A tremor of worry has fallen upon Christian America. With 90% of Americans under stay-at-home orders and only one-fifth of religious Americans still attending worship services, many Christians are left wondering, “How will I celebrate Easter this year?” Even President Trump sought to dull the effects of this tremor, considering last weekend to allow churches to open for Easter “with great separation.”
I am a Muslim. While I may not celebrate Easter, I understand Christian distress in seeing churches closed this weekend. I know firsthand how cathartic and powerful congregational worship can be, as I (used to) lead daily prayers at my mosque. I empathize with Christian worshippers who long for the comfort and power that their church offers.
But this Easter, Christians should take comfort in knowing that the physical confines of the church cannot limit the celebration of Christ. Christians can still inculcate Christ’s spirit of sacrifice and service to humanity. Love thy neighbor. It’s the greatest commandment (Matthew 22:39). For the time being, in keeping our churches and mosques closed, we fulfill this commandment by keeping our neighbors safe from contracting disease. What’s more Christian than that?
A Muslim informing Christians on how to celebrate Easter may sound strange. But when it comes to Christ, you may not know that Christians and Muslims share much in common. Both religions believe that he is a prophet of God and the Messiah. Both even believe he was the son of God (Christians believe him to be the literal son of God, while Muslims believe he is, as all prophets are, a metaphoric son of God).
Both religions also believe that Christ will reappear in the latter days. The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community believes that Christ has already returned in the person of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad. And both Christianity and Islam accept and seek to emulate Christ’s spirit of sacrifice and service to humanity.
Jesus Christ fed thousands of people. He washed their feet. He healed the sick and infirm. The son of God did what the son of Adam (remember the story of Cain and Abel?) could not: be his brother’s keeper. Today, with covid-19 disrupting our lives, we can all find comfort in knowing that even if we cannot visit our place of worship, we can still worship by God by becoming our brother’s (and sister’s) keeper.
Within the confines of the law, we can worship God by checking up on our refugees, our widows and our elders who are most vulnerable during these trying times. But it is not enough to merely make a call for such actions. “Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only” (James 1:22).
Across all 62 of our chapters in America, members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, USA are enacting all such above-mentioned measures to help our fellow Americans. Thus far, we have delivered supplies to more than 1,300 families across America. We have joined with the American Red Cross to answer the call of our government to combat the severe shortage of blood donations. With governmental permission, our mosques are reopening — not for congregational prayers, but as blood donation sites. And we call on all Americans — of every faith or no faith — to excel one another in such goodness (Qur’an 2:149). Encouragingly, charitable organizations like Save the Children, Central Pennsylvania Food Bank and Action Against Hunger USA are taking on this challenge.
As Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ today, anyone can appreciate resurrecting his spirit of sacrifice and service to humanity. So instead of worrying, this Easter offers a chance for rejoicing. By staying home to stop the spread of covid-19 and also helping our brother and sister in need, we can still celebrate Christ.