The True Meaning of ISNA's Christmas Greeting
Exploiting the willful ignorance of Christian leaders.
Dr. Stephen M. Kirby
On December 29, 2015, the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) extended a Christmas greeting to “Our Christian Brothers and Sisters.” ISNA, it must be remembered, was, and still is considered an unindicted co-conspirator in the successfully prosecuted federal terrorism case against the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development. ISNA is also Number One on the list of the Muslim Brotherhood’s “organizations and the organizations of our friends.”
The tone of the greeting was how much in common Muslims have with their Christian brothers and sisters. This should not be surprising because at the bottom of the greeting was: Dr. Sayyid M. Sayeed, ISNA Office of Interfaith and Community Alliances Director.
So, let’s examine some of the claims of commonality in this greeting.
Mary, the Mother of Jesus
The Christmas greeting makes much of the fact that Mary appears to be equally revered by both Muslims and Christians. To show that Muslim reverence, ISNA points out there is an entire chapter of the Koran named after Mary (Chapter 19). But the greeting fails to mention that of the 98 verses in that chapter, only fourteen are actually devoted to Mary (Verses 16-29).
And Islam has an interesting, but different, approach to the virgin birth of Jesus. 21:91 and 66:12 of the Koran state that Mary became pregnant by the Angle Gabriel blowing into an opening of the garment she was wearing. Ibn Kathir explained:
Then the breath descended until it entered into her vagina and she conceived the child by the leave of Allah.
Tafsir Ibn Kathir, Vol. 6, p. 244 (also see Tafsir Al-Jalalayn, pp. 704 and 1223)
The nature of Gabriel’s involvement in this would be an interesting topic for interfaith dialogue.
ISNA rejects certain interpretations and understandings of the Koran?
ISNA’s greeting included this eye-opening statement:
We reject those interpretations and that understanding of our scriptures that set us up against each other…
In the Koran Allah states that Islam is the only acceptable religion and is to be supreme over all other religions (e.g., 3:85, 9:33, 48:28, and 61:9). Allah commands Muslims to kill non-Muslims (9:5) and to specifically fight the Christians (9:29). Allah prohibits Muslims from being friends with Christians (5:51), he curses Christians (9:30), and states that Christians are among the worst of creatures and will go to Hell (98:6).
The Koran specifically states the Jesus was not the son of Allah (e.g., 4:171, 5:72, 9:30, and 19:35). The Koran also states that Jesus was not crucified, but it only appeared so (4:157-158). The authoritative Muslim scholar Ibn Kathir explained how this worked: One of Jesus’ followers volunteered to take Jesus’ place; so Allah made that follower look like Jesus, Allah took Jesus bodily to paradise, and that follower was crucified (Tafsir Ibn Kathir, Vol. 3, p. 28).
According to Islamic Doctrine then, Jesus was not crucified, which means there was no Resurrection. Consequently, the Christian brothers and sisters receiving ISNA’s greeting believe in a religion that is based on a fraud. And Muslims who know their religion look at a crucifix or a painting of the Crucifixion and see an imposter hanging on the cross. No commonality between Muslims and Christians here.
Muslims believe that the Koran consists of the timeless, perfect, and unchangeable commands of Allah. Is ISNA now saying that, for the sake of getting along with Christians, they have decided to pick and choose which commands of Allah they will follow, and which ones they will ignore?
The Divine Command that “binds” Muslims and Christians
ISNA’s greeting stated:
We stand committed to the divine command that binds us to cooperate in promoting good and forbidding what is evil and harmful for God’s creation (Quran 5:2).
So ISNA states there are “divine commands” that bind Muslims and Christians together in promoting good and forbidding evil, and this is based on 5:2 of the Koran. Here is how 5:2 starts off:
O you who believe! Violate not the sanctity of the Symbols of Allah…
What are these Symbols of Allah? They are what Allah has made permissible and what Allah has made impermissible; they are the hallmarks of Islam (Tafsir Ibn Kathir, Vol. 3, p. 76; Tafsir Al-Jalalayn, p. 235; and Tafsir As-Sa’di, Vol. 1, p. 471). The rest of 5:2 focuses on other aspects of Islamic Doctrine: the Sacred Month, animal sacrifices, and the pilgrimage to Mecca.
So according to ISNA, Christians and Muslims are bound together by the “divine command” to promote good and to forbid evil. Except, the basis for this claim is a Koran verse that states this “divine command” comes from the god of Islam and pertains to only what is good and evil in Islamic terms.
The Teachings and Example of Jesus Christ
ISNA’s Christmas greeting ended with these words:
Let the teachings and example of Jesus Christ continue to energize us all with love, tolerance, religious freedom and mutual respect.
So let’s consider some of what Islam tells us about the teachings and example of Jesus.
The Koran states that Jesus was one of the Messengers of Allah (e.g. 3:49, 3:53, 4:171, 5:75, and 61:6), and a “slave” of Allah (e.g. 4:172, 21:26, and 43:59). As a baby in his cradle, Jesus himself proclaimed that he was “a slave of Allah” (19:30).
Here is what Muhammad said would happen when Jesus first returned to earth:
He [Jesus] will descend while wearing two long, light yellow garments. His head appears to be dripping water, even though no moisture touched it. He will break the cross, kill the pig, and banish the Jizyah and will call the people to Islam. During his time, Allah will destroy all religions except Islam…‘Isa [Jesus] will remain for forty years and then will die, and Muslims will offer the funeral prayer for him.
Tafsir Ibn Kathir, Vol. 3, p. 32
So during those forty years after Jesus returned, Allah would destroy all religions except Islam, and Jesus would be breaking the cross of Christianity and calling the people to Islam. The Jizyah is the protection money demanded of Jews and Christians in 9:29 of the Koran in lieu of fighting to the death or converting to Islam. So when Islam’s Jesus returns to earth, the Jizyah will be banished simply because the only religion allowed will be Islam.
And, according to Muhammad, Jesus would also be judging mankind by the laws of the Koran:
Narrated Abu Hurairah: Allah’s Messenger said, “How will you be when the son of Maryam (Mary) [‘Isa (Jesus)] descends amongst you, and he will judge people by the law of the Qur’an and not by the law of the Gospel.”
Sahih Al-Bukhari, No. 3449
Here is what 4:159 of the Koran has to say about Jesus and religious freedom:
And there is none of the people of the Scripture (Jews and Christians) but must believe in him [‘Isa (Jesus), son of Maryam (Mary), as only a Messenger of Allah and a human being] before his [‘Isa (Jesus) or a Jew’s or a Christian’s] death (at the time of the appearance of the angel of death). And on the Day of Resurrection, he [‘Isa (Jesus)] will be a witness against them.
This verse means that Jews and Christians only have up until the point of death to believe that Jesus was just a Messenger of Allah and a human being. Some Islamic scholars believed that the point of death pertained to the death of the individual Christian or Jew; other scholars believed that the Jews and Christians only have up until the point of Jesus’ actual death, after he returns and fights the final battle, to so believe (Tafsir Ibn Kathir, Vol. 3, p. 29; Tafsir Ahsanul-Bayan, Vol. 1, p. 549; Tafsir As-Sa’di, Vol. 1, p. 457; and Tafsir Ibn ‘Abbas, p. 128). So regardless of whose death, if Jews and Christians want to be saved, they have to believe that Jesus was just a Messenger of Allah and a human being.
And it is interesting to note that most of the authoritative Islamic commentators stated that 4:159 also meant that Jesus would kill all of the Jews and Christians, and leave only Muslims on the earth (Tafsir Ahsanul-Bayan, Vol. 1, p. 549).
ISNA’s Christmas greeting to Christians is filled with the ideas of interfaith tolerance, respect, and love, and the many commonalities between Muslims and Christians. Unfortunately, the message of this greeting flies in the face of Islamic Doctrine. The fact that ISNA is able to put out such a greeting shows the extent to which willful ignorance of Islamic Doctrine for the sake of “interfaith dialogue” has become the norm among most of the leaders of Western Christendom. ISNA is aware of this, and that is the true meaning of ISNA’s Christmas greeting.