard to find in the boons of Rawalpindi. All this happened as naturally as celebrating Muslim festivals of Eid in the same house.
Similarly, I grew up in Pakistan studying in convent schools which were administered by Catholic nuns mostly from Ireland and UK. Some of my best friends were Catholics from Goa. Christmas was an exciting time because there were new and different traditions to learn from, different food to taste and gifts to give. At the time we were growing up in Pakistan (the 1960’s and early 70’s) there was no restriction on Christmas celebrations and churches thrived. Being a curious young person I insisted on going to church with my friends and found the experience of prayer very heart warming. It helped that we had learned the Lord’s Prayer in school and know it by heart. I still remember helping my Christian friends make a nativity display and the persona of Mary has always fascinated me, doubly confirmed when I read the chapter on Mary in the Qur’an.
We knew then as we do now, that Jesus is revered as a Prophet in the Qur’an and mentioned by name more times than our own Prophet Mohammad. What we have learnt since then is that Jesus sets an example that we all need to learn from. We are told stories in the Qur’an of the virgin birth and of the miracles Jesus performed. So if Christmas is celebrated as the birth of this great messenger of God, then it’s incumbent on us to commemorate it as well.
Both my husband and I feel we should utilize these days to study the life of Jesus in more detail as he was a role model for humanity. His humility, compassion and healing are great lessons for us in this time of warfare and violence.
In our early years in Canada when my sons were small in school, Christmas was still a celebration and I clearly recall going to their school to join in carol singing. However, it saddens me to see how the sanctity of Christmas has either become too commercialised, or sidelined from the faith perspective due to political correctness and not being able to fully call Christmas what it is.
Today Canada is home to a multitude of faiths making this the most diverse mosaic in the world. But we must be mindful not put the celebrations of the host community on the back burner so that we can celebrate our own. I find it disturbing that some schools and institutions have taken the “merry” out of Christmas.
So I would like to take this opportunity to wish Canadians a very Merry Christmas.