Christianity vs. Islam  

Posted by SOS in

Christianity and Islam are the two largest religions in the world and they have many points of contact. Both inherited from Judaism a belief in one God who created the world and cares about the behavior and beliefs of human beings.

The Prophet Muhammad knew Christians in his lifetime and respected them along with Jews as "People of the Book." Because of their monotheism and roots in the revealed Jewish Bible, the Prophet and his successors extended conquered Christians (and Jews) more freedoms than conquered pagans.

In the approximately 1,300 years of history since the life of the Prophet, the relationship between Christianity and Islam has rarely been harmonious. As it spread, the Muslim Empire quickly conquered much of the Judeo-Christian Holy Land and the Christian Byzantine Empire. The Christian Crusades of the 11th through 13th centuries, waged in large part against Muslims, served only to widen the divide between the two faiths. Constantinople, the "New Rome" and the center of Eastern Orthodox Christianity, fell to the Turks in 1453 and has lived under Islamic rule ever since.

In recent centuries, mutual distrust between Christians and Muslims has continued to grow. On the other hand, some have pointed out that the conflict has more to do with political tensions and divergent cultural worldviews than with religion, and efforts have been made by both Christians and Muslims to find common ground and engage in respectful dialogue.

To illustrate the similarities and differences between the two largest religions of the world, the following chart compares the origins, beliefs and practices of Christianity and Islam. Please note that numbers are estimates and beliefs and practices are oversimplified for brevity's sake.

History & Stats
date founded
c. 30 AD
622 CE
place founded
Saudi Arabia
founders & early leaders
Jesus, Peter, Paul
original languages
Aramaic and Greek
major location today
Europe, North and South America
Middle East, Southeast Asia
adherents worldwide today
2 billion
1.3 billion
adherents in USA
159 million
1.1 million
adherents in Canada
21 million
adherents in UK
51 million
1.6 million
current size rank
largest in the world
second largest in the world
major branches
Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant
Sunni, Shiite
Religious Authority
sacred text
Bible = Old Testament (Jewish Bible) + New Testament
Qur'an (Koran)
inspiration of sacred text
views vary: literal Word of God, inspired human accounts, or of human origin only
literal Word of God
status of biblical prophets
true prophets
true prophets
status of Jewish Bible
noncanonical but useful as a (corrupted) inspired text
status of Jewish Apocrypha
canonical (Catholic);
useful but noncanonical (Protestant)
status of New Testament
noncanonical but useful as a (corrupted) inspired text
summaries of doctrine
Apostle's Creed, Nicene Creed
Six Articles of Faith
religious law
canon law (Catholics)
other written authority
church fathers, church councils, ecumenical creeds (all branches);
papal decrees, canon law (Catholics)
Beliefs & Doctrine
ultimate reality
one creator God
one creator God
nature of God
Trinity - one substance, three persons
unity - one substance, one person
other spiritual beings
angels and demons
angels, demons, jinn
revered humans
saints, church fathers
prophets, imams (especially in Shia Islam)
identity of Jesus
Son of God, God incarnate, savior of the world
true prophet of God, whose message has been corrupted
birth of Jesus
virgin birth
virgin birth
death of Jesus
death by crucifixion
did not die, but ascended bodily into heaven (a disciple died in his place)
resurrection of Jesus
denied, since he did not die
second coming of Jesus
mode of divine revelation
through Prophets and Jesus (as God Himself), recorded in Bible
through Muhammad, recorded in Qur'an
human nature
"original sin" inherited from Adam - tendency towards evil
equal ability to do good or evil
means of salvation
correct belief, faith, good deeds, sacraments (some Protestants emphasize faith alone)
correct belief, good deeds, Five Pillars
God's role in salvation
predestination, various forms of grace
good afterlife
eternal heaven
eternal paradise
bad afterlife
eternal hell, temporary purgatory (Catholicism)
eternal hell
view of the other religion
Islam is respected as a fellow monotheistic religion, but Muhammad is not seen as a true prophet
Christians are respected as "People of the Book," but they have mistaken beliefs and only partial revelation
Rituals & Practices
house of worship
church, chapel, cathedral, basilica, meeting hall
day of worship
religious leaders
priest, bishop, archbishop, patriarch, pope, pastor, minister, preacher, deacon
major sacred rituals
baptism, communion (Eucharist)
Five Pillars: prayer, pilgrimage, charity, fasting, confession of faith
head covered during prayer?
generally no
central religious holy days
Lent, Holy Week, Easter
Eid-al-Fitr, Eid-al-Adha, month of Ramadan
other holidays
Christmas, saints days
Mawlid, Ashura
major symbols
cross, crucifix, dove, anchor, fish, alpha and omega, chi rho, halo
crescent, name of Allah in Arabic


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