1) Comparing and contrasting at least two of the religions of Abraham,
discuss the concept and the role of
the Messiah in the religious life.
I. Understanding of God
Before the differences and similarities are explained in God’s role, both of these groups understanding of God must be explained. Muslims and Christians worship the same God (Allah). The basic testimony of Islam is called the ‘shahada’, the first clause of which states that “la ilaha illa Allah” — “There is no god but God.” This is certainly a statement that Christians would affirm. The way Christians and Muslims conceptualize God in their
theologies is actually very different. The emphasis in the Islamic theology of God is summarized by one word: ‘tawhid’, which means “absolute unity.” Muslims insist that there is no distinction within God. God is sublimely one God according to the Qur’an. Islam and Christianity definitely agree that God is totally beyond human comprehension.
Christians believe that God revealed Himself through Christ in order to redeem and save. By revealing Himself, Christians are to led to a fullness of life, freed from the bonds of sin both in this world and in the world to come. According to Islam, on the other hand, revelation is not for the purpose of redemption, but for the sake of “guidance”. In Islam, God’s revelation is meant to provide guidance for living in this world. In Christianity, revelation is mediated. So the here we a contrast in God’s role in human life.
Christians believe that the Bible is the Word of God, but they do not believe that God mechanically transmitted it through certain people as if they were “channelers” of some sort. Christians hold that the Bible was written by human beings under divine inspiration, the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. In Islam, on the other hand, the Qur’an is considered the “unmediated” word of God. In short, Islam stresses very strongly that in receiving his revelation Muhammad was illiterate and hence completely passive. He simply recited what was put into his mouth, without any input of his own. (“Qur’an” means “recitation.”) The Qur’an — which is seen as eternally existing in heaven — simply descended (another name for the Qur’an is ‘at-tanzil’, “that which descended”) and was expressed through Muhammad as a passive instrument of revelation. The whole purpose of revelation is for God, whose thoughts are so far above ours, to mediate his communication to us through human language. God does not think in human language; to say so is to limit his omniscience, which is far beyond the constraints of human language! An appropriate analogy is this that the Qur’an is to the Muslim, ‘Christ himself’ is to the Christian. In short, while both Islam and Christianity affirm that God has spoken and revealed Himself to humankind, still there is one great difference. Where Islam teaches that the Qur’an is God’s Word to humanity, Christianity proclaims that Jesus Himself is God’s Word to humanity. Here we see God’s role or intervention in both Islam and Christianity. God’s role is present and very similar in both but they are found in very different places.
The Qur’an does indeed state that Adam and Eves sinned, but according to Islamic belief, they repented and were fully forgiven so that their sin had no repercussions for the rest of human race. Islam rejects the doctrine of original sin that asserts that all human beings inherited the guilt of the sin of Adam and Eve. This seems unfair to the Muslim. The Muslim ask, “why should we have to accept guilt for someone else’s disobedience?” Christianity is a faith concerned primarily with “orthodoxy,” or “the right belief,” where Islam is a faith concerned primarily with “orthopraxy,” or the right practice. Since sin is not inherited, according to Islam, there is no need or “role” for a savior at all. All that is needed is repentance, which is the role of man.
Obviously, Islam and Christianity have many major differences. However, there are many similarities that cannot be ignored. By preparing this paper, I have come to better understand logically why Islam is different. In a way, this knowledge has allowed me to gain a greater level of respect for religion of Islam. These differences are still foreign to me but for the first time I can understand them logically.