Judaism, Islam, And Christianity

 

There are eleven major religions that are practiced in the
world today. Each of them includes various groups that may
practice their religion in different ways, but all have
certain basic beliefs traditions, and philosophies. Most
reject the idea of many gods and accept monotheism and say
that all the world's powers are expressions of a single
Supreme Being. Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and
Zoroastrianism believe that God is all-good and
all-powerful, and rules the world with a conscious purpose.
They think of Him as pure spirit with no body at all. 
 
The oldest religion of the Western world to emphasize a
monotheistic belief was Judaism. It is founded on the laws
and teachings of the Hebrew Bible, or Old Testament, and of
the Talmud. It is believed that Abraham was the first Jew
and that Judaism took definite form under the leadership
of Moses in the 1200's BC. Christianity and Islam are both
derived from Judaism, even though they differ in many basic
beliefs and practices. Both religions accept the Jewish
belief in one God and the ethical teachings of the Hebrew
Bible. 
 
Christianity is the most widespread religion in the world. 
It has about a billion followers, most of whom live in
Europe and North and south America. Christian beliefs are
based on the Hebrew Bible, or Old Testament and took form
with the teachings of Jesus. Christian doctrines teach
God's love for men and stress the importance of brotherly
love.
 
Islam is the faith taught by Muhammad in the AD 600's. 
Muhammad was an Arab who was born in Mecca about 570. He
believed he had been sent to warn and guide his people and
to call them to worship God (Allah). Muhammad preached 
that there is only one God and that he, Muhammad was God's
messenger. Those who believe in the one God and accept
Muhammad as His messenger are called Moslems. History books
indicate that one night in the year 610, the first of many
revelations came to Muhammad from God by way of the angel
Gabriel (In Christianity this is the same Angel which
brings the news of Jesus' birth). The message Muhammad
received told him that there was but one God (Identical to
the inception of the Ten Commandments), not many gods, as
most Arabs believed. This God was creator of the world (In
Christianity, it's documented in Genesis Chapter 1 verse 1,
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth),
and He would one day judge mankind (This is also true in
Christianity: "The Lord will judge his people." Hebrews
10:30). Both of these religions share almost the same
framework, but they also differ in many ways.
 
The word Islam means "surrender" or "submission,"
submission to the will of Allah, the one God. Muslims are
those who have submitted themselves. The basic creed of
Islam is brief: There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is
the Prophet of Allah. Islam teaches that there is one God,
the creator and sustainer of the universe. This God, Allah,
is compassionate and just. Because He is compassionate, He
calls all people to believe in Him and worship Him. Because
He is also just, on the Last Day He will judge every person
according to his deeds. On the Last Day, all the dead will
be resurrected and either rewarded with heaven or punished
with hell. In Christianity one of the Ten Commandments
states that "I am the Lord you God.....you shall have no
other gods before me", also identical to Islam God is
considered the creator of the universe, and he is also
just. On the last day, or judgment day, the same holds true
as in Islam in the Christian beliefs, the dead will be
resurrected and either rewarded with heaven or punished
with hell.
 
Mankind is regarded as the crown of creation, entrusted by
God with management of the whole created order. In Judaism
and Christianity this was Adam, who had dominion over all
the animals and beasts of the earth. Islam sees humanity as
weak and prone to disbelief in God and to disobedience to
His will. Humanity's weakness is pride. In the Judaic-
Christian religion it was pride that caused the downfall of
man, Eve thought that God had no right to tell them what
they could and could not eat. In Islam, God sent prophets
to communicate His will. These prophets, all mortal men,
were elected messengers to whom God spoke through an angel
or by inspiration. An example of that was when God spoke
to Moses and directed him to free his people out of
Pharaohs hands. In Islam, they also believe in forgiveness,
another basic Judaic-Christian principle. Islam teaches
that God is always ready to pardon the individual and
restore him to the sinless state in which he started life.
In Christianity this is called being "born again".
 
The life of each Muslim is always within the community of
the faithful: All are declared to be "brothers to each
other," with the mission to "enjoin good and forbid evil."
Within the community, Muslims are expected to establish
social and economic justice. They are also expected to
carry their message out to the rest of the world. In the
early Islamic community, this meant the use of force in the
form of jihad, or holy war. This also happened in the
Christian faith, it was known as "Crusades", where
missionaries would go out and spread the word of God. The
intent was not to force conversion on anyone; this was
forbidden by the Koran and the Bible. The object of jihad
and the crusades was to gain political control over
societies and run them in accordance with the principles of
Islam and Christianity. Both took separate paths to
accomplish their prospective goals, thus explaining the
Islam influence in the Middle East and North Africa, and
the Christian influence in Europe and North America.
 
During the decades following the death of Muhammad certain
essential principles were singled out from his teachings to
serve as anchoring points for the Islamic community. These
have come to be called the "five pillars of Islam." Some
early, and more fanatical, believers added jihad as a sixth
pillar, but it was never accepted by the whole community.
Similar to the five pillars, the Ten Commandments are
regarded as law in the Judaic- Christian faith.
 
The revelations that Muhammad received were collected into
a new book, the Koran, directing his followers what to
believe and how to live (In the same manner, the Bible is a
collection of writings from prophets, including Abraham,
Moses, Elijah, etc., identical to the Muslim prophets.)
Many Muslims believed that everything Muhammad said and did
was inspired by Allah, many reports of his sayings and
deeds were collected. At first these were just remembered
and spread by word of mouth. Later they were captured in
writing, to serve as an additional guide for believers,
along with the Koran.
 
The Koran relies heavily on Judaic- Christian traditions.
It was Muhammad's contention that Christianity had departed
from belief in God's message as revealed in their
Scriptures. God had sent many prophets, among them Abraham,
who is considered the founder of the faith for Islam, as he
is also for Judaism and Christianity. The Koran, using
sources in the older Scriptures and later traditions,
relates the stories of Abraham, Joseph, Moses and Aaron,
David, Solomon, Jesus, and others, all of whom are declared
to have been true prophets whose messages were largely
ignored: "We sent forth Noah and Abraham, and bestowed on
their offspring prophethood and the Scriptures. . . . After
them we sent other apostles, and after those, Jesus the son
of Mary." The lack of success these prophets had was
reflected in Muhammad's own experience, as he preached the
oneness of God to the Arabs in Mecca. The implication was
that he was the last in the series of prophets, the last
reveler of divine truth.
 
After Muhammad's death in AD 632, it was feared that the
content of the revelations might be lost, as those who had
originally memorized it died. It was therefore decided to
collect all the revelations, from whatever source, and make
a compilation. Even at this early date, variations in the
Koranic revelations were becoming common in different parts
of the new Islamic empire. So that there would be a
definitive version, the Caliph `Uthman (the caliphs were
successors of Muhammad) commissioned one of the Prophet's
followers, Zayd ibn Thabit, and others to sort through and
pull together all the material and compare it with the
remembrances of those who had learned it by heart. In this
manner, an authorized version was created. The arrangement
of putting the longer chapters first and the shorter ones
last violates the chronological order of the revelations as
they came to Muhammad. But a fairly accurate chronology can
be worked out on the basis of knowledge about Muhammad's
life: He began his work in Mecca, spent a long period in
Medina, and returned again to Mecca. In addition, the
chapters indicate in which place the many revelations came
to him. The main emphasis of the book is on the oneness of
Allah, in contrast to the multiplicity of gods worshipped
by the Arabs. These gods are denounced as powerless idols
who will be unable to help unbelievers on the day of
judgment. Other doctrines, common to Israel's later history
and early Christianity, were incorporated into the Koran,
as well. There is a strong assertion of belief in the
resurrection from the dead, in angels and devils, and in
heaven and hell. All of humanity is regarded as subject to
the will and power of Allah. It is He who has created and
will one day judge mankind. The faithful are called upon to
believe in Allah and to listen to His Prophet.
 
Islam recognizes two forms of prayer. One is the personal,
devotional, and spontaneous type, not bound by any rituals
or formulas. The other is ritual, often congregational,
prayer, with specific words and postures, to be offered
five times a day: at sunrise, midday, mid-afternoon,
sunset, and before going to bed. Similar to Christianity,
which requires you to prayer individually, but also
collectively. ("Not forsaking the assembling of
ourselves.......) In Islam, before you prayer, ablutions
are performed by washing the hands, feet, and face. A
person called the muezzin calls for prayer and chants from
a raised platform or minaret tower at the mosque (the house
of communal worship). earlier Christianity, in order to
prayer to God sacrifices had to be made i.e.: lamb, goat,
etc. Congregational prayer is started with the imam, the
prayer leader, standing at the front of the mosque facing
Mecca, the holy city of Islam being the death place of
Muhammad). The congregation is lined up in rows behind him.
(There are no seats in a mosque.) Each prayer consists of
several units, during which the individual is either
standing, kneeling, or prostrate. At every change in
posture, "God is great" is recited. The chief day of
communal worship is Friday. Believers gather at the mosque
to pray, listen to portions of the Koran, and hear a sermon
based on the text. The sermon may have moral, social, or
political content. Islam has no ordained clergy such a
Christian churches, but there are men specially trained in
religion, tradition, and law
 
The hajj, "pilgrimage," is an annual Muslim rite that every
believer is expected to take part in at least once in his
lifetime. From the seventh to the tenth day in Dhu
al-Hijjah, the last month of the Islamic calendar,
thousands of Muslims converge on the city of Mecca in Saudi
Arabia to visit the holy shrine of the Kaaba in the Great
Mosque. Tradition has it that the shrine was built by
Abraham. The pilgrimage is intended to reenact the hegira,
the flight of Muhammad from Mecca to Medina in 622. Most
travelers will visit both cities, in addition to performing
a number of other ritual observances. The pilgrimage
culminates with the feast of sacrifice, one of the two
major festivals that are celebrated during the Islamic
year. Christianity does not require such a pilgrimage, but
most Christians indirectly have the need to visit
Jerusalem, the birth place of Jesus. most Christians
consider it an honor to visit it.
 
In the second chapter of the Koran is the statement
"Fasting is decreed for you as it was decreed for those
before you." Because the Koran was first revealed to
Muhammad in the month of Ramadan, the whole month was set
aside as a period of fasting. During each day, from first
light to darkness, all eating, drinking, and smoking are
forbidden. Those who are ill or on a journey may postpone
the fast until a "similar number of days later on,"
according to the Koran. The second major festival of the
Islamic year begins at the termination of the fast and
lasts several days. In Christianity, this could be compared
to the Lenten period, where Jesus was sent to the desert
for 40 days and nights, where he was tempted by Satan.
Christians usually give up something of importance during
that period. Although some do go on fasts, it is generally
not as long. The end of the 40 day fast is known as Ash
Wednesday, which begins the most holiest point in the
Christian calendar (Good Friday, and Easter).
 
Another similar attribute all religions share, is the
giving of money. In Islam, the zakat is an obligatory tax,
a contribution made by Muslims to the state or to the
community. In the modern period, the zakat has become a
voluntary charitable contribution. In Christianity this is
known as tithe. Believers are expected to contribute 10% of
their salary to God ("Bring the whole tithe into the
storehouse, that here may be food in my house")
 
As you can see Islam, Judaism and Christianity are indeed
woven from identical fabrics. In a sense, it was geography
that separated these prodigal brothers. In recent years
people have come to view Islam as an "evil" religion,
mainly because of the fanatics, but they must also look at
the Christian and Jewish fanatics who kill, and bomb in the
name of God.