A major segment of the world’s population has just celebrated Christmas – the Christian celebration of the birth of Jesus on 25th December. Meanwhile, Muslims have just celebrated Mawlid – the birth of the Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) – which this year fell on December 24th (Christmas Eve).
These two figures are pinnacles of the two faiths but how many people know that Muslims also recognise Jesus (Issa) (pbuh) as part of their faith? Yes, recognising Jesus as a Prophet is a requisite of faith.
Very little infact stands between these two faiths. Both Christianity and Islam teach about belief in God – following Him and doing good deeds but what else do the two faiths share?
Let’s have a look using scripture from both faiths!
Putting differences within faiths aside and using an overview of “standardised beliefs” and scriptural references, here’s a brief guide (in no particular order) to some of the major similarities and differences between the two faiths – two brothers within the same Abrahamic family which we share with our lovely Jewish brothers and sisters too!
1. God is the sole Creator of the Universe
“The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.” (Isiah, 40: 28)
“Say: He is Allah, the One! Allah, the eternally Besought of all! He begetteth not nor was begotten. And there is none comparable unto Him.” (Qur’an, 112: 1-4)
2. The importance of charity
“Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed.” (Proverbs, 19: 17)
“Those who believe, and do deeds of righteousness, and establish regular prayers and regular charity, will have their reward with their Lord: on them shall be no fear nor shall they grieve.” (Qur’an, 2: 277)
3. Prostration during prayer
“And Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and they fell upon their faces: and the glory of the Lord appeared unto them.” (Numbers, 20: 6)
“O ye who believe! Bow down, prostrate yourselves, and adore your Lord; and do good; that ye may prosper.” (Qur’an, 22: 77)
4. The Bible and their teachings and prophets
Note: Muslims believe in Jesus’ teachings but not the book of the New Testament as such is known today.
Muslims believe in the Jewish Torah/Old Testament as a book from God but not as a verbatim divine/primary text.
“This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua, 1: 8-9)
“We have sent thee inspiration as We sent it to Noah and the Messengers after him; We sent inspiration to Abraham, Ismail, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes to Jesus, Job, Jonah, Aaron, and Solomon, and to David, We gave the Psalms. Of some messengers We have already told thee the story; of others We have not; ― and to Moses Allah spoke direct.” (Qur’an, 4: 163-4)
“[…] his name will be Christ Jesus, the son of Mary. […] Allah will teach him the Book and Wisdom, the Torah and the Gospel.” (Qur’an, 3: 45-8)
“That your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matthew, 6: 18)
“O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you that ye may (learn) self-restraint. (Fasting) for a fixed number of days; …it is better for you that ye fast, if ye only knew.” (Qur’an, 2: 183-4)
As you can see there are lots of references in the Qur’an to Christian teachings and prophets. So, what are the main differences and what exactly do they entail?
Christians believe Jesus is divine/the Son of God whereas according to Islam, God has never appeared in human form.
In Islam, Jesus is a Prophet just like Moses, Abraham and Mohammed (pbut).
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John, 3: 16)
“… Christ Jesus the son of Mary was (no more than) a Messenger of Allah and His Word, […]: so believe in Allah and His Messengers. Say not “Trinity”: desist… for Allah is One Allah: glory be to him: (for Exalted is He) above having a son… Christ disdaineth not to serve and worship Allah…” (Qur’an, 4: 171-2)
2. The Holy Spirit – completing the concept of the Trinity
Christians believe in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit:
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew, 28: 19)
Muslims, however, believe that there is no Trinity. Some Muslims believe that according to the Bible: “spirit” refers to Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) – the last prophet of Islam who brought the Qur’an (last scripture):
“I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth is come, he will guide you unto all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me.” (John, 16: 12-14)
This belief has been expressed by certain scholars but is not universally theologically recognised by Muslims/Islamic scholars.
3. The Passion of the Christ
Christians believe in Christ’s death and resurrection:
“And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him…” (Luke, 23: 33)
“With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus […].” (Acts, 4: 33)
According to Islam, Jesus was not crucified on the cross and was not resurrected:
“And… Allah too planned, and the best of planners is Allah. Behold! Allah said: “O Jesus! I will take thee and raise thee to Myself… then shall ye all return unto Me, and I will judge between you of the matters wherein ye dispute.” (Qur’an, 3: 54-5)
4. Original sin
The concept of original sin in Christianity does not exist in Islam.
In Christianity, Eve is the one who was tempted by the Devil:
“To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life.” (Genesis, 3: 17)
“Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” (Psalm, 51: 5)
“Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.” (Romans, 5: 12)
In Islam, Adam and Eve were both equally guilty of sinning.
Islamic theology teaches that each human is born sinless and becomes responsible for their own deeds – good and bad – throughout their life:
“But as soon as the two had tasted [the fruit] of the tree, they became conscious of their nakedness…” (Qur’an, 7: 22)
“Who receives guidance, receives it for his own benefit: who goes astray does so to his own loss: no bearer of burdens can bear the burden of another…” (Qur’an, 17: 15)
5. The Devil
In Christianity, the Devil (Satan) is a fallen angel whereas in Islam, the Devil (Shaytan) is described not as a fallen angel but a jinn (made of fire) who refused to bow down to Adam with the Angels according to God’s command.
In Islam, angels have no free will so cannot disobey God.
“He replied, ‘I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.’” (Luke, 10: 18)
“(Iblis) said: “I am better than he: Thou createdst me from fire, and him Thou createdst from clay.” (Qur’an, 38: 76)
So, as you can see, there are a few major differences but these stem on differences on the same topic/issue – not completely different concepts. There are in fact, far more similarities than differences!
Early Muslims sought refuge from an Ethiopian Christian king and when asked about Jesus and Mary, the king was astonished. Check out the video clip from the film “The Message” (Akkad, 1976) detailing such event:
The relation between the two faiths is a vast topic but I wanted to give a brief outline and highlight the important relationship between the two faiths.
So let’s keep building bridges, focussing on similarities we share and remember that we share a lot in common!
Christians and Muslims are all part of the same Abrahamic family (comprised of Judaism, Christianity and Islam) and in times of hardship and discrimination, we should all stick together!