In the Name of the Compassionate and Infinitely Merciful Precious Beloved
This first appeared in Middle East Online.
Unfortunately, this year I am not able to take Spring Break off to be with my kids: The demands of the intensive care unit's patients override my desire to be on vacation. Yet, still, this time of year is not without any spiritual significance for me, despite my being Muslim and thus not partaking in the Passover and Easter festivities.
When the Jewish Passover starts it means something as well to this Muslim, for the story of the Exodus abounds in the Quran. It is a very happy story for me: The children of Israel are finally freed from the brutal bondage of their Egyptian masters. In over seventy separate passages, Moses and various parts of his story are recounted for Muslims in the Quran. In fact, Moses is mentioned more times by name in the Quran than the Prophet Muhammad himself.
And what makes this time of year extra special is that my favorite movie of all time plays on television: The Ten Commandments. Even though I am of Egyptian ancestry, I am rooting for the children of Israel the entire time, and when the Red Sea is split apart, I almost want to jump out of my seat and yell, "You go, God!" Every year I try to catch this movie because I truly enjoy the cinematic portrayal of a story that is most sacred to me.
When it comes to Easter, and though my theology about Jesus Christ is quite different than that of my Christian sisters and brothers, I can still latch on to its overarching theme: victory over hatred, guile, and evil. This same theme permeates the story of the Exodus, which Passover commemorates. In each instance, the anointed of God are given victory over the hatred and guile of their enemies -- whether they’re the ancient Egyptians or the ancient Romans.
And this victory was gained by perseverance over the evil of those who opposed them, coupled with a never ending hope of God's mercy, His help, and His ultimate victory. When the children of Israel seemed trapped between the sea and the fast approaching Egyptian troops, many had lost hope. Not Moses, who knew that God would not abandon him at his darkest hour. And with a simple touch of his staff, the sea was parted and they were saved.
The same goes with Jesus Christ. His persistent preaching the Gospel roused the ire of many an enemy. Yet, he refused to back down. And when his enemies thought they had finally silenced him, he was raised from the dead after his crucifixion (in the Christian version) or he was saved from crucifixion and raised directly to God (in the Muslim version).
In recounting these stories, I recall this verse of the Quran: "God has thus ordained: 'My apostles and I shall most certainly prevail.' Verily, God is powerful [and] almighty." (58:21) And this decree of God comes true in every instance, whether it be with Moses, Christ, or the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon them all).
Thus, as a modern-day Muslim, I take these stories to heart. It seems that the forces of hatred against Islam, be they Muslim or anti-Muslim extremists, are gaining the upper hand in the discourse and discussion about Islam and Muslims. Yet -- just like Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad -- we should not lose faith. Even though it may seem that the hosts of hatred have trapped us -- just like Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad -- we should keep telling the truth in the face of their hatred.
During this year's Passover and Easter, it is my hope that more of us, the children of Abraham, can see beyond our differences and come to work together for the betterment of our world. This hope was embodied in President Obama's recent trip to the Middle East, where a Jewish President bestowed Israel's highest civilian honor upon a Christian man with Muslim ancestors. This harmony can be accomplished. We just need to have the will to do it, and persistently persevere against the hatred, guile, and evil of extremists on all sides.