Play That Mixes Muslim Teachings Into Christmas Story Premieres at Chicago Temple


A Chicago theater company debuted an original production last week which tells the story of Jesus’ birth through the lens of the Quran.

As reported by Religion News, the theater company Silk Road Rising created the play “Christmas Mubarak” to tell the story of the lives of Mary and Jesus as told in the Quran. The play is set to traditional Christmas music, and is meant to show the common ground between Christianity and Islam.

Religion News reports that while Christmas carols like “O Holy Night” will be familiar to Christian audiences, the scenes from the play come from Muslim stories.

For example, in the play’s Nativity scene, the newborn Jesus speaks in defense of his mother’s innocence and declares that he has been chosen to be a prophet.

“Jesus being the central figure in Christianity and Jesus being an important figure in Islam — and also Mary being an important figure in Islam — it just seemed to me that this would be a very useful conversation starter and also a way to illuminate for Christian audiences many of the similarities,” Jamil Khoury, who founded Silk Road, said.

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For some, the play may actually further illuminate how much Islam and Christianity differ in their beliefs about Jesus.  While Christians honor Jesus as the divine Son of God born into the world, Muslims do not believe in Jesus’ divinity and view him as one of many prophets for Allah.

The play premiered at a theater at the Chicago Temple, home to First United Methodist Church, where Silk Road Rising is the church’s company in residence.

“This is a love letter to the Muslims we know and who come, that they’re going to feel like they’re incorporated in the Christmas holiday,” Corey Pond said.

Pond, who was raised United Methodist, is a Silk Road member who directed and adapted the play.  Religion News reports that he worked with a consultant on Islam to avoid offending Muslims with the play.

Do you think the play with help bring harmony to the two religions?

Pond says that while some of the Quran-rooted scenes share similarities with biblical scenes, they will come with a “twist” for Christian viewers.

For example, as shown in the play, Mary’s miraculous birth fulfills a prophecy that was given to her father. In Islam, Mary hides during her pregnancy, only telling Joseph, who is her cousin, not her fiance.

“It’s different enough that it feels like a wonderful way for both Muslim and Christian to refresh their understanding of the story and to find something new in the story in this moment that we live in,” Malik Gillani, executive director of Silk Road, said.

According to its website, the Silk Road Rising theater group is aimed at shaping “conversations about Asian and Middle Eastern Americans.”

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“Through storytelling and dialogue, we challenge disinformation, promote a culture of continuous learning, and explore what it means to be Americans … We view our work as a strategic intervention aimed at shifting and expanding our communities’ narratives.”

The play definitely sounds uniquely new and American, as it is not the practice of Muslims to celebrate the births of prophets. Some traditional Muslims may consider celebrating Christmas bid’ah, or the changing of Islamic acts of worship, which is obviously discouraged.

Some may also wonder why the theater is singling out Jesus rather than any of the 24 other prophets who were mentioned by name in the Quran.

Gillani believes that “the moment we’re living in is (one) where we all need to take this journey with each other.”

However, the play seems to fall into place with the trend of diluting Christmas, if not through secularization, than through intermingling it with faiths that do not teach the divinity of Jesus, which is what is celebrated on Christmas.

As Christmas has become less and less centered around Jesus’ birth and honoring God, it is hard to understand the point of tempering a Christian celebration with stories from Islamic teachings.

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Karista Baldwin studied constitutional law, politics and criminal justice.
Karista Baldwin has studied constitutional law, politics and criminal justice. Before college, she was a lifelong homeschooler in the "Catholic eclectic" style.
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