I was born into a mixed family. Not racially but religiously.
My father was something of an agnostic atheist and my mother was a deeply religious Catholic. So I was raised Catholic.
When I say I was raised Catholic, I don’t mean your typical Christmas and Easter Mass Catholic. I was raised really Catholic.
In our house, church was a must at least once a week. We prayed the rosaries as a family on a regular basis and every time we traveled.
Birth control was not an option and so I have five siblings. And my 5 siblings and I attended Catholic school, youth group and catechism as an additional study of our faith.
When I started to learn about Islam in my late teens, I recognized many things I had learned from my Catholic upbringing. This made sense as I came to learn that Islam was not a different religion, but a rectifying of the original message of all the Prophets.
As I studied more, I learned that even though the Bible had been changed by man, there are still some remnants of Jesus’ original message and traditions that have lasted to today. These are some things that I learned as a Catholic that I found in Islam:
1. Dark Mark on Forehead
After her catechism classes, my mother would come home and share what she learned. At one particular class, Revelations and the end of days was the topic of discussion.
And so she came home that day very thoughtful and said she had learned that close to the Day of Judgment, we will know who the people of God are by a dark mark on the forehead.
“Do not harm the land or the sea or the trees until we put a seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.” (Revelations [7:3])
The first time I ever saw a Muslim with a dark mark on his forehead from making sujud (prostration) frequently, it hit me. The people of God have a dark mark on their forehead because of their devotion to the worship of God in prayer and prostration.
2. The People of the Cave in Surah al Kahf
There is a little known story in Christianity about the seven sleepers. It has been made into a fairy tale about a man named Rip van Winkle. But the story in Christianity goes much differently.
In Christianity, it is said that there were seven righteous youths who lived in a land ruled by a tyrant. The tyrant condemned these righteous young men to death for refusing idolatry and instead worshiping God alone.
After this judgment, the ruler gave the young men a few days to reconsider their religion.
The young men, refusing to give up their faith, took refuge in a cave where they fell asleep. And God made them sleep for 300 years in order to protect them.
In Surah 18 of the Quran, the same account of the young righteous men who slept for many years is told. And any inaccuracies that where added through the years are corrected.
[Mention] when the youths retreated to the cave and said, “Our Lord, grant us from Yourself mercy and prepare for us from our affair right guidance. ** **So We cast [a cover of sleep] over their ears within the cave for a number of years. Then We awakened them that We might show which of the two factions was most precise in calculating what [extent] they had remained in time. It is We who relate to you, [O Muhammad], their story in truth. Indeed, they were youths who believed in their Lord, and We increased them in guidance. (Quran [18:10-13])
Most Christians are raised with iconography of Mary, the mother of Jesus (peace be upon him), wearing hijab. But few realize it is a command in the Bible.
“Yes, if she refuses to wear a head covering, she should cut off all her hair! But since it is shameful for a woman to have her hair cut or her head shaved, she should wear a covering.” (Corinthians [11:6])
This decree can also be witnessed in the Quran:
O Prophet, tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to bring down over themselves [part] of their outer garments. That is more suitable that they will be known and not be abused. And ever is Allah Forgiving and Merciful. (Quran [33:59])
4. Facing the East to Pray
In a traditional Latin Mass, the priest offers mass facing the same direction as the people, because he and the people together are worshiping God. The priest and the community are all facing what is called ad orientum (meaning toward the east).
This ad orientum is no longer practiced in most churches, but it is a tradition that is a striking similarity to the way the Muslims stand behind the Imam (leader) all facing the same direction toward the East and worshiping God.
5. Jesus’s Prayer
The time and way in which Jesus is said to have prayed in the Bible are similar to the way the Muslims still pray today.
In Islam, Fajr is the time of prayer that begins at dawn and lasts until before sunrise.
“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” (Mark [1:35])
“And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew [26:39])
Ruku’ (Bowing) and Sujud (Prostration):
“O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.” (Psalm [95:6])
As Muslims, we believe in Jesus’ virgin birth, that he will come back to earth, that Jesus was a man and a Prophet. We believe in his message that God sent him with. And we know that throughout the ages man has changed the message of Jesus and the Bible. But we can still see remnants of Jesus’ original faith when we put it side by side with Islam.