And We made the son of Mary and his mother a Sign, and gave them refuge on an elevated land of green valleys and springs of running water. (Al Quran 23:50/51)
Sunday, March 29, 2015
Written and collected by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times
The Holy Quran presents Jesus, may peace be on him, as a noble prophet and his name appears in the Holy Quran, more often than that of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, may peace be on him.
So, it would not be out of place for a Muslim to share a perspective on Palm Sunday.
The Holy Quran describes mother Mary as a role model for both Muslim men and women. (Al Quran 66:12-13) So, unless we know the accurate history of mother Mary and historical Jesus, how can we follow their life styles.
Knowing Jesus entry into Jerusalem is certainly an important part of knowing the historical Jesus. The term “historical Jesus” refers to attempts to “reconstruct the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth by critical historical methods“, in “contrast to Christological definitions (‘the dogmatic Christ‘) and other Christian accounts of Jesus (‘the Christ of faith’)”. It also considers the historical and cultural context in which Jesus lived.
In many Christian churches, Palm Sunday includes a procession of the assembled worshipers carrying palms, representing the palm branches the crowd scattered in front of Jesus as he rode into Jerusalem. The difficulty of procuring palms in unfavorable climates led to their substitution with branches of native trees, including box, yew, willow, and olive. The Sunday was often designated by the names of these trees, as in Yew Sunday, or by the general term Branch Sunday.
I want to celebrate Palm Sunday by reading the chapter John 17 again and again, which gives me a human and clear picture of Jesus Christ, how he submits to will of God the Father and prays to him: John 17: Showing Jesus to be a Prophet of God and Not Divine.
Since the 18th century, three separate scholarly quests for the historical Jesus have taken place, each with distinct characteristics and developing new and different research criteria. The portraits of Jesus that have been constructed in these processes have often differed from each other, and from the dogmatic image portrayed in the gospel accounts. These portraits include that of Jesus as anapocalyptic prophet, charismatic healer, Cynic philosopher, Jewish Messiah and prophet of social change, but there is little scholarly agreement on a single portrait, or the methods needed to construct it. There are, however, overlapping attributes among the various portraits, and scholars who differ on some attributes may agree on others.
The other way I am celebrating Palm Sunday is by watching a video debate about Easter or Resurrection, between John Shelby Spong and William Lane Craig:
Palm Sunday commemorates the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem (Matthew 21:1-9), when palm branches were placed in his path, before his arrest on Holy Thursday and his crucifixion on Good Friday. It thus marks the beginning of Holy Week, the final week of Lent.
In ancient times, palm branches symbolized goodness and victory. They were often depicted on coins and important buildings. Solomon had palm branches carved into the walls and doors of the temple (1 Kings 6:29). Again at the end of the Bible, people from every nation raise palm branches to honor Jesus (Revelation 7:9).
The Holy Quran also talks about a palm tree, in reference to Jesus and his mother Mary, by describing his birth. I will quote this from a chapter of the Quran named ‘Mariam,’ after mother Mary:
And relate the story of Mary as mentioned in the Book. When she withdrew from her people to a place to the east, and screened herself off from them, then We sent Our angel to her, and he appeared to her in the form of a perfect man.
She said, ‘I seek refuge with the Gracious God from thee if indeed thou dost fear Him.’ He replied, ‘I am only a Messenger of thy Lord, that I may bestow on thee a righteous son.’
She said, ‘How can I have a son when no man has touched me, neither have I been unchaste?’
He replied, ‘Thus it is.’ But says thy Lord, ‘It is easy for Me; and We shall do so that We may make him a Sign unto men, and a mercy from Us, and it is a thing decreed.’”
So she conceived him, and withdrew with him to a remote place.
Then he called her from beneath her, saying, ‘Grieve not. Thy Lord has placed a rivulet below thee; and shake towards thyself the trunk of the palm-tree; it will cause fresh ripe dates to fall upon thee. So eat and drink, and cool thy eye. And if thou seest any man, say, ‘I have vowed a fast to the Gracious God; I will therefore not speak this day to any human being.’” (Al Quran 19:17-27)
This is how I believe the Muslims should celebrate Palm Sunday by learning about historical Jesus and sharing what they find to be factual with their Christian friends and family.
I have saved the debate in the Muslim Times here also so it always remains available to the posterity:
Audio of the second part of the debate: