I’ve often heard that Easter is the most awkward time between Christians and Muslims. This is probably because the end of Jesus’s (PBUH) story is one of the major differences between our two religions. In Islam, Jesus ascended directly into Heaven and was not killed, while the Romans crucified another man who was “made by Allah to appear like Jesus” (Qur'an 4:157-158). For many Muslims, engaging with Christians around the time of Easter is especially challenging because the Christian belief in Jesus’s crucifixion is central and frames much of Christian identity.
However, since Muslims and Christians often find common ground in Jesus’s teachings, I believe that a holy period focused on Jesus provides opportunities to reinforce the commonalities between our faiths. For example, the Muslim tradition of Ramadan has much in common with Lent. Similar to Lent, Ramadan is a time of giving up certain activities to get closer to God. Muslims don’t just refrain from food and drink; we also refrain from negative actions like complaining or criticizing others in order to develop Islamic values like moderation and self-discipline.
Watching my friends give up various luxuries and focus more deeply on Jesus’s messages of patience and humility was an unexpected reminder of what I love about my own faith. I was especially amazed by one friend who, instead of “giving up” a particular activity, decided to pursue the activity of solitary prayer more often. That particularly resonated with me as a Muslim, because personal reflection is also an important theme in Islam. In fact, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) frequently prayed in solitude, and Ramadan is a holy month because he received the first Qur'anic Revelation during Ramadan in one such experience.
In addition, attending Georgetown University has helped me appreciate Lent/Easter even more because our Campus Ministry is very active during this period. While being a Jesuit-Catholic institution, Georgetown provides incredible support to other chaplaincies and encourages other religious groups to have their own programming during the Lenten season. Some of these activities include retreats, which are additional opportunities for solitary reflections in the Jesuit spirit of Contemplation in Action. Interfaith and community service events are also common during this time period, including various Alternative Spring Break trips, White House Interfaith Challenge dialogues, and even an Interfaith Fast-a-Thon sponsored by the Muslim Chaplaincy in the spirit of Ramadan fasting!
Although Lent is often marked by displays of mourning and sadness for Christians, the season presents great opportunities for Christian-Muslim dialogue and personal reflection, especially at Georgetown. By actively engaging Christians about religious commonalities during Lent/Easter, Muslims have the chance to experience personal growth and remember what inspires them from their own faith. After all, the Qur'an calls us to find “common terms with the People of the Book (i.e. Jews and Christians) that we worship only one God” (Qur'an 3:64).