Islam and Judaism: Religions of Lawby Rit Nosotro
What are the relationships between Islam and the Jewish and Christian religions. Are Islam's five chief obligations and restrictions tied more closely to Judaism or Christianity?
Islam and Judaism are comparable as law based religions. While Judaism is one of the oldest religions, dating back to the days of Abraham, Islam is one of the newest religions. It is believed to have been founded in 622A.D. Muslims must follow the Koran, while Jews must follow the Torah. Both sets of laws are very strict, and they believe there are consequences for those who do not keep them. Islam's five chief obligations, testimony of faith, prayer, giving zakat, fasting in the month of Ramadan, and the pilgrimage to the Mecca, are similar to Jewish commandments and traditions.
Faith is the foundation of many religions, Islam and Judaism included. The first of the Five Pillars of Islam, testimony of faith, requires Muslims to say with conviction, "There is no true god but Allah, and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah." The first half of this testimony states that only Allah is to be worshiped. Muslims take this very seriously and do not consider Muhammad to be Allah or even divine. They simply believe he was the last in a series of prophets. Besides Muhammad, Muslims believe in many of the same prophets as the Jews. (Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and Jesus) Similarly, the first commandment states that, "You shall put no other gods before me." Judaism is a monotheistic religion, as is Islam, and they do not believe in the Trinity. To both Jews and Muslims, Jesus was simply another prophet. Unlike Christians, whose faith is based in Jesus Christ ("For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life" John 3:16), both Jews and Muslims do not believe that God has a Son.
Prayer is a way to speak with and learn from God for both Muslims and Jews. Muslims erroneously believe that the very first mosque, the Kaaba, was built by Abraham and his son Ishmael. Bowing toward the Kaaba of Mecca five prayers a day, i.e., dawn, noon, mid-afternoon, sunset, and night, the Muslims are devoted to speaking with God. Unlike Jews, who had priests offer sacrifices to atone for sin, Muslims believe there are no intermediaries between God and themselves. Before beginning their prayers, Muslim's say, "Allah Akbar" (god is greater than all else). Although works based doctrines do not allow absolute assurance of an ultimate salvation, Muslims claim prayer lets them feel at peace with Allah. Jews are to pray to God and no other. They pray several times a day, but their prayers are broken into three basic groups: Shacharis (morning prayers), Mincha (afternoon prayers), and Ma'ariv (evening prayers). Prayer stems from Abraham, who instituted the morning prayer, Isaac, who instituted the afternoon prayer, and Jacob, who instituted the evening prayer. Prayer is broken up this way because each of these three patriarchs brought a sacrifice to God at that particular time of day. Prayer is a way for Jews to profess their faith to God, to get closer to God, to cleanse their hearts, and to bring peace to the mind.
Because God knows everything, Jews and Muslims believe that they will be rewarded for their good deeds (like giving to the needy) and punished for their bad deeds. They both acknowledge everything belongs to God, and humans hold their belongings in trust. Muslims are required to give zakat, support to the needy, according to the Five Pillars of Faith. Giving to the needy is a way of purifying and encouraging new growth. On Purim, every Jew is required to give at least two gifts to two poor people. These gifts may not be taken from maaser, which is the ten percent of their income that Jews are required to give to God. Jews and Muslims must give because they follow external laws, and Christians give because Jesus Christ writes the Living Law on their hearts.
Fasting for both Muslims and Jews is a way of spiritually purifying oneself. To purify themselves, Muslims fast during the day in their month of Ramadan. Although the night may be full of parties, their goal is to grow spiritually, learn self-control (Some say you shouldn't even swallow your spit during the day.), and know what it is like to be needy. Fasting for the Jews is also a way of lessening concentration on physical aspects and directing their attention to spiritual pursuits. Rather than fast only one month out of the year, the Jews fast several different times through the course of the year. Their fasts are for different reasons. Some are in memory of past tragic events, to inspire repentance, and to beg for forgiveness. Here again, requirements of law and tradition drive the behavior for both religions. Christians may also choose to fast, but without compulsion.
The Muslims' pilgrimage to Mecca (hajj) could be compared to the Jews' desire to live in Jerusalem. Although Jews are not required to live in Jerusalem, all Muslims who are physically and financially able to do so must make a pilgrimage to Mecca. According to Islam, Abraham set up the rituals for the hajj. These rituals include circling the Ka'abah seven times, going seven times between the mountains of Safa and Marwa, standing together on the plain of Arafa, and joining together in prayer to ask Allah's forgiveness. Another mosque, the "Dome of the Rock" in Jerusalem, is so called because it is here that Muhammad is said to have ascended into heaven. Zionism is a concept that some Jews have about living in Jerusalem. They believe that they should have their own homeland that was promised to Abraham and that Jerusalem should be its capitol. Jewish community in Israel is believed to be part of the Divine plan for redemption of the Jews. Both Muslims and Jews firmly believe that Israel, specifically Jerusalem, belongs to them.
Both religions claim Abraham as their father. While the Torah rightfully claims Isaac is the blessed son of God's promise, the Koran states Ishmael is the son of promise. Their descendants have lived in conflict with one another ever since. Even though the tenants that the Muslims and Jews follow obligate adherents to a life of works, Muslims place their faith in Allah, and Jews place their faith in God. What keeps the two religions from being one is that Muslims believe there is no god but Allah, and Jews believe there is no God but Yahweh. Loyalty to a set of external laws brings about a change where eventually the laws themselves become the god. Can these people ever be unified? Only when these laws are changed can that happen, and that can only happen when their faith is no longer in the law, but in Jesus Christ who fulfilled the law by paying the penalty of death deserved by each lawbreaker. "Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert [a story known well by both Muslims and Jews], so the son of man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life" (John 3:14). By his resurrection he conquered the sting of death and made a way for all mankind to have peace with God the Father.
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