Religion is the food for the soul, a type of food that never spoils or depreciates. It is the vessel of life, a vessel that is unbreakable and never shudders even from the most destructive outside force. It is the cup of morality, the one that shapes our character and personality. With these different views, one can say that religion is an important aspect of one’s life. It constitutes and contributes to the spiritual well-being of an individual, which is faced today with different options regarding their religion of choice. There are Methodists, Protestants, Muslims, Roman Catholics, and more.
However, the two most influential and widespread religion are Islam and Christianity. Christianity is believed to be founded by Jesus Christ, the redeemer of humanity. The beliefs of Christians, which are also shared by Roman Catholics, are summarized in a doctrine called the Nicene Creed. In general, Christians believe in the Holy Trinity, that there are three superior beings: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Believers of this religion grew up with teachings about the creation of the world by God in seven days, the fall of Adam and Eve, the reincarnation of Jesus Christ, and the redemption of mankind (Walsh, 2005).
On the other hand, Islam is considered to be founded by Mohammad or Muhammad. Its followers are called Muslims and they believe in only one God, Allah. They believe that Muhammad is the last prophet and Jesus is only one of them. Just like in Christianity, they also believe in the final judgment to be passed on to the blessed and the damned (Braswell, 2000). To know better the concept of these two religions, it may be helpful if one will look at the historical background of the prominent personalities of Christianity and Islam.
Jesus Christ, also known as Jesus of Nazareth and the Messiah, was the child of Mary and Joseph and born in the humble stable of Bethlehem during the reign of Augustus. The famous Nativity is described as the birth of Jesus where he was visited by the shepherds and the three kings to give their offerings. He is said to be born without original sin and is said to save humankind from sins. One of the most prominent incidences during his childhood years is when he and his parents visited Jerusalem for the feast of Passover.
It was during this time that he was lost for several days and nights, and was found by his parents in the temple teaching about the Word of God. After the incident, Jesus made subsequent visits to Jerusalem allowing him to see how corrupted religion was and the need to reform both its doctrine and practice during that time. He performed miracles and taught the Word of God through fables. Most of his teachings focused on the kingdom of God, how God loves mankind, and how God forgives people when they ask. He became well known and was praised by many people.
This caught the attention of the Roman governors and the scribes, who ordered his execution when Jesus claimed that he was God. He was tortured, crucified, and died on the cross. After three days, he resurrected from the dead and ascended to heaven. Thus, it marks the start of the salvation of humankind (Stalker, 2009). Conversely, Mohammad is the most prominent personality in Islam. Mohammad or Mahomet was born in Mecca in 571 during the reign of Khusro Anosharwan. His father was named Abdallah while his mother was named Amina. His father died several days before his birth.
He became an orphan when he was six years old. It was during this time that his mother died while they were in a journey to Medina. Abdl al-Muttalib, his grandfather, took care of him but died when he was eight years old. Finally, he was taken care of by his father’s brother, Abd Manaf, who joined Muhammad on a caravan to Syria (Rodinson, 2002). He became a camel driver on their journey from Syria to Arabia but soon established his career as manager of caravans together with the merchants. On his travel, he met numerous people with various nationalities such as Christians, pagans, and Jews.
At the age of 25, he married Khadija whose age is 15 years older than him. Throughout his life, he sought for contemplation and solitude by visiting Mecca and the caves in Mount Hira. On one of his visits, he was visited by Angel Gabriel and asked him to proclaim the Word of God. He was reluctant at first but later accepted that he was the messenger of God after receiving support from Khadija and subsequent visitations of angel. His teachings include worshipping Allah, repenting from evil, and truth about materialism and immortality. He did not perform miracles but only taught what he received.
At the start of his struggle as a prophet, he had only 40 followers, who experienced prosecution because his teachings were said to be a great threat to the Meccan life. However, good news came that there was a small group of people supporting his movement in Yathrib, later called Medina. He established his teachings in Medina and began a movement to reclaim his former land, Mecca. After several battles, he regained Mecca and the entire Meccan population was converted to Islam. He returned to Medina in 632 where he died but Islam had already conquered most of Arabia (“Life”, 2010).
The death of both personalities brought immense impact in their respective religion. Without the death of Jesus, Christianity will not be born. It was through his death that Christianity flourished as his apostles began to preach his word across the nation (Ermatinger, 2007). His death became the heart of Christian faith as it became a proof of God’s love for mankind. “For God so loved the world that He gave us his one and only son that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16 New King James Version, 1985).
His death allowed people to become closer to God. In addition, his death followed by his resurrection allowed man to have new hope. The first book of Peter stated that: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:3-4 New King James Version, 1985). The death of Muhammad also allowed Islam to spread.
It now extends on both sides of the earth reaching the Atlantic on the other side then reaching the borders of China on the other. The success of the spread of Islam can be attributed to the works of the caliphs, Muhammad’s successor with great political and military abilities (“Life”, 2010). However, the death of Muhammad brought conflict to the Muslims. Debates conjured and are present up to these days whether leadership must be placed upon Muhammad’s direct descendants (according to Shia) or upon the caliphs (according to Sunni) (“Comparison”, n. . ).
In Christianity, the life of Jesus was celebrated starting from his birth up to his death and resurrection. The birth of Jesus is commemorated by Christians every 25 December and is marked by the giving of gifts and sharing of love. Before this day comes, Christians celebrate the season of Advent to prepare their hearts for his coming. His death and suffering are also commemorated by Christians through the season of Lent. During this season, people subject themselves to fasting and reconciliation of their sins.
Moreover, Jesus, which is one of the Holy Trinity, is worshipped by most people through the celebration of the Holy Eucharist every Sunday. Unlike Christians, Muslims do not worship Muhammad. They only view him as the last messenger of God but worship Allah alone (“Comparison”, n. d. ). Even after the death of Jesus and Muhammad, their words and preaching continuously spread. In Christianity, there is the Bible. Bible comes from the word “biblos” which means book.
It is the compilation of the works of prophets recounting the good deeds and mercy of God on humankind. The bible is also divided into two testaments: the Old and the New. The Old Testament, which consists of 39 books, contains the writings of the Jewish people that reflect their philosophy through literary compositions such as hymns and songs (Weatherall, 2009). The New Testament, on the other hand, is a collection of 27 books that provide a significant influence on Christianity and is recognized as a Sacred Scripture by the Christian Church.
Included in this part of the bible is the so-called “Fourfold Gospels” written by Gospel writers with the books of Mathew and Mark recounting the biographies of Jesus Christ (Achtemeier, Green and Thompson, 2001). In Islam, the means of spreading the word of Muhammad is through the Qur’an or Koran. Its contents are revealed to Muhammad in stages for 23 years. It is considered as the holy book of the Muslims where the revelation part is intended to correct the error found in the Old and New Testaments. It has 114 chapters but is divided into 30 parts called juz.
During Ramadan, the Muslims read one juz per day until they complete the whole month celebration (“Qur’an”, 2009). In conclusion, the two most influential religions in the present society have their own similarities and differences. Despite these, what is more important is how people respect and follow the doctrines of their religions. It does not matter whether he or she is a Christian or a Muslim. What matters most is how that people work themselves to build a life of morality and treasures in heaven and not on earth.