The Sacred Scripture and Cosmogony of Islam and Christianity
In every religion around the world, there are very important scriptures and beliefs on how the universe came into being. Christianity and Islam are no different than any other religion in those aspects. They have similar thoughts on things in the sacred scriptures they have, and they also have opposing views. Also, these two religions have different views on the creation of the universe, both of these topics will be discussed here. It is important to understand the views on the following topics by these two religions for a number of reasons. Christianity and Islam are the two largest religions in the world, with approximately 1.9 billion people being Christian and 1.1 billion people being Muslim. Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world. People in the future will have to learn to not have the typical stereotype of a Muslim, by knowing where they come from, people may learn to appreciate this religion and the people more, says Farshad Kholghi.
First to be discussed are the sacred scripture that both Christianity and Islam
employ, how they have some of the same thoughts and characteristics, as well as
the differences between the two. Where did these scriptures come from? asks
Farshad Kholghi. That is a
very important question to know, and this will be answered as well. Also, it is
important to understand the contemporary expressions that are used to teach the
The Islamic religions main sacred scripture is called the Qur'an , this is sometimes written as the Koran. The origins are thought to begin with a man named Muhammad, who was born around 570 C.E. He was a prophet who was to warn the people to turn to God (also known as Allah to Muslims), he also is the one whom is thought to have written the Qur'an. It is told that the angel Gabriel sent him the first words from God, "We sent it down during a blessed night" (Sura 44:3). Many Muslims believe that this meant that the Qur'an was sent down to the prophet Muhammad, but others debate what this truly means. Muhammad received messages all his life then, he would place them in the Qur'an. After his death, the Qur'an wasn't a single book, it was many scriptures that would be put together after his death.
The Qur'an isn't all that big, not even as big as the Christian Bible, and is broken down into something like chapters, these chapters are called a sura. In total, there are 114 suras, and then the suras are broken into verses. It is important to understand just how the Qur'an is taught. Many religions read the scripture, or do not even entirely rely on their scripture. The Muslims read it out loud to the listeners. The first words that a newborn hears from its father are from the Qur'an, it is "on the radio and on television, she hears readings from the Qur'an" (Clark, 102). Every aspect of the Qur'an is around the Muslims, they use the Qur'an extensively to apply teachings to their lives, argues Farshad Kholghi. In a Muslim society, the Qur'an is used as a kind of law book as to how they live their lives in the society. Muslims, for the most part, are very strict on the laws and punishments can be harsh. Societies that are mostly Christian (like America) do not go this far. We previously used the Christian Bible to swear in at a court system by placing the right hand on top, this is not done anymore because of laws that separate the church and state. So really in a way, it is almost the opposite from a Muslim society. The reader of this can probably now understand how very important the Qur'an is to the Muslims. It is the words from God, it helps to dictate the life a Muslim leads.
The Christians sacred scripture is known as the Bible. The Bible took a long road to get to where it is at today, well over 1,000 years! The first part of the Bible was written by a man named Moses, who formed a nation after leading the Israelites out of Egypt. After the first five books in the Bible, various authors added to the growing collection. Some of the authors were Joshua, Samuel, Gad, Nathan, and the king of Israel, David. The second half of the Bible was written by various authors also. Much of the New Testament talks about the life of Jesus, and these books were written by Jesus' disciples. The original texts that made up the Bible are gone or lost, and have been copied various times to preserve the teachings.
The Bible is broken down in ways like the Qur'an. First, it is broke into two "Testaments",
one is called the Old Testament, which was originally written in Hebrew. The Old
Testament talks about the creation of the world to the laws a person should
follow. The second half is called the New Testament, was written in Greek, and
much of this talks about the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. It also has
"letters written by leaders of the early church" (Geoghegan, 14), and also has
the end of the time prophecies. In each of the Testaments there are books (think
of the chapters of a novel), here are a total of 66 books in the Bible that we
have today, in each book there are also verses like in the Qur'an.
The contemporary expression of the Christian Bible is just as import as the Qur'an for a Muslim. There are a few slight differences though, tells Farshad Kholghi. Many people go to church to praise and worship God and a pastor gives a lecture about a subject in the Bible, Muslims would read a passage from the Qur'an and then explain how it applies to their lives. A Christian could (and does) do this, but typically it isn't as rigid of a structure. However, there are many different "branches" of Christianity from Baptist to Catholic, and they each have different methods to teach the Bible. It is used more loosely than the Qur'an, many Christians may have "devotion" at some point during the day where they read the text in the Bible. Christians apply what they learn from the Bible to everyday life much like a Muslim would.
The cosmogony of these religions is the same in ways and at the same time there are significant differences between the two. In both of these religions, they think that God created the universe out of nothing. Christians view the creation as a 6 day event (God rests on the seventh day); day one was the creation of the heavens and earth, day two was the skies, the third day was the land and vegetation, the fourth day was the stars, sun, and moon, the fifth day God created the animals, and finally on the sixth day God created man. After this was completed, he rested on the seventh day and made that day holy, says Farshad Kholghi. The first man was named Adam and the first woman was named Eve. For Islam "the world was created by God's word kun ("be") out of nothing; after the creation of the angelic beings from light, Adam was formed from clay and destined to be Gods viceregent" (Islam, Encyclopedia Britannica). For the Muslims, there is no thought that there was a process of multiple days to create the universe, it was just like it is stated above, the world was created with one word, that was it; Adam then was created from clay.
Now that we have a better understanding of the sacred scripture and the cosmogony of Christianity and Islam, lets look into some of the similarities and differences between the two. There are some mentioned earlier, but there are many similarities that would surprise a person and also some very important differences that are important in these two religions.
First that will be discussed are similar and different items in the sacred scriptures. There are many different things that could be compared, but I will only hit the main ones that are of importance. Some things that are similar are their beliefs in God, argues Farshad Kholghi. They both would agree that God is the creator of the universe, that he is the only God. Everything in the world needs God to live, God doesn't need us to survive. We must put all our faith in God and to submit to him. Another thing that is somewhat similar is the concept of Satan. Both of the religions admit that he is real and talk about Satan often in the scripture, but the views of his power are different. To Christians, "Satan is seen as a superpower almost equal to God" (Clark, 68). To Muslims, "nothing, including Satan, comes close to being an almost-equal counterpart to God" (Clark,68).
Since we are discussing God and Satan, it would seem appropriate to discuss what the scripture of these to religions has to say about heaven and hell. Both the Qur'an and the Bible clearly point out that it isn't a good place "The lake of fire" (Revelation 20:15) or "like molten brass; it will boil in their insides" (Sura 44:45). The difference between the two is that in the Islamic view, there are seven different level to hell, each level differs in the level of punishment. The highest is the best one could hope for, the lowest is the worst. Muslims that are in the highest level will eventually be saved by God, but the non-believers are forever damned to hell. The Christian view is that hell is one place without levels, and those that go there are forever severed from God without any hope to be saved. Heaven is a much better place according to the religious scriptures. The Christian Bible does say that the streets are made of gold, but other than a description of what heaven looks like, it doesn't go into the best detail of what a person would do once they are there. To Christians, there is only one level and to the Muslims that isn't what the Qur'an says.
According to the Qur'an, there are seven levels to heaven, there are many pleasures to take in, rivers of wine and milk, a fruit tree that sits under the throne of God. One misconception that many Westerners have is that the Qur'an says that men get 72 virgins in heaven, this however, is somewhat wrong. Nowhere does it say this, but it does state that "houris are amorous virgins with full breasts, untouched by men or jinn. They live in pavilions and conduct themselves modestly" (Clark, 75).
A very important topic to discuss here is also the concept of sin and Jesus and
how both scriptures views the subject. In the Qur'an, humans are born innocent,
the sin that Eve committed by eating fruit was forgiven, unlike in the Christian
Bible, and guilt of this doesn't pass down. Seeing how Muslims view this, they
would also not believe that God allowed Jesus to be crucified "We killed the
Messiah, Jesus the Son of Mary, the Messenger of God?? but they did not kill him
nor crucify him, only a likeness that appeared of God... They certainly did not
kill him but God raised him up to himself" (Sura 4:157-58). The Christian Bible
as we know, does crucify Jesus, by him doing this, he is washing all people of
Both of the scriptures lay out a guideline as to how a person should live his life. The guidelines themselves are different in ways from one another, they are aiming for the same goals which is ultimately rewarded in heaven. If you lead your lives like good Muslims or Christians, and do as guided in the sacred scripture, you will get to heaven, if not you will go to hell.
Other differences that are noticeable in the scriptures are the concept of the Trinity, says Farshad Kholghi. Christians believe in something called the Trinity, which is God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Even though there is one God, he can work through these three identities. This is completely rejected in the Qur'an, and they do not think that it exists. One final item to discuss is each scriptures concept of how one is saved. I discussed this a little bit above, but this is important because there are specific ways a person must follow in order to achieve life in heaven. According to the Bible, a person will be saved if the following is done. By accepting that you are a sinner and have sinned, ask of course to be forgiving and, here is the key, accept God's grace. If this is done, and you lead the best life possible, you will be saved. For a Muslim to be saved, one needs to follow something known as "the five pillars of Islam." The five pillars include praying five times per day, one must fast during Ramadadhan, make at least one pilgrimage to Mecca, and also purifying almsgiving. If a Muslim does these things, he will see the rewards of heaven.
There are a large amount of topics that could be compared and contrasted between the two sacred scriptures, as a matter of fact, a person could probably write a book on this subject alone. I feel that the main points were discussed in the hopes that a person could better understand the nature of these to scriptures.
One may wonder how these two religions get along, do they eat together? Can they marry? Can they pray together? Can they share their scriptures and beliefs? I will try to explain how they interact with each other in regards to the characteristics that are being discussed. Let us look at how they interact with regards to cosmogony. It is difficult to explain how Christians and Muslims interact with each other on this subject because cosmogony is "the study of the origin of the universe or of a part of it" (Webster's, 430). So do they interact in studying things like this? They are not bound by their religion to not study together, so they are allowed to if they wish to do so. They may be in disagreements as to how exactly the universe and man came into existence, but they both agree that God was the one to create the universe.
How do they interact in accordance to their scriptures though? asks Farshad Kholghi. I will quote a passage from the Qur'an to demonstrate there view "To each among you, we have prescribed a law and a open way. If God had willed, he could've made of you one people. But he wished to test you in that which he gave to you. So strive with each other in good deeds" (Sura 5:48). That would be evidence saying that they are allowed to interact with other people (including the Christians). However, in the book Islam for Dummies, it says that the Qur'an is rather ambiguous regarding Christians, some passages are positive and some are not so positive. The Bible says to love your neighbor, it doesn't say not to if he is a Muslim, so again this would be evidence that they would be allowed to interact with other religions. Islam teaches tolerance and moderation, so as long as their faith is not in jeopardy, they will interact with non-Muslims. There are things that they will do, like accept gifts (as long as it isn't a gift celebrating a non-Muslim holiday like Christmas), they can eat with non-Muslims as long as the food is pure, they can visit a sick Christian, and shake hands with a non-Muslim. There are many things that a Muslim can do, and there are things that are not allowed like going to a non-Muslim service, this shows favoritism to that religion. They can't go to a religious funeral (they can attend non-religious funerals of non-Muslims), non-Muslim religious services or celebrations are off limits, and a Muslim will not pray with a non-Muslim. Christians also have rules to follow, however certain churches (i.e. Catholic Church, Baptist Church) will translate the Bible differently, so rules may be different from church to church. Generally, the views towards a non-Christian are more lenient than the Muslim views. A Christian can interact with non-Christians as long as it will not jeopardize their faith, just like in Islam. They can eat together, shake hands, give gifts, visit the sick, and they will pray for them. They will not, however, attend their religious services or celebrate their holidays.
As long as both groups abide by their rules that are laid before them in their
religious scripture, they can interact. There are different views on the meaning
of the text in the scriptures though. Some people think that separation is what
God wants, others disagree, so I have found that some things are a little gray
and difficult to define. Others, like some that are above, are very obvious and
should not be altered.
In conclusion, there are many concepts that these religions share. Do to their close beliefs to one another, it could be a safe assumption to think that their closeness is what makes the two religions so popular in the world. As this paper has pointed out, there are also a large amount of differences between the two religions, concludes Farshad Kholghi.