Comparing and Contrasting Two Specific Characteristics That Are Evident in Christianity and Islam Thesis

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Islam and Christianity Overlap by Similarities

Religion is what prevents complete chaos in the world. Mankind needs the idea of a higher authority who sits in judgment of our moral conscience, or lack thereof. It is what keeps us from having a total disregard for social rules and laws, and prevents us regressing into a permanent contest of survival of the fittest. Without the notion of a higher authority, mankind would quite probably annihilate one another. For the greater part of the population on earth, the higher authority by which we are guided toward a higher level of consciousness and morality is the concept of a monotheistic God. The majority who believe in the monotheistic God is subdivided into three groups, commonly referred to as the religions of the Book; the "book" being the Torah, or Old Testament, which holds the laws and traditions of Judaism; the New Testament, representing the laws and traditions of Christianity; and the Quran, which holds the laws and traditions of Islam.Buy full Download Microsoft Word File paper
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Thesis on Comparing and Contrasting Two Specific Characteristics That Are Evident in Christianity and Islam Assignment

It is the latter two that are more closely related by similarities than as compared with the first. Christianity and Islam have enough similarities as to make Christians first generation Islamists, or Islamists second generation Christians. While the differences are enough to divide us by religious group and Book, this essay is going to focus on two important similarities in the traditions of Islam and Christianity: the central figures in the traditions embodied in Jesus and the Prophet Muhammad. Second, the destiny of mankind or what is known in both Books as the reckoning between God and mankind, when mankind will be judged and dealt with according to their ability to live within the laws of the tradition. For Christians it called heaven, and for Islamists, or Muslims, it is known as akhira, the hereafter. Both of these aspects of each religion are similar in concept, and in the stories that surround the concept. They are intensely interesting, and give rise to wonderment that there is a division between the two religious groups at all. If Christians and Muslims are going to feel related, it is perhaps best described by the similarities that are found in their respective Christ and Prophet, and the notion of the next life or level of existence beyond the human form.

This essay is going to explore the Christian Christ, and the Muslim Prophet Muhammad to understand the models of the respective faiths. This will segue to the second element, and that which Christians and Muslims live their lives for, the hereafter. We will look at the meaning of the men to the respective faiths, and we'll examine the commonalities between the men in philosophy and in their individual life experiences. David Noel Freedman and Michael J. McClymond (2001) write that the three Books of faith cannot be build a unity (viii). We can, however, look at the latter two, Islam and Christianity, and find commonalities that should bind us as spiritual beings.

The Christ and the Prophet Muhammad

Christianity and Islam were driven by two historical figures: Jesus Christ and the Prophet Muhammad. Jesus of Nazareth and Muhammad were born and lived out the drama of their respective lives in the Near East (Freedman and McClymond, 3). This geographical relationship would have meant that both Jesus and Muhammad were familiar with their worlds as men of the Near East environment and legacy. That is, Jesus would have known the Tigris River, and Muhammad the Euphrates, both rivers emanating in Mesopotamia (Freedman and McClymond, 3). Freedman and McClymond say that there is little else about the geographic region that they might have in common, and the authors avoid exploring that link between the two men further. For purposes of this study, however, we know that the focus of life would have been very much on these rivers as source of food and travel. We know that both men would have been familiar with the humble lives of the people who relied upon the rivers to feed their families, and that they would have gained a good knowledge as to what were the mores and beliefs of the people amongst whom they lived. This understanding of the population within their respective communities would have benefited each man in knowing how to appeal their groups or communities.

Another commonality is that we have large amount of sayings by both men; although we do not have their own handwritten accounts of their thoughts or their impressions. We have oral traditions that were handed down and, later, put to a written format. As concerns Jesus, we know very little about the personal life of Jesus, because the Scriptures deal with the mission of Jesus, and not his personal idiosyncrasies, two thousand years later we are still able to focus on the message more so than the man.

There is, however, much more human a person in Muhammad for us to know about. We know that Muhammad was as real as Christ, but because we know more about Muhammad the person, he seems less mythology than does Jesus. Even claims by modern scholars, cited by Freedmond and McClymond, cannot produce enough about the personal life of Jesus for us to gain a sense of him (Freedmond and McClymond, 310). This is perhaps what works for Christians in keeping them focused on the message, instead of the man. In the case of Muhammad, about whom we know much more, there is an Islamic law against creating images of the Prophet, in order that Muslims remain focused on the laws of Islam, the teachings of the Prophet. This, in theory, prevents Muslims from building their passion around the Prophet, and, instead, being passionate about Allah, or God. It could be argued whether or not this has been successful for Muslims, because as we consider Muslim love for their Prophet, it is passionate without reconstructing his image, about which we actually know less about than we know about the image of Jesus.

Moving to the experiences of Jesus and the Prophet Muhammad, we find yet another commonality between the two men. Both ascended to heaven, then returned to earth with messages for their religious communities of the afterlife, or hereafter. The Ascension of Christ is a Christian celebration. It is described in the Gospels, along with the Baptism of Christ, His transfiguration, and the resurrection in the Books of Matthew (4:23? 24; 8:16-17; 14:14, 35-36; 15:30-31; 21:14), Mark (1:32-34, 39; 3:10-12; 6:5, 55-56), Luke (41; 6:18-19; 7:21; 9:11), and John (2:23) (Freedman and McClymond, 401).

Muhammad's ascension to heaven was quite different than that of Jesus, but nonetheless necessary in order for the Prophet to become a religious equal to Christ. As it is described in Islam, Muhammad's ascension was almost an adventure. Nor is Muhammad's experience described as "ascension," but is instead referred to in the very human way:

One night while he was sleeping in the sanctuary in Mecca, he was taken by Gabriel to Jerusalem; there he met Abraham, Moses and Jesus, and led them in prayer, after which he was taken on a visit to heaven. His subsequent description of the layout of Jerusalem was confirmed, presumably from personal experience, by one of his followers. At the same time, the authenticity of his mission continued to be confirmed by a variety of Christians, not least of whom was the ruler of Ethiopia (Cook, Michael, 1996, 16)."

Muhammad is always portrayed as being very human, and that only God, Allah, is capable of miracles and altering the path of existence. It is important that Muhammad meets the figures of the other books, because Muhammad's message to Muslims is that they are chosen by God because those before them whom God favored failed. God's favor has been passed from Christians, to Muslims; at least according to the Muslim tradition.

While Christians saw Jesus as the manifestation of God in Flesh, which was accomplished by creating Himself within the immaculate womb of the Virgin, Mary, as the Christ child, Muslims believe that God did not manifest Himself as the Christ. They believe that Jesus was, like Muhammad, a Prophet of God. If this perception were accurate, or succeeded Christianity as the "new Gospel," then it would completely alter how Christians perceive themselves and their world around them.

So while we have many similarities between the world and experiences of Christ and Muhammad, we find enough differences, significant differences, as Freedman and McClymond said, to prevent there from being established a unity in faith between the two religions.

The Commonalities of the Hereafter or Heaven

Another significant similarity between Christianity and Islam is the concept of a hereafter. That is a heavenly life, for Christians, and, for Muslims, paradise. This is guaranteed to faithful Christians and Muslims. The physicality of heaven, or Paradise, as it is described in the Quran is different than the Christian construct. In Islam, heaven is described this way:

The basic structure of the world is fairly simple, although the scanty Koranic… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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