Central Elements of Islam, Christianity and Judaism

Subject: Religion
Pages: 4
Words: 1647
Reading time:
6 min
Study level: Undergraduate

Introduction

The world’s three main religions; Christianity, Islamic and Judaism, see themselves to possess a common relationship in a number of aspects including the case of Abraham, David, Moses and Jesus (Matlins & Magida 110) all of whom are mentioned the scriptures; however, interestingly, this common connection has not guaranteed the three religions the necessary deserved unity. Many are the elements that the religions share and agree to and also many are the ones they do not share hence the perennial existence of historical disagreements.

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Similarities between the Three Religions

Religious Beliefs

All the three religions believe in the existence of a supernatural being known as God and whom they refer to in different names. The Christians believe that there is one God and who happens to exist in three distinct persons namely; the father, the son and the Holy Spirit; Muslims on their part believe that there is one God known as Allah, the only one and powerful God (Matlins & Magida 114) while Jews to them there is one eternal God known as Yahweh “with whom each person has a personal and direct relationship” (Matlins & Magida 139). Moreover, they also believe that God created everything in the world including humans’ beings (Paden, 1994).

Holy days and prayer to God

The three religions believe in fasting and that it is through fasting that one demonstrates obedience to God. Christians, who follow the example of Jesus, recognize the importance of fasting or self-denial in their lives. Due to various sections in the Christians community, days to fast vary, although Christmas and Easter are universally cerebrated in Christian faiths (Matlins & Magida 302), whereas Jews on the other hand exercise a strict fasting period known as Yom Kippur (Matlins & Magida 140); to Jews, the essence of fasting is to cleanse individual sins. To the Muslims, fasting takes place during the month of Ramadhan, which is the ninth month on the Islamic calendar (Matlins & Magida 114).

Belief in the existence of one holy book

The three religions believe in the existence of one holy book given to humankind by God which contains the laws and teachings that human beings have to follow. The Christians refer to it the bible which was written by those inspired by God; and is the word of God that gives knowledge to people (Paden, 1994). The Muslims holy book is known as the Qur’an which they believe was revealed to their prophet Mohammed. The Qur’an is what God gave to mankind finally as a revelation and secret to life and it forms the basis of teaching in Islam. The Jews on their part have the Torah which to them comprises the God laws to mankind and represents the first five books of the bible (Matlins & Magida 132). Therefore, the holy book to the three religions is the source of their teachings.

God’s prophets and their work

The three religions are in agreement that God had prophets who were instrumental in spreading the message of God to his people (Matlins & Magida 110). Muslims believes that the God’s prophets carried similar message and they were supposed to obey God and His orders; their message was that, God is one and there is no other god a part from Him and Muhammad is His last prophet. To the Christians, they believe in the prophets as the messengers of God on earth whose role was to foretell the God’s intentions and plans for the humankind. Jews, also believe that God had prophets whom He sent to the world; they assert that prophets act as representative of God on earth whereby their role is to spread the message of change in order to match to the requirements of God as explained in their holy book, the Torah.

Ceremonies

All the three religions have common ceremonies that they hold dear to them. Such ceremonies include the birth ceremony, the initiation ceremony, marriage ceremony and funeral ceremonies (Paden, 1994).

Differences in the Three Religions

On the differences on their key elements of belief, the three religions hold some notable disagreements which include the following.

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The origin of their religions

The Christians, believe that Jesus founded their religion before he commissioned his disciples to spread it in the world. Conversely, the Jews believe that their religion was founded when God made a covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and promised the Jews the holy land of Israel (Matlins & Magida 110); the Muslim however, believes that Islam was founded by Muhammad who was given the authority and the knowledge by God.

The religion rituals and ceremonies

The Christians rituals and which they practice include taking of sacraments, holding baptism and also participating in the Holy Communion. The Muslims religious rituals include adherence to the five pillars including Shahadah, Salat, Zakat, Sawm, and Hajj; while the Jews also have different religious rituals which include, the circumcision of new born child males,’ coming of age ceremony’, and the observation of the Sabbath. Although all the religions have almost the same kinds of ceremonies, the conduct of such ceremonies differs. Another notable difference of practice is that while Christians don’t have strict and steadfast rules regarding mode of dressing, Muslim women must cover their hair before entering the mosque and in some cases the mosque has separate areas of prayer for women and men (Matlins & Magida 113); while in Judaism, dressing is determined by modesty and customs (Matlins & Magida 135).

The nature of sin

Christians understanding is that sin is inherited as a result of being ancestors to Adam who sinned against God in the Garden of Eden; but because of the death of Jesus Christ, the sin has been forgiven (Matlins & Magida 298). The Muslims differ on this view claiming that there is nothing like original sin and that humans are born with no sin and it is only through their weakness as people that lead to sin. Judaism totally rejects the idea of there being original sin (Matlins & Magida 139) and hold that sin committed can be forgiven by repenting and praying to God.

Conduct of service

Although all the three religions have one day in a week dedicated to service and worship, the days differ. For instance, most Christians conduct their service on Sunday; Muslims conduct their congregational service on Friday; while the Jews have dedicated their service day (Shabbat) on Saturday. In addition, the places of worship and conduct of service are always different whereby, while Christians conduct their service in the church and there is no separation of men and women during the service, Muslims conduct their service in Mosque and men and women are always separated in form of separate lines during prayers to allow for modesty and concentration (Matlins & Magida 111), and in Judaism, service is conducted in synagogue. In relation to guests, both Christianity and Judaism allow guests to sit anywhere during the service, but in Islam guests non-Muslims must sit separately from Muslims as the two are not supposed to mixing during prayers (Matlins & Magida 112).

Sanctuary and conduct of prayers

Basically, there are differences on how prayers are conducted in the three religions. In Islam, believers are supposed to remove shoes before entering the mosque, the prayers are always conducted while facing Mecca and there are no pews or seats in the mosques, thus members sit on the floor (Matlins & Magida 112). In Judaism, the synagogue has seats where people sit during the service but there is no specific direction that should be faced during prayers although there is a separate, elevated section (pulpit) where the service is led. In Christianity, the church is furnished with pews for people to sit on and apart from some traditional churches where shoes are not permissible, there is no restriction in wearing shoes inside the church and no specific direction to face while conducting prayers.

Leadership

Although the three religions have leaders, their roles, reference and rules guiding them tend to differ. In Islam, all prayers and other services are led by the Imam; in Christianity, a pastor, priest or bishop are recognized leaders who lead prayers and other services; however, the Catholic Church has other high ranking leaders including the pope and cardinals. In Judaism, prayers and service are led by the rabbi (teacher) or cantor.

Jesus Christ and his mission

The Christians belief is that Jesus was born to a Virgin Mary through the Holy Spirit (Matlins & Magida 298) and that Jesus is the second person in the Trinity while His mission is to bring reconciliation between mankind and God and this was achieved when he died and resurrected (Matlins & Magida 340). The Muslims believe that Jesus is the prophet of Allah just as Mohammed was and thus he is not the son of God. The Jews reject Jesus as the son of God; they believe that Jesus does not qualify to call himself a son of God, messiah or a divine person; this is basically because they on recognize the old testament in their teaching.

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Use of books during prayers

Basically, the Muslims do not use any books during prayers as it is believed that every person has memorized the prayers although the fresh people may pray in groups (Matlins & Magida 112). In Judaism, a prayer book called ‘siddur’ and the five fist books of the bible are used during prayers. In Christianity, there are variations depending on the faith, for instance, the Catholic Church uses the breviary, a book containing prayers, psalms and readings.

Conclusion

The presence of different religions in the world has meant that people will continue to hold varying views and beliefs in accordance to their religions orientation and teachings. The important thing is that, Religion has to be the source of unity, harmony and progress but not the instruments to promote divisions among the people.

Works Cited

Matlins, Stuart M. and Magida, Arthur J. How to Be a Perfect Stranger: The Essential Religious Etiquette Handbook. Woodstock: Skylight Paths. 2006.

Paden, William E. Religious Worlds: The Comparative Study of Religion. East Sussex, Beacon Press. 1994.