By Nimotalahi Onifade
Easter, a celebration observed by Christians all over the world, is a season that marks the major essence of the Christian faith, the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. For non-believers, it’s another holiday on the calendar filled with brightly coloured Easter eggs, candy baskets and bunnies.
Easter is believed to have begun as a pagan festival celebrating spring in the Northern hemisphere many years before the advent of Christianity.
After the advent of Christianity, Easter became associated with the resurrection of Jesus Christ. In the first couple of centuries after Jesus death, Easter in the new Christian faith was attached to the old pagan festival. Spring festival with the theme of new life and relief from the cold of winter became connected to Jesus having conquered death by being crucified.
In 325 AD, the first major church council of Nilaea determined that Easter should fall on the Sunday following the first full moon after the spring equinox. That is why the date moves and Easter festivals are often referred to as moveable feasts. There is a defined period between March 25 and April 25 on which Easter Sunday must fall on and that’s determined by the movement of the planets and the sun.
Easter in countries like Europe got its name derived from the Jewish festival of Passover but in Greek, the feast is called Pasha, in Italy, it is Pasqua, Paaske in Danish and Pasques in French. In English speaking countries, Easter takes its name as a pagan goddess in the Anglo-Saxon era who was described in a book by the eighth-century English monk Bede as Eostre. Eostre was a goddess of spring or renewal and that’s why her feast is attached to the vernal equinox. In Germany, the festival is called Ostern and the goddess Ostara.
However, Islamic beliefs about Jesus are one indication of how much Muslims respect Jesus, who they refer to as Prophet Isa. For instance, when Muhammad took over Mecca in AD 630, he cleansed the Ka’aba of idols and destroyed all icons except the Virgin Mary and her son. Those he covered with his coat. Another tradition says that in all humanity only Jesus and his mother were not touched by Satan at birth. Muslims say they honour Jesus more than Christians who claim he was crucified by the hands of cruel men.
Christians have much in common with Muslims. They both believe in the uniqueness of Jesus’ birth, signs and ministry.
Birth: A Qur’anic reference says: Behold the angels said: “O Mary! Allah giveth thee glad tidings of a Word from Him: his name will be Christ Jesus. The son of Mary, held in honour in this world and the hereafter and of (the company of) those nearest to Allah; He shall speak to the people in the cradle and maturity. And he shall be (of the company) of the righteous. She said; “O my Lord! How shall I have a son when no man hath touched me?” He said: “Even so: Allah createth what He willeth: when He hath decreed a plan, He but saith to it, ‘Be,” and it is! (3:45-47).
Prophet: Most Muslims think Jesus was a prophet from birth (19:30) and the Bible says much about his prophethood (Mt. 13:57; Lk. 1:76; 4:24; Jn. 4:19).
However, the Muslims reject the cross for these reasons: theologically it need not happen; morally it should not happen; historically it did not happen.
Christians believe that Jesus had to die on the Cross and resurrected the third day, and Easter is God’s vindication while Muslims believe that Jesus (Prophet Isa) did not die and he was not crucified at all but he ascended to heaven, hence they believe not in the celebration of Easter.