For over nine months all Abrahamic faiths, including Muslims, have had to do away with some of their most valued traditions and rituals. Christians had to curtail the sacraments of Baptism and Eucharist, Jews had to limit the Sabbath and Bat-mitzvahs, while Muslims restricted the congregational prayers, family gatherings of Eid and mourning ceremonies of Ashura. All faith events of cerebration or commemorations like Easter, Passover, Eid, and Ashura were celebrated from home by Zoom, Facebook live or You-Tube. Dr. Sayed Ammar Nakshwani said: “History will be honored to write there was a time where every screen became a Pulpit (Mimber), every house became the place of worship (Husssainiyah), and every kitchen a Caravan (Mawkib) of Imam Hussain. We will adapt but will never forget the martyrdom of Imam Hussein” The tiny invisible virus has forced people of all faiths to dedicate more time to worship, more family dinners together, and spending quality time with family at home. It has also forced people to create a place of worship (Aza-Khana) in the living room or bedroom. Many Muslims have designated a small room or area as prayer room. I am fortunate to have dedicated a room for worship with praying mats, decorated the room with flags, shrines of holy Saints (Imams) and banners of the great personalities of Islam. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed how Abrahamic faiths celebrate major events and holidays. Social distancing has severely restricted religious life. However, the internet allows the faithful to pray at home. Video conferencing and livestreaming have become the substitute for centuries-old traditions. The next two months will mark the air of festivity with three great holidays in the monotheistic religions of Muslims, Jews and Christians. However, this holiday season will feel different, lacking its glamour, beauty, charm and spirituality. This holiday season will mark two great Abrahamic events, the birth of Prophet Muhammad, known as Milad un Nabi, on November 2nd, and the birth of Jesus Christ, known as Christmas, on December 25th. As for Prophet Moses (Musa), there is no concrete date of his birth, but it is 1200 years before the birth of Christ (Isa). Those of Jewish faith will celebrate Hanukkah, the kindling of eight candles on Dec 10th. The three prophets who will be remembered in next two months are not usually remembered for their divine message of standing up against oppression and racism, but these holidays have become too commercial with no spirituality. In the eras in which these prophets were born, the rulers, Pharaohs, and kings, labeled them with derogatory words such as insurgents, thugs or revolutionaries. US administration have labeled many leaders of South American and African countries if they do not play the American tune. US and European countries have called Nelson Mandela, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Ayatollah Khomeini terrorist, however they were successful in liberating their homelands and overthrowing oppressive regimes to bring about democratic rule. All three prophets brought a clear message to their disciples. Jesus, born to greatest of all women, Mary (Maryam), talked about the kingdom of God. He proclaimed good news to the poor and came to free the prisoners, give sight to blind and free the oppressed. Prophet Moses led the Jews out of bondage in Egypt and led them to the Holy Land of all three faiths – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. While the prophetic mission of Prophet Muhammad was to refrain from idol-worship and affirm the belief in the oneness of God and equality, where no race is superior to another race and no nation is inferior to another nation. History tells us that Moses confronted the Egyptian Pharaoh, Jesus opposed the Roman Empire and Muhammad defied the power structure of the Arabian Peninsula. Prophet Moses made a migration (Hijrah) to the “Promised Land” of freedom and justice. Prophet Muhammad succeeded in establishing a state and authority that was defined by the Quran with divine justice. As for Jesus Christ, the history varies from scriptures to scriptures, but he was persecuted by the Roman power and his death filled with controversy. Unlike Christians Muslims affirm that Jesus (Isa) was neither killed nor crucified (Quran 4:157). Muslim also believe that the coming of Jesus (Isa) will coincide with the coming of Imam Mahdi. Who is Mahdi? An eschatological redeemer of Islam and Promised Messiah. The belief in the occultation and awaiting (Intezar) for the savior – “hidden Imam” who will one day return alongside Jesus to fill the world with justice.
(-The writer is a freelance columnist, based in Allentown, PA. USA.)