First of all, while here in the Islamic Malay world, we were still debating year after year about if it is okay or not to wish followers of other religions for their celebrations or holidays, I would just like to say to all my friends, followers and readers…
Wishing you a peaceful and joyous holidays, and a happy new year. Christmas nowadays, even though it is a Christian holiday, is celebrated all throughout the world, even in the Arab world where Islam is a predominant religion. It is celebrated as a secular holiday mostly nowadays. It is sad to see that some people really wanted to divide everyone according to their faiths, whereas brothers of the same religions as theirs lend no mind to these petty issues. Differences between us, whether is religion, race, gender, or anything else, only acts as a vehicle for us to learn about each other, and in turn, unite us all as humankind. Don’t let the difference segregate us, rather, let it be the reason for our unity. Respect each other and be respected in return. Being closeted and narrow minded, not accepting of other people’s faiths and beliefs and/or accepting the fact that the world is made out of different people will only lead to enmity. Let us ponder upon the Words of Allah himself in the Qur’an, about accepting and learning our differences :
يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ إِنَّا خَلَقْنَاكُم مِّن ذَكَرٍ وَأُنثَى وَجَعَلْنَاكُمْ شُعُوباً وَقَبَائِلَ لِتَعَارَفُوا إِنَّ أَكْرَمَكُمْ عِندَ اللَّهِ أَتْقَاكُمْ إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَلِيمٌ خَبِيرٌ
O humankind! Surely We have created you from a single (pair of) male and female, and made you into tribes and families so that you may know one another (and so build mutuality and co-operative relationships, not so that you may take pride in your differences of race or social rank, or breed enmities). Surely the noblest, most honorable of you in God’s sight is the one best in piety, righteousness, and reverence for God. Surely God is All-Knowing, All-Aware.
(Al Hujrat Ayaat 19)
Now we get that out of the way, I want to show you something that might surprise you : Islamic patterns in Churches! or rather, Coptic Churches. And no, not just slightly influenced patterns, but full on Islamic geometric star patterns! Now, given the history of the Coptic Christian and the Muslims particularly in Egypt, how intertwined their histories were, it is not exactly surprising to find the influences of each other’s culture and art in their domains. However, I think this is quite special, given how very closely the patterns in the churches resembles the ones you can find in a Mosque. Insha Allah one day, when I get the chance to visit Egypt, I will visit the churches and then learn more about it. In the meantime, in the spirit of Christmas and mutual understanding, I will show several examples of these patterns. Noting that these patterns show up in holiest of holy areas like the Iconostasis of a church, really speaks volumes.
A part inside the Hanging Church in Cairo. 12 Pointed stars decorate the wooden wall.
A wall detail in the entrance of the Hanging Church in Cairo. If not for the crosses hidden in the pattern, you would might think that this is a Mihrab in a mosque!
Saints Sergius and Bacchus Church in Cairo, Egypt. One of the oldest Coptic Churches in Cairo. 10 Pointed stars is shown prominently.
A screen in The Church of St. Michael in the Keep, Monastery of Al-Muharraq, Egypt. Four fold patterns showing a stylized cross eight pointed stars