Christianity and Islam have much in common, and even minor differences support the idea that both faithful Christians and Muslims can live in peace if they understand the other religion. In the current research, an attempt to investigate the similarities and differences of Islam and Christianity was undertaken. These two monotheistic religions belong to the Abrahamic group, which makes the process of comparison less complicated.
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The paper consists of three parts. In the first part, the similarities of Islam and Christianity are described. Both of these religions have a similar ethical orientation, feature the same historical background and their Holy books have many common ideas. In the second part, an attempt to analyze the differences of the religions is made. Though the paper emphasizes minor differences, it only supports the idea that Islam and Christianity have much in common. The method of negation proposed by the theologian Pseudo-Dionysius is used to show that the most essential aspects of the two Abrahamic religions are very similar. The third part of the paper features information about social implication of Islam and the reaction a supposedly Christian community has on Muslim traditions. In particular, the problem of terrorism and public image of Muslims is discussed.
It is necessary to spread the knowledge among Christians that Islam is not generally a radical faith and the majority of Muslims do not support terrorist ideas. The popularization of this idea can be called one of the most important aims of the contemporary Christian ministry. The reason is that it supports the Biblical ideas that all people are equal in God’s eyes and have to be treated with respect by the others and that the war is the least righteous thing to do.
Abrahamic or semitic religions among which are Christianity and Islam have much in common despite the fact that distinctions between them were often perceived to be more important than similarities, judging by history. The relationships between the Christian and the Islamic worlds become immensely problematic with time, and there are no objective signs that it might change in the nearest future. People who believe in Allah are considered by those who belong to the Christian culture to be terrorists. The government of the United States creates laws that suppose that all Muslims are potentially mujahideens, and the mass media support hysteria about the terrorist menace from the Arab world. It is crucial to understand that the ideas of radical Islamists are quite different from the world view of the majority of Muslims. The practical aim of the current paper is to provide detailed information about the two Abrahamic religions so that faithful Christians were able to learn the fact that Islam is similar to Christianity in numerous aspects, while the differences are minor. Popularization of the idea that all the faithful can live in peace is one of the most urgent issues in the contemporary ministry.
Similarities between Christianity and Islam
As it was mentioned earlier, there is a strong resemblance between Islam and Christianity. In fact, both of them are monotheistic religions, which means that there is only one God or one God and his Prophet in the case of Islam. Talking about Muslims, they believe that Prophet Muhammad gave people the words of Allah and then these revelations of the divine will became the moral code of the religion. Moreover, if a person believes in Allah and his Prophet Muhammad, the nationality does not matter when it concerns the question who can become a Muslim because all human beings are equal in the eyes of the Creator. Furthermore, Muslims think that Allah is perfect and does not need to sleep, eat, and cannot die. Thus, they argue that Allah is the only one who is divine in the world. It is written in the Holy Quran, “And Allah makes none to share in His decision and His rule” . The rules of the Islamic religion are peaceful and aim to give Muslims hope. Concerning Christianity, it is possible to find the similar ideas in the Bible without any difficulties, and they are well-known even to those people who are not very pious.
Both Christians and Muslims believe that there is only one life without any reincarnation that is followed by heaven or hell. They also have a similar ethical orientation. Hereby, they agree that God is opposed to the evil embodied by Satan or Shaitan, who tempts the sinners, making them disobey the law of God. Moreover, these religions focus on the prophets, and the only prophet in Christianity becomes divine. Furthermore, both of the religions consider themselves to be the only true religion and argue that those who do not believe in their God will be punished. Islam and Christianity are based on monotheism and dualism. Therefore, the prevailing belief is that a person separated from God during the course of their life aims to find paradise. Christianity and Islam rely less on internal personal experience or mystical contact and guidance but prefer to rest on sacred rituals, faith and everyday work that might lead people to God. What is more, both religions believe that God has an agreement (covenant) with people, but the terms of the contract are slightly different. Both Christians and Muslims have an eschatological viewpoint on destiny and history. Thus, they argue that the world was the result of God’s work and the history is also guided by Him. The faithful of the two Abrahamic religions bury the deceased in the ground in anticipation that the physical body will be resurrected once, rising from the grave on Judgment Day.
The main religious texts of Islam and Christianity, the Bible and the Holy Quran, feature the same historical background. Although the scriptures present people from different points of view and judge their actions differently, the distinctions are minor. For example, Jerusalem is an important place for both Christians and Muslims. Jerusalem was the main city in the Roman province of Palestine from the 4th to the 7th century, when Muslims started conquering the region. There are numerous allusions about this city in the New Testament of the Bible. According to the Holy Scripture, it was the center of Christianity in that time. Jesus was born in Jerusalem and given presents in the temple. Afterward, He healed people and prayed there. The Last Supper and the betrayal also happened in this place. Moreover, Jesus was crucified in this city after all stages of the Roman and the religious court. Near the place of His Crucifixion at Golgotha there is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Thousands of Christians come to that place every year to see the holy places and to pray.
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Jerusalem is not the main city for Muslims, but it is on the third place after Mecca and Medina. The city is mentioned many times in the Holy Quran and is called the Holy Land. The farthest mosque, the Al-Aqsa, is situated there. The first faithful Muslims prayed toward the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem for almost 13 years. Afterward, the qilba was changed according to the will of Prophet Muhammad from the Al-Aqsa to Kaaba. In fact, there is another historical place in Jerusalem that is important for Islam. According to the Holy Quran, Muhammad guided by the Archangel Gabriel ascended from the Seven heavens to the Miraj on the back of the winged mule Buraq.
Differences between Christianity and Islam
There are minor differences between these Abrahamic religions; however, the existing distinctions emphasize their common aspects. A philosopher and theologian of approximately 5-6th century called Pseudo-Dionysius, whose works feature negative (apophatic) theology and Neoplatonic approach to the cognition of God, stated that the description through negations is better for the depiction of the unknown and the unseen. According to this idea of Pseudo-Dionysius, the person needs to reject the material world that can be described with simple words, when they pray it, plunging into the divine darkness. With regards to God, He is perceived as the mystical power that can not be seen in ordinary life. Pseudo-Dionysius tells one to forget about everything perceptible and easy to understand if they want to feel what is God. Thus, only detachment from feelings and emotions can help the person to understand the essence of divine. The theologian thinks that there is to adduce affirmations of the descriptions of God because there are no such phenomena in the human life.
However, Pseudo-Dionysius assumes that negations are not simply the opposite of the affirmations. In fact, he means that even though God can be found in the great number of forms of his creations, He is superior to these beings. The negations are prior to the affirmations, but the cause of all this is beyond the words. That is why the description of the difference between Islam and Christianity will be more persuasive.
Muslims believe that Allah did not create human beings in his image, while Christians believe in the contrary. Muslims do not need mediators in their communication with Allah since God hears everyone if the prayer goes from the heart. Some of the Christians like Protestants also believe in this idea, but the majority of Christians need church and the clergy to conduct the entire ritual.
Muslims consider such components to be the basis of their faith as Allah, Prophets, the books He gave to human beings, angels, Destiny, and the Day of Judgment. On the contrary, Christians do not pay much attention to Destiny and the Day of Judgment, even though these aspects of the world view are also important. Talking about the Judgment Day, all people will die, and when the time comes for them to meet with God, every action they made in their lives will be justified and evaluated. That is why religious Muslims endeavor to live in the righteous way.
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A peculiar thing is that the sinners who were not forgiven by Allah are tortured in Jahannam, or the Hellfire. However, those Muslims who were living according to the laws of Allah and did many good things are sent to the Paradise that is called Jannah. The same thing exists in Christianity. The only thing that differs in this case is the name of the place, but the essence remains the same.
Muslims believe that Allah decides everything in the world, from the great deeds to the minor details, and this faith in Destiny is called Qada wal-Qada. However, a person cannot just sit and wait until something will happen, no matter whether it will be good or bad. Thus, the Muslim needs to make everything possible that depends upon them to build their life, and only then it is possible to say that it was God’s will for everything to happen. Apparently, this faith gives the most important feeling the majority of people try to find in religion, namely hope. The person makes numerous attempts, but if they do not succeed, they do not feel depressed because of the failure since Allah reassures them that everything is as it has to be. Such way to perceive the life is quite philosophical and can be found not only in Islam but also in Christianity.
Social Problems Connected with Islam in Christian Society
Islam is one of the most widespread religions nowadays, and it has much in common with another monotheistic religion, Christianity. However, the differences of the traditional points of view often create serious problems for both Muslims and other people who have to live and cooperate with them in the predominantly Christian society, as it is in the United States.
One of the examples of the religious biases refers to Muslim women. Apparently, strict women dress code is one of the most well-known issues for those who do not know much about Islam. Thus, Muslim women have to cover their head at least with a hijab, while other parts of their body are covered with clothes. The woman has to look dignified and extremely modest, without showing their sexuality to other men. Therefore, the woman can dress as she likes and make herself beautiful only at home in the company of other women, children, or the men from her family who cannot marry her. It is a strange tradition, according to the Western point of view. Owing to the fact that the majority of people claim for equal rights, democracy, and freedom of self-expression, they consider such dressed-up Muslim women to be unhappy. However, the problem is that those Muslim women do not think that they are oppressed and deprived of their human rights. What is more, they often say that their modest looks make other men see the person in them, not only the female they might like to seduce.
Such religious creed leads to numerous inconveniences that the doctors and the EMS specialists face in their work because not every team has a female doctor, and there is usually no time to call for help because the cases are urgent. The problem is that the EMS personnel do not only need to transport the patient to the hospital, but they also have to examine the patient and react quickly to the situation. Thus, the presence of the husband, the father, and the brother of the woman patient, as religion requires, might make the EMS specialists nervous and disturb them from doing their work. Consequently, this inconvenience often leads to the problems with treating the woman from such religious background.
Another example that is very characteristic for the gender bias caused by religious stereotypes is about abortion at home. For instance, the family had six children and the woman did not want to have the seventh one, but she also refused to go to the hospital because they were living in a small town and she was known to be a religious Muslim woman. Therefore, the friend of the family who was just a physician agreed to “help” the woman at home. In the end, he pierced her womb and opened the bowel. Although he clearly understood that it was necessary to call the doctors, he was afraid of prison. It was possible to save the woman with immediate abdominal operation. However, the friend of the family put the bowel back with the forceps, gave the woman tetracycline and went home. As a result, she died from peritonitis in five days. The example vividly shows that going to extremes in the questions of religion is not better than being a sinner who knows no faith.
Talking about the terrorist menace from the Islamic world, it is one of the beloved themes of the American mass media of the previous years. Apparently, the government is proclaiming anti-terroristic slogans, the soldiers are sent to the Middle East, and the ambassadors of the United States are actively reminding the international community that their country is the guarantor of democracy in the “third world”. However, the situation is not that paranoiac not only in the sphere of international relations but also in the domestic policy.
After the New York Police Department started a spying campaign in the Muslim communities in 2011, the protests and the discussions against this innovation have never stopped. Thus, the possible terrorist menace on the one side and the rights of people on the other created a serious bias between those who criticize this method and those who praise it. Many Americans claimed that gathering intelligence in Muslim communities lowers the risks of possible terrorist attacks and monitors the state of public opinion. The desire to learn in advance about the menace and to prevent it caused certain problems within the Muslim community in the country.
The introduction of police officers under cover to the New York Muslim communities means that law-abiding representatives of this ethnic group are scrutinized. For the intelligence, all people are possible criminals and terrorists. Thus, they are watching Muslims in supermarkets, bookstores, and even in the mosques. Every social initiative becomes a reason for further investigation. It is possible to imagine the psychological pressure that those people in the community undergo. Women, children, and elderly people are considered a priori to be crime suspects. As a result, people cannot go to the mosque without looking around because they think that they are watched by the police. Apparently, this tension might lead to the aggravation of the relationships between the American government and Muslim communities and trigger serious opposition. Thus, those people who were not thinking about terrorism might change their opinion and help radical Islamists because they are already suspected by the officials.
Islam is one of the most important world religions. The number of its followers increases every day. However, many people of other religions and atheists do not know much about this faith and sometimes, consider Muslims to be terrorists who want to kill for Allah. In fact, Islam is a peaceable religion that teaches to be righteous, honor the elderly, and help the poor. It is crucial to remember it and not to let the stereotypes spoil the communication. One of the important issues in contemporary ministry is to make faithful Christians understand that Muslims in general and those who live in the US in particular are not their enemies. Islam has more things in common with Christianity than people usually think.