This Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and a Prosperous Eid

This year, the three Abrahamic religions celebrate important holidays in the same month. For Jews, it is Hanukkah, for Christians, it is Christmas and for Muslims, it is the Grand Eid.

 

It’s important to explain the significance of the three holidays to focus on our commonalities rather than our differences.

 

The least known of the three holidays among Americans is the largest Muslim holiday which is abbreviated as “Eid.” Actually “Eid” simply means “holiday” in Arabic and thus, in Arabic speaking countries, Eid is also used for Christmas and Hanukka. Thus, Christmas becomes “Christmas Eid” and Hanukka, “Hanukka Eid.”

 

Holiday of Sacrifice

 

The most important Muslim holiday is known in Arabic as “Eid al Aldha” which translates to “Holiday of Sacrifice.” This holiday celebrates the Muslim patriarch, Abraham, his family and his example. Abraham is also the patriarch of Christianity and Judaism which makes this holiday season especially important for Muslims as it provides them an opportunity to focus on their similarities with Jews and Christians, rather than their differences.

 

This time of year, Muslims remember the life of Abraham and his unconditional love for God. Currently, millions of Muslims from around the world are performing the once in a life time pilgrimage to Mecca where they celebrate and follow the steps of Abraham and his family. Muslims believe that it was in Mecca where Abraham opened the first house for the worship of the one and only true God. The Eid of Sacrifice centers around God’s commandment to Abraham to sacrifice his own son. Abraham chose to obey God, but as he raised his hand to sacrifice his son, an angel stopped him and God provided Abraham with a lamb to sacrifice instead. This Abrahamic story is the single most important event in Islamic history. Abraham represents the two most important concepts in Islam, monotheism and submission to the will of God. In fact, “Islam” is an Arabic word meaning “submission.”

The Holiday of Sacrifice is a very festive and happy holiday for Muslims. It is common during this holiday for Muslims to purchase large quantities of lamp and divide the meat among their neighbors or the poor.

Hanukkah

 

 

Recently Jews celebrated Hanukka which is also known as the "Holiday of Lights." Hanukka is an eight-day Jewish holiday which started on the 25th of Kislev, a month on the Hebrew calendar that falls in November or December. This year, Hanukkah began on Dec. 5, and ended on December 13th.

 

The holiday originated when Jews in Jerusalem fought and took their Holy Temple from the Greeks. The rededication of the temple included the lighting of a menorah with oil that was expected to last only one day. The oil lasted for eight days while patrons searched for more oil and this is why Hanukkah is an eight-day celebration.

Hanukkah means "dedication" in Hebrew and the traditional item is the lighting of a menorah, a seven-branch candlestick lit by olive oil, often said to symbolize the prophet Moses and the burning bush from Exodus 25. Here again, is an event that is shared by all three religions. The burning bush from Exodus 25 is not exclusive for Jews and Christians. The burning bush is an extremely important event in Islamic history and theology and thus, the Hanukkah Eid can certainly be a source of harmony and appreciation between Jews, Christians and Muslims.

Christmas

 

“Christmas” was created from the words "Christ's mass," which signified the birth of Jesus Christ who was born through an immaculate conception to the virgin Marry.

 

While Christmas has always been an important holiday, it was not celebrated as it is today until the early 1800s, when Washington Irving published "The Sketchbook of Geoffrey Crayon" and Charles Dickens published "A Christmas Carol." After these stories stuck in the hearts of Americans, the themes began to come together with Christian beliefs and the Renaissance reputation of Saint Nicholas. The saint's popularity transitioned into the embodiment of the red and white Santa Claus in the 1840s and the holiday has only grown in significance ever since. Christians celebrate Christmas by attending Christian masses, large meals, gift giving and family gatherings.

 

Christmas can also be a source of unity for Christians, Muslims and Jews. As mentioned above, Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ to the Virgin Marry. The Virgin Marry is the most important woman in Islam. She is second to none. Moreover, both Christians and Jews believe that Jesus was Jewish. Muslims believe that Jesus is a descendent of “Bani Israeel,” an Arabic term that means the “children of Israel” which means he is a descendent of the Israelites. This is a technical difference that is not significant for this discussion. What is important is that both Christians and Muslims believe that Jesus is their Messiah and that he will return one day. It is certainly a source of unity and affinity that the Messiah of Christians and Muslims is considered a Jew by one and an Israelite by the other.

 

It should be noted that the above chronology and history have also been used as a source of conflict. The point here is that we can focus on our differences or our similarities. The world would be a better place if we focus on our similarities.

 

Happy holidays and may God bless us all. Amen.

 

For more information, visit www.NawashLaw.com

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About Kamal Nawash

Kamal Nawash began life as a Palestinian refugee. One of six children born in Bethlehem , Kamal was nine years old when his family arrived in New Orleans in 1979. Upon completing his education in 1997, he became the Legal Director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), Today Kamal is an attorney with degrees in business and law and international legal studies. An active member in his community, as well as in his voting district, Kamal ran as a Republican candidate for Virginia State Senate in 2003. After 9-11 Kamal was dismayed to see the nearly mute reaction of American Muslims to the tragedy waged by Islamic extremists. Kamal saw the need for Muslims to speak out against terror and he founded the Free Muslims Coalition. Kamal is committed to fighting terrorism because it threatens the United States and the rest of the world, including the Muslim and Arab world. Kamal has studied the causes of terrorism for a decade. He is the author of several articles on Islamic terrorism, political Islam, the Arab/Israeli conflict, the spread of Muslim extremism, terrorist financing, and on the economic implications of globalization for the Middle East and North Africa . With the Coalition he wants to expose and root out terrorism at every level, from the sympathizers, to the financial supporters of terrorism, to imams and community leaders preaching a message of hate, to Islamic terrorists themselves. The Coalition promotes a modern secular interpretation of Islam which is peace-loving, and compatible with other faiths and beliefs. Kamal encourages other Muslims to be proud of their faith and at the same time critical.

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