CMRM Blessings at Christmas
On Friday 23 December 2016, semi-retired Catholic priest, Father Roger Hickley delivered the pre-khutbah talk at the Claremont Main Road Masjid (CMRM). In line with a tradition that has been established at the masjid, Fr. Hickley conveyed a Christmas Message, which resonated well with the congregants at the masjid and the broader teachings of Islam.
In his pre-khutbah address, Fr Hickley focused on three central themes. His first theme recounted the blessed day of the birth of Jesus, the son of Mary (peace be upon them both). He compared the Qur’anic account with the account of the birth of Jesus from the Gospels. He first recalled the Qur’anic narrative in Surah ‘Ali `Imran, Chapter 3, Verse 45:
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 honour in this world and the Hereafter, and of (the company of) those Nearest to God (Q3:45)
Thereafter he read the Qur’anic account of Jesus’ birth in Surah Maryam, Chapter 19, verses 16-21:
Relate in the Book (the story) of Mary, when she withdrew from her family to a place in the East. She placed a screen (to screen herself) from them; then We sent to her Our angel and he appeared before her as a man in all respects. She said: “I seek refuge from thee to (God) Most Gracious: (come not near) if thou dost fear God.” He said: “Nay, I am only a messenger from thy Lord, (to announce) to thee the gift of a holy son.” She said: “How shall I have a son seeing that no man has touched me, and I am not unchaste?”
He said: “So (it will be): Easy for Me: and (We wish) to appoint him as a Sign unto men and a Mercy from Us: It is a matter (so decreed).” (Q19:16-21)
His comparison was completed when he recounted the Afrikaans translation of the Biblical account of the birth of Jesus according to the Gospel of St. Luke. He concluded that regardless of the theological differences on the position of Jesus, the day of his birth is indeed extra-ordinary and special and therefore worthy of observation and celebration.
Father Hickley’s second theme focused on one of the stalwarts of the Cape Muslim community, the late Imam Abdurahman Bassier (d. 2004) from the Boorhaanoel Islam Masjid in Bo-Kaap. He narrated a personal story where he and Imam Bassier travelled by ferry to Robben Island during the 1980s to provide some spiritual nourishment to the political prisoners. It was during this inspirational interaction that he realized Imam Bassier was a “gift from God” because of his kind disposition and God-conscious ways. For Father Hickley, this was a sign of the compassion and mysterious ways that God works within all faith communities.
Finally, the third theme of Father Hickley’s message was centered on thanksgiving. He told the congregation that despite the commercialization of Christmas he maintains that Christmas is a day of giving a “great Shukran” to God for all the blessings that God has bestowed on all of us. It is also a day of celebrating familial bonds with family gatherings.
Friday 23 December 2016 Jumu`ah service was indeed something of a small blessing, and typical at CMRM, which has become a pillar in the inter-faith community, and has stood firm in its solidarity with its Christian family and friends over the past thirty years.
Despite the rain, many congregants left the masjid feeling nourished and inspired by the wise words of Father Hickley. It is in this spirit of solidarity and peace that he concluded by quoting from CMRM’ Christmas message, wishing all our Christian friends and family, a blessed Christmas:
During this hallowed time, we pray that the Grace of God be with us, and that we are all inspired to use the highest aspirations of our spiritual traditions to attain social justice, to redouble our efforts in the struggle for dignity for all, and to strive for even greater harmonious relations between all peoples regardless of their worldview. We pray that the New Year bring healing and peace to our suffering world and that we continue to strive towards the ideals of truth, justice and equality. We wish you all a spiritually rejuvenating Christmas. May the peace and joy of this season be with you always.