Christianity and Islam
edited: Monday, February 22, 2010
By Starrleena Magyck
Rated "G" by the Author.
Posted: Monday, February 22, 2010
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Comparison/contrast between Christianity and Islam.
VALERIE L. HARVEY
CHRISTIANITY AND ISLAM
HIS 103 WORLD CIVILIZATION
PROF. DEBBIE CASSETTA
Christianity is the largest religion in the world—followed by 33% of all people. The total number of Muslims—0.7 to 1.2 billion worldwide (1.1 to 7 million in the U. S.), which is 21% of all people on earth that follow Islam. If the current trends continue, Islam will become the most popular world religion in the mid-21st century (twf.org). Christianity and Islam share common similarities like monotheism, common beliefs, and Scriptures.
Islam is the “submission” that signifies obedience to the rule and will of Allah, the only deity recognized in the strictly monotheistic Islamic religion. And individual who accepts the Islamic faith is muslim, meaning “one who has submitted”. Hundreds of thousands of muslims from all parts of the world, are drawn to take a holy pilgrimage to Mecca, which is called Hajj (Bentley Ziegler, 345).
Islam got started when a prophet named Muhammad in 632 CE, visited his native city of Mecca while in exile from his home at Medina. He was born into this world of nomadic Bedouin herders and merchants. Muhammad was born about 570 CE into a reputable family of merchants in Mecca, by the name of Muhammad Ibn Abdullah. He lost his parents by the time he was 6 years of age. Muhammad was raised by a grandfather and uncle who then provided him with an education. As a young man, Muhammad worked for a woman named Khadija, a wealthy widow whom he later married about 595 (Bentley Ziegler, 345).
About 610 CE, when Muhammad was about 40 years of age, he underwent a profound spiritual experience that transformed his life and left a deep mark on world history. His experience left him with convictions that in all the world there was only one true deity, Allah (“GOD”), and that he ruled the universe, that idolatry and the recognition of other gods amounted to wickedness, and that Allah would soon cast His judgment on the world, rewarding the righteous and punishing the wicked (Bentley Ziegler, 345).
During the early 650s, devout muslims compiled the written versions of Muhammad’s revelations and issued them as the Qur ‘an (“Recitations”), or the Holy Book of Islam. Islam has traditions, or Hadith, that attribute to Muhammad and the accounts of the prophet’s deeds. Muslims also migrated, (Hura) to their new home of Medina (“The City,” which means “The City of the Prophet”). Muhammad even organized his followers into a cohesive comprehensive legal and social code called Umma, or (“Community of the Faithful”). Muhammad also referred to himself as the final prophet through whom Allah would reveal his message to humankind, which was referred to as the “Seal of the Prophets” (Bentley Ziegler, 346-7).
There are 5 pillars of Islam for every individual who accepts the Islam faith. 1) Muslims must acknowledge Allah as the only god and Muhammad as his prophet. 2) They must pray to Allah daily while facing Mecca. 3) They must observe a fast during the daylight hours of the month of Ramadan. 4) They must contribute alms for the the relief of the weak and the poor. 5) And finally, in honor of Muhammad’s visits to Mecca in 629 and 632, those who are physically and financially able, must undertake the Hajj and make at least one pilgrimage to Mecca (Bentley Ziegler, 347).
Islam also has an additional obligation for the faithful which is Jihad, meaning “struggle”. For some muslims, Jihad imposes a spiritual and moral obligation on them by requiring them to combat vice and evil. For other muslims, Jihad calls on them to struggle against ignorance and unbelief by spreading the word of Islam and seeking converts to the faith. And for still other muslims, Jihad involves the physical struggle that obliges muslims to take up the sword and rage war against unbelievers who threaten Islam (Bentley, Ziegler 348-9).
According to Sharia, or Islamic Holy Law, reinforced male dominance. It recognized the descent through the male line, and guaranteed proper inheritance, which was placed on a high premium of genealogical purity. This was to ensure the legitimacy of heirs, and it subjected the social and sexual lives of women to the strict control of male guardians—fathers, brothers, and husbands. However, before Muhammad’s time, Arab women enjoyed rights that were not afforded to women in other lands. For example, they could legally inherit property, divorce husbands on their own initiative, and even engage in business ventures (Bentley Ziegler, 364).
In the Islam religion, Allah has numerous attributes, metaphysical and moral. His character is seen in nature, humanity, and in the Qur’ an—the sole authority on nature of Allah and the world. Central to Islamic teaching is the doctrine of self-subsistent unity that Allah is one person, one essence, or one being—not, as the Christians believe, three persons, but one tightly connected person. The explicit description of Allah’s oneness is connected with denial of plurality in His being: “Those who say God is one third of a trinity have certainly blasphemed, for there is no deity but one God.” In fact, the first clause of Islamic creed, or Shahada, states: “There is no God but God” (Jones).
In the Islam religion, Allah is the primary cause of all events that have, are, and will ever take place. The Qur’ an speaks clearly: “Say ‘Nothing will happen to us but what God has ordained for us; God is our protector.”—“And God leaves people astray at will, and guides anyone at will.”—“No calamity occurs on earth, or to yourselves, but is in a decree before we created it. That is easy for God.” Muslim theology also says that both good and evil proceed from diving will: “Taqdir, or the absolute degree of good and evil, is the sixth article of the Muhammadan creed, and the orthodox that whatever has, or shall come to pass in this world, whether it be good or bad, proceeds entirely from the Divine Will, and has been irrevocably fixed and recorded on a preserved tablet by the pen of fate” (Jones).
The passive side to Allah is his omniscience, the part of his character that knows all things—past, present, and future. In the mind of most Muslims, Allah is not in time, but transcends it; he is timeless. The Qur’ an mentions this to Allah’s omniscience: “And the keys of the unseen are with God, who alone knows them. And God knows what is on the land and in the sea. And not a leaf falls but God knows it.” “Knower of the invisible and the evident, God is the greatest.” “God is aware of whatever you do.” “God knows what is manifest and what is concealed” (Jones).
Allah’s omnipotence, or his all-powerfulness is mentioned in the Qur’ an under the given titles for Allah: The Mighty (Al Aziz), The Subduer (Al Quhar), The Great One (Al Azim), The Most Great (Al Kabir), The Most Strong (Al Qawi), The Powerful (Al Muqtadir). Here is several verses from the Qur’ an that speak of Allah’s omnipotence: “Did you not know that God has ultimate power over all things?” “And God is capable of all things.” “God is most forgiving, most powerful.” “God is not to be thwarted by anything in the heaven or on earth, for God is omniscient, all-powerful.” Muslim theologians adhere to Allah’s ability to do only what is logically possible (Jones).
Just like the God of Christianity, to Islam, Allah never had a beginning and will never have an end. He is impassible, or it is impossible for Him to ever not to be. He is called Al Samad, or “The Eternal”—“God is also the Infinite, containing the “possibility” of all thins in Himself; for ‘unto God belong the treasures (Khaza’ in) of the heavens and the earth’ (LXIII, 7-8). The root of all things is contained in the Divine Nature by virtue of this infinitude, which is also the cause of that irradiation and creativity that is the origin of the universe” (Jones).
Christianity started out in Palestine as a fellowship, moved to Greece as a philosophy; moved to Italy and became an institution; moved to Europe and became a culture; came to America and became an enterprise (Sam Pascoe). Most Christians regard Yeshua, or Jesus Christ in Greek, as the Son of God. They believe he is God, the second person in the Trinity (the Trinity consists of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit); three separate persons who are all eternal, all omnipresent, all omnipotent, all omnibeneficient, who form a single, unified deity (Robinson).
Most Christians believe that Jesus co-existed with God before the creation of the world, who was born of a virgin, and bodily resurrected a day and a half after his death, then later, ascended to Heaven. Most conservative Protestants believe Hell awaits anyone who has not repented of their sins and trusted Jesus as Lord and Savior. (However, Muslims believe Jesus was never executed on the cross. To them, an error was made by the Roman executioners and anther person was substituted for Jesus.) (Jones).
Many progressive Christians believe in the miracles of Jesus’, his virgin conception, walking on water, resurrection, the ascension into Heaven (religious myths)—as stories of immense spiritual value, but events that never happened. Gnostic Christians believe that Jesus was a spirit being sent by God to impart knowledge to humans so they could escape the miseries of this life on earth. They regard the Yahweh of the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) to be an inferior, short-tempered, vicious creator deity who performed many genocides and other evil acts (Robinson).
After the dissolution of the Jewish kingdom of David and Solomon in the early 10th century, the Jewish people maintained their faith and their communities under various imperial regimes: Babylonian, Achaemenid, Alexandrian, Seleucid, and Roman. While some Jews fought the Romans, others founded new sects that looked for saviors to deliver them from subjection. One such group was the Essenes, who formed their community in Palestine during the 1st century B.C.E. They observed a strict moral code and participated in rituals that were designed to reinforce a sense of community: admitting new members after a rite of baptism in water, and took part in ritual community meals. These people also looked for a savior who would deliver them from Roman rule and lead them in the establishment of a community where they could practice their faith without any interference (Bentley Ziegler, 280).
Early Christians, who had little contact with the Essenes, also shared many of the same concerns. They formed their community around Jesus of Nazareth, a charismatic Jewish teacher whom they recognized as their savior. Jesus was born around 4 B.C.E., he was a peaceful man who taught devotion to God and love for fellow human beings. He attracted large crowds because of a reputation for wisdom and miraculous powers, and the ability to heal the sick (Bentley Ziegler, 281).
The Romans were worried by this, because Jesus taught the “the kingdom of God is at hand.” To Jesus, the kingdom of God was spiritual realm in which God would gather those faithful to him. The Romans executed Jesus by crucifixion on a cross in the early 30s C.E., in an effort to forestall any rebellion that would pose a threat to Roman rule in Palestine. However, Jesus’ crucifixion did not put an end to his movement (Bentley Ziegler, 282).
Jesus followers proclaimed that he had triumphed over death by rising from the grave. They called him the “Christ,” meaning “the anointed one,” who would bring individuals into the kingdom of God. They taught that Jesus was the Son of God and that his sacrifice served to offset the sins of those who had faith in him. They taught that Jesus would survive death and experience eternal life in the spiritual kingdom of God. Following Jesus teachings, early Christians observed a demanding moral code and devoted themselves to God. They compiled a body of writings, which were accounts of Jesus’ life, reports of his followers’ works, and letters outlining Christian teachings, which Christians refer to as the New Testament. The New Testament is also accompanied with the Hebrew Scriptures, often called the Old Testament; together, both the New and Old Testaments make up the holy book of Christianity, called the Holy Bible (Bentley Ziegler, 282).
The principal figure in the expansion of Christianity beyond Judaism, is a man by the name of Paul of Tarsus. He was a Jew from Anatolia who preached his faith, especially in the Greek-speaking eastern region of the Roman empire. He taught a Christianity which attracted the urban masses in the same way that other religions of salvation spread widely in the Roman empire. Paul called for individuals to observe high moral standards and to place their faith ahead of personal and family interests (Bentley Ziegler, 282).
The Roman empire recognized Pauline Christianity as a valid religion in 313 C.E.. Circa 387 C.E,. it became the official religion of the Roman empire. Church Authority became concentrated among five bishops, or partriarchs located in Alexandria, Antioch, Constantinople, Jerusalem and Rome While Islam was expanding throughout the Middle East during the 7th century C.E., power concentrated in Constantinople and Rome; organizing into two Christian centers. They eventually grew apart in belief and practice, and in 1054 C.E., the split was formalized between the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches, where the leaders ex-communicated each other (Robinson).
During the 16th century, the Protestant Reformation led to a fragmentation with the western church and also to a series of religious wars that caused the death of up to 30% of the population of the European countries. Due to this, the Protestant movement splintered into many groups of denominations, which resulted in tens of thousands of individual denominations. 33% of the world’s population—an excess of 2 billion people—regard themselves as Christian; one-half think of themselves as Roman Catholic. Christians are gradually being expelled from the Middle East; whereas membership has seriously declined in most of Europe. In Ireland and Spain, countries who were once mostly Catholic, are now largely secular. Christianity is in a state of slow decline in North America, due to the rise in secularism and minority religions. Christianity does seem to be experiencing and expansion in South America and Africa (Robinson).
Kile Jones. http//www.kilejones.html
B. A. Robinson. 1995 to 2008. Introduction to Christianity.
Jerry Bentley & Herb Ziegler. Volume A. Traditions & Encounters: A Global Perspective on the Past. Pp. 280-282, 345-351, 364