Christianity and Islam: Religions of Abraham?
Although religious scholars have come to no definitive conclusion as to whether Abraham is the “father” of the three predominant religions practiced in the world today, there are those that posit because of the time in which Abraham lived, and the fact that the three major faiths, Judaism, Christianity and Islam came after, that because he is the physical ancestor of the religions he has been credited with that title. Nevertheless, despite the scholarly debate both Christianity and Islam, respectively have differences and yet some commonalities in tradition, practice and belief.
Islam and Christianity, although different religions, do have some commonalities as articulated in the scholarly and faith-based literature. Christianity, as does Islam, tracing their roots back to Abraham, considered by many to be the father of the three major religions (Lowenthal 24). In Islam, Ishmael is considered the first son of Abraham and the second son is Isaac. Both Islam and Christianity are monotheistic religions prophesying a belief in a one true God (Games & Coren 144). Moreover, both faiths extol belief in God’s prophets or messengers of the word of God, as well as revelation, scripture, the importance and centrality of the religious community and the resurrection of the dead. The issue of community is particularly important as both Islam and Christianity have a dimension of communitarianism: what the church is to the believers in Christianity, the ‘umma’ is to Islam. For Christians and Muslims alike, there is a great level of accountability to the community (Goddard 1). It goes without saying that both Islam and Christianity are world religions. In addition, both faiths believe in submission to the God. The definition of Muslim is one who submits to God’. There is also the belief by Christians and Muslims that God is a just, jealous, merciful and forgiving God.
For both Christianity and Islam, prayer is a central tenant of the faith. In doing so, both Islam and Christianity facilitate the communication of man with their God through the practice of prayer (Lowenthal 69). Although the regiment of prayer and the positions of prayer may be executed in a different manner, both faiths posit that believers are to come before God in humbleness and humility and through the course of prayer clarity with regard to one’s purpose in life can be achieved (Goddard 4).
Moreover, both Islam and Christianity believe in the word of God being delivered by way of apostles and messengers through a prescribed book. For the Christians it is the Holy Bible and for Muslims the Holy Qur’an. Believers of both faiths are encouraged to subscribe to these devout written works for information, guidance, and examples of right living. Use of the Bible and the Qur’an, respectively, are utilized in private prayer and worship as well as in communal teaching (Games & Coren 143).
In addition, Christians and Muslims ascribe to a moral code of conduct that has many similarities. For example, both teach that faith without practice that is implemented in daily life is not representative of living a right life. For those who fail to ascribe to the laws of God there is punishment; as well as for disrespect, idol worship and blasphemy (Asad 56). Both faiths teach that at the time of judgment, each man’s good deeds and bad deeds will be fully revealed to him or her in determining where the individual will spend eternity. Both faiths ascribe to a heaven and a hell, belief in angels and the devil. Moreover, Islam and Christianity teach against crimes against humanity to include violence, gambling, adultery, lying, theft and murder. Both teach that children are to respect their parents and husbands and wives are to be respected. Both Islam and Christianity teach against same sex marriage, homosexuality, fornication, and vulgarism. Both teach of modesty in presentation to the rest of the world. Observation of societal laws is also important to believers in Islam and Christianity (Asad 60).
Islam and Christianity both believe in zakat or charity; extending one’s self to those less fortunate. Both traditions teach fasting as a way of getting closer to God as well as enhancing each individual’s God like qualities. Despite recent extremist practices by some Muslims, both Islam and Christianity are faiths based on a tradition of peace (Asad 103). Although some may argue that place of origin is not a tradition, it can be clearly argued that both Christianity and Islam originated in the Middle East and as such, many of the traditions practiced historically as well as those today are influenced by that fact.
Both Islam and Christianity have a tradition of the recognition of sin (shirk)( Asad 121). Although many have debated this fact, Muslims do acknowledge Jesus as a very important person to the believing body. Although Muslims regard Jesus as a very important prophet, similarly to Muhammad (peace be upon him), there is respect for his contribution to the world. There is also recognition of the special circumstances surrounding Jesus’ birth and the important place Mary holds as Jesus’ earthly mother (Lowenthal 79).
Another tradition that is common to both Islam and Christianity is the assemblage of its members for prayer and worship. Although exercised on different days, both believe in weekly assembly; Muslims on Friday for Juma prayer and Christians on Sundays. Another tradition, as it relates to fasting is a dedicated timeframe for fasting of the believing body to take place. For Muslims, the month of Ramaddan is dedicated to fasting and getting closer to God. For Christians, many practice a specified time for fasting near Easter; recognized as the time of the death and resurrection of Jesus (Lowenthal 44).
Particularly in today’s society, and subsequent to the events of September 11th, 2001, the differences between Christians and Muslims have been the foundation of many scholarly, religious, and layperson debate. This differences and the magnification of these differences have been hotly contested for many generations. However, there are many similarities between Christianity and Islam that many individuals either do not recognize or choose to ignore. These similarities have been clearly articulated and the focus on these similarities can serve to bridge the great divide many people of faith can choose to accept and then respect each other’s choice of religious expression.
Asad, Talal. Formations of the secular: Christianity, Islam, Modernity.2003. Web.
Games, Alex & Victoria Coren. Balderdash and Piffie. One Sandwich short of a dog’s dinner. (2007): 143-144.
Goddard, Hugh. Christian-Muslim Relations: Yesterday, today and tomorrow. International Journal for the study of the Christian church, 3.2 (2003): 1-14.
Lowenthal, Kate. The psychology of religion: a short introduction. 2000. Web