Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are called the Abrahamic religions because of their shared origins. Over the previous centuries, there has been a conflict between them, and, consequently, many people assume that they are different. However, these creeds share many beliefs, traditions, rituals, and customs. Christians, Jews, and Muslims all believe that God made a covenant with Abraham to ensure that adherents and their lineage would worship Him. In return, He vowed to protect their children and future generations, and this agreement became the legacy for Abraham’s children to continue serving Him (Partridge, 2018). Abraham’s two sons, Ishmael and Isaac, settled in different parts of the Arabian Peninsula. Ishmael’s descendants became Muslims while Isaac’s became Christians and Jews. This paper examines the characteristics of these faiths and determines that despite their dissimilarities, they have resemblances that are based on their joint background.
The Abrahamic Religions
Christianity was derived from the Greek word Christos or anointed, which refers to Jesus Christ. The religion was established by Christ and consists of three main groups, the Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant churches (Partridge, 2018). Christianity is directly descended from Judaism, and its adherents believe in the Bible, which was given by God to men. Christians believe that man is made in God’s image and that He is a gracious and merciful entity who provides for His staunch believers. Moreover, the religion states that people inherit sin because of a common ancestor, Adam, who rebelled against God, but Jesus was sent to atone for human iniquity by his death on the cross. Some rituals practiced in Christianity include baptism, Holy Communion, penance, prayer, marriage, and holy orders.
Islam, on its part, is a result of an Arabic term that means “submission” and is also linked to the word salaam or “peace.” The religion started in Mecca around 610 C.E., although, at the time, an old Semitic faith was already established in Arabia (Partridge, 2018). The two main Islamic groups are Shia and Sunni, which were divided as a result of a dispute concerning the legitimate successor of Prophet Muhammad. There also exists an ascetic movement in Islam which is referred to as Sufi. The holy book is the Quran, revealed to Prophet Muhammad over approximately 20 years. Muslims believe that the Quran was Allah’s final revelation to humanity. The concept of original sin and atonement are absent from this faith, with the belief that all human beings are born inherently good, but it is their weakness that leads them to commit wicked deeds. Five rituals define the pillars of Islam; they include professing faith, giving alms, praying five times a day, fasting, and making a pilgrimage to Mecca.
On its part, Judaism was derived from the Hebrew word “Yehudim” or Judah. This religion has been in existence since the time of Moses, more than 3,000 years ago (Partridge, 2018). There are several divisions in the faith, which include Conservative, Hasidic, and Reform Judaism as well as ethnic groupings, such as Sephardi Jews and the Ashkenazi. Their holy book is the Hebrew Tanakh which is similar to the Old Testament in the Christian Bible and comprises of the law, writings, and prophets. Jews reject the concept of original sin and believe that people atone for their mistakes when they pray to God and repent and that the Day of Atonement is specifically set aside to serve this purpose. Some of the rituals practiced include prayer, observation of the Sabbath, male circumcision, and coming of age for Jewish boys.
Commonalities Within the Religions
The Abrahamic religions are all monotheists, meaning that they believe in the existence of one God who created the universe. Christians believe in one God who exists as a trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Muslim faith is, however, based on strict monotheism and argues that God is not three distinct persons. Judaism also agrees on the concept of one God who created heaven and earth, and that all human beings are brothers and sisters (Partridge, 2018). The three religious groups, therefore, believe in the concept of a supreme god who created order in the world.
Another similarity between them is that they all consider Jerusalem City to be an important holy site. Jerusalem is Judaism’s holiest city, the place where God lived, and all Jews who live outside this place pray as they face it. Christians value it because of its importance in Jesus’ life and as a major part of the Old Testament. Jesus was presented at the temple in Jerusalem, he healed many people, preached, and was crucified in this place. Muslims place great value on the city as much as they do on Medina and Mecca. Prophet Muhammad is believed to have visited it on a nocturnal journey, and many previous prophets were linked to Jerusalem.
All the faiths believe in fasting as a form of worship during certain religious days. Fasts are often related to holy days in the Abrahamic religions, and adherents refrain from the ordinary necessities of life for a time of remembrance and also to show their thankfulness (Akram, 2016). They do this by sharing food and gifts with their communities, holding festivals, and by attending special worship services to commemorate these activities.
Distinctive Features within the Religions
The three religions have different perspectives on the concept of hell and heaven. Christians believe that heaven will be a place of joy where they will relax after death and that hell is reserved as a punishment for those who indulge in sin. It is, however, important to note that Catholics believe in purgatory, a place where everyone will be allowed to repent and escape the punishment in hell. On the other hand, Muslims believe that there are seven layers of decadence in heaven, as well as seven layers of fiery torture in hell, and judgment will determine the place which a person will go to after they die (Lange, 2017). Conversely, Jews believe in heaven and that the faithful will reside there after death, but they do not believe in hell as Christians and Muslims do.
The Abrahamic religions have different perspectives about the role of Jesus Christ in their faiths. Both Christians and Muslims believe that he was born of the Virgin Mary. However, the former also proclaim him as part of the trinity and that he was sent to reconcile human beings to God through his death on the cross (Partridge, 2018). On their part, Muslims do not perceive Jesus as a divine being. They rather state that his mission on earth was to proclaim the gospel, but this message has, nevertheless, been corrupted over the years by human alterations and additions. Judaism takes a radical position, rejecting the idea that he was a messiah, so his work has no relevance in this faith.
The Abrahamic religions were established at different times in history, although their origins are the same, with Christianity and Islam being an offshoot of Judaism. They have some similarities in their beliefs, rituals, prophets, and in the manner in which they worship God. However, a few slight differences, such as their perspectives on Jesus and the afterlife, demonstrate that each of them has dogmas that distinguish them from the other. For the most part, they have principles and ideologies that appear either strict or relaxed but which form the foundation adherents rely on for guidance during worship.
Akram, M. (2016). Meaning and significance of fasting in comparative perspective: A study with special reference to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Hamdard Isalmicus, 39(2), 37–60.
Lange, C. (2017). The ‘eight gates of paradise’ tradition in Islam: A genealogical and structural study. In Roads to Paradise: Eschatology and Concepts of the Hereafter in Islam (2 vols.) (pp. 341-370). Brill.
Partridge, C. (2018). A short introduction to world religions (3rd ed.) Fortress Press.