Question and answer details
|Conner O'brian Ford|
|I've submitted a couple other questions, but this one is of a new nature. I was wondering about the relationship between Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. Is the Christian/Jewish Yahweh (Elohim, Jehovah, etc.) really the same thing as the Islamic Allah? Are Christianity and Islam two sects of the same religion? Allah comes from the Arabic terms meaning The Deity, which is synonymous with God-the common term for the Christian God. So, are they the same? They are both the God of Abraham, am I wrong?|
Thank you very much for your question, which is something which many people ask about.
Only recently a Roman Catholic friend of mine wrote to ask me for prayers. She said that her priest was ill and that the whole of the parish had been praying for his recovery, but with little success. She asked that since her God had not responded to prayer, maybe I could pray to mine and ask Him for the same request!
Of course, I did not hesitate to ask Allah Almighty that if it be His will, the person be granted good health, but I found it a bit more difficult to explain to this lady that we were, in fact, praying to the same God.
In a world which is beset by religious strife, or at least is made to seem so by those who would divide people of faith, it is desperately important, that people understand one another better and come to see how much they have in common.
There are those who would try to create enmity and antagonism between religions, but we must resist responding to their attempts and see that religious people are friends, never enemies.
Christianity, Judaism and Islam share so much that Christians, Jews and Muslims must work together for the sake of humanity and for the God they all worship.
Islam, you know, was revealed in its final form to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) fourteen hundred years ago in the Arabian Peninsula. It was meant to be a message for all people and for all time.
Muslims believe that this was not the beginning of the revelation but, rather, God had established Islam as the natural religion of mankind right from the beginning of Time, and that He had sent prophets down through the centuries calling people to worship One God and to live in accordance with His will.
These prophets of Islam have such familiar names as Adam, Moses, Solomon, David, Abraham and Jesus (peace be upon them all) and they all came with the same message, but for a particular people at a particular stage in history. It stands to reason, then, that these prophets were calling people to worship the same God, not a different God.
It is the belief of Muslims that even though these prophets were called to announce the worship of One God to their people, those who received the message from their lips often misunderstood it and that, over time, the actual message itself became distorted through translation or even through the deliberate action of some people.
The message given to Muhammad, though, was never distorted because the book revealed to him was never translated from the original Arabic. This is why Arabic is important for Islam. It was the language in which the Quran was revealed and in which it has been preserved.
Although Arabic is important to Muslims because it is the language of their Book and of their final prophet, Islam is not an Arabic religion, nor is it restricted to Arabs. In fact, it may surprise you to know that less than twenty per cent of the world's Muslims are Arab.
The name Allah, which Muslims use to speak about the God they worship, is an Arabic word, just as God is an English word, Gott is a German word and Dieu is a French word. No one would suggest that French, German or English people have a different God because they refer to him in their own language.
If, for example, you open any page in an Arabic Bible, used by Christians in the Middle East, you will see the name Allah many, many times. It is the Arabic name for God.
Muslims believe, then, that God's final revelation to mankind was given in the Quran, and that it corrected or confirmed what had been revealed previously to other prophets. Many stories found in the Bible, for instance, can be found in the Quran.
Islam teaches, though, that those who had gone before, misunderstood or rejected what had been revealed to them. This is why Christians and Jews have a different understanding of God from Muslims, but it is still the same God believed in by all three.
The purpose of inter-faith dialogue is for people of different traditions to understand one another more, not giving up what they believe, but respecting the beliefs of others. In the case of Christians, Jews and Muslims, they find very quickly that although there are many differences, there are also many things held in common.
I will give you an example. Last year I was invited to speak on more than one occasion at Saint John's Church in Edinburgh, Scotland, alongside other speakers who came from the Christian tradition. We met beforehand to make clear that we were not doing this to prove whose religion was the best, or even to prove the other's religion as wrong.
We were there to state quite plainly what we believed as Muslims or Christians, not feeling in the least threatened by what the other believed. We also hoped to show that we worshipped the One Creator of Mankind.
Very quickly in this dialogue, it was apparent that we differed on the status of Jesus (peace be upon him). Christians believe that he died on the Cross. Muslims believe that he did not. We could both, however, agree that Jesus was a great person, who has had an immense impact on the history of mankind. More than that, we could also agree that the world was in great need of the God we worship, although we worship Him in different ways and understand Him in different ways.
I hope you can see from all this, that the God worshipped by Christians, Muslims and Jews is one and the same. Muslims believe that they have the fullest understanding of what that God is like because they have the final revelation about Him.
In respecting other religious traditions, Islam is not abandoning anything. Muslims, by the way, have the greatest respect for the prophets held dear by Christians and Jews, precisely because they believe them to be prophets of Islam itself.
We should never feel threatened by goodness, wherever it is to be found. The world's religious leaders need not only to come together often to speak about what they hold in common, but they also need to be seen doing so. They need the whole world to see that they respect one another and that violence done in the name of religion is wrong.
Those people who have no place for religion do not like to hear this message, but it is nonetheless true. By talking to one another and getting to understand one another better, people of faith can speak to the world about the One God the world is thirsting for.
I hope that this answer is of help.
Please keep in touch.