Table of Contents
Islam is an Arabic term, which literally means submission. Therefore, followers of Islam believe that man is supposed to subject to the will of God, which is disclosed to people by his messenger, Prophet Muhammad. It is worth noting that both Christian and Islam traditions share a lot in common. This is because they have quite a number of similarities in the Old and the New Testaments (Tingle 1985, p 89). Both religions are so much grounded in Abraham and other major patriarchs. Both religions believe in the presence of only one God who they refer by different names such as Allah, Jehovah and so on (Renard 2011, p 67). Islam religion has a fundamental principle of monotheism, a belief that Christians will also attest to. In addition, these two religions originated from the Middle East. This article focuses on the relationships between Islam and Christian religions and how both religions have been influenced by the old and new testaments.
Focus is also made on the manner in which they worshipped their God. As a matter of fact, the first five books in the Old Testament are known as Pentateuch to imply that they are books of law. Although every book in the Pentateuch is independent, all of them form one collection which gives a detailed theological progression (Penner and Johnson 1999, p 56). On the other hand, Islam religion is based on five pillars, which form their basic beliefs. They believe in ministration of angels, as it used to happen in the Old Testament. They also have a number of prophets and believe there will be final judgement on the last day. Faithful in Islam have to make five daily prayers, give welfare tax, and engage in a one month fasting as well as a journey to Mecca.
Christian tradition is based on one true God who is the creator of the universe. However, Christians believe in Trinity where God is displayed in three persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Jan Pelikan 1980, p 88). They believe that God has a son called Jesus through whom the whole world received salvation. They believe that at one time, Jesus lived on the earth and was killed through crucifixion, but he resurrected and ascended to heaven. According to the Christians, every person who believes in Jesus is able to have a good relationship with God. They also believe in forgiveness of sins and spiritual rebirth through Baptism (Jan Pelikan 1980, p 88). Christians usually take part in the Lord Supper, which is also known as the Holy Communion. It is a practice that repeats what was done by Jesus when he was with his disciples just before his crucifixion.
The Old Testament is a collection of various writings that are developed and edited by people in the Hebrew society before the Christian era started. Some of these collections are prophetic poetic writings from wise men as well as early records of the royal families. It is also a description that mirrors the belief that the early Christian church was established on what one of the Major Prophets known as Jeremiah said would happen concerning another new covenant that God would make with his people. This was fulfilled through the death of Jesus who initiated people into the new covenant. The earliest records in the Old Testament concentrate on the origin of the earth and the nation of Israel. Genesis is the first book of the Old Testament which talks about the creation of the universe and all the living beings in it.
The story of the origin of the nation of Israel is also discussed in details. The story of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is given describing how they inhabited the land of Canaan, which they had been accorded by God as an everlasting possession (Larue 2011, para. 7). These books also describe how Jacob and his sons went to Egypt due to famine and how the Hebrews eventually became enslaved by the Egyptians. Later on, after four centuries, the Hebrew people were led out of slavery in Egypt to the Promised Land by Moses.
The New Testament concerns greatly the Christians’ lives during the first century. The Christian church was established by the apostles following the ascension of Jesus. It is a collection of books written by early Christians who devoted their lives to God in proclaiming the gospel of salvation in the Middle East and the entire world. There are major authors in the New Testament such as Apostle Paul who wrote a large collection of books called ‘Letters of Paul’ (Jan Pelikan 1980, p 88). He wrote these books with specific message to churches spread across Asia where he used to preach the message of salvation of mankind through having faith in Jesus. These apostles and other members of the early church were severely persecuted by the Romans for their religious inclinations.
Evolution of the early church (400CE)
In the first century CE, a Jewish sect started in the present day Israel and parts of Palestine, and it marked the start of the early Christian church (Lockard, 193, 3). The roman culture was by then integrated into the early Christians’ life. This was based on the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth who was a Jewish teacher during the time when Romans ruled Palestine. The early church was mostly influenced by the cultures that influenced Jewish faith such as Mesopotamian, Egyptian, Persian and Greek traditions. This section of the paper analyses the early church in term of evolution and the changes it went through to usher in the medieval church.
Essentially, the coming of Jesus of Nazareth was a fulfilment of the Jewish law that rejected Heretics as well as the formal Jewish leaders. The Jewish believed in the eventual coming of the messiah, who would in turn precipitate the gathering of the exiled Jews; mark the end of wickedness; heresy and sin and lead to the restoration of Jerusalem.
From Palestine/Israel, the early church then spread from Palestine to North Africa, southern Europe and western Asia. This was mostly accomplished in the third century 300 CE. While Jews scattered across North Africa, the number of non-Jewish Christians increased due to trade and occupation routes through North Africa and western Asia (Lockard, 195, 1). In this era, Christians believed in life after death and had rites such as baptism which was taken as an initiation rite into the church. Such rites fostered the strength of community belonging in the Christian church.
The early church was mostly influenced by Paul’s teachings which emphasized on the fact that Jesus Christ was a son of God which means that he was born of man but also divine. Paul insisted that Jesus died for forgiveness of sins of all mankind when he was crucified. Paul also challenged the laws of Romans like slavery by insisting that all were equal in the eyes of Jesus Christ. His argument for spiritual equality was based on the fact that a young man who did not follow Jewish laws was miraculously transformed into a follower of Chris-t (Lockard and Kyle, 188, 2).
The church in middle ages (400-1250 CE)
During this time, the church changed from the early Christian church into the middle ages church popularly known as the medieval church. The time between the fourth century and the fifth century saw the fall of Rome into the rule of Barbarians. The fall of Roman Empire left the bishop of Rome as the sole patriarch of the west. The bishop was later named the pope and was the greater secular power over the municipal officials (Deanesly, 2, 1). This section of the paper focuses on the early middle ages church and how it evolved from the early church.
Between the fifth century and mid fifth century, the orgnization of the church evolved into groups in the cities which were headed by the bishop assisted by his clergymen. The church continued to grow into the countryside and a group of churches would form the parish (Deanesly, 3, 1). This means that in the medieval church, there were people who were ordained mostly by their political standing to head the church. The authority of the bishop extended to supervision of Episcopal elections which were conducted by the clergy and noble in the society. The bishop was also the head of the provincial group of churches. The group of churches forming a province under the leadership of a bishop was known as Episcopal sees.
The Islamic religion is based mostly on the teachings of Prophet Muhammad who later died in the sixth century, 632 CE. The Islamic law started in the Arabian land during the Hellenistic period but it was not recognized as a religion (Berkey, 57, 1). In the seventh and eighth centuries, the Islamic religion was just emerging where people started having an Islamic identity and created patterns of religious authority. The Islamic adherence started in the deserts where the roman and other surrounding empires did not care to extend their rule. It was considered a barren land not worth governing. The Islamic religion was mostly monotheistic just like Judaism and Christianity.
The first dynasty of Muslim rulers was in the mid eighth century during the Abbasid revolution as they claimed they are the successors of Muhammad (. The early ages of Islamic religion depends on reconstruction of narrations which are hard to provide evidence for. The Islamic religion was much like Christianity because they believed in angels and prophets. For instance, Muhammad claimed that angel Gabriel appeared to him and gave him narrations about the religious laws of Islam which he was required to narrate in his presence. The rabbi leaders have openly agreed to subtracting or adding some information in their recordings of the message. This is one of the issues that the Christians and Muslims do not agree on because Muslims believe that what God said should be recorded exactly as he intended it to be without change.
The medieval church was also different in that they trained the clergymen and formulated rules on discipline issues of the clergymen. The doctrine which was to be followed by the adherents of the medieval church was also laid down together with the canons which formed the standards and rules of governance of the church (Deanesly, 3, 1). Growth of the church and its doctrines were much affected by the political tide at the time. Some kings who ascended to power were religious while the Germans who entered the Roman Empire were neither pagans nor Arians. The church in Italy practiced heretical Christianity because congregating in one place was illegal. In North Africa though, the Christians were persecuted. This led to the formation of two religions the Roman Catholic and the Arian Christianity. Pope Gregory the great ruled the Catholic Church until his death in 593 CE (Logan, 18, 2). Most of the medieval church teachings and doctrines form the basis for today’s church and its teachings. The medieval age also brought about the division of the church along doctrinal lines especially with the belief and maintenance that Jesus was God.
Religious Traditions in Late Middle Ages (1250 CE – 1500 CE)
In the middle ages in the Middle East, the empire in reign was known as Hulegu’s empire. Hulegu’s rule had great impact on religion, because, during his invasion of Iraq, he used brutal force burning mosques and palaces (Lockard 266, 4|). His army tried to get into Egypt, but the natives had strong Islamic background and defended their city in the name of defending their religion. The Mongols who were led by Hulegu eventually settled in Persia where they later proceeded to destroy Bagdad which was the center for knowledge in the entire Islamic world, nevertheless, but later embraced Islamic religion. This was done in 1258 CE. Their descendants in Russia also became Muslims, and this is how Islamic religion expanded to Russia and became stronger in Iraq and Persia.
The Mamluks, who had defended the capture of Egypt by Hulegu, ruled the country and Syria from 1250 to 1500 CE. They made Egypt the richest Middle Eastern state. They then expanded their rule to Arabia capturing Mecca and Medina (Lockard 267, 3). The capture of the two cities was significant to Islamic religion, because the Mamluks were able to control Muslim pilgrims to Mecca. They became rich, because they could tax the flow of pilgrims into Mecca.
The Christian religion at this time had disintegrated into two predominant denominations, namely the Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church. The Christian church as well as the Islamic religion was greatly influenced by power shifts in the territory where they had blossomed. During the thirteenth century, the Mamluks were eventually defeated by the Ottoman who had taken advantage of a vacuum created by the rule of Constantinople on the Byzantine in western Eurasia. This was a major link between the Middle Eastern Islamic religion and the European Christian religion. Ottoman also defeated the greatest power of Christianity in southeastern Europe, Serbia. Their effected the Christian religion converting Christians into Muslims because the Ottomans favored Muslims in taxes. This was mostly due to economic reasons where most Serbia-speaking and Albanian Christians adopted the Islamic religion. This created a clear division between Orthodox, Catholic, and Muslim people which was a recipe for complicated politics in the state. In 1453, sultan Mehmed conquered Constantinople and converted the city into Istanbul, the Ottoman capital. During his rule, he allowed all religious denominations to prosper where the religious leaders were given the authority to administer to the people of their corresponding faiths thus making Istanbul a multiethnic and multi religious city.
Religious Traditions in Early Modern and Modern Ages (1500-1930 CE)
In the fifteenth century, Muslims and Christians engaged in trade freely because the Islamic rule allowed all religions to prosper in Istanbul. Due to this exchange of trade and culture, the European Christians benefited by acquiring scientific and technological skills which were imported into Europe (western). Scientific knowledge led to criticism of the Christian church which caused the diversification of ideas (religious) in western societies (Lockard 269, 2).
Between the fifteenth and the nineteenth century, both Islamic and Christian religions were focused on expanding from their original areas to neighboring and far off places. Christianity spread into the United States of America where there was high rate of immigration as a result of population rise in Europe. On the other hand, the spread of Islamic religion into Africa was due to trade where the Arabs move Africans from their places of origin and sold them as slaves in the Mediterranean region. The spread of Islamic religion in Africa was encouraged by acceptance of Islam by rulers in western Africa. East Africa was slow to adopt Islamic religion because there was no state large enough to act as a launching pad of Islamic law.
The spread of Islamic religion in Africa was aided by Kabaka Mutesa of Buganda (now Uganda) in (1856-84) who declared Islamic religion the state religion. When his rule was threatened by the spread of Islam, he put to death some followers and later tried to impress Europeans with his interest in Christianity. Islam, however, survived, and, today, a part of the Bugandda is still dominated by Islam adherents (Clarke, 176, 2). The era was marked by a widespread difference between Muslims and Christians because they introduced different views especially on matters concerning creation. While Christians took hold in many western societies, Islam took hold in the Arabic countries as well as some African states, mostly the coastline of Africa, which it reached before Christianity.
Evolution of Religious Traditions (1930CE-Present)
The Quran is the central text of Islamic faith since the inception of the religion. The Quran was revealed to Prophet Muhammad in the 7th century and has experienced several translations since then. In 1930 Mohammed Marmaduke Pickthall published another translation titled The Meanings of the Glorious Quran. He was a Christian man from England who converted to Islam. He asserted that his work was merely presenting the Quran in English. Presently, the translation done in 1934CE by Abdullah Yusuf Ail entitled The Holy Quran is widely used (Rakhway 7).
The contribution towards the translation of the Quran is not only made by Muslims but also by Christians. In 1955 a Christian professor Arthur Arberry published a translation titled The Koran Interpreted. He claimed that the Quran should not be translated because it is a great piece of work. He, therefore, chose to name his translation as an interpretation.
The Islamic religion has been experiencing internal conflict since the year 1930 to the present day. This is because some Muslims formed a sect named Qaadiyaani who published views varying from the original Quran in 1969 and 1971 (Rakhway 9). Islamic religion has experienced conflict between the Shiite and Sunni Muslims. This is because the Sunni reject the theocracy about an absolute religious state where the president and prime minister are subordinate to religious judges (Fleming 154).
The Islamic religion continued to expand to other nations since 1930 to the present age. It was during this era that some Islamic states were formed e.g. Pakistan. In other states though the Islamic law was abolished and replaced with civil law like in the case of Turkey. In an attempt to reinforce Islamic law in Persia and Iran the Muslims revolted against the Shah regime that encouraged modernization and westernization (Fleming 153). The Iranian revolution was a source of strength for Muslims but its injustices have turned most Muslims against it. To this day, Muslims in Iran fight to extend their rule to Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Iraq, Emirates, and Lebanon (Fleming 153).
To this day, there is a conflict between Christianity and Islam because Muslims condemn Christian belief in holy trinity as denial of monotheism. The spread of Christianity to Australia in 1930 fueled the need for Muslims to spread their religion to Australia and Britain. Christianity has declared unity among the different denominations by forming commissions on unions of churches known by different names in different countries. Like Islam, Christianity has experienced internal conflict of denominational beliefs such as the issue of strictly keeping the Sabbath (Fleming 47).
Political wars have ravaged the Middle East which continues to present day. This is because they are mostly fueled by religion with Jews claiming that Jerusalem was their god given city while Palestinians claim that Jerusalem is their homeland. Christens who share fundamental beliefs with Jews argue in support of Jews and this fuel the hatred between Muslim sand Christians.
Summary of Evolution and Driving Forces in Religious Evolution
The evolution of Christian religion is hinged on factors that portray Jesus Christ as the source of salvation. Christianity has evolved from Judaism since the first century with the writing of the Old Testament. In early years before Christ Christianity was based on hope given by prophets in the Old Testament. That belief changed to reality with the transcendence of Jesus Christ and his teachings.
The Christian religion evolution found its driving force in Christ, his resurrection, and recognition of lordship of god and divinity of Christ (Grillmeier and Bowden 33). Christian religion evolution was marked with persecution of adherents to the teachings of Jesus Christ. The evolution of the church and the spread of Christianity was mostly aided and favored by political environment. The Islamic religion also contributed to the spread and evolution of Christianity because it posed challenges to core beliefs of Christians.
The Islamic religion, on the other hand, is established on the revelations of the last prophet known as Muhammad. Islamic religious belief in prophets and the revelation of the Quran has formed the force behind its spread and evolution. The driving force in Islam is the belief in divine power and absolute political authority (Lewis 95). The Islamic religion has evolved through conversion of Christians to Muslims and through formation of Islamic law. The Islamic religion has spread from the Middle East to Western and African nations. Islamic religion has formed absolute Islamic nations while trying to extend the law to other nations and faiths. Both Christianity and Islam have evolved towards disintegration rather than unity due to formation of rebel sects and denominations with varying beliefs.
This paper focused on analysis of the major events that occurred during evolution of religious beliefs in Christianity and Islamic religions. The paper comes to the conclusion that Christianity and Islamic religions basically evolved from the same roots. The unifying factor is the belief that there is a God, who is the creator of all things and has power over everything He created. The two religions were based on writings found in Holy books of the Christians and Muslims namely the Bible and the Quran respectively. Over time however, the two books have undergone translation which may or may not have distorted the original message as inspired by God.
In analyses of the paper, it can be concluded that Muslims and Christians share some religious beliefs like the presence of prophets sent by God to give His word to mankind. They also share the belief that there is one God although they differ in the theory that the God of Christians has three beings in one known as the holy trinity. Through evolution of Christianity and Islamic religions, prosecution and war were endured by the early Christians. However, war between the two religions continues to escalate due to the disparities in their beliefs to this day.
The paper also came to the conclusion that religion continues to head towards disunity and conflict due to lack of accommodation of beliefs of one religion by another. This is aided by political structure of the present world where the Middle East is mostly an Arabic country with majority Muslims while western countries are mostly Christian countries. Political wars are fuelled by religious beliefs and vise versa. The paper also analyzed how each religion influenced the evolution of the other in time. Due to competition, the spread of Christianity and Islam aided each other. Christians were adamant because in the middle ages they witnessed the deeds of Christ while Muslims argued that they were right because Prophet Mohammed recorded his conversations with God.
In the future, more research needs to be conducted into religious beliefs of Christians and Muslims. This would help determine how conflict between the two can be resolved to end centuries of conflict between the two religions.