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Religion: Christianity vs. Islam

Introduction

Traditionally, the concept of religion has been related to a population’s beliefs. Although religion has been a controversial aspect, it is the worship and acknowledgment of the existence of a supernatural controlling power among the traditionalists. Several attempts to define the term have proved unsuccessful after scholars disagreed on a specific meaning (Chekovikj & Trencevska Chekovikj, 2020). Additionally, religion was categorized based on how it was systematized and according to the populace’s different theories and opinions. In this light, Islam and Christianity became the predominant religions; questions about their relations have been an interest globally. Various theologists have come up with numerous philosophies, but the topic remains ambiguous and brings about mixed reactions. Amidst these uncertainties, it cannot be denied that even though both religions’ worldviews might differ, an in-depth consideration of similarities and differences in their diverse beliefs pointing out a meta-narrative can help understand the concept.

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The Meta-narratives of Islam and Christianity

In early human history, religious differences characterized a major crisis period. For instance, in the Arabian Peninsula, the Muslim army arose and formed non-existence borders from the Atlantic Ocean to Punjab, which are currently referred to as the Muslim world’s heartlands (Penn, 2015). However, over the centuries, the situation has changed as Muslims became a minority group in their areas of control. In Syria, these Muslim worlds became a majority-Christian territory. Violence ensued between the Muslims and Christians and subconsciously the latter assumed minority identity due to violent flashbacks.

Before the seventh century A.D, Christian Martyrs suffered and died under the arms of Muslim officials. Scholars have periodically used hagiography as a study tool for religious history, especially matters of holy conceptions and church-state relations. They in return have proved that hagiography, as many people thought, is not built on traditional myths and misconceptions (Penn, 2015). Researchers, however, did not find specific triggers of the religious battles, but with time, the warring religions, that is the Christians and Muslims, amicably settled their differences and started respecting each other. Ultimately, conversion emerged when those of Christian faith would change to Muslim conviction, and vice versa.

Additionally, in ancient times, people relied on metanarratives to understand religion. They outlined critical values that characterized and distinguished beliefs. These worldview predominant stories explained the reality and framework in which religion was founded. The histories are still relevant in the Postmodern era in addressing the existence of conflicting beliefs in religion. For Islam, ethical behavior is governed by what Mohammed did as detailed in the Quran.

Muslims believe that Allah is better, and so is Mohammed, his messenger. They must also convince the world in exchange for a promise to enter the Islamic paradise (Leube, 2019). Consequently, their call is to do that and increase their chances to go to heaven. Christians are guided by what Jesus did as learned in the Bible; he completed humanity’s salvation (Billy, 2019). A confession of the mouth and faith in the heart that Jesus is the path and destination to Heaven, where He rules, is all it takes to obtain a pass to heaven. Subsequently, their call is to live because Jesus did all that. A closer look at the above histories outlines some common elements yet so different in one way or another.

Comparison Between Christianity and Islam

The doctrine of revelation and resurrection differs between the Islamic religion and Christianity. Islam faith teaches evading hellfire through God’s mercy, whereby they will be admitted into paradise (Bagley, 2015). Although there is no existing assurance of entering the delightful garden, the followers believe that submitting to God’s will and following His ways could contribute to a person’s account during judgment. Additionally, as per their teachings, moral perfection does not count; instead, repentance does. On the other hand, the biblical Christian story tells how the believers are headed towards the judgment day when the rapture will follow the triumphant announcement from Jesus (Billy, 2019). In this case, they concentrate on perfecting their morals to dwell with Jesus in a righteous place.

The existence of God in the world differs between Christianity and Islam. God’s presence in Christianity is emphasized in God-activity. This means that it is interceded by the Holy Spirit. Further, He exists instinctively through his indwelling in a trinitarian nature (Sire, 2009). Because of this complete communion in the Father, Son, and Spirit, his love is everlasting. Nevertheless, in Islam, the view is human activity, referring to feeling God’s presence by calling people names. According to Muslims, God is too great to manifest in human shape or specific essences.

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Islam believes that a person has pure inborn nature referred to as fitrah, which allows them to have access to God. Adam had a fitrah that equipped him with the familiarity of Allah’s divine attributes and names (Bhat, 2016). This innate knowledge of Allah is considered hereditary and is to be passed on to successive generations. According to Christianity, a fall represents disobedience to God with a consequence of a transmissible tendency towards sinning in the Old Testament. However, the New Testament introduces a different perspective of the redemption of sins. Sire (2009) explains the origin of sin into the world through one person, which resulted in death. Since every person sinned, sharing the death of Jesus brought life and forgiveness to the Christians.

Islamic prayers are rule-driven in contrast to Christians who exercise freedom. For Muslims, there are prayer periods characterized by mosque bells that alert them of prayer time. Further, there is a set sequence of prayer methods where they stand, bow, kneel, and have recitations of Quran verses or other prayer formulas (Bagley, 2015). Muslims’ prayers are performed at day start, noon, afternoon, and evening with no deviation. On the contrary, Christians have no established prayer series by rule but can instead pray at any time of their choice.

Both Christians and Muslims have expressed a difference in how they view the holy books. Christians seek reference from the Bible as God’s holy word. The Bible is divided into two parts, namely the New Testament and the Old Testament. In total, the Christian Bible has sixty-six books; thirty-nine are in the Old Testament and twenty-seven in the New Testament (Chekovikj & Trencevska Chekovikj, 2020). According to Christian teachings, the Bible is a direct word from God without mistakes. On the contrary, Muslims recognize Quran as the holy word of Allah.

The term Quran refers to recitation; it is derived from its original preservation in Arabic for generations to understand it without alterations (Van der Spuy, 2015). In addition, the religion believes that no Arabic Quran’s script varies. A common belief among the followers is that introduction of the Quran transpired when prophet Muhammad obtained revelations for a twenty-three-year era starting in the 609 A.D. from Angel Gabriel (Van der Spuy, 2015). Even though Muslims appreciate Psalms of David, Torah, the law of Moses, and Jesus’ Gospel as God’s books, they claim that given their various translations over time, they may have been corrupt.

However, Islam and Christian similarity is illustrated with respect to God’s perception. First, attachment to God is a unifying factor regardless of religious differences. According to Vandesande et al. (2018), John Bowlby’s behavioral hallmark of attachment can explain the relationship of a religious believer with the Supernatural being. This approach increases the probability that fewer emotionally-strong individuals endure childhood dangers. The concept further reduces fear and forms of distress, allowing people to focus on other life goals and tasks. Similarly, Christians and Muslims demonstrate these hallmarks in relation to God. A sense of security and mental wellness that acts as a safe base for physical well-being also results from believing in God.

In addition, both Islam and Christianity are monotheistic religions. There is a common belief that there is only a single deity in Islam as well as Christianity (Chekovikj & Trencevska Chekovikj, 2020). They trust that God is a supreme being who created and sustained the universe. Furthermore, He is eternal, infinite, and His existence is essential. The Omni-character of this divinity is recognized in both religions. Omnipotence means that God is all-powerful and not subject to limitations. Omniscience refers to an all-knowing God who is aware of everything about humans and the entire universe (Sire, 2009). Omnipresence states that He is all-present and can be everywhere simultaneously.

Lastly, a similarity exists in religious rituals and behaviors. Christians express their need for safety and closure to God through deeds such as prayers, attending church services and fellowships, worshipping, and using physical symbols such as prayer beads and sacraments (Brooks, 2020). Seeking proximity is more common when these practices are used to plea for protection or get closer to God during need. Likewise, Muslims use religious prayers more extensively to seek Islamic spirituality and rituals to place believers nearer the prophets who intercede for them (Bhat, 2016). Other symbols include observing pureness, pilgrimage, a journey towards a place that represents God’s presence, and fasting which brings the believers closer to Allah (Bagley, 2015). The Islam believers also participate in repentance as a way of finding reunification with God.

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A comparison of Christianity and Islam has revealed varying core commitments within the religions. For instance, Christians are obligated to follow the teachings of Jesus, such as forgiveness and love. Muslims have set pillars to guide them, such as salat, which means prayer, shahada, a practice of faith, and sawm for fasting (Bagley, 2015). Recognizing the similarities and differences in religious practices between Muslims and Christians is significant. Nonetheless, even as people acknowledge these differences, it is essential that both religions cultivate good relationships since they seek a common good. However, doing so will not be easier considering the past periods of misunderstandings and suspicion, as well as the existing tensions. Embracing and respecting each other’s beliefs is a challenge facing the contemporary religious world today and develops a research gap for theologists in the coming years.

Conclusion

A difference in people’s beliefs and opinions has brought along the categorization of religion. Both Christianity and Islam believe in a sovereign deity and illustrate a connection of people to the supernatural being. In ancient times, religious wars between Christians and Muslims were witnessed, although scholars failed to identify specific triggers of the battles. Research tools such as hagiography was used to look into religious history and were proved not to be mythical. Meta-narratives on Islam and Christianity have helped understand religion as they outlined critical values that characterized and distinguished these beliefs. The study has illustrated a resemblance between the two religions in their perception of God, acknowledgment of His existence, and their use of religious symbolism. However, there are significant differences some of which appear to be opposing one another.

As outlined in their resurrection doctrine, Christians believe in a rupture day after judgment, while Muslims believe in an immediate presentation to a paradise. Also, prayer time is set by Islam rules, whereas there is freedom of prayers among Christians. A difference is also revealed in their definitions of Holy Books. Christians believe in the Bible as a way in which God communicates to them; it is considered to be a direct word from God. For Muslims, the Quran is the ultimate word of Allah which they trust has no variation unlike the Bible which has been continuously altered during translation. Finally, despite the differences, it is essential to cultivate a healthy relationship between the two religions. Theologists have developed a research gap in the future since it has been challenging to establish a common ground for settling these religious differences. The rifts have been characterized by misunderstandings, suspicions, and ongoing tensions.

References

Bagley, C. (2015). Islam today: A Muslim quaker’s View. Quaker Universalist Group.

Bhat, A. M. (2016). Human psychology (fitrah) from Islamic perspective. International Journal of Nusantara Islam, 4(2), 61-74. Web.

Billy, D. J. (2019). Jesus and the last things: Death, judgment, heaven, hell. Wipf and Stock Publishers.

Brooks, S. D. (2020). Worship formation: A call to embrace Christian growth in each element of the worship service. Wipf and Stock Publishers.

Chekovikj, T., & Trencevska Chekovikj, E. (2020). Jesus and monotheism, the similarity and relations between early Judeo-Christian credence and Islam. Modern Islamic Studies, 1, 45-53. Web.

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Leube, G. (2019). Encounters of Christian power and Islamic truth? Two stories of divine intervention on behalf of Islam. EHumanista, 41.

Penn, M. P. (2015). Envisioning Islam: Syriac Christians and the early Muslim world. University of Pennsylvania Press.

Sire, J. W. (2009). The universe next door: A basic worldview catalog (5th ed.). InterVarsity Press

Van der Spuy, R. (2015). The understanding and the use of the term Allah as a term for God in translations of the Bible and the Qur’an with specific reference to the Talysh speakers of Azerbaijan. In die Skriflig, 49(1), 1-6.

Vandesande, S., Bosmans, G., Schuengel, C., & Maes, B. (2018). Young children with significant developmental delay differentiate home observed attachment behavior towards their parents. Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities, 32(1), 106-120. Web.

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