Throughout decades, religion has remained an integral part of human existence. Regardless of one’s religion, the role of religion in shaping various aspects of humanity cannot be underestimated. Most issues in the contemporary world, for instance, have often been handled from a religious point of view; an indication of the significant impact religion has on humanity. Over the years, various religions have been embraced albeit for different reasons. Nonetheless, these various religions possess certain elements that are both similar and different. Particular focus is, however, given to Islam and Christianity. A comparison and a contrast of these two religions are made based on their fundamental beliefs, their sacred books, and deities as well leadership.
Christianity and Islam make the world’s largest religions. The rise of the Islamic religion is largely linked to Prophet Muhammad whom the Muslims believe was the last among Allah’s prophets. Since he is believed to be Allah’s chosen messenger, the Muslims strive to live lives that emulate his. Besides the Quran, Muhammad’s Sunna (lifestyle) and hadith (sayings) are revered by Muslims. Christianity, on the other hand, is said to have originated in Rome upon the start of the early Church in Antioch. It is believed that the followers of Christ founded the first church which from then on advanced Christianity. The Christian religion, as opposed to Islam, is primarily founded on the teachings of Jesus. These two religions are not only historically connected, but they share certain basic elements. One primary feature is that they are monotheistic. It is imperative to note that they both believe in the existence of one supernatural being who is considered divine and all-powerful. For the Muslims it is Allah and for the Christians God. Even so, the Muslims and Christians consider themselves to worship the same God.
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The two religions equally subscribe to a sacred book which sets out rules and teachings on how one should live in accordance with their belief in God. The Muslims regard the Quran as Allah’s message to them and whose contents are to be obeyed and revered. Christians, on the other hand, regard the Bible as their principal guide on how they ought to live their lives as Christians in the view of continually pleasing God and doing His will. Ideally, the Bible is a Christian’s manual. The two religions further demand a high standard of morality (Brown para 2). This is seen in virtually all aspects of the Muslims’ and Christians’ lives. Both religions also embrace leadership, and the two notable leaders are Jesus and Muhammad. Both are figures that have played significant roles in influencing the two faiths. As leaders, they have been viewed as examples for emulation by both Muslims and Christians.
Despite the notable similarities that are prevalent, the religions of Islam and Christianity have somewhat irreconcilable differences. These two religions strongly differ with regards to their fundamental beliefs as to the nature of the God they recognize, nature of religion, the central beliefs, as well as the contents of their spiritual books. The main difference is perhaps that of Muhammad and Jesus (Miner et al. 80). Even though most of the teachings of Islam resonate with some of the Christian teachings, the nature and role of Jesus is greatly disputed between the two religions. Jesus is central to the Christian faith, and while Christians hold the belief that Jesus was indeed God’s son and that he is sinless and divine, Islamic teachings hold a rather different opinion that Jesus was merely one of Allah’s most important prophets. As such, Muslims disagree with the belief held by Christians that Jesus was part of God’s trinity.
In Islam, Jesus is regarded as being merely one of Allah’s prophets. For Christians, however, Jesus is the messiah and savior of the world who is sent by God to redeem it from being lost. This view counts among the main distinctions between Islam and Christianity (Brown para 1). Jesus is significant to the Christian faith, and ideally, Christians are known as the followers of Christ. In Islam, contrary to the Christian religion, Muhammad is a strong pillar in the Muslim faith (Miner et al. 89). Islam is not only considered to have begun with him, but he is seen to have shaped Islam as a spiritual leader and prophet. Muslims’ reverence for Muhammad, an embodiment of what a perfect believer should be, have made him a pillar and symbol of ideal conduct. This difference is further enhanced by the fact that Jesus and Muhammad have different teachings and while one furthers his teachings by the cross, another does so by the sword. Mohammad, though a spiritual leader, is seen to advance violence against his enemies (Brown para 4). This is opposite to the Christian teachings advanced by Jesus who humbles himself to the cross as a lasting solution to save humanity. In Christianity, Jesus advocates for the love of enemies and not propagation of violence.
Though both religions are monotheistic, they are fundamentally different in how they view God, what their sacred book demands and the general manner of worship. One significant difference is that the Christians believe in the trinity of God, where the father, son and holy spirit are one. The Muslims, on the other hand, have no belief in the Trinity and they dispute God being a father and therefore having no son. It is on this basis that the Islamic faith does not view Jesus as being of a divine nature. Instead, he is considered a mere mortal and one of the prophets of Allah. As for the sacred books, though the Quran and the Bible are both considered holy sacred books to the Islamic and Christian religions, their content and nature differ. Firstly, the Quran is a recital of Muhammad while the Bible is a collection of sixty-six books written by different authors. Its teachings are also fundamentally different. Regarding the manner of worship, Islam and Christianity have distinct spiritual practices and traditions. For instance, in Islam there two sets of fundamental beliefs, those that ought to be practiced and those that make of one’s faith as a Muslim (Bernheimer, Teresa, and Rippin 11). The Islamic faith has five pillars which are Shahada for exclaiming that Allah is God, Salah referring to the obligatory prayers that Muslims offer daily for five times, zakah which refers to almsgiving, sawm, the requirement for fasting during Ramadhan and hajj which is the pilgrimage to Mecca. As for the beliefs that make one a Muslim, the Islamic religion requires one to believe in angels, prophets, the judgment day, divine books, destiny and resurrection (Bernheimer, Teresa, and Rippin 11). These beliefs are said to have been personified in Muhammad’s personality, and that gives Muslims the basis to adhere to them.
- Bernheimer, Teresa, and Andrew Rippin. Muslims: their religious beliefs and practices. Routledge, 2013.
- Michael Brown. “The Key Difference Between Christianity and Islam.” The Stream, 27 June 2017, stream.org/key-difference-between-christianity-and-islam/.
- Miner, Maureen, et al. “Spiritual attachment in Islam and Christianity: Similarities and differences.” Mental Health, Religion & Culture 17.1 (2014): 79-93.