How Do Muslims View Easter?
Easter reminds Muslims of one of the most iconic victories of good above evil in the history of mankind. It reminds us the value of determination, endurance and unshakable belief in God even when faced with prolonged hardship and almost certain death
Easter is arguably the most important time of the year for devout Christians. In preparation for this day, many Christians around the world observe some or all of the special days associated with it, beginning with Shrove Tuesday (also known as Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras), Ash Wednesday, followed by the forty-day period of abstinence or fasting known as Lent. This period concludes with Holy Week; (Palm Sunday and Holy Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday), Triduum – Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Saturday, – with the last day being Easter Sunday.
In the Islamic world, Easter is celebrated to varying degrees, ranging from being illegal to openly celebrate Easter in one Middle Eastern country to being openly celebrated in some of the Gulf States and in the Far East. In a situation like this one might ask, just where does Islam diverge from Christianity on the matter of Jesus Christ's (PBUH) crucifixion and resurrection? The Holy Quran says:
[4:157] And because of their disbelief and their uttering against Mary a grievous calumny,
[4:158] And their saying, ‘We did kill the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah;’ whereas they slew him not, nor crucified him, but he was made to appear to them like one crucified; and those who differ therein are certainly in a state of doubt about it; they have no definite knowledge thereof, but only follow a conjecture; and they did not convert this conjecture into a certainty;
[4:159] On the contrary, Allah exalted him to Himself. And Allah is Mighty, Wise.
[4:160] And there is none among the People of the Book but will believe in it before his death; and on the Day of Resurrection, he (Jesus) shall be a witness against them
In the above mentioned verses, Quran says clearly that the enemies of Jesus did NOT succeed in killing him. Jesus (PBUH) was made to appear to them like one crucified and God exalted him to Himself. So, what does it really mean that Jesus (PBUH) was made to "appear like one crucified" and that "God exalted him to Himself"? Ahmadiyya Muslims believe that the key to understanding what happened to Jesus (PBUH) lies in understanding a promise that God made to Jesus (PBUH). Long before the incident of crucifixion, Jesus(PBUH) promised that no sign would be shown unto the people other than the sign of Jonah:
"Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to him, ‘Teacher, we want to see a miraculous sign from you.’ He answered, ‘a wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now one greater than Jonah is here." (Matthew 12:38–41)
Ahmadiyya Muslims believe that when Jesus (PBUH) was taken down from the cross he was in a state similar to coma and was as such mistakenly presumed dead by his captors. He was then placed in a tomb where he regained consciousness and stayed for three days and nights thus fulfilling God's promise of a miracle similar to the one given to Jonah. This type of resurrection after appearing to be dead is known as Lazarus Syndrome or Lazarus Phenomenon. There are more than 30 cases of Lazarus Syndrome worldwide annually. Hundreds of recent examples of such resurrections can be found by Googling expressions like "Lazarus Syndrome" or "Dead man comes back to life". If this type of misdiagnosis can happen in today's modern world then surely it can easily happen in the primitive world of 2000 years ago. Ahmadiyya Muslims believe that after surviving the failed crucifixion attempt Jesus (PBUH) then migrated East in search of lost tribes of Israel. After reaching India he continued his mission of preaching and was buried in Srinagar in Kashmir after a natural death. The miraculous aspect of Jesus' ordeal is perfect confluence of circumstances under the will of God that enabled him to survive in near impossible conditions and then make a full recovery from his horrendous wounds and then successfully reach India where he could continue his mission as a prophet peacefully. This iconic story of survival, recovery, migration and resumption of prophetic duties is what God refers to as "exaltation" in the Holy Quran.
As such, Easter reminds Muslims of one of the most iconic victories of good above evil in the history of mankind. It reminds us the value of determination, endurance and unshakable belief in God even when faced with prolonged hardship and almost certain death.
(1) Online Holy Quran
(2) Jesus in India
(3) A Study of the Origins and Features of Easter
(4) The Tomb of Jesus at Srinagar
(5) Govt of India Documentry on Jesus in Kashmir