I thought it might be useful for residents who are not Muslims had a summary a summary of key aspects of the similarities and differences between Islam and Christianity from a non-Muslim perspective, and some extracts from my talk last year on the faiths of First World War soldiers for the Faiths Together in Croydon event organised by Norbury resident Astaq Arain of the Muslim Association of Croydon.
Shared belief in One God and the Bible
Both Christians and Muslims believe in there being one God. In the Old Testament of the Bible it is the Jewish Jehovah. In the Qur’an it is Allah.
Christianity grew out of Judaism in Palestine about 30 years after the birth of Jesus with the New Testament added to the Bible by the first disciples.
Islam as set down as the word of Allah in the Qur’an by the Prophet grew out of religious beliefs in the Arabian Peninsula in the 7thC after the birth of Christ linked to some of the ideas in Judaism and Christianity.
Christians and Muslims believe the Bible to be holy scripture.
Muslims add as long as it does not contradict the Quran
There is a shared belief in the existence of the same people including: Adam as the first man, Noah with his Ark, Abraham or in Islam Ibrahim as the first Muslim, Moses or Musa, Joshua or Yusha, David or Dawud, John the Baptist or Yahya, Mary, the mother of Jesus, and Jesus as the Son of God in Christianity and as a prophet in Islam
Rules of Behaviour
Christianity: Bible Ten Commands, Sermon on the Mount
Islam: Qur’an, Hadith
There is debate about what is meant
In Islam there is a principle that where there are differences of opinion there should be dialogue to reach consensus and an application of reason.
Sharia law (path to water – to the good life)
Concept of sin
Christianity has a belief that humans are born into sin. Mankind is inherently evil and is in need of forgiveness of sin. By knowing right and wrong Christians choose their actions. Humans are a fallen, broken race in need of salvation and repair by God, and that Jesus died to redeem them.
Islam has no concept of original sin, nor atonement. All Humans are born sinless, but human weakness leads to sin. Humans are born pure and innocent. Upon reaching adolescence, you are responsible for what you do, and must choose right from wrong. Islam also teaches that faith and action go hand-in-hand.
Christianity and Islam: murder, theft, adultery
Islam: money lending, cowardice, slander (inc. gossip and bad language), use of drugs
Christianity: A place of everlasting punishment for the unrighteous
Islam: A place of torment and fire. Hell is known as Jahannam. Jahannam has several levels and a person may not necessarily spend eternity there.
Christians believe in prayer but there are no set times a day.
Muslims should pray 5 times a day, and are required to go to a mosque on Fridays
Christianity: The Sacraments, including Baptism and Holy Communion (Eucharist). In Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism, five more are added, viz: Confirmation (Chrismation), Marriage, Penance, Holy Orders and Annointing of the sick.
Islam: Five important rituals (known as the pillars of Islam):
1. Shahadah – A profession of faith.
2. Salat – Prayer five times daily.
3. Zakat – alms giving.
4. Sawm – Fasting during the Holy month of Ramadan.
5. Hajj – Pilgrimage to the Holy city of Mecca.
Pilgrimage: Canterbury, Lourdes, The Hajj to Mecca
Christianity: it is good to help the poor and to give to charity. Some of the newer independent churches tithe a percentage of their members’ income for their activities e.g. helping the poor.
Islam: 2.5% of wealth paid as a tax – zakat: property and essential goods excluded; plus additional fundraising
Differences or Misunderstandings
Rivalry and hostility between both religions
Rivalry and hostility between the different groups within each religion
Personal obligation: Muslims are to strive to think for themselves and take responsibility for their own actions
Catholics can confess and receive forgiveness for errors, bad behaviour and sin
Attitude to eating animals
For Muslims the pig is unclean. Killing an animal must be by a correct method – halal. Halal means ‘what is permitted’ What is not permitted like pig meat is haram
Attitude to alcohol
Many Christians drink wine which has been blessed by the priest as a symbol of the blood of Christ
Some Christians e.g. Methodists prohibit drinking alcohol
In Islam alcohol is haram
Use of images
Islam: not allowed. Art takes the form of calligraphy, architecture etc.
Christianity – Holy Sacrament. Catholics believe that priests and nuns should be celibate. Monks and nuns can leave society by going into monasteries.
Islam is opposed to monasticism and celibacy. Marriage is strongly recommended. Men can only marry the “people of the book” i.e., Abrahamic religions. Women can only marry a Muslim man.
Protestants confess straight to God, Catholics confess mortal sins to a Priest, and venal sins straight to God (Orthodox have similar practice).
Anglicans can confess to their priests but this is considered optional.
Islam: Forgiveness must be sought from God, there is no intermediary with him. If any wrong is done against another person or thing, forgiveness must first be sought from them, then from God, as all of God’s creation have rights that must not be infringed
Islam: You are judged according to your efforts to do good and to avoid sinful behaviours, oppression, etc.
God will judge your deeds and intentions. A person must believe in God and follow His commandments.
Christianity: To love God and obey his commandments while creating a relationship with Jesus Christ and spreading the Gospel so that others may also be saved.
Islam: Fulfil gift and responsibility of this life through following the guidance of Holy Quran and Hadith, striving to serve mankind through compassion, justice, trustworthiness, and love for all of God’s creation
On Other Religions
Many Christians believe all other religions are false. Moderates may or may not believe this. Most Muslims believe all other religions are false. ”
Music is an important part of Christian practice. There are disagreements about its role in Islam, with some saying it is allowed and others saying it is not.
Sufis: Ta’zieh is a passion play, part musical drama, part religious drama, rarely performed outside Iran.
Shia: Ashurah music is performed during the Muharam mourning period, commemorating the deaths of Imam Hussein and his followers.
Thikiri (from the Arabic word “Dhikr” which means remembrance of God— (East and Southern Africa (Tanzania, Mozambique, Malawi, Zimbabwe, and South Africa).
Manzuma – moral songs performed in Ethiopia.
Mad’h nabawi – Arabic hymns praising the Prophet.
Key Shared views – promises
not to consider any other creature above the Creator.
not to idolize or bow to anything – in whatever form – in this universe, apart from your Maker.
not to misuse the name of your Creator by insult, or belittle faith in the Divine.
to stop work and peacefully join together at least once every week for Prayer.
to be good to your mother and father.
never to murder any inviolable soul.
not to commit adultery beyond of the sacred bond of Marriage.
never to steal.
not to lie or accuse your neighbour or anyone else falsely.
never to reach or invade your neighbour’s house; or wife, or anything that belongs to your neighbour.
Muslims on the Western Front in the First World War
By 1919 India had sent 1,096,013 men overseas in the Indian Army to fight for Britain in the First World War. They comprised which comprised 400,000 Muslims, 100,000 Sikhs and up to 800,000 Hindu soldiers. The first Indians were sent to the Western Front as quickly as possible arriving in France from mid-October for a year. They comprised infantry, cavalry, pioneers and sappers and miners. They fought in the trenches. Their different religious beliefs and dietary needs were catered for, including the supply of live sheep and goats for meals killed in the prescribed manner. The Indian Soldiers’ Comfort Fund was set up on 1 October and raised £1m from the British public and businesses. The Indian Army then fought in other theatres of war, especially the Middle East.
Duse Mohammed Ali
From January 1917, the Eygptian-Sudanese Muslim Duse Mohammed Ali, restarted The African Times and Orient Review. Ali’s activities had included the promotion of improved understanding about Islam in Britain. Its penultimate issue just as the War started included details of the Anglo-Ottoman event raising money for the Red Crescent Fund for Britain War Relief. Having been a leading member of the London Islamic Society, in 1915 he founded the Indian Soldier’ Widows and Orphans War Fund, which was linked with the All-India Muslim League.
The gratitude towards the contribution of colonial troops and merchant seamen to the war effort was soon forgotten in the land that was meant to be made ‘fit for heroes’. Riots broke out against them in port cities in 1919, including against the Yemeni Muslim community in South Shields.
Noor-un-Nisa (Nora) Inayat Khan
She was a Muslim who became the first British Special Operations Executive radio operator agent in the French Resistance, code named ‘Madeline’, and awarded the George Cross posthumously. In November 1940 she had joined the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force, and then transferred to the SOE. She was night dropped into France in June 1943, and was betrayed and arrested in October. On November she escaped but was recaptured and sent to Germany. She did not break under interrogation. She was sent to Dachu concentration camp, where she was executed in September 1944.