ONE WORLD, THREE SECTS, ONE FAITH?
One can logically conclude that there are three dominant religions spanning across Earth’s oceans and many continents in the 21st century. Each of the three religions preaches tolerance towards one another as well as other religions in the sphere of humanity. However, these teachings are not always followed. While they all claim to be peaceful religions, each faith has fought wars in the name of their religion or their God. Scholars and students of the faiths find these battles interesting occurrences because essentially each of the religions prays to the same God. The relationship between the three: Christianity, Islam, and Judaism, has been, at times, a strained one. There are several reasons for the variants prorogated by each faith; however, the resonating fact is that each religion is interconnected by their teachings, practices and historical foundations.
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The Jewish people, although believing that a messiah will one day come, do not believe Jesus to be the chosen one. Christians, for whom Jesus is the son of God, are angered by this thus providing a platform from which Christian teachings have prorogated blamed the Jews for the murder of Jesus. The Christians are also upset with the fact that Muslims do not recognize Jesus as the son of God; they see him as a prophet just like Muhammad and Abraham. The Jewish people are also upset with the way Muslims view the prophets. The Qur’an states that “Abraham was not a Jew, nor yet a Christian; but he was an upright man who had surrendered (to Allah), and he was not of the idolaters.” This angers the Jews who name Abraham as the father of Judaism.
The main problem with viewing tolerance with in these religions is that the religious extremists are the least tolerant in each religion, yet they are the most vocal. This gives each religion a bad name in the eyes of the others. The prime example of this today can be seen in the radical members of Al Qaeda. Their extremist views in no way represent the views of the common Muslim however; they give the appearance that all Muslims want to kill all Jews and Christians.
According to Patrick Comerford, “They were not always perfect or idyllic, but neither were they characterised by antagonism or conflict. During the siege of Jerusalem in July 1099, Jews and Muslims had fought side-by-side, and they were massacred together. In 1187, when Salladin recognised the need to repopulate the city with a friendly and co-operative people, he turned to the Jews of the neighbouring regions.”
If one were to rank the three religions from most tolerant to least it would be: Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. The Jewish people have a long history of oppression and while their doctrine of marriage only between a man and woman of the same religion gives the appearance of being intolerant, they tend to be more accepting of other religions. Both Christianity and Islam believe in the teachings of the Torah and both view Abraham as an important person in their religions. The Jewish people, however, do not agree with the teachings of either faith. There were some occurrences in the past of the Jewish people trying to stop the spread of Christianity and Islam. Both of these religions spread their word in the Jewish community attempting to convert the Jews. They each taught their religion as the proper extension of Judaism. Jews rejected this and tried to prevent it to save their own religion.
One of the central teachings of Islam postulates that Christians and Jews are followers of the text. The religion recognizes the Torah and the Bible as the word of God but believes that the Quran supersedes both as the final word of God. Muslims also believe that parts of the Gospels, Torah and Jewish prophetic books have been forgotten, misinterpreted, or distorted by their followers. There have been several instances in the past of Muslims oppressing other religions. Muhammad expelled non-Muslims from the Ka’aba in Mecca; they also drove Christians and Jews from Jerusalem, a holy place in all three religions.
The Quran explicitly prohibits persecution, but a few claim that the later appearance of the more antagonistic verses is a reversal of the former, implying God changed his mind. A hefty amount of Muslim extremism can be attributed to persecution from Muslims is directed towards other Muslims. There was a split with in the religion over who had the right to succeed Muhammad a leader. The two main divisions, the Sunni and the Shi’a, have been battling and oppressing each other for years. Missionary work in Islam is not major. On of the Sura’s in the Quran, 2:56, states that there should be no compulsion in religion. Other Suras state that the religion should be taught to non-believers but not forced upon them.
Christianity has a long history of oppressing other religions. They have even gone so far as to fight wars in the name of God. The most famous of these is of course the Crusades from the 11th through the 13th centuries, where Europeans attempted to retake Jerusalem from the Muslims. Christians neither recognize the Quran as a genuine book of divine revelation, nor agree with its assessment of Jesus as a mere prophet, standing on the same level as Muhammad. Believers of this faith do not accept Muhammad as a genuine prophet. Historically, the relationship between Judaism and Christianity has been strained, to say the least.
Throughout the centuries, Christians were often taught that “the Jews” killed Christ, and because of their actions (i.e. “murder”) they bear collective guilt. When Constantine became the sole Roman Emperor in 323, Christianity became the official religion of the empire. Religion and state now fused in an umbrella capacity, the early Roman Church took this new power and with the consent of the state, turned to the pagans and began to persecute them. A glance into any junior high history book will confirm these actions continue throughout history. (i.e. Spanish Inquisition/Jews and Muslims).
Consequently, a standing figure of Christianity in past/present association has been the institute of the missionary.
This work was so important to Christians, when discovering new lands and new people, that it became a major problem and turned many away from Christianity. As members of the faith turned toward expeditions and joined explorers in finding “new” lands, many cultures and religions were affected by the recruitment methods implemented by Christians. Native Americans and villages in Africa and Asia were sometimes forced to either become Christian or murdered. The relationship between those of the Jewish faith and Christians has been strained throughout time and continues into the modern era.
CLIFFORD LONGLEY writes:
“The style of Christian proselytism among Jews is generally eirenical and by no means overtly antisemitic, though their passion for proving that it is possible to be both a Christian and a Jew makes them seem a special threat to the Jewish community. They insist that Jewish identity can survive a change of religious conviction. But strong attachment to Jewish identity is one of the chief ways in which Jews have traditionally resisted attempts to convert them, which this approach seems to undermine. The repudiation of antisemitism by all the major churches, and the growing willingness of Christians to rediscover their roots in Judaism, can ironically add to the sense of alarm Jews feel. Once their Christian antagonist hated them: the newer kind assures them it loves them, treasures their heritage, and wants to enhance rather than to destroy their feeling of ‘being Jewish.’” (The Times (London) Issue 63285)
Without question the actions of these religions are not befitting of their teachings. At the base of each religion lies the construct for its members to be peaceful toward one another. The three religions are closely connected in history. With foundations so similar and inexplicably related, it is an unfortunate hindrance that these events took (and are currently taking) place. Globally, students and scholars study different religious faiths in order to understand other people. Many people have strong religious convictions, and it would be impossible to understand them without first understanding their faith. For this reason it is incumbent upon those persons in the Western Hemisphere objectively study and research the concept that the religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, all closely related.
All three of these religions are Western, they are monotheistic, and together they form the Abrahamic religions. Judaism being the oldest, dating from around 2000 BC is the most ancient religion still practiced in today’s society; Christianity originates from shortly after the death of Jesus Christ; Islam is the youngest, emerging in the seventh century AD. With this construct, it appears that Christianity and Islam are descended from Judaism, as varied interpretations of the same beliefs. One hypothesis is that Christianity and Islam are adaptations of the old monotheistic religion in accordance with the political and social climates of the times in which they emerged.
All three religions share the same ancient history. The importance of Adam, Abraham, Moses and David and many others detailed in the Old Testament, is agreed on by all three religions; however, their view of Jesus’ place in the overarching guideline of faith provides the basis for the first conflicting argument. The Christians believe him to be the Messiah, which the Jews had waited for so long, while the Jews and Muslims believe him to be a great prophet and find the claim that he is the Son of God to be blasphemous. This difference of opinion was the chief reason for the bloody break up of the relationship between the Jews and the Christians. Originally, the Christians were considered a sect of the Jewish faith by both themselves and other Jews. However, the relationship between the different sects and the rest of the Jewish community became increasingly problematic as Jesus’ teachings were considered blasphemous by the Romans.
Jesus’ all embracing theories and disregard for Jewish law made his movement all the more loathsome to the Jews. This is the primary reason for the stormy relationship between the two religions that were once one; the second reason is due to the manner in which the sect broke away and become a religion in its own right. This breakaway began with the increasing rejection of Jewish law, for example, of the dietary customs, and when an Emperor demanded that the Jews give up all their practices, the Christians did so immediately, but the rest of the Jewish population rose in rebellion. When the Jewish Temple was sacked and leveled in response to the rebellion, the Jewish “traitors”, the Christians who had not fought for their religion caused further animosity to form. From this point forth, the relationship between Judaism and Christianity has been disjointed.
Historically then, it can be seen that Judaism and Christianity are very closely related. They share the same roots and some of the same religious texts, and for several decades they were the same religion. However, when political pressures demanded that the religion changed or faced the consequences, the Christian sect broke away, distancing themselves from the Jewish faith. By the time Islam emerged as the third religion of Abraham, a large Jewish population, as well as a large Christian population, was deeply rooted in Islam, due to the Roman Empire’s presence. Roman rule in this area had recently collapsed and the nation no longer observed their state religion, therefore the land was split between Judaism, Christianity and a form of paganism. There had been wars between the Jews and Christians for years but it was quickly shadowed by the birth of Mohammed, the founder of the Islamic faith.
He traveled extensively when he was young and had a lot of contact with both Jews and Christians. The fact that he did have this contact appears to have had a profound effect on Mohammed because the Islamic faith is very close in many ways to both Christianity and Judaism. There are two possible reasons why chose to begin his own religion rather than to convert to one of the others. The Islamic reason is that Allah spoke to Mohammed through an angel, appointing him the last prophet and relating to him the scriptures of the Koran and the laws by which Muslims should live.
The other, however extremely controversial reason is that Mohammed had seen the way in which religious leaders were treated, for example the Pope, and wished for such power himself as the ambassador of God. He believed he was to become the divinely appointed dictator of his community. He may also have seen this as a way of uniting the people of his homeland because Islamic faith recognizes no separation between the church and the state; therefore the country would have had a national religion. “Islam is the national religion of the Arabs, evolving initially out of pagan Arab lore, and a mishmash of appropriated, and much distorted, figures and stories taken from Judaism and Christianity”(jihadwatch.org)
With the emergence of all three religions it is easy to draw close relationship between Islam, Judaism and Christianity. Several customs and practices are the same and the beliefs and laws are also very similar between all three religions. For example, all of Judaism’s Prophets and Holy Scriptures are holy to Islam, and the Holy Land to Judaism is also a Holy Land to Islam. Although the Islamic religious book, the Koran, does not encompass any of the texts from the Bible, Islam recognizes the importance of the teachings of previous prophets. It also recognizes Adam as the first man, expelled from Eden but forgiven afterwards by God. Within the Koran various stories are told to illustrate the punishment of the evil and the rewarding of the virtuous, similarly, many of these stories are found in Jewish and Christian scriptures. It would appear, then, that Islam is a mixture of Jewish and Christian traditions. However, they all have slightly different beliefs which explain the small discrepancies between the Islamic, the Jewish and Christian faiths.
In his article Comerford posits that “If Islam has borrowed from Judaism and Judaism has borrowed from Islam, then Dr Amnon Cohen tried to bridge the gap by looking at the interchange of ideas between Jews and Muslims in Ottoman Jerusalem. He argued that while the Jews of Jerusalem were segregated from the 16th century on, this was due to their own choices about living close to each other and to the synagogues in the city. But he insisted they were not persecuted. “There was no element of persecution”, he said. “They didn’t suffer, they didn’t complain . . . They were doing quite fine and were left to live their own lives.””
Islam is therefore very closely related to both Christianity and Judaism. While it did not start out as a sect of either religion, as Christianity began as a sect of Judaism, historically Islam appears to be an interpretation of the two religions used for the purpose of bringing one man ultimate power and uniting a nation. Whether God did speak to Mohammed or whether he was a very successful imposter, Islam won a lot of Jewish and Christian converts, particularly in Mecca where the Jews were becoming increasingly unsatisfied with the extraneous taxes and the way they were being ruled. Monotheism was a very popular, even fashionable belief around the Roman Empire at this time, and paganism was fast becoming the religion of the ignorant.
In conclusion, the diversity of the cultures and pre-existing beliefs in this area meant that not everybody could accept Judaism and the laws and customs that came with it as their single religion. This made sects necessary, and there were a great number of these; Christianity and Islam were the most popular and enduring of them. Within the ranks of 21st century global society, Christianity claims the largest percentage of the world’s population, while Islam is the second-largest faith. Although historically Judaism shares a very close relationship with Christianity and Islam, its two main sects have now overtaken it as the world’s most popular religion.
Today, if a non-Jew, a non-Muslim and a non-Christian came together and examined their faiths, they would find no real faults between them. However, ask any Jew, Muslim or Christian and they will provide an audience with a plethora of conflicting beliefs between the faiths. When, in truth, the faiths are basically one faith all interconnected in roots, prophets, and beliefs and it’s not the faiths that are in conflict, but the people of those very faiths.
The Irish Times
February 9, 2002
Antagonisms did not always exist between Jews and Muslims
BYLINE: By PATRICK COMERFORD
SECTION: CITY EDITION; WORLD NEWS; WORLD VIEW; Pg. 13
The Times (London)
January 7 1989, Saturday
The rift between Jew and Christian
BYLINE: CLIFFORD LONGLEY
SECTION: Issue 63285.
LENGTH: 1036 words
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