Nigeria can no longer be disputed as a nation with multiple religions; its religious multiplicity seems complex, even with some claiming to be atheists. Thus, there is no need for any reasonable Nigerian hating a fellow Nigerian simply because of religious divergence.
Let Muslims do all they know best to do and the Christians do all they know best to do, there would always be Muslims and Christians in the country, judging by the present situation, except if Allah wishes otherwise. Also of truth is that there would even be those who would neither be Christians nor Muslims.
Currently, today being Sunday 4th April 2021, all of us as Nigerians are enjoying the Easter holidays. As a festive season to the Christians, as colleagues at work and in the legal profession and very few as neighbours, they would justifiably, from their own view, expect me to send complimentary messages to them; congratulating them on the occasion of the Easter period.
But as a Muslim that understands my religion, I cannot and I should not be expected to share any joy with Christians celebrating *”death and resurrection of Jesus Christ”.* This is not however out of hatred towards those friends and colleagues who are Christians.
Christians having Muslims as family members, relatives and colleagues should neither be surprised nor feel bad if such Muslims do not send them messages on the occasion of their religious festival celebrations, especially during the Easter seasons.
Personally, those I have as friends who are Christians, I would expect them to be responsible christians. Thus, I should believe that they too should expect me to be a responsible Muslim. As a responsible Muslim, congratulating or celebrating Easter with Christians is one of the highest acts of irresponsibility from a Muslim.
There are notable fundamental beliefs which can never be harmonised between Muslims and Christians:
1. Christians believe that Jesus died and later resurrected (basis of the Easter celebration) whereas having such belief negates the faith of any true Muslim.
2. Christians believe that Jesus is a son of God whereas Muslims must believe that Allah is one, neither born nor begotten, while Jesus is one of His Prophets.
3. Christians believe that Jesus was born as a God (basis of Christmas), whereas Muslims must believe that birth of Jesus, though miraculous, does not make him special as God.
4. Christians believe in Trinity, whereas Muslims believe in the oneness of Allah.
If all Christians understand the dictates of Islam to a Muslim as above, then they should not feel offended when festival greetings are not extended to them from Muslims.
Similarly, if the Christians also consider extending greetings to their Muslim friends and colleagues as antithetical to their own Christian faith as well, I would expect and applaud them for restraining from such festive greetings to the Muslims. But for now, I’m not aware of how offensive Muslim festivals are to the Christian faith.
It cannot be a good reasoning to say that Muslims must celebrate Christian festivals with them or extend pleasantries to them on such occasion simply because Christians would do same to the Muslims.
The position of the Muslims should also not make them to be taken to be less accommodating and tolerant. Rather, it makes them to be disciplined, obedient and responsible as dictated by their religion.
As a person, I try my best to relate well with my Christian friends and colleagues within the boundaries of my religion and I don’t feel ashamed to avoid what I should avoid fundamentally as a Muslim even when it may appear strange to non-Muslims and Muslims who consider themselves “civilized and accommodating” even though such may be contrary to the dictates of Islam.
I love my friends and colleagues who are Christians and would always treat them with fairness and justice as fellow human beings. Their religion is for them and mine is for me. I should not be expected to do what violates the fundamentals of my religion if they truly respect me as well for who I am. When celebrating any of my religious festivals and they don’t feel comfortable to share any compliment with me, so be it. But that should not affect our relationship as human beings.
Dr Abdullahi Saliu Ishola is a Lecturer at the Department of Islamic Law, Kwara State University, Malete – Nigeria