The Chicago theater company Silk Road Rising has debuted a brand new play called “Christmas Mubarak,” a story that blends the stories of Jesus from both Christianity and Islam.
Corey Pond, a member of Silk Road Rising who directed and adapted the holiday play, described the new show, which premiered last weekend, as “a love letter to the Muslims we know and who come.” The goal, he told Religion News Service, is to make them “feel like they’re incorporated in the Christmas holiday.”
The play weaves in different aspects of the two religious traditions.
It chronicles the angel Gabriel telling Mary she would miraculously conceive a child, similar to the story found in the Gospel of Luke. In Islam, Jesus’ virgin birth came as the result of a prophecy given to her father. She later hides during her pregnancy and reveals it to Joseph, who is her cousin, not her fiance.
“It’s different enough that it feels like a wonderful way for both Muslims and Christians to refresh their understanding of the story and to find something new in the story in this moment that we live in,” Silk Road Rising executive director Malik Gillani said.
Muslims, it should be noted, do not believe Jesus was crucified or resurrected. They regard Jesus not as the savior, but as just a prophet.
The play itself was inspired by Gillani, a Shiite Muslim, and Jamil Khoury, a Syrian Orthodox Christian and the founder of Silk Road Rising, which was established after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
“Jesus being the central figure in Christianity and Jesus being an important figure in Islam — and also Mary being an important figure in Islam — it just seemed to me that this would be a very useful conversation starter and also a way to illuminate for Christian audiences many of the similarities,” Khoury said.
Christian blogger Julie Roys described the entire undertaking — which is playing at the First United Methodist Church at the Chicago Temple — as “insidious” and “nothing short of blasphemy.”
“It perverts the story of Jesus’ birth; it doesn’t refresh it. No prophet could save people from their sins. Only the incarnate Son of God could do that,” she wrote. “That any Christian church would participate in this play is disgraceful.”