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  Comparing Islam and Christianity

 

According to Dictionary.com, religion is defined as a “set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe.” In most cases, belief systems will include some type of explanation for creation and the purpose of life, as well as death and the afterlife. Across the world today, there are 19 “major” religions as well as thousands of “smaller” religions, sects, and cults that usually find their roots within one of the nineteen major religious groups. (Robinson) Of the nineteen major religions in the world, two have become very dominant in terms of the number of professing members: Islam and Christianity. In order to truly understand the similarities and differences between the two most dominant religions in the world, one must first closer examine five interconnected subject areas: Deities, Prophets, the use of a “Book,” the concept of sin and salvation, in connection with the afterlife.  

Throughout the world today, many have come to the conclusion that Islam and Christianity are polar opposites and therefore cannot coexist with one another. This however is untrue, and when the issue is explored further one will find that there are many similarities and commonalities between the two religions. The first similarity that becomes apparent is the belief in a single God that is both omniscient and omnipotent. Both Islam and Christianity are monotheistic religions that believe that God is perfect and that He created the entire universe, and holds it in His hands. Similarly, both religions believe in a number of different prophets that were sent out to preach the good Word of God.  These prophets were inspired by God to not only preach, but also to develop book to which believers can turn to in their time of need. Both Christians and Muslims alike believe in a set of Holy Scriptures which contains the Word of God as spoken through the prophets. Lastly, both Christianity and Islam have a similar understanding that the world is corrupted by sin and one is in need of salvation in order to be able to live with God in the afterlife.

Although there are many similarities between Islam and Christianity, there are also some key fundamental differences.  Upon further examination, one will soon realize that these two faiths are very similar when seen from a broad perspective but extremely different when each similarity is explored in more detail. It is true that both Islam and Christianity are monotheistic and believe in one God, but their perceptions of who God is differ greatly. It is the Islamic belief that Allah (Arabic for God) is of one nature and cannot be divided. Christianity on the other hand believes in a single triune God – one that can exist in three separate forms: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. (Comparison of Islam, Judaism and Christianity)

The second element on which Muslims and Christians hold significantly different views is the recognition of prophets. Although both religions recognize many of the same prophets such as Moses, Abraham, David, and Noah, the recognition of Jesus Christ is very different. Within the Islamic tradition, Jesus Christ is treated with high regard, whose words are part of the Holy Scriptures. Oppositely, Christianity views Christ as the central part of their faith. (Comparing Christianity and Islam) He is the second part of the Trinity – God the Son – and is not only seen as a messenger of God, but God Himself. Tied to this is the Islamic belief in Muhammad. Islam recognizes Jesus as a prophet but Muhammad is the greatest prophet who spoke the words of Allah. Within the Christian tradition, Muhammad fails to be recognized as a prophet at all. The differing views on Jesus Christ display yet another reason these to religions are often set so far apart from one another. While one professes Jesus to be God Himself, the other believes that he was only a prophet no different from the others.

As aforementioned, both Islam and Christianity believe in a book that was created by God through the prophets. This book serves to help believers model their lives in such a way that would be pleasing to God. Once again differences become apparent when each religious book is examined more closely.  The Christian Bible is divided into two sections, the Old and New Testaments which will be looked at in more detail in the future. Islam on the other hand believes in the Old Testament as the Word of God, but rejects the New because it is based on the belief that Jesus Christ is God and Saviour. Instead, they have developed the Koran which is poetic book that serves as a continuation, and completion of the Old Testament.  “The Koran is the sacred book of the Muslims. It is seen as a perfect revelation from God, a faithful reproduction of an original engraved on a tablet in heaven.” (Beaver, 315) One of the reasons Muhammad is revered so highly as the founder of Islam, is because he is said to be the first prophet who received a revelation from God which he then wrote down in the Koran.

Evil, sadness and despair have filled our world today. Christianity and Islam alike believe that the suffering that we so often see is a direct result of sin, but their reactions to sin are much different. It is the Christian belief that man was created in the image of God, and therefore perfect, but then fell into sin because of disobedience. (Genesis) Because of sin a set of laws were created by God (the Old Testament) that allowed believers to achieve eternal life if followed correctly. It soon became apparent that it was humanly impossible to follow each and every law that was set out in the Old Testament, so God sent a Saviour to atone for the sin of the world – Jesus Christ His only Son. The New Testament division of the Bible is the story of redemption through Jesus Christ – His birth and incarnation, His life and ministry, and His death on the cross which atoned for the sin of humanity. It is the Christian belief that all sin is covered by the blood of Christ and one only has to believe in Him in order to achieve eternal life.  (John 3:16) Christ’s gift to humanity is summed up in the words of Ephesians 2:8 from the Bible: “For it is by grace that you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves it is the gift of God.”

Differing from Christianity, Islam is a belief that requires works to gain salvation. Similar to the Old Testament Law that was eventually changed and fulfilled by Jesus’ death on the cross, Muslim’s must acquire enough good works to earn their way into heaven to be with God. It is the Muslim belief that each person in the world has two angels above them watching over them. The first is tallying the “good” deeds, while the second is marking up “bad” deeds. If in the end a Muslim is faithful and the “good” outweighs the “bad” paradise is granted and he will go to paradise to be with Allah forever. (Wenner, 2001) Although Allah is still seen as a loving God, Islam also differs from Christianity in that it sees Allah as solely a God not also a Father.  In the end, the means by which one is granted salvation is the factor that sets these two religions apart. One is saved through the free gift of grace, while the other earns salvation through the good deeds that are accumulated.   

Around the world today, there a numerous different religions, two of which have become much larger than the rest. Thirty-three percent of the world’s population (approximately 2.1 billion people) belong to the religion called Christianity, while twenty-one percent of the world’s population (approximately 1.5 billion) belong to the religion of Islam. (Major Religions of the World) Although it would take years of study to explore and truly understand both Christianity and Islam, after a closer examination of some of their key beliefs and values, it can be said that although very similar in a number of ways, they are also fundamentally different which causes them to be unique.

 

 

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