Christianity and Islam

Christianity and Islam
The Achtiname of Muhammad, also known as the Covenant or (Holy) Testament (Testamentum) of Muhammad, is a medieval document which purports to be a charter or writ ratified by Muhammad granting protection and other privileges to the monks of Saint Catherine's Monastery, Mount Sinai. It is sealed with an imprint representing Muhammad's hand.[1]
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There is a historical and traditional connection between Christianity and Islam. The two faiths share a common origin in the Middle East.[2] Muslims consider Christians as the People of the Book. From a Muslim standpoint, belief in the Injil (the original Gospel of Jesus) is an important part of Islamic theology. The bond extends even further with the Islamic Prophet Muhammad instructing Muslims to defend the Christian faith from aggressors in documents such as the Achtiname of Muhammad.

Furthermore, Islam and Christianity share at their core, the twin "golden" commandments of the paramount importance of loving God and loving the neighbor.[3]

Despite the similarities between the two faiths there are some major theological differences. Islam denies that God can be divided into a Holy Trinity. Muslims consider this division of God's Oneness to be a grave sin (Shirk). This difference, though, signifies a fundamental misunderstanding between the faiths. Christians also consider it heretical to deny the oneness, or unity, of God. Their articulation of the Trinity holds in tension the paradox of both the unity and Trinitarian diversity of God as one God who is three Persons. Islam also denies that God has a son. Muslims see Jesus as the last prophet sent to the Children of Israel like Elijah. Islam fully accepts Jesus as the Messiah.


Islamic views on Jesus

Islam teaches that Jesus (Isa) was one of the most important prophets of God and was a human being. Muslims do not believe that he was the Son of God, nor that he is divine or part of a triune God as Christians believe. In Islam, Jesus was a human prophet who, like all the other prophets, tried to bring mankind to the worship of God. Muslims believe that Jesus was miraculously born of the Virgin Mary (Maryām). Muslims believe the creation of Jesus was similar to the creation of Adam (Adem) (the first prophet of God), they were both created by God without human fathers.

Islam and Christianity differ in their fundamental views in regard to the crucifixion and resurrection. Christians believe that Jesus was condemned to death by the Sanhedrin and the Roman prefect Pontius Pilate, physically crucified and resurrected. Muslims believe that Jesus was condemned to crucifixion and then miraculously saved:

That they (the Children of Israel) rejected Faith; that they uttered against Mary a grave false charge;
That they said (in boast), "We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Messenger of God";- but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them, and those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no (certain) knowledge, but only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not:-
Nay, Allah raised him up unto Himself; and God is Exalted in Power, Wise;-
Qur'an, sura 4 (An-Nisa), ayat 156-158[4]

it is said in John14:2-3[1] [2] and also in the Al-Quran43:61[3] that Jesus will be sent again to earth at the end of time, and will fight against the Antichrist shortly before the Last Day.[5].

Both prophets have some similar teachings e.g. Muhammad and Jesus Christ gave the lesson of monotheism which is mentioned in the book of Deuteronomy 6:4, in Mark 12:29[4] and in the Al-Quran 112:1-4[5] and both are against division of God's oneness (shirk) which is written in the Exodus20:2-5 [6][7] and is also in Al Quran.[8] But this is another misunderstanding of what Islam and Christianity mean when they say "God is one." The Old Testament is affirming that there is only one God, over and against all of the polytheistic religions in the Ancient Near East. Islam is saying the same thing but is also saying that God is not triune, that there is no diversity in God. For Christians, God's triune nature is fundamental orthodoxy.

As Abrahamic religions

Christianity, Islam and Judaism are known as Abrahamic religions because of their common origin through Abraham. Muslims consider Ishmael (Ismā'īl), the first born son of Abraham, to be the "Father of the Arabs" and Abraham's second son, Isaac (Isḥāq), is called "Father of the Hebrews". The story of Abraham and his sons is told in the Book of Genesis and the Qur'an but with certain differences.

Muslims commonly refer to Christians and Jews as "People of the Book", people who follow the same general teachings in relation to the worship of the One God (Tawhid) as known by Abraham.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, the official doctrine document released by the Roman Catholic Church, has this to say regarding Muslims:

The Church's relationship with the Muslims. "The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind's judge on the last day."
Catechism of the Catholic Church[6]

The Qur'an explicitly promises salvation for all those righteous Christians who were there before the arrival of Muhammad:

"Indeed, those who believed and those who were Jews or Christians or Sabeans [before Prophet Muhammad] - those [among them] who believed in Allah and the Last Day and did righteousness - will have their reward with their Lord, and no fear will there be concerning them, nor will they grieve"Surah Al-Baqrah,Verse 62.[9]

The Qur'an also makes it clear that the Christians will be nearest in love to those who follow the Qur'an and praises Christians for being humble and wise:

"...You will find the closest in affection to those who believe are those who say: “We are Christians”; that is because among them are men devoted to learning and men who have renounced the world, and they are not arrogant.
And if they hear what was sent down to the messenger you see their eyes flooding with tears, for what they have known as the truth, they say: “Our Lord, we believe, so record us with the witnesses.”
“And why should we not believe in God and what has come to us of the truth? And we yearn that our Lord admits us with the righteous people.”
So God recompensed them for what they have said with estates with rivers flowing beneath them, abiding therein; such is the recompense of the good doers.[7]

Similarities between the Bible and the Qur'an

The Qur'an contains many references to people and events that are mentioned in the Bible; that Jesus was given the Injil (Greek evangel, or Gospel) from the Abrahamic God. Traditionally, Muslims have believed that parts of these teachings were eventually lost or distorted to produce what is now the Hebrew Bible and the Christian New Testament.

Christians, with exception, generally agree that the Pentateuch (Torah or Tawrat) is the original work of Moses (Musa)[8][9][10] but has been modified in translation, transliteration or transcription to include more recent names of places and similar insubstantial alterations. Jesus relies on specific statements in the Pentateuch and claims them as authored by Moses, which gives credence to the claim that Moses was at least the originator of the substance of the Pentateuch if indeed he did not write the currently accepted text word-for-word.

In stark contrast to the Muslim position Christians do not credit all the Psalms to David (Daud), indeed a common view is that only half of the psalms were created by David:

"While almost half of the psalms are credited to David, at least one was written 500 years after his birth. A number of poets and writers contributed, and about a third of the psalms are completely anonymous."
Philip Yancey and Tim Stafford, The Insight Bible[11]

The Bible on Islam and Prophecy about Muhammad

The Bible was written hundreds of years before Muhammad was born. Muslim scholors like Zakir Naik[12], Ahmad Deedat and many others say that the Paraclete (comforter, helper) referred to in the Gospel of John is a prophecy of the coming of Muhammad. Zakir Naik says that "as it is written in Gospel of John

"Nevertheless I tell you the truth; it is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you".16-7[10]

"Ahmed" or "Muhammad" meaning "the one who praises" or "the praised one" is almost the translation of the Greek word Periclytos. In the Gospel of John 14:16, 15:26, and 16:7. The word 'Comforter' is used in the English translation for the Greek word Paracletos which means advocate or a kind friend rather than a comforter. Paracletos is the warped reading for Periclytos. Jesus actually prophesied "Ahmed" by name. Even the Greek word Paraclete refers to the Prophet who is a mercy for all creatures". However some people[who?] think that Comforter mentioned in these prophecies refers to the Holy Spirit but Muslim scholors[who?] are of the view that the prophecy clearly says that only if Jesus departs will the Comforter come. The Bible states that the Holy Spirit was already present on earth before and during the time of Jesus, in the womb of Elizabeth, and again when Jesus was being baptised, etc. Hence this prophecy refers to none other than Muhammad . Muhammad is mentioned by name[13] in the Song of Solomon chapter 5 verse 16:

"Hikko Mamittakim we kullo Muhammadim Zehdoodeh wa Zehraee Bayna Jerusalem."

"His mouth is most sweet: yea, he is altogether lovely. This is my beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem."5:7[11]

In the Hebrew language "im" is added for respect. Similarely "im" is added after the name of Muhammad to make it Muhammadim. In English translation some translators[who?] have even translated the name of Muhammad as "altogether lovely", but in the Old Testament in Hebrew, the name of Muhammad is yet present.

Islam teaches that the Bible was originally the inspired word of God but that it became corrupted over the centuries. Muslims have firm belief in the Bible but, the original one, not the present day Bible.

Early Christian writers

John of Damascus

In 746 John of Damascus (sometimes St. John of Damascus) wrote the Fount of Knowledge part two of which is entitled Heresies in Epitome: How They Began and Whence They Drew Their Origin.[14] In this work St. John makes extensive reference to the Koran and, in St. Johns's opinion, its failure to live up to even the most basic scrutiny. The work is not exclusively concerned with the Ismaelites (a name for the Muslims as they claimed to have descended from Ismael) but all heresy. The Fount of Knowledge references several suras directly often with apparent incredulity.

From that time to the present a false prophet named Mohammed has appeared in their midst. This man, after having chanced upon the Old and New Testaments and likewise, it seems, having conversed with an Arian monk, [101] devised his own heresy. Then, having insinuated himself into the good graces of the people by a show of seeming piety, he gave out that a certain book had been sent down to him from heaven. He had set down some ridiculous compositions in this book of his and he gave it to them as an object of veneration. ...There are many other extraordinary and quite ridiculous things in this book which he boasts was sent down to him from God. But when we ask: ‘And who is there to testify that God gave him the book? And which of the prophets foretold that such a prophet would rise up?’—they are at a loss. And we remark that Moses received the Law on Mount Sinai, with God appearing in the sight of all the people in cloud, and fire, and darkness, and storm. And we say that all the Prophets from Moses on down foretold the coming of Christ and how Christ God (and incarnate Son of God) was to come and to be crucified and die and rise again, and how He was to be the judge of the living and dead. Then, when we say: ‘How is it that this prophet of yours did not come in the same way, with others bearing witness to him? And how is it that God did not in your presence present this man with the book to which you refer, even as He gave the Law to Moses, with the people looking on and the mountain smoking, so that you, too, might have certainty?’—they answer that God does as He pleases. ‘This,’ we say, ‘We know, but we are asking how the book came down to your prophet.’ Then they reply that the book came down to him while he was asleep.

Theophanes the Confessor

Theophanes the Confessor (died c.822) wrote a series of chronicles (284 onwards and 602-813 AD)[15][16][17] based initially on those of the better known George Syncellus. Theophanes reports about Muhammad thus:

At the beginning of his advent the misguided Jews thought he was the Messiah [...] But when they saw him eating camel meat, they realized that he was not the one they thought him to be, [...] those wretched men taught him illicit things directed against us, Christians, and remained with him.
Whenever he came to Palestine he consorted with Jews and Christians and sought from them certain scriptural matters. He was also afflicted with epilepsy. When his wife became aware of this, she was greatly distressed, inasmuch as she, a noblewoman, had married a man such as he, who was not only poor, but also an epileptic. He tried deceitfully to placate her by saying, ‘I keep seeing a vision of a certain angel called Gabriel, and being unable to bear his sight, I faint and fall down.’


In the work A history of Christian-Muslim relations[18] Hugh Goddard mentions both John of Damascus and Theophanes and goes on to consider the relevance of Nicetas[clarification needed] of Byzantium who formulated replies to letters on behalf of Emperor Michael III (842-867). Goddard sums up Nicetas view:

In short, Muhammad was an ignorant charlatan who succeeded by imposture in seducing the ignorant barbarian Arabs into accepting a gross, blaspheming, idolatrous, demoniac religion, which is full of futile errors, intellectual enormities, doctrinal errors and moral aberrations.

Goddard further notes that in Nicetas we can see in his work a knowledge of the whole Koran including an extensive knowledge of suras 2-18. Nicetas account from behind the Byzantine frontier apparently set a strong precedent for later writing both in tone and points of argument.

Old French

The false medieval Christian belief that Muslims were idolatrous (that is, worshipped Mohammed as a rival to God/Allah) passed into the French language with the word mahomet or mahommet, meaning an idol. It later became two words in English-mammet or mawmet, meaning a false god. All words are now out of use.[19]

Artistic influences

Islamic influences on Christian art show multi-faceted contributions of Islamic art and culture in the achievements of Christian art. Most Christian arts have received such influence, from religious architecture to religious painting.[20][21]

Islam and Protestantism

Islam and Protestantism share orientations towards iconoclasm: the Beeldenstorm (statue's assault) during the Dutch reformation.

Islam and Protestantism entered into contact during the 16th century, at a time when Protestant movements in northern Europe coincided with the expansion of the Ottoman Empire in southern Europe. As both were in conflict with the Catholic Holy Roman Empire, numerous exchanges occurred, exploring religious similarities and the possibility of trade and military alliances. Relations became more conflictual in the early modern and modern periods, although recent attempts have been made at rapprochement. In terms of comparative religion, there also interesting similarities such as textual criticism and iconoclasm, as well as differences, in both religious approaches.

Nostra Aetate

The question of Islam was not on the agenda when Nostra Aetate was first drafted, or even at the opening the Second Vatican Council. However, as in the case of the question of Judaism, several events again came together to prompt consideration of Islam.

By the time of the Second Session of the Council in 1963 reservations began to be raised by bishops of the Middle East about the inclusion of this question. The position was taken that either the question not be raised at all, or if it were raised then some mention of the Muslims be made. Melkite patriarch Maximos IV was among those pushing for this latter position.

Early in 1964 Cardinal Bea notified Cardinal Cicognani, President of the Council's Coordinating Commission, that the Council fathers wanted the Council to say something about the great monotheistic religions, and in particular about Islam. The subject, however, was deemed to be outside the competence of Bea's Secretariat for the Promotion of Christian Unity.

Bea expressed willingness to "select some competent people and with them to draw up a draft" to be presented to the Coordinating Commission. At a meeting of the Coordinating Commission on 16–17 April Cicognani acknowledged that it would be necessary to speak of the Muslims."[22]

The period between the first and second sessions saw the change of pontiff from Pope John XXIII to Pope Paul VI, who had been a member of the circle (the Badaliya) of the Islamologist Louis Massignon. Pope Paul VI chose to follow the path recommended by Maximos IV and he therefore established commissions to introduce what would become paragraphs on the Muslims in two different documents, one of them being Nostra Aetate, paragraph three, the other being Lumen Gentium, paragraph 16.[23]

The text of the final draft bore traces of Massignon's influence. The reference to Mary, for example, resulted from the intervention of Monsignor Descuffi, the Latin archbishop of Smyrna with whom Massignon collaborated in reviving the cult of Mary at Smyrna. The commendation of Muslim prayer may reflect the influence of the Badaliya.[23]

In Lumen Gentium, the Second Vatican Council also declares that the plan of salvation also includes Muslims, due to their professed monotheism.[24]

See also

Islam specific:


  1. ^ Ratliff, "The monastery of Saint Catherine at Mount Sinai and the Christian communities of the Caliphate."
  2. ^ Islam and Christianity
  3. ^
  4. ^ Quran 4:156–158
  5. ^ Second Coming of Christ
  6. ^ Catechism of the Catholic Church, The Church and non-Christians #841]
  7. ^ Qur'an V: 82-84
  8. ^ "...on the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch?" a discussion of the main positions on Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch
  9. ^ Mosaic Authorship of the Pentateuch—Tried and True by Eric Lyons, M.Min. and Staff of Apologetics Press
  10. ^ The Mosaic Authorship of the Pentateuch by Professor George Frederick Wright, D.D., LL. D., Oberlin College, Oberlin, Ohio
  11. ^ Philip Yancey and Tim Stafford writing in the introductory notes to The Insight Bible, an NIV Bible with study notes published by Zondervan, ISBN 9780340642559
  12. ^ [
  13. ^
  14. ^ St. John of Damascuss Critique of Islam
  15. ^ Theophanes in English, on Mohammed gives an excerpt with all pertinent text as translated by Cyril Mango
  16. ^ The Chronicle of Theophanes Confessor (Byzantine and Near Eastern History AD 284-813). Translated with introduction and commentary by Cyril Mango and Geoffrey Greatrex, Oxford 1997. An updated version of the citation.
  17. ^ The Chronicle of Theophanes Anni mundi 6095-6305 (A.D. 602-813) a more popularised but less rigorously studied translation of Theophanes chronicles
  18. ^ "A history of Christian-Muslim relations", p.56
  19. ^ Games, Alex; Coren, Victoria (2007). Balderdash and Piffle, One Sandwich Short of a Dog's Dinner. pp. 143–144. ISBN 976-1-84607-235-2. 
  20. ^ A world history of architecture Marian Moffett p.189
  21. ^ Encountering the World of Islam Keith E. Swartley p.74
  22. ^ (History of Vatican II, pp. 142-43)
  23. ^ a b (Robinson, p. 195)
  24. ^ Lumen Gentium, 16

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