The world-encompassing religions of Christianity and Islam both emerged in the Middle East within a few centuries of each other, and share a number of similarities with one another and with Judaism. The prophet Mohammed taught Muslims to believe in one God, like the Christians and the Jews. He also taught Muslims to believe in the angels created by Allah; in the prophets through whom Allah’s revelations were brought to mankind; and in the Day of Judgment. (Armstrong) Finally, he taught them to believe in individual accountability for one’s actions; in Allah’s complete authority over human destiny, and in life after death. Jews and Christians share these beliefs as well.
Christians, Jews, and Muslims believe as well in a chain of prophets starting with Adam and including Noah, Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Job, Moses, Aaron, David, Solomon, Elias, Jonah, John the Baptist, and Jesus. (Zahra) Like Christian and Jewish leaders, Mohammed also taught peace and submission to the will of God, for the Arabic word ‘Islam’ simply means ‘submission’, and derives from a word meaning ‘peace,’ while Jesus is often referred to by Christians as the Prince of Peace.
This shared doctrine of peace and submission to the will of God reveals that Islam, Christianity and Judaism all teach their followers that living a life of devotion to God is what believers should strive to do. Like Christian and Jewish leaders, Mohammed recognized the power of evil in the world and sought to oppose it with goodness and love. He also taught that a final Day of Judgment will come in which people will be judged according to what they did in their lives on earth. (Kagan et al)
It is interesting that unlike, Judaism, both Islam and Christianity spread quickly. This rapid development was due in both cases to similar factors based upon simple doctrines. Among the reasons for the rapid and peaceful spread of Islam, for example, was the simplicity of its doctrine, for Islam calls for faith in only One God worthy of worship. Christianity’s basic teaching was also simple, for Jesus Christ taught that all one needed to do to be saved was to believe in him.
In terms of acquiring huge numbers of followers in a short time, one of the primary strengths of both religions was this simplicity. Unlike many religions, especially contemporary religions, it was not difficult for someone to become a Christian or a Muslim. Mohammed taught that one simply needed to profess their faith in the basic teachings of Islam and they were considered a believer, and the early Christian apostles taught that one simply needed to believe in Jesus.
It is with Jesus that differences begin, for Jesus of course is considered to be the divine Son of God by Christians, while Mohammed taught Muslims to consider him to be just another of the honored prophets of God. Another basic difference between the Christian and Muslim faiths is that Muslims believe that God’s final message to man, in the form of a reconfirmation of the eternal message and a summing-up of all that has gone before, was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad through the angel Gabriel. (Zahra)
Focusing upon the issue of what the tenets of Islam, Judaism, and Christianity suggest or assert about human nature, the world, and the place of humans in the overall scheme of existence, it is evident that all three religions profess a struggle between good and evil on the earth, and the desire of God to lead believers to truth and justice through the teachings of His prophets, and through his word as written in the Bible or Qu’ran.
There are of course differences in each religion. For example, one of the reasons why Islam expanded so rapidly was that Mohammed and his successors brought it to the peoples of the Middle East by war and conquest. It seems ironic to me that a religion of peace such as Islam professes to be, was brought to so many lands by the sword. Another difference in Islam is the schism between the Sunni and the Shi’ite groups, who diverge on a number of articles of faith. (Kagan et al)
The Christian religion has divisions as well, of course, one of them being the division into Protestants, Catholics, and a host of other denominations. These divisions in Islam and Christianity both stem from the same problem, which is an absence of any definitive authority on earth after the passing of Jesus and Mohammed from their physical lives. Because great questions of doctrine were subsequently decided by clerics, popes, mullahs, and other less than divine figures, disagreements and schisms were inevitable.
In conclusion, in analyzing the teachings of Mohammed and the basic features of Islam, Judaism, and Christianity, and in comparing their essential meanings, it is evident that each of them is monotheistic, teaches a simple faith of submission to God and his will, and relies upon similar prophets and a holy book. Each recognizes the battle between good and evil taking place in the world, teaches that only through following the teachings of God can a person be saved and liberated from sin, and warns of a day of judgment in which the lives of all human beings who have ever lived will be judged.
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- Armstrong, Karen. Islam: A Short History. New York: Modern Library, 2000.
- Muhammed: A Biography of the Prophet. San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 1993.
- Kagan, Donald, and Ozment, Steven, and Turner, Frank. “Islam and The Rise of the Arab Empire.” The Western Heritage. 7 th Edition. New York: Prentice-Hall, 2000.
- “The Basics of Christianity.” Online. Available: http://www.knowjesus. com/Hist_Basics.shtml. 4 June 2002.
- Zahra, Abu. “Understanding Islam and Muslims.” Online. Available: http://www.ummah.org.uk/learning/islam&muslims/allpages.html. 4 June 2002.