Christianity and Islam
Christianity and Islam are the two largest religions in the world and share a historical and traditional connection, with some major theological differences. The two faiths share a common place of origin in the Middle East, and consider themselves to be monotheistic.
Christianity is a monotheistic religion which developed out of Second Temple Judaism in the 1st century CE. It is founded on the life, teachings, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and those who follow it are called Christians.
Islam is a monotheistic religion that developed in the 7th century CE. Islam, which literally means “surrender” or “submission”, was founded on the teachings of Muhammad as an expression of surrender to the will of God. Those who follow it are called Muslims.
Muslims have a range of views on Christianity, from viewing Christians to be fellow possessors of monotheistic scriptures to regarding them as heretics. Christian views on Islam are diverse and range from considering Islam a fellow Abrahamic religion worshipping the same God, to believing Islam to be heresy or an unrelated cult.
Islam considers Jesus to be al-Masih, the Arabic term for Messiah, sent to guide the Children of Israel (banī isrā’īl in Arabic) with a new revelation: al-Injīl (Arabic for “the Gospel”). Christianity believes Jesus to be the Messiah of the Hebrew scripture, the Son of God, and God the Son, while Muslims consider the Trinity to be a division of God’s Oneness and a grave sin (shirk). Muslims believe Jesus (Isa) to be a messenger of God, not the son of God.
Christianity and Islam have different scriptures, with Christianity using the Bible and Islam using the Quran, however Muslims believe that the Gospel was also sent by God. Both texts offer an account of the life and works of Jesus. The belief in Jesus is a fundamental part of Islamic theology, and Muslims view the Christian Injeel as altered, while Christians consider the Gospels to be authoritative and the Quran to be a later, fabricated or apocryphal work. Both religions believe in the virgin birth of Jesus through Mary, but the Biblical and Islamic accounts differ.
The Christian Bible is made up of the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Old Testament dates to centuries before the time of Christ. The New Testament dates from the time of Christ, or centuries thereafter. The central books of the Bible for Christians are the Gospels. Christians consider the Quran a non-divine false, later work.
The Quran dates from the early 7th century, or decades thereafter. The Quran assumes familiarity with major narratives recounted in the Jewish and Christian scriptures. It summarizes some, dwells at length on others and differs in others. Muslims believe that Jesus was given the Injil (Greek evangel, or Gospel) from the Abrahamic God and that parts of these teachings were eventually lost or distorted (tahrif) to produce what is now the Hebrew Bible and the Christian New Testament. Muslims believe that the Quran present today is the same (unchanged/unedited) as the one just at the time of death of their prophet.
Christianity and Islam differ in their fundamental views in regard to the God they worship, the nature of their religion, their beliefs about the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. Christians believe that Jesus is the Son of God. Most Christians are Trinitarian, and believe that Jesus is divine and the only flesh embodiment of the being of the One True God. Christianity teaches that Jesus was condemned to death by the Sanhedrin and the Roman prefect Pontius Pilate, crucified and resurrected, as per the Gospel narratives. Christians believe Jesus was divine and sinless.
Muslims and Christians both believe that Jesus was born to Maryām/Mary, a virgin. Islam teaches that Jesus was one of the most important prophets of Allah. Muslims do not believe that he was the Son of God, nor that he is divine or part of a triune God. In Islam, Jesus was a human prophet who, like all the other prophets, tried to bring the children of Israel to the worship of One God. Muslims believe the creation of Jesus was similar to the creation of Adam (Adem). Muslims believe that Jesus was condemned to crucifixion and then miraculously saved from execution.
Muslims contend that Jesus argued against the division of God’s oneness. Christians do not see the Trinity as implying any division and that Christianity follows God’s command to have no other gods from the Old Testament. Christians argue that the New Testament, particularly the Gospel of John, contains or is centered on the Trinity and that Jesus made several implicit and explicit claims to be the Son of God, and divine in nature. John 10:22-42.
Muslims believe that the Quran was verbally revealed by God to Muhammad through the angel Gabriel (Jibril), gradually over a period of approximately 23 years, beginning on 22 December 609, when Muhammad was 40, and concluding in 632, the year of his death. Muslims regard the Quran as the most important miracle of Muhammad, a proof of his prophethood, and the culmination of a series of divine messages that started with the messages revealed to Adam and ended with Muhammad. They consider the Quran to be the only revealed book that has been protected by God from distortion or corruption.
Muslims revere Muhammad as the embodiment of the perfect believer and take his actions and sayings as a model of ideal conduct. Unlike Jesus, who Christians believe was God’s son, Muhammad was a mortal, albeit with extraordinary qualities. Today many Muslims believe that it is wrong to represent Muhammad, but this was not always the case. At various times and places pious Muslims represented Muhammad although they never worshiped these images.
The first recorded comment of a Christian reaction to Muhammad can be dated to only a few years after Muhammad’s death. As stories of the Arab prophet spread to Christian Syria, an old man who was asked about the “prophet who has appeared with the Saracens” responded: “He is false, for the prophets do not come armed with a sword.”
The doctrine of the Trinity states that God is a single being who exists, simultaneously and eternally, as a communion of three distinct persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. In Islam such plurality in God is a denial of monotheism, and thus a sin of shirk, which is considered to be a major ‘al-Kaba’ir’ sin.
The Holy Spirit
Christians and Muslims have differing views on the Holy Spirit. Christians believe that the Holy Spirit is God, and the Paraclete referred to in the Gospel of John, who was manifested on the day of Pentecost. In Islam the Holy Spirit is generally believed to be the angel Gabriel, and the reference to the Paraclete is a prophecy of the coming of Muhammad.
“Nevertheless I tell you the truth: It is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I go, I will send him unto you.”— John 16:7
Main article: Salvation in Christianity
The Catechism of the Catholic Church, the official doctrine document released by the Roman Catholic Church, has this to say regarding Muslims:
The Church’s relationship with the Muslims. “The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind’s judge on the last day.”— Catechism of the Catholic Church
Protestant theology mostly emphasizes the necessity of faith in Jesus as a saviour in order for salvation. Muslims may receive salvation in theologies relating to Universal reconciliation, but will not according to most Protestant theologies based on justification through faith:
“The first and chief article is this: Jesus Christ, our God and Lord, died for our sins and was raised again for our justification (Romans 3:24-25). He alone is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29), and God has laid on Him the iniquity of us all (Isaiah 53:6). All have sinned and are justified freely, without their own works and merits, by His grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, in His blood (Romans 3:23-25). This is necessary to believe. This cannot be otherwise acquired or grasped by any work, law or merit. Therefore, it is clear and certain that this faith alone justifies us … Nothing of this article can be yielded or surrendered, even though heaven and earth and everything else falls (Mark 13:31).”— Martin Luther.
The Quran explicitly promises salvation for all those righteous Christians who were there before the arrival of Muhammad:
Lo! Those who believe (in that which is revealed unto thee, Muhammad), and those who are Jews, and Christians, and Sabaeans – whoever believeth in Allah and the Last Day and doeth right – surely their reward is with their Lord, and there shall no fear come upon them neither shall they grieve.— Quran, Sura 2 (Al-Baqara), ayat 62
The Quran also makes it clear that the Christians will be nearest in love to those who follow the Quran and praises Christians for being humble and wise:
“And thou wilt find the nearest of them in affection to those who believe (to be) those who say: Lo! We are Christians. That is because there are among them priests and monks, and because they are not proud. When they listen to that which hath been revealed unto the messengers, thou seest their eyes overflow with tears because of their recognition of the Truth. They say: Our Lord, we believe. Inscribe us as among the witnesses.
How should we not believe in Allah and that which hath come unto us of the Truth. And (how should we not) hope that our Lord will bring us in along with righteous folk?
Allah hath rewarded them for that their saying – Gardens underneath which rivers flow, wherein they will abide for ever. That is the reward of the good.”— Quran, Sura 5 (Al-Ma’ida), ayat 82–85
Early Christian writers on Islam and Muhammad
See also: Medieval Christian views on Muhammad
John of Damascus
In 746 John of Damascus (sometimes St. John of Damascus) wrote the Fount of Knowledge part two of which is entitled Heresies in Epitome: How They Began and Whence They Drew Their Origin. In this work St. John makes extensive reference to the Quran and, in St. Johns’s opinion, its failure to live up to even the most basic scrutiny. The work is not exclusively concerned with the Ismaelites (a name for the Muslims as they claimed to have descended from Ismael) but all heresy. The Fount of Knowledge references several suras directly often with apparent incredulity.
From that time to the present a false prophet named Mohammed has appeared in their midst. This man, after having chanced upon the Old and New Testaments and likewise, it seems, having conversed with an Arian monk, devised his own heresy. Then, having insinuated himself into the good graces of the people by a show of seeming piety, he gave out that a certain book had been sent down to him from heaven. He had set down some ridiculous compositions in this book of his and he gave it to them as an object of veneration. … There are many other extraordinary and quite ridiculous things in this book which he boasts was sent down to him from God. But when we ask: ‘And who is there to testify that God gave him the book? And which of the prophets foretold that such a prophet would rise up?’ – they are at a loss. And we remark that Moses received the Law on Mount Sinai, with God appearing in the sight of all the people in cloud, and fire, and darkness, and storm. And we say that all the Prophets from Moses on down foretold the coming of Christ and how Christ God (and incarnate Son of God) was to come and to be crucified and die and rise again, and how He was to be the judge of the living and dead. Then, when we say: ‘How is it that this prophet of yours did not come in the same way, with others bearing witness to him? And how is it that God did not in your presence present this man with the book to which you refer, even as He gave the Law to Moses, with the people looking on and the mountain smoking, so that you, too, might have certainty?’ – they answer that God does as He pleases. ‘This,’ we say, ‘We know, but we are asking how the book came down to your prophet.’ Then they reply that the book came down to him while he was asleep.
Theophanes the Confessor
Theophanes the Confessor (died c.822) wrote a series of chronicles (284 onwards and 602-813 AD) based initially on those of the better known George Syncellus. Theophanes reports about Muhammad thus:
At the beginning of his advent the misguided Jews thought he was the Messiah. … But when they saw him eating camel meat, they realized that he was not the one they thought him to be, … those wretched men taught him illicit things directed against us, Christians, and remained with him.
Whenever he came to Palestine he consorted with Jews and Christians and sought from them certain scriptural matters. He was also afflicted with epilepsy. When his wife became aware of this, she was greatly distressed, inasmuch as she, a noblewoman, had married a man such as he, who was not only poor, but also an epileptic. He tried deceitfully to placate her by saying, ‘I keep seeing a vision of a certain angel called Gabriel, and being unable to bear his sight, I faint and fall down.’
In the work A History of Christian-Muslim Relations Hugh Goddard mentions both John of Damascus and Theophanes and goes on to consider the relevance of Nicetas of Byzantium who formulated replies to letters on behalf of Emperor Michael III(842-867). Goddard sums up Nicetas’ view:
In short, Muhammad was an ignorant charlatan who succeeded by imposture in seducing the ignorant barbarian Arabs into accepting a gross, blaspheming, idolatrous, demoniac religion, which is full of futile errors, intellectual enormities, doctrinal errors and moral aberrations.
Goddard further notes that in Nicetas we can see in his work a knowledge of the whole Koran including an extensive knowledge of suras 2-18. Nicetas account from behind the Byzantine frontier apparently set a strong precedent for later writing both in tone and points of argument.
Catholic Church and Islam
Second Vatican Council and Nostra aetate
The question of Islam was not on the agenda when Nostra aetate was first drafted, or even at the opening of the Second Vatican Council. However, as in the case of the question of Judaism, several events came together again to prompt a consideration of Islam. By the time of the Second Session of the Council in 1963 reservations began to be raised by bishops of the Middle East about the inclusion of this question. The position was taken that either the question will not be raised at all, or if it were raised, some mention of the Muslims should be made. Melkite patriarch Maximos IV was among those pushing for this latter position.
Early in 1964 Cardinal Bea notified Cardinal Cicognani, President of the Council’s Coordinating Commission, that the Council fathers wanted the Council to say something about the great monotheistic religions, and in particular about Islam. The subject, however, was deemed to be outside the competence of Bea’s Secretariat for the Promotion of Christian Unity. Bea expressed willingness to “select some competent people and with them to draw up a draft” to be presented to the Coordinating Commission. At a meeting of the Coordinating Commission on 16–17 April Cicognani acknowledged that it would be necessary to speak of the Muslims.
The period between the first and second sessions saw the change of pontiff from Pope John XXIII to Pope Paul VI, who had been a member of the circle (the Badaliya) of the Islamologist Louis Massignon. Pope Paul VI chose to follow the path recommended by Maximos IV and he therefore established commissions to introduce what would become paragraphs on the Muslims in two different documents, one of them being Nostra aetate, paragraph three, the other being Lumen gentium, paragraph 16.
The text of the final draft bore traces of Massignon’s influence. The reference to Mary, for example, resulted from the intervention of Monsignor Descuffi, the Latin archbishop of Smyrna with whom Massignon collaborated in reviving the cult of Mary at Smyrna. The commendation of Muslim prayer may reflect the influence of the Badaliya.
In Lumen gentium, the Second Vatican Council declares that the plan of salvation also includes Muslims, due to their professed monotheism.
Protestantism and Islam
Main article: Protestantism and Islam
Mormonism and Islam
Mormonism and Islam have been compared to one another ever since the earliest origins of the former in the nineteenth century, often by detractors of one religion or the other—or both. For instance, Joseph Smith, the founding prophet of Mormonism, was referred to as “the modern Mahomet” by the New York Herald, shortly after his murder in June 1844. This epithet repeated a comparison that had been made from Smith’s earliest career, one that was not intended at the time to be complimentary. Comparison of the Mormon and Muslim prophets still occurs today, sometimes for derogatory or polemical reasons but also for more scholarly and neutral purposes. While Mormonism and Islam certainly have many similarities, there are also significant, fundamental differences between the two religions. Mormon–Muslim relations have historically been cordial; recent years have seen increasing dialogue between adherents of the two faiths, and cooperation in charitable endeavors, especially in the Middle and Far East.
Islamic art and culture have both influenced and been influenced by Christian art and culture. Some arts have received such influence strongly, particularly religious architecture in the Byzantine and medieval eras
Adapted from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia