Christianity and Islam  

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"Unlike Samuel Huntington, who sees “the West and Islam as two antithetical civilizations,” and Edward Said, who sees “Orientalism as a false construct erected for ideological reasons by the Western world,” Wallerstein approaches Islam with a different question: “Why is it that the Christian world seems to have singled out the Islamic world as its particular demon, and not merely recently but ever since the emergence of Islam?” He then asks, “Can the West do without a demon?” and answers, “I doubt it at the moment.” Although one needs to historicize the validity and universality of these questions, it is without a doubt that Islam and Christianity have been historically at odds, competing with missionary zeal to spread their own form of universal truth claims."[1], see The Decline of American Power by Immanuel Wallerstein

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

There is a historical and traditional connection between Christianity and Islam. The two faiths share a common origin in the Middle East. Muslims consider Christians as fellow adherents of the sacred Covenant between God and Abraham (and later the Children of Israel) and as the followers of the Messiah. Islam puts heavy emphasis on the special bond between the two religions. For instance, belief in the Injil (the original Gospel of Jesus) is an important part of Islamic theology. The bond extends even further with the Prophet Muhammad instructing Muslims to defend the Christian faith from aggressors in documents such as the Achtiname of Muhammad.

Furthermore, Islam and Christianity share at their core, the twin "golden" commandments of the paramount importance of loving God and loving the neighbor.

Despite the similarities between the two faiths there are some major theological differences. Islam denies that God can be divided into a Holy Trinity. Muslims consider this division of Gods Oneness to be a grave sin (Shirk). Islam also denies that God has a son. Muslims see Jesus as the last prophet sent to the Children of Israel like Elijah, Isaiah, and Jeremiah, to name a few. Islam thus takes the Jewish stance on the issue of the sacredness of Jesus Christ. Unlike Judaism however, Islam fully accepts Jesus Christ as the Messiah.

Overview

Islam shares a number of beliefs with Christianity. They share similar views on judgment, heaven, hell, spirits, angels, and a future resurrection. Jesus is acknowledged and respected by Muslims as a great prophet. However, while Islam relegates Jesus to a lesser status than God — "in the company of those nearest to God" in the Qur'an, mainstream (Trinitarian) Christianity teaches without question that Jesus is God the Son, one of the three Hypostases (common English: persons) of Christianity's Trinity, divinely co-equal with the Father and the Holy Spirit.

The religions both share a belief in the virgin birth of Jesus, his miracles and healings, and that he ascended bodily into heaven. However, Jesus is not accepted as the son by Muslims, who strictly maintain that he was a human being who was loved by God and exalted by God to ranks of the most righteous. They believe in God as a single entity, not as the Trinity accepted by the vast majority of Christians. Neither do Muslims accept Jesus' crucifixion. Since Muslims believe only in the worship of a strictly monotheistic God who never assumed human flesh, they do not accept the use of icons, and see this as shirk (idolatry). Muslim influence played a part in the initiation of iconoclasm and their conquests caused the iconoclasm in the Byzantine Empire. For the same reason, they do not worship or pray to Muhammad, Jesus, or any other prophets; only to God.

Adherents of Islam have historically referred to themselves, Jews, and Christians (among others) as People of the Book since they all base their religion on books that are considered to have a divine origin. Christians however neither recognize the Qur'an as a genuine book of divine revelation, nor agree with its assessment of Jesus as a mere prophet, on par with Muhammad, nor for that matter accept that Muhammad was a genuine prophet.

Muslims, for their part, believe that parts of the Gospels, Torah and Jewish prophetic books have been forgotten, misinterpreted, or distorted by their followers. Based on that perspective, Muslims view the Qur'an as correcting the errors of Christianity. For example, Muslims reject belief in the Trinity, or any other expression of the divinity of Jesus, as incompatible with monotheism.

Not surprisingly, the two faiths have often experienced controversy and conflict (an example being the Crusades). At the same time, much fruitful dialogue has occurred as well. The writings of Catholic theologian Thomas Aquinas frequently cite those of the Jewish philosopher Moses Maimonides, as well as Muslim thinker Averroes ('Ibn-Rushd).

On May 6, 2001 Pope John Paul II, the first pope to pray in a mosque, delivered an address at Umayyad Mosque in Damascus, saying: "It is important that Muslims and Christians continue to explore philosophical and theological questions together, in order to come to a more objective and comprehensive knowledge of each other's religious beliefs. Better mutual understanding will surely lead, at the practical level, to a new way of presenting our two religions not in opposition, as has happened too often in the past, but in partnership for the good of the human family." This Mosque of Damascus is famous for containing the head of John the Baptist.


See also

Islam specific:




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