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Muslims, Christians share common issues that ought to unite them

By Billow Kerrow | January 3rd 2016

NAIROBI: As our Christian fraternity in Kenya and around the world set out to celebrate Xmas, I grabbed the recess and headed to Makkah, Saudi Arabia, to perform the lesser pilgrimage known as Umrah. It’s a long time since I did Umrah and I felt it was necessary to renew my commitment and devotion to my maker.

Christ’s birth celebrations in December this year also coincided with the Islamic lunar month of Rabi’h ul Awal in which Prophet Muhammad, may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, was born.

For a section of Muslims, the month was marked by celebrations of his birthday too. Yet, at the time both Jesus and Muhammad lived, their birth days were not celebrated, nor considered an act of worship. For both, it was their message and mission that mattered most.

Umrah is essentially a ritual to mark and remember the tribulations of Abraham, the father of Judeo-Christian and Islamic faiths, and his family. Muslims believe that Abraham’s two sons, Jacob and Ishmael, are the origins of the Jews and the Arabs through which both Jesus and Muhammad respectively came into this world.

Abraham built the Kaaba, around which most of the Umrah is based. His wife, Hajjar, is at the centre of the pilgrimage process too as the arduous trips between the hills of Safwa and Marwa is to mark her struggle to search for water for the infant Ishmael at the time.

A person cannot be a true believer of Islam unless he loves Jesus, the messiah. His mother, Mary, has a whole of chapter of the Quran named after her. Muslims also believe she was a virgin, and that Jesus was born through the divine miracle of God.

Millions of pilgrims from around the world converged in Makkah but what strikes one most is the humility and tranquility that pervades the crowd. They come from different nationalities and speak different languages; some rich, others from poor backgrounds, some are powerful leaders of nations, yet others are the people they rule.

Dressed in simple white unsewn garments, they all stand in the same row shoulder to shoulder to offer prayers, and chant the same supplications.

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There are no divisions here, no sects, no groups, and no different schools of thoughts. They are all united in worship to their maker, seeking repentance for their sins. At the Prophet Muhammad’s mosque in Madina that I visited, the experience was the same, perhaps more emotional because he is buried there.

The same solemn expressions of reverence and love for God was evident as Christians marked Xmas at the Vatican or in various churches around the world.

Worshippers from all walks of life sitting next to one another, praying and reflecting on the teachings of Jesus, united in purpose. Clearly, on these revered occasions, both Muslims and Christians have shared values of religious devotion and commitment to their teachings.

They share similarities and common issues that ought to unite them rather than divide them. Adaptation of true teachings of these two faiths will greatly reduce the differences that often cause friction and conflict between them.

As they conclude this year’s Xmas festivities, I urge my Christian brothers to seek to understand Islam better in order to bridge the gap between our faiths.

As I head back home re-energised, I am confident that God’s commandments to mankind will provide solution to the problems of mankind, if only we opt to conduct ourselves with respect, love and humility as we have done these past few days since our destiny is one and the same.

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