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You say God, I say Allah
Similarities between Islam and Christianity

Payman A.
December 28, 2004

Islam is very similar to Christianity both historically and ideologically. People may find it strange that these two religions share many characteristics, but they do. 

Both religions are monotheistic and preach about the same God. Christians call Him "God", and Muslims call Him "Allah". Some Christians believe in the Trinity and others believe that Jesus was the Son of God. Muslims reject both notions but believe that Jesus was an important prophet, performed miracles and was a great man.

Christians and Muslims, along with Jews believe Abraham was a major prophet, and both Arabs and Jews trace their ancestry back to him through his sons Isaac and Ishmael (Ismail). We both believe in Noah (Nooh) and the Great Flood, Adam and Eve (Hawa), the enslavement by the Jews by the Egyptians, Moses (Musa), Joseph (Yusef), Jacob (Yaghoob), Job (Ayoob), David (Davud) Solomon (Suleiman) Zechariah (Zakarieh), John the Baptist (Yahya), and Mary (Maryam).

In addition to believing in the same prophets, we share other things in common. Jews, Christians, and Muslims all regard Jerusalem as a sacred location. Muslims believe Muhammad rose to heaven on a horse in this city. Muslims and Christians express a belief in a Judgment Day when sinners will go to Hell and the good will go to Heaven. The condemned sins are very similar as well. Killing, adultery, stealing, lying, grifting, suicide, greed, selfishness, idolatry, gambling and alcoholism are condemned in both religions. If you take a look at history you'll also see striking similarities historically.

The faith we call Christianity came to be almost two millennia ago in the land of Israel (Palestine). Early Christians, including Jesus considered themselves Jews. After Jesus' death, however many Non-Jews became followers of Jesus. Unfortunately since Christians did not accept other gods, and refused to worship the Roman emperor, they were persecuted. Sometimes there would be mass persecutions and other times it would be scattered. Christians were accused of cannibalism because of communion. They were accused of incest and eating children. Common punishments of being Christian were being given to the lions to eat in a stadium with thousands of the public watching. 

Muslims were persecuted as well. One family for example was beaten up and injured by a group of wolf-like men after they refused to give up their beliefs. Once they recovered consciousness, they were tied up and put on a hot bed of rocks, and a heavy stone was placed on their chests on a hot summer day. The wife said stuff about her perseverance and her belief in God. Then she was killed with a sword. The reason for Muslim persecution was that the powerful of Mecca felt threatened by losing pagans who left money for the idols in the Kaaba. They were afraid of losing their influence and power.

What is common in both of these cases is that both groups were very courageous and brave, and perseverant. Both religions eventually became world powers and had vast followings. Unfortunately the so-called leaders of both religions violated the basic principles of the religions to obtain money and power. 

By the early eighth century both religions were very strong. After the endorsement of Christianity by Constantine the Great in the 300s it flourished. The endorsement dramatically increased the number of Christians. All Roman emperors from then on were Christian except Julian who ruled from 361-363. Through efforts by clergy and the conversion of barbarians, Christianity survived the fall of Rome in 476 and spread to Spain, France and Britain, and by the 600s all of Europe. Meanwhile the bishop of Rome was becoming more and more powerful. The term pope, which meant father, eventually came to describe him.

Pope Leo I (440-461) argued that the bishop of Rome should be regarded as the head of The Christian Church. He based his claim on the notion that the bishops of Rome had inherited this position from Peter, Jesus' apostle. Thus the pope eventually became the most powerful figure in Europe. He could excommunicate kings, control religion all over Europe, and was very wealthy. Any major decree the pope issued was very influential on the entire continent and was respected. Anyone who rebelled against the pope would probably be excommunicated, and shunned by the people, and called a heretic. During the Middle Ages the Church became corrupt. Even though the papacy had a lot of money they didn't use it. Instead they would entice rich people to give money by being to buy off their sins and purchase a place in Heaven. 

When Muhammad migrated to Medina he gained many converts, and with their strength, was able to conquer Mecca. When Muhammad died Islam was all over Arabia. Under caliphs (rulers) Abu Bakr, Omar and Osman, and Ali, Islam spread throughout the Middle East. The Arab Muslims under Omar, Osman, and Hazrati Ali conquered the Sassanian Empire. Syria and Egypt were nabbed from the Byzantine Empire. Under the Umayyad dynasty Muslims conquered all of North Africa and Spain. This is how both religions established a permanent base and foothold. The caliph (ruler) of the Islamic Empire tortured and executed his opponents. He too was very wealthy like the pope in the Middle Ages. Rebellion was punished severely. Caliphs violated Islamic law by having more than 4 wives, being cruel, drinking alcohol, and abusing their power. In fact the Islamic and Christian worlds changed into what they are today by the Crusades. 

A thousand years ago the Islamic World had reached its height. Muslim scholars (many of them Iranian) made new scientific breakthroughs and translated Greek and Roman documents into Arabic in order to preserve them. Ibn Sina and Al-Razi made some of these breakthroughs. Ibn Sina or Avicenna in the West was a famous Persian physician. His most renowned work is his Canon of Medicine. In it he describes lockjaw, malaria, and medical knowledge at the time. His book was used for over 600 years in medicine. Another medical giant was Al-Razi, a Persian physician who discovered medical alcohol. As you can see the Muslim world was pretty advanced. Christian Western Europe was another story.

Western Europeans were very backward technologically a millennium ago. Doctors were superstitious and their treatments didn't work and sometimes caused the death of the patient. Stat and city schools had disappeared. Education was therefore forgotten. The amazing skills of ancient literature, sculpture, painting, and architecture were lost. The Byzantine Empire had managed to not fall backward technologically because the Byzantines had the ancient documents of the Romans and Greeks well preserved. The reason for this was the Byzantine Empire, the eastern half of the Roman Empire survived the fall of Rome and prevented the chaos of Western Europe from happening there. Then came the Crusades.

In the late 11th century the Muslim Seljuk Turks were busy conquering Asia Minor. The Byzantine emperor Alexius viewed the Turks as a threat to his empire. He requested the Pope's help. The pope at the time was Urban II. He called for a holy war against the Muslim " infidels" to free Asia Minor and the holy land from Muslim control. He said that anyone who died would go to Heaven, and the ones who survived would take a share of the material wealth they would get from the Muslims.

Peasants from all across Western Europe were motivated by the pope's words that they would go to Heaven if they died in the warfare. They flooded into the Holy Land and liberated Jerusalem and other areas along the coast of the Middle East. However they lost each of these holdings one by one to the Muslims. Muslim leader Saladin captured Jerusalem in 1187. The Pope encouraged other Crusades. The 3rd Crusade ironically led to the sacking and capture of Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire. Byzantine libraries were burned, causing the loss of ancient documents vital to Byzantine culture. This blow seriously weakened the Byzantine Empire. Afterwards several more crusades were carried out. 

Although the Christians ultimately lost most of these Crusades as well, the Islamic world was strained militarily. Then the Mongols attacked and conquered a substantial amount of the Muslim world. The Islamic world fell into darkness in these bad times, superstition became common and intellectuals became far and few. Islam's military might was damaged, and to this day it has not recovered. The Crusades were very beneficial to Western Christian Europe though.

Even though western Europeans weren't successful in their quest to free the Holy Land, they were exposed to an advanced culture, new foods, and different ways of thinking. They learned a lot from the Muslims, and it helped the West in the aftermath. The Crusades indirectly led to the Renaissance, improving Europe technologically. Economically the West benefited from the Crusades by opening up trading opportunities with Muslims and other Eastern peoples, and the discovery of new markets. The world slowly became what it is today as a result of the Crusades. However Muslim countries are still way better off than they were in the centuries following the Crusades. Be thankful that we're improving fast and catching up to the top countries in the world technologically.

As I have said before Christians and Muslims are alike in many ways. We should not fret over our differences but learn to accept them and respect them. The same is true for Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, Judaism, and other religions. What the terrorists are doing is wrong. We should not kill, threaten, or humiliate people because of their religion. Non-Muslims should respect Muslims, and Muslims should respect Non-Muslims. 

Lastly I am 14. I'm the same guy who wrote "Don't blame Islam". Thanks to all of you who sent emails to me praising me and criticizing me. 

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Book of the day

The Legend of Seyavash
Translated by Dick Davis

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