Compare and Contrast Essay: Christianity, Islam, and Judaism

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Christianity has a global presence, with followers on every inhabited continent. The number of people who practice Christianity may be more than 1.7 billion.

Islam is a significant worldwide religion that was founded in Arabia by Muhammad, also known as the Prophet. It has millions of followers called Muslims who adhere to the Koran, which contains the teachings delivered by Muhammad. With over 1 billion people estimated to be its followers globally, Islam remains the fastest growing faith.

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Judaism, an ancient religious tradition, encompasses Jewish law, custom, and practice. It is a system of sanctification under God’s rule that has been present in different regions due to migrations and expulsions. On the other hand, Christianity centers around Jesus Christ, a Jewish rabbi. He gathered followers who saw him as a new prophet and witnessed his resurrection on Easter. These Jewish Christians founded the initial churches in Jerusalem.

Islam, like Christianity, was founded by Muhammad based on prophecies and teachings. During his lifetime (570?-632), the Arabian Peninsula was inhabited by both nomadic Bedouins and city-dwelling Arabs. At the age of 40, Muhammad began his ministry after claiming to have received a vision from the archangel Gabriel. Initially, he kept these visions private and only shared them with close friends and family members. However, after four years, Muhammad started openly preaching in Mecca, his hometown. Despite facing ridicule from the people of Mecca, Muhammad moved to Medina in 622. By the time he passed away in 632, he had become the leader of a rapidly expanding Arab state.

One duty for Muslims is paying zakat—a tax originally established by Muhammad and later enforced by Muslim states—to assist impoverished individuals primarily within their community. Another obligation is observing Ramadan’s fast where Muslims must refrain from eating, drinking, smoking, and engaging in sexual intercourse between dawn and sunset. The fifth obligation is completing the pilgrimage to Mecca; all physically and financially capable adult Muslims are required to do this at least once during their lifetime.

Judaism, in contrast to the other major religions, began with the Israelites who did not reject the gods worshipped by other nations. However, they focused on worshipping a single deity named Yahweh, considered as the god of the patriarchs. The Israelites honored Yahweh through sacrifices in Jerusalem and later at sanctuaries in the north where a rival Jewish kingdom was established. Prophets cautioned against excessive reliance on these temple rituals, and their warnings were proven true when both kingdoms fell to foreign conquerors.

The exile of the Judeans to Babylonia in 586 BC marked a crucial turning point for Israelite religion. As a result, interpretations of Israel’s history before this event were influenced by these circumstances. This laid the groundwork for traditional biblical texts such as Pentateuch (the first five books), prophetic canon, and historical books.

All these events eventually led to the formation of Judaism as a genuinely monotheistic religion. In 539 BC, Jews were granted permission to return to Israel.

Jesus is revered as the ultimate preacher and moral exemplar in Christian teachings, with his life and work carrying profound significance. Christians hold a belief in God’s supreme power and authority to discern between good and evil. Baptism is viewed as the gateway into Christianity. The Christian faith places great importance on community, with worship predominantly occurring within the church. Personal devotion and private prayer are deeply cherished by individuals across all Christian traditions.

Islam has two main sources of doctrine and practice: the Koran and the Sunna. The Koran is viewed by Muslims as God’s divine speech to Muhammad, with Him being its author. On the other hand, the Sunna is understood through Hadith, a collection of traditions based on the Prophet’s words and actions. Although not infallible like the Koran, Hadith carries significant importance in Islamic culture.

In Islam, salvation is achieved through performing essential actions that all Muslims must follow. Islamic beliefs hold that God fulfills four crucial functions: creation, sustenance, guidance, and judgment. The concept of “reforming the earth” is emphasized in the Koran as humanity’s ultimate goal, urging individuals to rise above their pettiness while cultivating inner moral qualities.

A central tenet of Islamic teachings is that prophets were sent by God to guide both individuals and nations in correct moral and spiritual conduct. Muhammad is believed to be the last prophet with the Koran representing an unparalleled revelation from God surpassing all previous ones.

Lastly, Muslims have faith in a final judgment where people will be evaluated based on their deeds.

Judaism, similar to other major religions, has similarities with Jewish culture. All forms of Judaism are based on the Hebrew Bible. Different branches of Judaism have had unique characteristics throughout history. The fundamental belief in Judaism is the existence of one transcendent God who created and governs the universe. This same God revealed himself to the Israelites at Mount Sinai, known as the Torah. Another important concept in Judaism is the covenant between God and the Jewish people. In this agreement, Israel acknowledges God and commits to following his laws while God recognizes Israel as his chosen people. Both natural and historical events that occur to Israel are believed to come from God and be influenced by Israel’s religious practices. Over time, it has become clear that righteousness and obedience lead to divine rewards while sin results in punishment through divine judgment after death. Additionally, it is believed that in the end times, God will send his Messiah to redeem the Jews and restore their sovereignty in their homeland.

During the 8th century, a crisis emerged within the Catholic Church regarding the use of icons in Christian churches. This division between eastern and western Europe eventually led to a significant event known as the Great Schism in 1054. At this time, Islam successfully conquered many eastern centers, with Constantinople being the only unconquered stronghold. The Christian East and West grew apart due to their distinctive characteristics, resulting in mutual excommunication between Rome and Constantinople. Despite attempts at reconciliation, this separation has persisted into modern times.

Meanwhile, notable developments took place within the western portion of the Roman Empire. The authority of the papacy expanded while Germanic peoples migrated. As invading tribes swept into Europe and Constantinople’s influence waned, the bishop of Rome emerged as an authoritative figure within the Western church. In 800, Pope Leo III crowned Frankish king Charlemagne as emperor, establishing an independent Western Empire.

Unlike its eastern counterpart, medieval Christianity in the West developed as a unified entity. Throughout history, conflicts frequently arose between church and state over their respective spheres of authority. Church and state authorities collaborated to organize Crusades against Muslim conquerors of Jerusalem; however, these Crusades did not succeed in permanently regaining Christian control over the Holy Land nor bringing unity to Western Christianity.As Islam expanded into regions already occupied by Christianity and Judaism, it encountered a challenge. In the early years of Islam, Islamic law and theology were developed. The Mutazilites, an important Islamic theological school that emerged in the 700s and 800s, placed emphasis on reason and logical thinking. They argued that human intellect can distinguish between good and evil. However, there was a backlash against this viewpoint in the 900s. Philosophers asserted that moral truths are determined by God and can only be known through revelation. This led to criticism of philosophy by orthodox Islamic thinkers such as theologian al Ghazali in the 11th century, resulting in a decline in rationalist philosophical speculation within the Islamic community.

Amongst the various sects present within Islam today, Shiites are currently the sole surviving group. They originated from a dispute over political succession after Muhammad and hold beliefs centered around a lineage of 12 Imams starting with Ali. Despite the twelfth Imam’s disappearance in 880, Shiites await his reappearance which they believe will establish a world filled with justice.

In the context of Judaism, it also faced significant struggles that differ from those experienced by Islam and Christianity. One notable event was the Maccabean revolt, which took place from 165 to 142 BC and led to Jewish political independence from Syria. It was during this period that the earliest apocalyptic writings were composed, with these cryptic revelations interpreting the ongoing wars as a cosmic conflict between good and evil, ultimately concluding with God’s legions emerging victorious. The fervor for Messianic-apocalyptic beliefs grew stronger when Jewish political independence was terminated by Roman legions in the middle of the 1st century BC. This intensity climaxed during an unsuccessful revolt from AD 66 to 70. The Romans further discredited the priestly leadership by destroying the Second Temple in AD 70 and suppressing a second revolt from 132 to 135. Consequently, the rabbinic movement emerged in this climate, placing emphasis on communal and spiritual aspects of life. According to the teachings of the rabbis, salvation could be attained by the individual Jew through study, prayer, and observance while awaiting the arrival of the Messiah.

Despite their differences expressed in the preceding sections, Christianity, Islam, and Judaism share many similarities. They all believe in monotheism and the teachings of prophets who conveyed God’s word. Additionally, these religions emphasize the importance of donation. Furthermore, conflicts have arisen among them, which persist to this day. Notably, Jerusalem holds significant religious significance for all three religions.

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