Birth of the Messiah: the meaning of the Birth and Life of Jesus in Islam
By Yousuf Ali
“He said ‘I am the servant of Allah. He gave me the book and made me a prophet. He also made me blessed wherever I may be and enjoined me to prayer and alms for all my life, and also to be righteous towards my mother. He did not make me a wretched tyrant. So, peace is upon me the day I was born, the day I will die, and the day I will be raised alive.’ That is Jesus the son of Mary, the word of Truth about which they dispute.” Surah Maryam 
For the 25th of December, many in the west frantically prepare themselves to celebrate the date that they believe the Jesus (Alaihi as-Salaam) was born. Of course, the modern holiday of Christmas has become so commercialized to the point where many do not even think of the Messiah on this day.
Nevertheless, there remain some people who do still celebrate the birth of this great personality on this day meaning that they will naturally want to hear something about him. Additionally, this date is not universally agreed upon even in the Christian world, let alone amongst those outside of it.
For example, hundreds of millions of Orthodox Christians do not even celebrate Christmas on the December 25th and wait until January 7th instead. Regardless of any disagreements about the particularities of the celebration or its date, the birth of Jesus is a momentous event in the religion of Islam about which Muslims should not hesitate to speak.
While Muslims do not recognize any particular date as that of Jesus’ birth, the event is nevertheless significant in Islam and should be discussed by Muslims openly. To begin, the Qur’an is quite clear that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was a righteous woman who committed no sin with regards to bearing her son.
In fact, the wording of the Qur’an strongly implies that she was a virgin when she said “How could I have a child when no man has touched me” to which God makes it clear that such a thing is easy for God to do, refuting contemporaneous and retrospective accusations against her. Additionally, the birth of Jesus is said to be a sign and mercy for humanity. Anyone who doubts the possibility of this need only reflects on the creation of the universe itself which was done with even fewer material means that the birth of the Messiah. In addition to Jesus’ miraculous birth, his life and teachings are also emphasized in the Islamic religion.
When discussing with other faiths, oftentimes the discussion about Jesus veers off into debating the exact nature of the crucifixion and his alleged death with his life and teachings oftentimes being forgotten. From the Qur’an, Jesus began teaching ever since infancy by making it clear that he was sent by God and was blessed. Rather, then directly attacking the children of Israel for impugning his mother’s honor, he went onto speak about his mission of prayer and alms and the fact that God gave him good character clearly establishing his status as a prophet.
After relaying us the words of Jesus, God then makes it clear that these are the aspects about the messiah people should focus on rather than bickering about aspects of people matters which we only have unreliable information about. Above all, we should ask ourselves whether or not we are practicing the excellent teachings which Jesus conveyed. When Muslims are able to present their teachings with clarity and confidence, it will be far more likely to elicit a positive response than being reactionary or defensive.
Unfortunately, so much of the discussion about Jesus has been marked with argumentation about whether or not he died to the exclusion of his clear teachings and miraculous birth. While Muslims do not pretend to know the date of Jesus’s birth, there can be no doubt of the importance of the event as it is mentioned in the Qur’an itself. Above all, it is a reminder to humanity of God’s power over his creation and his mercy as well. Additionally, Jesus was a righteous man who faithfully conveyed God’s message.
While the Qur’an denies the claim that Jesus was the son of God, the overall focus of the discussion is about his exalted rank and distinction as being the Messiah and a great prophet. These are the terms and points that should define the discourse of Muslims with others regarding the great personality of Jesus.