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Christianity and Islam: Doctrines and Beliefs Compared

*The present article compares the main doctrines and beliefs of Christianity and Islam. For a more detailed comparison of Jesus and Muhammad and key moral issues in both religions, see Christianity and Islam: A Side by Side Comparison.

Church of Saint George Maronite and Mohammad Al-Amin Mosque coexist side by side in Downtown BeirutChristianity and Islam are the two largest religions in the world and they have many points of contact. Both inherited from Judaism a belief in one God (monotheism) who created the world and cares about the behavior and beliefs of human beings.

Although Islam and Christianity seem to have certain points of doctrine in common, there is an enormous difference between them, not only in beliefs about salvation and Christ but in many other areas affecting daily life, human behavior and attitudes.

The Prophet Muhammad knew Christians in his lifetime and respected them along with Jews as “People of the Book.” Because of their monotheism and roots in the revealed Jewish Bible, Muhammad and his successors extended conquered Christians (and Jews) more freedoms than conquered pagans.

In the approximately 1,300 years of history since the life of Muhammad, the relationship between Christianity and Islam has rarely been harmonious. As it spread, the Muslim Empire quickly conquered much of the Judeo-Christian Holy Land and the Christian Byzantine Empire. The Christian Crusades from 1096 to 1291, waged in response to Islam jihad, further widened the divide between the two faiths. Constantinople, the “New Rome” and the center of Eastern Orthodox Christianity, fell to the Turks in 1453 and has been under Islamic rule ever since.

In recent centuries, mutual distrust between Christians and Muslims has continued to grow. Some people believe that the conflict has more to do with political tensions and divergent cultural worldviews than with religion, and efforts have been made by both Christians and Muslims to find common ground and engage in respectful dialogue.

To illustrate the similarities and differences between the two largest religions of the world, the following chart compares the origins, beliefs and practices of Christianity and Islam. Please note that numbers are estimates and descriptions of beliefs and practices are simplified for brevity’s sake.

Term

Christianity

Islam

Date Founded

Approx. 30 AD (CE)

622 AD (CE)

Founders, Leaders

Jesus, Peter, Paul

Muhammad

Where Founded

Israel

Arabian Peninsula

Major Branches

Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant

Sunni, Shiite

Bible

Inspired and inerrant word of God (2 Tim. 3:16). Consists of Hebrew Scriptures of Judaism (Old Testament); and later writings recording the life and teachings of Jesus and his followers (New Testament).

Respected word of the prophets (esp. Torah, Psalms and Gospels) but the Bible has been corrupted through the centuries and is only correct in so far as it agrees with the Koran. (3:78)

Koran (Qur’an)

The work of Muhammad. Not believed to be inspired, and not accepted as divine revelation. There is no verification for its accurate transmission from the originals.

The final revelation of God to all of mankind given through the archangel Gabriel to Muhammad over a 23 year period. It is without error and guarded from error by Allah. Accepts the Christian Bible. (2:136, 4:163, 10:94)

Basic Doctrine

Creed (One God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). We are sinners, but God loves us. Jesus died for us; man is saved through faith in Jesus, baptism (John 3:5, 16) & communion with the Church (1 Tim 3:15)

Six Articles of Faith (No God but Allah, angels, sacred books (Torah, Psalms, New Testament, Koran), prophets, day of judgment, Allah’s predestination

Major Sacred
Rituals or Practices

Seven Sacraments: Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Reconciliation, Anointing of the Sick, Matrimony, Holy Orders

Five Pillars: prayer, pilgrimage to Mecca, fasting, confession of faith, almsgiving and charity (to Muslims only)

Religious Law or Commands

Ten Commandments (Ex 20:1-17), Greatest commandment (love God & neighbor, Mark 12:29-31), Great commission (make disciples of all nations, baptize them, teach them, Mt 28:19-20)

Sharia (Islamic Law) regulates every aspect of a Muslim’s devotional and personal life as well as the governing of Islamic nations. Specifies harsh punishments for crimes.

Leaving the faith

Discouraged

Forbidden; punishment is death

God

God is a Trinity of persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Not three gods in one god, or one person who took three forms. Trinitarianism is strictly monotheistic. There is no other God in existence.

God is known as Allah. Allah is one person, a strict unity. There is no other God in existence. He is the creator of the universe (3:191), sovereign over all (6:61-62).

Trinity

One God in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit

Christian Trinity is denied. (4:171, 5:116). Trinity is sometimes consid­ered to be the Father, Jesus, and Mary.

Jesus Christ

Messiah of Israel, King of the Jews, Savior of the World, and Second Person of the Trinity. He is the Word who became flesh (John 1:1, 14), both God and man (Col 2:9).

A great prophet, second only to Muhammad. Not the son of God (9:30), not divine (5:17, 75) and was not crucified (4:157). Some say he will come back to earth as a Muslim, marry and have children, die, and be buried near Muhammad (19:33-34).

Son of God

Jesus is born of the Father before all ages, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father. (John 5:18).

Muslims understand this as if God had sexual relations with Mary and carnally begot Jesus. Therefore, Jesus cannot be the son of Allah.

The Word

“In the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God...and the word became flesh and dwelt among us...” (John 1:1, 14).

Allah’s command of existence which resulted in Jesus being formed in the womb of Mary.

Death of Jesus

Jesus died by crucifixion.

Did not die, but ascended bodily into heaven. A disciple died in his place.

Crucifixion

The way by which Jesus atoned for the sins of the world. It is through this sacrifice that anyone can be saved from the wrath of God (1 Thess 1:10; 1 Pet. 2:24).

Jesus did not die on the cross. Instead, God allowed Judas to look like Jesus and he was crucified instead. (4:156-158)

Atonement

The sacrifice of Christ on the cross (1 Pet. 2:24) whereby His blood becomes the sacrifice atoning for the sins of the world (1 John 2:2, John 1:12, Rom. 5:1)

There is no atonement work in Islam other than a sincere confession of sin and repentance by the sinner.

Resurrection of Jesus

Affirmed as historical event & the crowning truth of the Christian faith. (CCC 683-39). Victory over death that open the way to eternal life for all believers.

Denied, since he did not die.

Holy Spirit

Third person of the Trinity. The Holy Spirit is fully God; proceeds from the Father and the Son..

The archangel Gabriel who delivered the words of the Koran to Muhammad.

Muhammad

A non-inspired (by God) man born in 570 in Mecca who started the Islamic religion.

The last and greatest of all prophets of Allah whose Qur’an is the greatest of all inspired books.

Angels

Created beings, non-human. They are very powerful; they represent God and carry out his will. Angels have free will and some fell into sin and became evil.

Created beings without free will that serve God. Angels were created from light.

Devil (Satan)

A fallen angel who opposes God in all ways. He also seeks to destroy humanity (Isaiah 14:12-15; Ezek. 28:13-15).

Iblis, a fallen jinn. Jinn are not angels nor men, but created beings with free wills. Jinn were created from fire (2:268, 7:11- 18, 114:1-6).

Heaven (Paradise)

The place where God dwells. Heaven is the eventual and eternal home of the Christians who are saved by God’s grace. (Ps. 73:25, Is. 33:17, 60:19-20, 1 Cor 2:9-10, Rev. 21:3-4, 21:10-22:5)

Paradise to Muslims, a place of unimaginable bliss (32:17), a garden with trees and food (13:35,15:45-48) and virgins where all the desires of faithful Muslims are met (3:133, 9:38, 39:34, 43:71, 53:13-15, 56:8-38, 88:8-16).

Hell

A place of torment in fire out of the presence of God for the wicked. There is no escape from Hell (Ps. 63:9, Is. 30:33, Matt. 13:49-50, 25:46, 2 Thess 1:9, Rev. 20:10).

A place of eternal punishment and torment (14:17; 25:65; 39:26), in fire (104:6-7) for those who are not Muslims (3:131) as well as those Muslims whose works and faith were not sufficient (50:24-26, 78:21-30).

Judgment Day

Occurs on the day of resurrection (John 12:48) when God will judge all people. The saved go to heaven, the wicked to hell. Salvation is by grace through faith working in love. (Mt 25:46, Rom 2:5-11, Heb 4:13).

Occurs on the day of resurrection when God will judge all people. Muslims go to paradise. All others to hell (3:142, 183- 85, 196-98). Judgment is based on deeds (5:9; 42:26; 8:29). Judgment is bypassed if one dies on a Friday, dies of stomach ache, or dies as a martyr.

Afterlife

Christians will be with the Lord in heaven (Phil. 1:21-24), in resurrected bodies (1 Cor. 15:50-58). The wicked will be cast into hell forever (Matt. 25:46). Catholics believe in an intermediate state, purgatory.

There is an afterlife (75:12) experienced as either an ideal life of Paradise (29:64), for faithful Muslims or Hell for those who are not. Until Judgment, the dead are in an intermediate state, barzakh.

Resurrection

Bodily resurrection of all people: the saved to eternal life in heaven, the wicked to hell (1 Cor. 15:50-58).

Bodily resurrection, faithful Muslims to heaven, others to hell (3:77, 15:25, 75:36-40, 22:6).

Man

Made in the image of God (Gen. 1:26). This does not mean that God has a body, but that man is made like God in abilities (reason, faith, love, etc.).

Not made in the image of God (42:11). Man is made out of the dust of the earth (23:12) and Allah breathed life into man (32:9; 15:29).

Original Sin

The term used to describe the effect of Adam’s sin on his descendants, i.e., all humans (Rom. 5:12-23). The sinful nature that originated with Adam is passed down from parent to child. Human nature is fallen, wounded & prone to sin.

Original sin is denied. All people are sinless until they rebel against God. They do not have sinful natures. People have an equal ability to do good or evil.

Salvation

Free gift of God (Eph. 2:8-9) in Christ, our mediator (1 Tim. 2:5). Works not sufficient to merit salvation (Gal 2:16). No absolute guarantee of salvation for Christians. Righteous non-Christians can be saved by Christ, but more difficult. (CCC 847)

Forgiveness of sins obtained by Allah’s grace without a mediator. The Muslim must believe Allah exists, believe in the fundamental doctrines of Islam, that Muhammad is his prophet, and follow the commands of Allah given in the Koran.

Forgiveness

Central to Christian faith. More than 50 verses about it. God forgives any and all when asked, but humans must also forgive.

Allah does not forgive except infre­quently as an arbitrary act. (4:48, 35:7)

Crusades (Christian)
Jihad (Muslim)

The Crusades (1096-1291) were a reaction to Islamic jihad and an attempt (unsuccessful) to reopen the Holy Land to Christian pilgrims and worshipers.

Muslims are required to go to war with non-Muslims to conquer them and add their territory to the “House of Islam.” (2:191, 9:5, 9:29)

Main Locations

Europe, North & South America

Middle East, Southeast Asia

Adherents Today

2.2 billion worldwide

180 million USA & Canada

1.6 billion worldwide

3.5 million USA & Canada

Place of Worship

Normally church, but possible anywhere

Anywhere, but Mosque is preferred. Mosque only on Fridays

View of the other religion

Islam is respected as a fellow monotheistic religion, but with major differences about the Trinity, Jesus, salvation, & forgiveness. Muhammad is not seen as a true prophet.

Christians are respected as “People of the Book,” but they have mistaken beliefs and only partial revelation. Islam is the only religion acceptable to God. (3:85)

Adapted from http://www.swapmeetdave.com/Bible/Christianity-Islam-chart.htm

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