It is before Christmas and I am driving through North Carolina again………….
I am in North Carolina and I am at Jan’s house, there is an air of festivity, and several people from Jim’s church are there. We are all going to the Christmas tea at Old Salem at Jim’s invitation. As I walk out of Jan’s house with the rest of them, the night air is like a kiss of an innocent child, clean fresh and brisk. Old Salem is a stone’s throw from Jan’s house; the streets are decked with Christmas colors and lights. Jim buys the tickets for everyone, and we enter the Moravian Christmas tea tour. As we walk through the Christmas scenes lighted and decorated, I hear the Old Salem Musicians start their music. They are playing Silent Night………. I stop to listen to the music, there are no words, the music touches my soul. I am unaware at that moment that it will always haunt me.
As we leave Old Salem, I thank Jim for inviting me; he is gracious in his response. I look at him and Jan together and even though I do not know him I can see that he makes Jan shine, that is all that is important. The man she is to marry makes her glow.
Being in Old Salem at Christmas is like being in a time warp where time has stopped. I enjoy the bracing cold as well as the clear starlit night as we walk back to Jan’s house for the Christmas goodies.
In my observation, Christmas is not a date but a season, it has many nuances. It ushers in the cold season, the air is fresh and the nights are clear and starlit. The red bows and the green foliage bring a sense of festivity and at night, the subtle twinkling lights call silently to the traveler or stranger promising warmth and hospitality inside the homes.
Christ after whom Christmas is named is the Christian name for Jesus (AS) a revered Prophet of Allah and for some more than that. Maryam (AS) or Mary the mother of Jesus is one of the honorable women addressed in the Quran. Her son Jesus (AS) is addressed as Essa ibn e Maryam thus identifying him by his mother’s name, and honoring her.
In the Quran the story of Christmas begins with the mother of Mary (AS) as follows:
The Mother of Mary (AS) is from the House of Imran. She is an extremely pious woman. When she is expecting a baby, she bequeaths her unborn child to the service of Allah.
Allah Subhanawataala in the Quran says this about the mother of Mary (AS):
“Behold!” A woman from the House of Imran said
‘O’ My Lord I do
Dedicate unto Thee
What is in my womb
For Thy special service:
So accept this of me
For thou hearest
And knowest all things.”
The story of the mother of Mary continues in the Quran:
When she delivered,
She said: “O My Lord!
Behold I am delivered of a female child!”
And God knew best
What she brought forth….
“And nowise is the male
Like the female
I have named her Mary,
And I commend her
And her offspring
To thy protection
From the evil one
The pathos of the innocence of Mary as a “mother to be” is beautifully mentioned in the Quran where Allah Subhanawa taala says:
Behold! The angels said:
“ O Mary! God giveth thee
Glad tidings of a Word
From Him: his name will be Christ Jesus,
The son of Mary, held in honor,
In this world and the Hereafter
And of (the company) of those nearest to God.
He shall speak to the people
In childhood and in maturity.
And he shall be (of the company)
Of the Righteous.
Quran 3: 45-46
Mary (AS) a virgin and a pious woman is shocked and Allah Subhanawataala relates her response in the story in the Quran for the benefit of Prophet Muhammad Peace and Blessings upon him and his Ummah:
She said:” O My Lord!
How shall I have a son
When no man hath touched me/”
He said: “Even so:
What he willeth:
When he hath decreed
A plan, but he saith
To it,’Be’, and it is!
And God will teach him
The Book of Wisdom,
The Law and the Gospel
Quran 3: 47-48
When Allah Subhanawataala is asked as to how will a child be born without a father He (SWT) says in the Quran:
The similitude of Jesus
Before God is that of Adam;
He created him from dust,
Then said to him: “Be”:
And he was.
Quran 3: 59
Surah Maryam 19:16-33 describes the childbirth and the response of the people in her community.
Sometimes when one loves and reveres someone excessively, we can attribute powers to them that are not possible except from God. Perhaps some day if muslims no longer read the Quran, or if the Quran is changed in its text by humans, they may start glorifying the Prophet of Allah to a stature beyond what is commanded by Allah in his Book, or (God forbid) may attribute him to be God or His son. However, at this time there is no danger of that because muslims are struggling to find out what is in the Quran and are not even at the initial stages of reverence for anyone.
My musings regarding Christmas as related to Prophet Jesus (AS) end abruptly, because Christmas as it is celebrated now is not about the birth of Jesus (AS) but more a get together holiday with families. From my vantage, it has become a day, when the measure of a person’s love is titrated by the number of dollars spent on a gift given publicly. Thus causing elation in some and humiliation in others.
I look out of my car window; it is dark except for the green signs designating the various cities of North Carolina. I am transported to another time when ……..I was here.
It is before Christmas and I am driving to North Carolina, this time I am deeply sad and extremely worried for Jan. Her husband of three months has been hit by a truck and has severed his brainstem.
Driving to North Carolina has always been for happy reasons in the past, Being at Jan’s house or with her around Christmas has always been a fun occasion…………but today is different.
I have no idea what Christians do when someone dies. Jim’s father is a minister, he would know. Never having been in this situation before, I call upon the tradition according to the guidance of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) as practiced by my family. I know that no matter what the distance I have to be there for my friend and ease her through this treacherous time in her life.
If Jim is brain dead and he has donated his organs, which will be removed shortly, I have to read some ayahs of the Quran. There are particular surahs to read to ease the tumultuous process of the departure of his spirit and soul from his body. I am hesitant, Will Jim’s family be offended if I read the Quran for their Christian son?
What awaits me is nothing that life or medicine had ever prepared me for. I am at the Hospital. The same hospital where I spent many happy carefree days during my residency. The hospital rooms and even the corridors seem alien when seen from the patient’s perspective. The waiting room is spilling over with hordes of people whose families are in the ICU.
Jan is in conference with the organ donation team. Jim has been declared brain dead and is being “kept alive” on the ventilator, to keep his organs viable.
I ask if I can see Jim. They allow me to do so and take me to his room. I enter the room in the ICU and stand by his bedside. I can hear the familiar hiss of the ventilator as it pumps air into Jim. His chest rises and falls with it. His eyes are closed and his expression is peaceful. I touch his hand and it is warm, and as I hold his wrist, his pulse is alive and regular. I am stunned. I know now how confusing this is to a layman and now it is to me at a spiritual level: The man lying on this bed hooked to a ventilator, his expression at peace and his pulse bounding with life is actually dead?
I try to recall Surah Yaseen. I have been told, that if one reads Surah Yaseen while someone is dying or dead, the removal of his soul from his body is eased. I try but I cannot recall the words. I fall back on the familiar Surah Fatiha and the four quls. I am on the second qul when there is some commotion, the door to Jim’s room is flung open and the organ donation team comes in. They wait till I finish and take Jim to the operating room. As his stretcher disappears behind the swinging doors of the Operating Room, I am suddenly completely bereft.
I leave the corridor to the OR where Jims stretcher has disappeared with Jim forever, and turn to Jan. I want to offer her some comfort and some words of condolence. As I search for them I find that words of condolence are strangers to my tongue. It would be many years later that she would be offering me the same after another car accident.
The music of ‘Silent Night’ fills my car………..Once again it is before Christmas and I am driving through North Carolina. Jan has lost Jim and I have lost Tariq and yet we continue to live, wondering how to spend this season.