We will examine some of the relevant similarities and differences between the two widely known and practiced religions: Christianity and Islam. Although both religions have easily identifiable similarities and differences, they are both major players in the religious world with an impressive number of followers.
Each of these religions had been regulated by basic rules of guidance, although the rules themselves are different. Islam has the Five Pillars from Mohammad, while Christianity has the Ten Commandments from Moses. Another very common feature of each of these religions is that each religion has a “Book”. They each have their book written by the adherents of their respective faith. The Islamic religion has the Quran, while the Christian religion has the Holy Bible.
In as much as Islam diverged from the Christian faith, there are also some notable differences between the two. For example, the way each religion is supposed to pray. Muslims pray on their own and in the congregation. When congregational prayer is conducted, there are several rules and strict adherence to which they must follow. They must pray in a specific way and in a specific number of times every day and face a certain cardinal direction. In Christianity, the prayer is informal and at one’s own choice. The congregational prayer for Christians is much less severe and strict and can be performed in several acceptable ways. Muslims are expected to go on a journey called a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, while it is not mandatory for Christians. Another important difference is how money is donated to the church. Christians give in the form of paying tithe, which is, giving 10% of their income. In contrast, the Muslims pay a form of tax that had been levied. The interpretation of the Bible is really large and widely disputed. Some disputed incidents include the sacrifice of Abraham’s son, the Virgin birth and the nature of Christ, and the interpretation of monotheism and the Trinity.
Islam and Christianity are religions founded on very similar and different beliefs, based on the fact that one was born of the other. As a result, we can pick up on several things that ring true in each religion, and on several things that are entirely different between the two. Apart from similarities and differences, each of these religions is still recognized in today’s society, even though they are both centuries old.
ISLAM VERSUS CHRISTIANITY
Although there are several similarities and differences between Islam and Christianity, both religions are significant in today’s society, which is evident in a large number of followers that each of them has amassed. Islam and Christianity are in themselves a complete religion with many followers. Islam originated from Christianity; in that, a significant part of Islam’s fundamental belief system is based on Christianity and certain parts of the Bible. Because of this fact, there are several similarities and a comparative number of variations between the two religions.
The origins of Islam are profoundly rooted in Christianity, based on the conviction of the prophet of Islam, Mohammed, that Christians have departed from the belief in the word of God as revealed in their scriptures. About 610, the first of many revelations came to him, and these visions were believed to have been delivered by the angel Gabriel from God. Here we begin to see similarities between the two religions. Gabriel is also the angel that brought the good news of the birth of Jesus (Jesus being the father of Christianity) in Luke 1:26-32 of the Bible. Mohammed received the message that there was only one Allah, not other gods, as the Arabs believed at that time. And this God was the creator of the world. For Christians, the message of a one God was given at the beginning of the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20:3, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” The creation of the world by this particular God is recorded in Genesis 1:1. “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” In the Islamic faith, it is believed that this God would judge humanity, which is also right in the Christian belief in Hebrews 10:30, “…The Lord shall judge his people.” For Muslims, their only God (known as Allah) was considered just because he would judge every person according to his deeds. In both religions, the result of this Day of Judgment is either heaven or hell. Another similarity between Christianity and Islam is the idea of forgiveness. Islam teaches that God is always ready to forgive a person and restore him to the sinless state he was when he started his life. The same basic concept of forgiveness is accepted in Christianity.
After Muhammad’s death, some essential principles were singled out from his teachings to serve as focal points for the Islamic community. They have come to be called the “five pillars of Islam.” Compared to Christians, the Ten Commandments are considered to be divine laws daily. Also, each of these religions has a “book,” followed by the believers. For Christians, there is the Bible recorded by the prophets and disciples of Jesus, including Moses, Elijah, Isaiah, and many others. Much of the Bible is arranged chronologically, and Jesus teaches in parables. Likewise, for the Muslims, their book is the Quran, a compilation of Mohammad’s words and acts, who was believed to be inspired by Allah to teach these things. However, because the Quran was gathered from the remembrance of those who learned it by heart, the chronological order is not used. Passages or suras have been organized from the longest to the shortest. In the beginning, these teachings were passed along orally for both religions but were later captured by a written document. These books serve as an additional guide for believers and stress the idea of one God.
Despite these many similarities between Christianity and Islam, there are also many differences. Prayer is one of these differences. Islam recognizes two forms of prayer, one of which is a personal and more informal form of prayer. The other is a ritual prayer, often they congregate together with specific words and postures, to be offered five times a day: sunrise, noon, mid-afternoon, sunset, and before bed. Before the Muslims pray, ablutions are performed by washing their hands, feet, and face. An individual named the muezzin calls for prayer and chants from the mosque’s raised platform or minaret roof. This prayer begins with the imam, the leader of the prayer, standing at the front of the mosque facing the direction of Mecca, the holy city of Islam. (This is the holy city because it was the place of Mohammad’s death). Each prayer consists of several units in which the individual stands, kneels, or prostrates. “God is great” is recited at every change in posture. The key day of public worship is Friday, and believers assemble at the mosque to pray, hear portions of the Quran, and hear a text-based sermon. The sermon may contain spiritual, social, or political content. Islam has no ordained clergy, but there are people specially trained in theology, tradition, and law. For Christians, prayer is performed alone and in a congregation like Islam. Prayer alone is performed at one’s discretion, but it is usually done at night or in the morning. Congregational prayer is normally led by a preacher, a priest, or another influential member of the church. The congregation is normally seated in pews, although it can be done standing as well. Christians have clergy that has been trained in theology and religious matters and holds a degree from the seminary. The main days of the congregation are Sundays, and Christians pray, sing, listen to the sermons, and read from the Bible during their daily meeting. As you can see, It is quite different from that of the Islamic religion.
The pilgrimage is another big difference between the two religions. For Muslims, the pilgrimage, also known as Hajj, is a yearly Muslim rite that every believer is expected to participate in at least once in his life. From the seventh to the tenth day in Dhu al-Hijjah, which is the last month of the Islamic calendar, thousands of Muslims have come to Mecca in Saudi Arabia to visit the holiest shrine of Kaaba in the Great Mosque, which Abraham has historically constructed. The pilgrimage was intended to rehabilitate the hegira, the flight of Mohammad from Mecca to Medina in 622. Christians don’t have such a pilgrimage, but many visit the birthplace of Jesus, the city of Jerusalem, and see it an honor to do so. Fasting and giving money are two more important variations between both religions. Because the Quran was first revealed to Prophet Mohammad in the month of Ramadan, the entire month was set aside as a time of fasting. Every day, from the first light to the darkness, it is forbidden to eat, drink, and smoke. The second important festival of the Islamic year follows and lasts several days at the end of the fasting period.
On the other hand, the Christians of the Lenten period, when Jesus was in the desert for complete forty days and forty nights and was tempted by the devil. During this time, Christians normally give up something of value, and although there is some fasting, it is typically not as long as it is in the Islamic faith. The end of these forty days is known as Ash Wednesday, which starts the holiest point of the Christian calendar (Good Friday and Easter).
Also, giving money is a little different. In the case of Muslims, the zakat is a compulsory tax that contributes to the state or the community. In modern times, the zakat has become a voluntary charitable contribution. For Christians, this is regarded as the tithe. The believers are expected to contribute ten percent of their earnings to the church to fulfil God’s commandment.
THE MAJOR DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ISLAM AND CHRISTIANITY
Jesus’ message leads to liberation, while Muhammad’s message leads to subjugation.
The key difference between both religions is the difference between Jesus and Muhammad. Jesus was a spiritual leader who sacrificed His life to save the earth while Muhammad was a spiritual leader, a political leader and a violent military leader. Jesus fulfilled his purpose by dying on the cross. Muhammad fulfilled his mission (at least to a large extent) by ruling by the sword.
However, there are other similarities between the two largest religions in the world. Both refer to a holy book, allegedly inspired by God, for faith and practice. Both call for a high moral standard and a serious personal commitment. Both share common traditions since Muhammad, as well as Christians learned from Jews. And both of them have the vision to spread their faith across the world.
But this is where the two religions differ. One of them follows the example of a crucified and risen Savior. The other follows the example of the prophet and military leader.
CROSS VERSUS SWORD
The biblical passages of violence (“Kill the Canaanites”) were limited to a particular location and time. No such orders were made by the lips of Jesus. The Quranic verses of violence (“Kill the unbelievers wherever you find them”) don’t have such obvious limitations. Many Quranic interpreters and Islamic jurists argue that these verses can’t be applied indiscriminately today. But the others are different. And they proudly cite them in their jihadi manuals.
Jesus and His followers have never instituted a death penalty for leaving the religion. Muhammad established the death penalty for apostasy from Islam as soon as he claimed military supremacy. It is very much in practice in several Islamic countries today.
Muhammad beheaded some of his enemies. Jesus forbade His disciples from taking the sword in His defense. The differences are clear and glaring.
Compare the teachings of Jesus Christ in the Gospels to those of Muhammad in the Hadith. Jesus never calls for acts of aggression against His enemies. Muhammad often does that. That is why there’s no gospel (or apostolic) equivalent to a long collection of Muhammad’s military raids.
EXCEPTION VERSUS EXPRESSION
The most tolerant expressions of Islam can be found when:
1. Muslims are a minority in a country, as in America;
2. A Muslim-dominated country is quite secular, as in Indonesia.
There is limited tolerance for non-Muslims in strictly observant Muslim countries.
If you don’t believe me, try to set up a public Christian mission to Muslims in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, or Iran. Tell me how long this is going to last.
I commend those Muslims who call for a more tolerant expression of their faith. They abhor terrorism in the name of their religion. But if they are honest, they will have to admit that violence in Islam has a rich and long history.
Acts of violence carried out to promote the Christian religion are the extreme exception to the rule. Acts of violence committed to promoting the Islamic faith are all too common.
LIBERATION VERSUS SUBJUGATION
So far as religious freedom is concerned, a country like America, drawing on Judeo-Christian principles, has given this liberty from its founding. And a country like England, which also has a rich Christian past (despite its current backsliding state), Muslims are free to practice their faith. They can even proselytize non-Muslims. If Muslims had become the majority religion in England, it would have been a different story. Non-Muslims would be a second-class citizen. They would have limited freedoms (like Christians in Pakistan) unless they converted to Islam.
The two faiths indeed try to spread their message by disseminating information. Both religions refer to the sublime message of their founders. But Jesus’ message leads to liberation, while Muhammad’s message leads to subjugation.
Although, I know that there are honorable Muslims who try to reform their religion. Some of them believe that they are true to the real spirit of their religion.
But there is an explanation for that, in general, true Christians are persecuted by true Muslims rather than by true Muslims who are persecuted by true Christians. It is the difference between the sword and the cross.
Christianity and Islam are two intricately woven religions that have some basic framework in common and vary in their beliefs. For example, some of the similarities between them are the angel Gabriel as the deliverer of significant news, monotheism, God as the creator of the world, and the judgment by God after death. The Majority of the differences seem to stem from the role of Jesus as a savior. For instance, Muslims don’t believe that Jesus was anything more than a prophet, and therefore the Trinity cannot exist. There are also differences in similar stories related to each religion, such as that of Abraham and his sacrificial son. Despite these differences and similarities, we should accept that Christianity and Islam are significant players in the world of religion and today’s society.