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Christianity and Islam

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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 on Mount Sinai. It is sealed with an imprint representing Muhammad's hand.[1]

Christianity and Islam share a historical and traditional connection, with some stark theological differences. The two faiths share a common origin in the Middle East and are often considered Abrahamic religions. Muslims have a range of views on Christianity, often considering Christians (and Jews) to be People of the Book or as heretics. Christian views on Islam are diverse and range from considering Islam a fellow related religion worshipping the same God, through to a heresy or unrelated cult. Christianity and Islam both consider Jesus to have been sent by God. However Christians generally consider Jesus to be the Son of God, while Muslims consider the Trinity a division of God's Oneness and a grave sin (Shirk). Both religions consider themselves monotheistic.

Christianity and Islam have different scriptures, with Islam using the Quran and Christianity the Bible. Both texts offer an account of the life and works of Jesus. Belief in the Injil (the Islamic account of Jesus) is an important part of Islamic theology, and Muslims view the Christian Gospels as altered, while Christians consider the Quran to be a later, Apocryphal work. Both religions believe in the Virgin birth of Jesus, but the Biblical and Quranic accounts differ.

Historically, Christianity and Islam have both peacefully co-existed and engaged in extended periods of warfare. Western (secular and Christian) and Islamic histories offer differing accounts of both periods of tolerance and violence.

As Abrahamic religions

Christianity, Islam and Judaism are known as Abrahamic religions because of their common origin through Abraham. Christians and Muslims consider Ishmael (Ismā'īl), to be the "Father of the Arabs" and Isaac (Isḥāq) the "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, with Muslims emphasising Ishmael as the older son of Abraham, and Christians emphasising Isaac as the favourite son of Abraham.

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. Christians differ in their opinions on the nearness of the relationship, with some considering the relationship close while others consider it distant compared to that between Christianity and Judaism or effectively non-existent.


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[2]

Protestant theology mostly emphasises the necessity of faith in Jesus as a saviour in order for salvation. Muslims may receive salvation in theologies relating to Universal reconciliation

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

"Lo! Those who believe (in that which is revealed unto thee, Muhammad), and those who are Jews, and Christians, and Sabaeans – whoever believeth in Allah and the Last Day and doeth right – surely their reward is with their Lord, and there shall no fear come upon them neither shall they grieve."

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:

"And thou wilt find the nearest of them in affection to those who believe (to be) those who say: Lo! We are Christians. That is because there are among them priests and monks, and because they are not proud. When they listen to that which hath been revealed unto the messengers, thou seest their eyes overflow with tears because of their recognition of the Truth. They say: Our Lord, we believe. Inscribe us as among the witnesses.
How should we not believe in Allah and that which hath come unto us of the Truth. And (how should we not) hope that our Lord will bring us in along with righteous folk?
Allah hath rewarded them for that their saying – Gardens underneath which rivers flow, wherein they will abide for ever. That is the reward of the good."
Qur'an, Sura 5 (Al-Ma'ida), ayat 82–85[4]

A study published in 2014 showed that the common Abrahamic origin of Islam and Christianity may be a way to unite Christians and Muslims.[5] As the study showed, Muslim and Christian believers who acknowledged their religions' common origins were more positive towards each other.

Comparisons between the Bible and the Qur'an

The Qur'an contains many references to people and events in the Bible. Muslims believe that Jesus was given the Injil (Greek evangel, or Gospel) from the Abrahamic God and that that parts of these teachings were eventually lost or distorted to produce what is now the Hebrew Bible and the Christian New Testament. Christians generally believe that the Quran is a later work than the Bible and non-divine in origin.

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 the children of Israel to the worship of One 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 Allah";– 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 Allah is Exalted in Power, Wise;-
Qur'an, sura 4 (An-Nisa), ayat 156-158[6]

It is said in John 14:2-3[7][8] and also in the Al-Quran 43:61[9] that Jesus will be sent again to earth at the end of time. He will fight against the Antichrist shortly before the Last Day.[10]

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[11] and in the Quran 112:1-4.[12] Muslims contend that Jesus argues against division of God's oneness (shirk), along with references in the Exodus 20:2-5 [13][14] and also in the Quran.[15] In contrast, trinitarian Christian theology argues that New Testament, particularly the Gospel of John contains or is centred on the Trinity.

Islamic views on the Trinity

Within Christianity, the doctrine of the Trinity states that God is a single being who exists, simultaneously and eternally, as a communion of three distinct persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Within Islam however, such a concept of plurality within God is a denial of monotheism, and foreign to the revelation found in Muslim scripture. The act of ascribing partners to God, whether they be sons, daughters, or other partners, is considered to be blasphemous in Islam. The Qur'an asserts God's absolute oneness, thus ruling out the possibility of another being sharing his sovereignty or nature. Islam teaches Muslims that Jesus was a messenger of God and that he did not claim to be God's son. The Holy Spirit is generally believed to be the angel Gabriel.[16]

The New Testament on Islam and Muhammad

Part of a series on

Christians generally believe that Muhammad is not mentioned or alluded to in the Bible. As Jesus is considered the Son of God, a later revelation is either redundant or heretical. Some conservative Christians identify Muhammad with the False Prophet or Antichrist.

Muslim preachers including Zakir Naik[17] and Ahmad Deedat argue that the Paraclete referred to in the Gospel of John (according to several scholars written near the end of the 1st century AD[18][19]) is a prophecy of the coming of Muhammad.

"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 go, I will send him unto you."
John 16:7

In the Gospel of John (14:16, 15:26, and 16:7) the word often translated into English as "Comforter" is the Greek word Paracletos, a word with several shades of meaning, including both "advocate" and "comforter".[20] Many Muslim scholars believe that the Greek word Paraclete refers to Muhammad.[21] Christians believe that the Paraclete who comes in place of Christ is the Holy Spirit, who was manifested on the day of Pentecost.[22][23]

Early Christian writers on Islam and Muhammad

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.[24] 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, 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.[25]

Theophanes the Confessor

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[29] Hugh Goddard mentions both John of Damascus and Theophanes and goes on to consider the relevance of Nicetas 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.

Nostra Aetate

The question of Islam was not on the agenda when Nostra Aetate was first drafted, or even at the opening of the Second Vatican Council. However, as in the case of the question of Judaism, several events came together again to prompt a 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 will not be raised at all, or if it were raised, some mention of the Muslims should 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.[30]

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.[31]

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.[31]

In Lumen Gentium, the Second Vatican Council declares that the plan of salvation also includes Muslims, due to their professed monotheism.[32]

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.[33] Relations became more conflictual in the early modern and modern periods, although recent attempts have been made at rapprochement.[34] In terms of comparative religion, there are also interesting similarities, as well as differences, such as textual criticism and iconoclasm in both religious approaches.

Mormonism and Islam

Artistic influences

Islamic art and culture have both influenced and been influenced by Christian art and culture. Some arts have received such influence strongly, particularly religious architecture in the Byzantine and medieval eras[35][36]

See also


  1. ^ Ratliff, "The monastery of Saint Catherine at Mount Sinai and the Christian communities of the Caliphate."
  2. ^ Catechism of the Catholic Church, The Church and non-Christians #841]
  3. ^ Quran 2:62
  4. ^ Quran 5:80–84
  5. ^ Kunst, J., Thomsen, L., Sam, D. (2014). Late Abrahamic reunion? Religious fundamentalism negatively predicts dual Abrahamic group categorization among Muslims and Christians. European Journal of Social Psychology,
  6. ^ Quran 4:156–158
  7. ^ John 14:2-3
  8. ^ 2nd coming
  9. ^ Quran 43:61
  10. ^ Second Coming of Christ
  11. ^ Mark 12:29
  12. ^ Quran 112:1-4
  13. ^ Exodus 20:2-5
  14. ^ similarities
  15. ^ Quran 4:116
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^ 'The time of origin is to be put around the turn of the century.' Theissen, Gerd and Annette Merz. The historical Jesus: a comprehensive guide. Fortress Press. 1998. translated from German (1996 edition). p. 36.
  19. ^ '[T]he Gospel circulated abroad during the first half of the 2nd century but was probably composed about 90–100 CE.' Harris, Stephen L., Understanding the Bible. Palo Alto: Mayfield. 1985. p. 303.
  20. ^ New Testament Greek Lexicon
  21. ^ The Paraclete
  22. ^ International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
  23. ^ The Johannine Paraclete in the church fathers: a study in the history of exegesis
  24. ^ St. John of Damascuss Critique of Islam
  25. ^ St. John of Damascus’s Critique of Islam
  26. ^ Theophanes in English, on Mohammed gives an excerpt with all pertinent text as translated by Cyril Mango
  27. ^ 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.
  28. ^ The Chronicle of Theophanes Anni mundi 6095-6305 (A.D. 602-813) a more popularised but less rigorously studied translation of Theophanes chronicles
  29. ^ "A history of Christian-Muslim relations", p.56
  30. ^ (History of Vatican II, pp. 142-43)
  31. ^ a b (Robinson, p. 195)
  32. ^ Lumen Gentium, 16
  33. ^
  34. ^
  35. ^ Marian Moffett p.189A world history of architecture
  36. ^ Keith E. Swartley p.74Encountering the World of Islam

Further reading

  • Abdiyah Akbar Abdul-Haqq, Sharing Your [Christian] Faith with a Muslim, Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 1980. ISBN 0-87123-553-6
  • Giulio Basetti-Sani, The Koran in the Light of Christ: a Christian Interpretation of the Sacred Book of Islam, trans. by W. Russell-Carroll and Bede Dauphinee, Chicago, Ill.: Franciscan Herald Press, 1977. ISBN 0-8199-0713-8
  • Roger Arnaldez, Jésus: Fils de Marie, prophète de l'Islam, coll. Jésus et Jésus-Christ, no 13, Paris: Desclée, 1980. ISBN 2-7189-0186-1
  • Kenneth Cragg, The Call of the Minaret, Third ed., Oxford: Oneworld [sic] Publications, 2000, xv, 358 p. ISBN 1-85168-210-4
  • Maria Jaoudi, Christian & Islamic Spirituality: Sharing a Journey, Mahwah, N.J.: Paulist Press, 1992. iii, 103 p. ISBN 0-8091-3426-8
  • Jane Dammen McAuliffe, Qur'anic Christians: an Analysis of Classical and Modern Exegesis, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991. ISBN 0-521-36470-1
  • Frithjof Schuon, Christianity/Islam: Essays on Esoteric Ecumenicism, in series, The Library of Traditional Wisdom, Bloomington, Ind.: World Wisdom Books, cop. 1985. vii, 270 p. N.B.: Trans. from French. ISBN 0-941532-05-4; the ISBN on the verso of the t.p. surely is erroneous.
  • Mark D. Siljander and John David Mann, A Deadly Misunderstanding: a Congressman's Quest to Bridge the Muslim-Christian Divide, New York: Harper One, 2008. ISBN 978-0-06-143828-8.
  • Robert Spencer, Not Peace But a Sword: The Great Chasm Between Christianity and Islam. Catholic Answers. March 25, 2013. ISBN 978-1938983283.
  • Thomas, David, Muhammad in Medieval Christian-Muslim Relations (Medieval Islam), in Muhammad in History, Thought, and Culture: An Encyclopedia of the Prophet of God (2 vols.), Edited by C. Fitzpatrick and A. Walker, Santa Barbara, ABC-CLIO, 2014, Vol. I, pp. 392–400. 1610691776

External links

  • Hasib Sabbagh: A Legacy of Understanding from the Dean Peter Krogh Foreign Affairs Digital Archives
  • Slideshow with Audio Clips from the "Paths to the Heart" Conference on Sufism and the Christian East that took place in Columbia, South Carolina on October 18–20, 2001
  • Jesus and Christianity A comprehensive essay on the Muslim view of Jesus and Christianity
  • Christian Churches of God Articles/Papers on Islam
  • The Christian Muslim Forum
  • "I'm Right, You're Wrong, Go to Hell" – Religions and the meeting of civilization by Bernard Lewis
  • Islam & Christianity (IRAN & GEORGIA) News Photos
  • The Uniqueness of Jesus in the Qur'an by
  • Jesus is Muslim
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