Happy Easter 2019

Dr. Mike Ghouse   April 18, 2019   Comments Off on Happy Easter 2019

A Muslim Celebrates Easter

As a Muslim, I was baptized in the river Jordan where Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist. It was an incredible experience of freedom and celebration of Easter; I am pleased to include a few pictures.

The first response from a few Muslims would be “no, no and no!” Muslims cannot celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus did not die, he and his message lives on!

Whether Jesus was buried and resurrected, or taken up by God, faith in him is shared by more than half of the world inclusive of Muslims and Christians. Whether you believe in Jesus or not, his message of loving thy enemy, love thy neighbor and forgive the other will help us build cohesive societies and sets us to live freely. Can we celebrate that message?

To this Muslim, Easter represents the resurrection of Jesus through his message, and Easter is a symbolic day to celebrate that message.

Festivals of the world is a series written by Dr. Mike Ghouse for the last 25 years – the idea is for each one of us to learn about each other’s celebrations and commemorations.  I have made an effort to write the essence of every festivity and commemoration from Atheist to Zoroastrians and everyone in between, including Native American and native African and European traditions.

A Muslim Celebrates Easter

To this Muslim, Easter represents the resurrection of Jesus through his message, and Easter is a symbolic day to celebrate that message.

For Christians, Wiki writes,

Easter is a Christian festival and holiday celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ on the third day after his crucifixion at Calvary as described in the New Testament. Easter is the culmination of the Passion of Christ, preceded by Lent, a forty-day period of fasting, prayer, and penance. The last week of Lent is called Holy Week, and it contains the days of the Easter Triduum, including Maundy Thursday (also known as Holy Thursday), commemorating the Last Supper and its preceding foot washing, as well as Good Friday, commemorating the crucifixion and death of Jesus. Easter is followed by a fifty-day period called Eastertide or the Easter Season, ending with Pentecost Sunday.

The resurrection of Jesus is the Christian belief that Jesus Christ miraculously returned to life on the Sunday following the Friday on which he was executed by crucifixion. It is the central tenet of Christian faith and theology and part of the Nicene Creed: “On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures.”

Apostle Paul claims that belief in the death and resurrection of Jesus is central to salvation that, “if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.”

Jesus is one of my mentors, along with Prophet Muhammad and a few others. Honoring them gives me the greatest sense of peace and gratitude.

A Muslim at Jesus’ Grave

One thing the Muslims do well at burial sites is to pray for peace and blessings for the soul of the deceased. As a Muslim, I believe he lives on continually transmitting his message of love. A few years ago, I was in Jerusalem and was blessed to sit by the place where he was supposedly buried at the Church of Holy Sepulcher.

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I expressed my gratitude to God and Jesus for bringing the blessed message of love and forgiveness to humanity to create a better society for all of us to live.

On my way to Al-Aqsa Mosque early in the morning, after the Ramadan morning meal (suhoor) at Imam Bukhari’s great great grandson’s house, who lives on Via Dolorosa, we walked. I saw a man carry a big cross on his shoulder; it was the same path Jesus had walked some 2,000 years ago. I could not resist stopping and feeling the awesome feeling with goosebumps all over me. I cherish that moment!

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As a Muslim and a pluralist, I want to make a point here: Jesus and his message belong to the whole humanity, just as the message of all the spiritual masters including Buddha, Muhammad, Krishna, Zoroaster, Nanak, and others, who are a blessing to humanity.

Baptizing a Muslim

Many Christians don white cloth symbolizing purification. Indeed, Muslims do the same when they go to Mecca for the Hajj pilgrimage.

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Jesus donned one piece of white cloth when he was baptized, and to this day the tradition is followed at the Yardenit. I was dunked at the same baptismal spot in River Jordan, a symbolic gesture of transformation and following Jesus.

Thank God, the Baptist Minister agreed to customize the invocation for me. He recited, “in the name of God, and to honor Jesus, I baptize you today at this holy site.” Indeed, two Dutch imams felt comfortable with the recitation and followed the suit. One of them was a convert from Judaism, and the other from Christianity.

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Perhaps I may be the first Muslim to be baptized. It was an enriching experience to me in particular, feeling the symbolic transformation of the feeling of love towards all of God’s creation. Muslims feel the same upon the performance of Hajj Pilgrimage; we become child-like with love for all of God’s creation; life and matter. The Hindus cherish an identical feeling when they take a dip at the Sangam in River Ganges, particularly during the Kumbh Mela.

(More Baptismal pictures here.)

Observance of Lent

Every faith is composed of a set of unique rituals to bring discipline and peace to human life. Fasting is one of the key elements of observing Lent.

The spirit and intent of Lent lie in a human transformation in a forty days long inner spiritual journey of finding oneself in tune with spirituality.

As a token of solidarity, I joined my Christian friends and gave up drinking soda to honor their practice. I made that announcement on Sean Hannity’s show (he is a Catholic) on Fox News. I have made the effort to follow it as diligently as I could.

Years ago, my daughter observed Lent, and I am glad she did: She got out of the addiction of Dr. Pepper, what a good thing it was! People give up smoking and this period of 40 days is renewal in every sense, whether you are Christian or not, you can join in the process of reflection and purifying and being in tune with fellow beings.

Lent reminds me of the 30 days of Islam’s Ramadan, seven days of Paryushan of Jains, eight days of Jewish Passover and nine days of Hindu Navaratri. The essence of all these events is the renewal of the soul and reflection on life. I am happy that these actions are designed to make better humans out of us.

Some of you may not be aware that Jesus is revered by Muslims, believe in him as a prophet is a requisition. There is a full chapter on Mary in the Quran and Prophet Muhammad said there are three women who need to be looked up to as role models: Mary, Asia (the one who raised Moses) and Fatima (Prophet’s daughter) and none of the women were traditional, they stood up against odds and changed the course of history. The Hijab many Muslim women wear has origins in Mother Mary’s Hijab.

Jesus is my mentor, a true pluralist who had no barriers between him and humanity, as a Muslim I reiterate the affirmation of that thought; of being boundless.

I salute Pope Francis for all the right things he has done so far, and he has many more things to accomplish in his lifetime, including mitigating conflicts between Jews and Christians, Christians and Muslims and Christians and others. I am willing to jump for him for the sake of creating peace for every human being.

Dr. Mike Ghouse is committed to building cohesive societies and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day. His new book, the “American Muslim Agenda” is about everything you wanted to know about Muslims. The book is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Kindle. Mike is a public speaker, author, interfaith wedding officiant, a newsmaker and the executive director of the Center for Pluralism in Washington, DC. More about him in three formats at https://www.linkedin.com/in/mikeghouse/

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