It was warmer than it should be for a December day. My 3:30 pm appointment was delayed, and so for half an hour I had time to stroll, care free, through an East London Shopping complex. Then the ‘Muslims Against Extremism’ banner caught my eye.

Below the banner was the usual plethora of Muslim evangelist literature—the equivalent of a Christian book table.

“Have you got anything on Christmas?” I asked, perusing the neatly laid table.

“I don’t think so. We don’t celebrate Christmas.”

“Why not?” It was something I had been thinking about for a while. Clearly, Muslims do not believe Jesus is God, nor the Son of God, but the Quran does refer to him as ‘al-Masih,’ Arabic for ‘Messiah’, which is the Hebrew word for ‘Christ’. What is Christ-mas about if not to commemorate Christ’s birth?

“Christmas is something Christians and Muslims can both agree on,” I urged my newfound Muslim friend, Ali. He did not share my enthusiasm.

“Where does it say in the Qur’an that Jesus is the Messiah?” Ali quizzed. Using one of the Qurans lying on the table, I pointed to two verses[1] and then explained the Messiah/Christ connection. Ali looked at me blankly. This was the first time he had heard that “Messiah” equalled “Christ,” and therefore Christmas, without its consumerism, was an event that had some legitimacy in the Quran.

After letting the silence linger, I asked Ali if he knew what ‘Messiah’ meant and why not even his great prophet Muhammad had the privilege of the title. Again, I received a blank stare. This stare was more valid than the first, because the Quran does not at any point explain the meaning or function of ‘Messiah.’ To discover its meaning, I told Ali, you have to come back to the Bible.

Immediately, the expected accusation of Bible corruption was levied, and I responded with the Quran’s helpful defence, Q5:47, which tells Christians to judge by the Gospel. This led to my third question to Ali: “What does the word ‘Gospel’ mean?” Nothing.

(Now to some, my questioning of Ali may seem cruel and insensitive, but that is not my intention. For the sake of time, I have not included all our friendly banter and spin-off discussions; but I do want to emphasise that unless Muslims realise the Islamic sources are insufficient to explain concepts and titles borrowed from Judaism and Christianity, then they’ll have little reason to investigate the Bible themselves.)

“Good news!” I exclaimed. ‘Gospel’ means “good news.” Ali was now seated in a green foldable chair behind the table. His eyes locked with mine.

I had a final question before it was time to leave: “What was the good news?”

“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy
that will be for all the people.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David
a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord.”
(Luke 2:10-11)

Christ coming is the good news! It’s basic to those of us blessed enough to grow up with the nativity every year, but it’s mind-blowing to Muslims who are not taught the historic theological significance of the statement.

Christ was born—something the Quran affirms. He came to save us from sin—something the Quran misses. His birth is good news for all people—something the Quran denies.[2]

Herein lies the problem. The Quran affirms the Gospel without knowledge of what it’s about and, worse still, goes on to teach against it.

Despite the Quran’s colossal failures, the Gospel remains good news for Ali and for us all—which is why Christmas should stir all our hearts.

[1] Q3:45, Q4:157
[2] Q61:6