Comparing and Contrasting Christianity and Islam Essay

Pages: 5 (1692 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 5  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Mythology - Religion

Islam Christianity

The Distinctions Between Common Faiths: Christianity and Islam

World religions such as Christianity and Islam both today and throughout history have been directly linked to one another by similarly inspired scriptures. It is from these scriptures that observers can derive a sense of inspiration and a force of divine authority, with the parables and teachings of the holy doctrines pronouncing the will of God. This is the simple proposition that begins this difficult discussion on the different ways that we may understand, interpret and ultimately deduce truth in the experience of engaging the scriptures.

Especially as we approach the messianic figures at the center of each faith, we come to see a common thread in the major world faiths. Indeed, through these two figures of primacy, the constancy of world religion becomes that much clearer. In many ways, Jesus and Muhammed may be perceived as twin pillars on a single continuum. Indeed, "Muhammed regarded himself as the last prophet of the Judaic-Christian tradition. He adopted aspects of these older religion's theologies while introducing new doctrines." (Katz, 1) Thus, it is not surprising that upon its inception into the world at around 570 CE, the Islamic religion produced a legal code which was monotheistic, centered on the prescription of ethical law and applicable in both the theocratic and civil arenas.

This law would likewise predispose the Muslim people to many rituals which echoed those of the Judeo Christian ethic. Like Jesus Christ before him, Muhammed was fundamentally a reformer of theological law, and thus, the first prophet to a new religious entity. As a result, many of the laws contained in the Shariah are more conservative variations on existent Christian and Jewish law, such as with the practice of worship. One of the most well-recognized feature of the Islamic religion to the outsider is this practice.

Another common thread is the persistence of the creation myth betwixt the two faiths. In western society, the Judeo-Christian anecdote is easily the most well-known. This story is the primary creationist mythology for many monotheistic sects. Herein, God creates the earth in six days, with man arriving on the last. On the seventh day, the omnipotent rests and thus, delivers man the Sabbath.

The traditional structure of the dominant monotheistic faiths incorporates a narrative regarding the creation of earth and man into its formative doctrines. Herein is typically contained an originating explanation for the relationship between god, man, heaven and earth that provides grounding for the entirety of the faith's sacred text. This is a fundamental commonality between the Christian-adopted texts of the Hebrew Bible and the Holy Qur'an, both of which dedicate significant portions of their second chapters to delineating the story of the first man.

It is striking to compare the passages concerning the creation of the first man as they appear in the two texts. Though today Judaism and Islam function almost as antecedents to one another, with their practitioners often viewing their respective texts as placing them into diametric and practical opposition of one another, these passages provide evidence of their common derivation. The creation myths of the two religions suggest that their political, social and cultural differences today may stem from the nuances therein, which had the effect of placing their interests in close confines with one another while arming them with divergent perspectives on how best to achieve said interests.

The details surrounding God's deliverance of Adam to the Garden are essentially the same according to the two texts, but the wording of each calls for closer speculation. In Genesis, the first book of the Hebrew Bible, God follows his work of creating the heaven and the earth by creating man: "Then the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.." (Gen. 2:7) From here is taken a substantial assumption in the Judeo-Christian faith which proceeds from it, that man is created in the image and likeness of God. The breath of God, this passage indicates, circulates in the body of every man, suggesting a responsibility to godliness for all of us.

The Qur'an, in its recognition of the same deliverance to the Garden, paints a different image in acknowledgment of God's endowment of life. In keeping with a prominent thematic impulse of the Qur'an, convicting its readers to note the distinction in fates for believers and nonbelievers, the phrase depicting Adam's creation is posed with a similar connotation: "How do you deny Allah and you were dead and He gave you life? Again He will cause you to die and again bring you to life, then you shall be brought back to Him." (Koran, 2:28) This is a passage which demands not just belief in the creationist role of Allah but also a devotion to eradicating or combating non-belief. More explicitly and ideologically pertinent though, it carries with it a description of the process of reincarnation. Man, in this passage, is described as an entity being fully at the mercy of God within the bonds of the creator-to-created relationship. And where the berth into God's image, held in the Old Testament, ultimately predisposed man to divine immortality, this infinitude is represented differently in Islam. The overtones of reincarnation here suggest that man is not considered to be made in the image of God, nor even an element of the earth as also implied by Genesis 2:7, but is a soul perpetually disposed to take forms according to the will of Allah.

This does not necessarily indicate a fundamental difference in the dispositions of the gods in question, Yahweh and Allah in the bible and Qur'an respectively. In Genesis, there is an articulated statement regarding God's willingness and right, as creator, to snuff out his subject for transgression of his law. At the time, this law was constituted summarily of one directive in which "the LORD God commanded the man, saying: 'Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it; for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.'"(Gen. 2:16-17) These foreboding words are those which assured our mortality on an earth characterized as the forum for exile from the Garden. The air which god breathed into us through Adam's nostrils would, as God promised, be the price paid for partaking of the fruit. This fall from the grace of godly immortality would define the nature of man's life-cycle, and by extension, theoretical concepts such as time and space and spiritual assumptions about death and the afterlife.

God's proposition to Allah as depicted in the Qur'an is not endowed with the same consequence, perhaps a product of the initial divergence between the two texts with regard to the fundamental construct of man in relation to his god: "And We said: O. Adam! Dwell you and your wife in the garden and eat from it a plenteous (food) wherever you wish and do not approach this tree, for then you will be of the unjust." (Koran, 2:35) The fall from grace is described quite differently here, with man incurring no such threat as explicit as a certain death. This is a condition already possessed of man in the passage concerning his formation. It is not a punishment but a state of being given grounded in man's relationship to Allah.

Original sin is still a common element to the doctrines of the two faiths, but its consequences appear as quite different actually. In the Old Testament, the serpent is a creature which plays the role of deceiver and, by metaphorical extension, the antithetical and fundamentally evil counterpart to God's unchanging benevolence. This is contrasted by the Qur'an's direct address of a… [END OF PREVIEW]

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