According to world religious statistics, of the monotheistic religions 33 percent of the world are Christians; and 21 percent of the world are Muslims. (Bruce, 2006) Combined, this means over half of the world’s population is either Christians who are
followers of Jesus, or Muslims who are followers of Mohammed. In order to fully grasp the diversity and development of Christianity and Islam we must investigate factors: the life and ministry of Jesus and Mohammed, the impact both men’s death had on their religion, the way each man was and is worshipped, and the way their religion is spreading around the world today.
The Historical Life of Jesus
As stated before, the founder of Christianity was Jesus Christ. The actual name “Jesus” derives from the Greek form of the Hebrew word Joshua (pronounced Yah-shu-ah), which means “savior”. The title of “Christ” derives from the Greek form of the Hebrew word Messiah (pronounced Meh-siy-ah), which means the “anointed one”. (ReligionFacts, 2004)
According to the New Testament Gospels of Matthew and Luke, Jesus’ conception was around 4 CE and was immaculate due to the fact that Mary, Jesus’ mother, and her fiancé Joseph had never had sexual relations. This virgin conception was the first of many signs that indicated Jesus was an anointed Jewish leader. Concluding the scriptures about Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem there is little information about his early life until he was about 12-years of age. The Gospel of Luke accounts for only Jesus wandering off into a temple to discuss religion. This is the only account documented Jesus’ early life until he was baptized at age 30. The baptism was a sign of Jesus becoming a divine being. (ReligionFacts, 2004)
Concluding the baptism, Jesus selected 12 disciples, or followers, who would learn from him and witness events of the next three years. Recorded throughout the New Testaments, Jesus preformed miracles which include turning water into wine, walking on water, cursing a fig tree, healing the sick, multiplying a small meal to feed a large crowd, casting demons out of people, and raising the dead back to life. (Davis, 1999)
The main message of Jesus Christ concentrated primarily on the importance of love, kindness, and the kingdom of God. He taught through parables or “stories”; giving examples of situations where people are enlightened about the love of God. Through these parables Jesus condemned the pride and hypocrisy of Jewish leaders. Although his teachings were based upon Jewish principles, they were more focused on the grace God bestows rather the wrath of God. Through this Jesus ’popularity expanded, but his reputation ignited opposition from religious leaders. (ReligionFacts, 2004)
Near the end of Jesus’ three year ministry he predicted his betrayal and death at the historical event at the “Last Supper”, which took place the night before his death. Jesus was betrayed by one of his followers, Judas Iscariot, for 30 pieces of silver. Jesus was brought before and questioned by the Jewish chief priests. The questioning of Jesus led to him being sentenced to death for being blasphemous. Jesus was viciously flogged and executed by crucifixion, which is a slow and painful death by asphyxiation. (Davis, 1999)
At the end of his death, Jesus’ body was taken down from the cross to a tomb blocked by a large rock. Three days following Jesus’ death, devote followers of Jesus went the grave to anoint his body with oils and spices. Upon their arrival they find the large rock had been moved and the tomb was empty. (Davis, 1999)
The belief is that Jesus rose from the dead, made several appearances to his followers, and then ascended into heave. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the central focus and belief of the church today because it is believed that the act of dying on the cross and rising from the dead makes it possible for people to have peace with God in this life and meet a favorable end in the next. (Davis, 1999)
The Historical Life of Mohammed
As mentioned before, Mohammed is the founder of Islam. The name of Mohammed translated from ancient Arabic means “highly praised”. Mohammed was born in 570 CE in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. By the age of six he had lost both of his parents and was raised by his uncle who was a shepherd. Throughout his childhood Mohammed worked as a shepherd with his uncle in Syria. When he became a young man, Mohammed worked between Syria and Saudi Arabia as a camel driver. This traveling experience allowed him to learn about different cultures and religions. (ReligionFacts, 2004)
After the death of his uncle, and upon turning 25 years of age, Mohammed married a wealthy woman named Khadija, a woman 15 years older. Over the next several years Mohammed visited a cave in Mount Hira where he went to think. He began to have visions and visitations from the Angel Gabriel, enlightening him on spiritual truths and telling him that he was chosen to be a prophet. Following these meetings Mohammed shared them with Khadija, who is considered the first convert it Islam. (ReligionFacts, 2004)
Mohammed then began to share the message of immorality, materialism, repentance, and worshipping Allah, the only true God. Mohammed never claimed to be anything else but a prophet; nor did he perform miracles. Within the first three years of his ministry, Mohammed gained 40 followers. (ReligionFacts, 2004)
Mohammed’s teachings were not immediately accepted because they threatened the countrymen’s moral and economic way of life. The teacher and followers endured much persecution, violence and imprisonment. Mohammed had to escape the city of Mecca secretly and was almost captured in the process. News spread of the leader’s troubles when a city called Yathrib declared their conversion to Mohammed’s teachings if he would become their leader. His arrival to Yathrib has become a religious celebration known to Muslims as Hijira; and the name of the city Yathrib changed to the Medina. (Boyce, 2003)
Mohammed displayed himself as a capable leader and prophet in Medina. An example of Mohammed’s competent leadership was evident in the resolution and peace of five conflicting tribes living within the city. This single act caused his reputation to spread and attract more followers. (Boyce, 2003)
Mohammed and the city of Medina began to fight with the city of Mecca. Each victory over the city of Mecca was considered a sign from God because Mecca’s army was much larger than Medina’s army. Finally, in 630 CE Mohammed and Medina defeated the city of Mecca. The city and the Ka’ba temple were dedicated to Allah, which caused the entire city of Mecca to convert to Islam. Two years after the victory at Mecca, Mohammed died. There are many different speculations about his death. Following his death Abu Bkr, a close friend and follower, declared that Mohammed was the last prophet of Allah. (Boyce, 2003)
The Impact of the Death of Jesus and Mohammed
The fact that Jesus foretold the coming of his death adds great strength and power to his ministry. The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ had several effects on Christianity: a sign that a prophet was martyred, a divine plan of salvation, and an act of redemption. Christian followers see the death of Christ as a heartbreaking but necessary feat in order for there to be atonement between mankind and God. From this develops a positive act of God which “expiated the sins of the world”. However, the resurrection of Jesus also displays hope for all. (Hall)
Concluding the death of Mohammed the Muslim followers believed in spreading their faith by the sword. Islam became a fighting religion that conquered other Arab tribes and beyond in the name of Mohammed and Allah. This in itself is an example that the Muslim followers did not retain the message of Mohammed. (Islam: The History of Spreading)
Although both deaths of these great men are tragic it is obvious that the prediction, death, and resurrection has had a more peaceful impact then the unexpected death. The Muslim followers were taught by their prophet conversion under aggression. Whereas, Christian followers were taught conversion was a choice. Another powerful comparison between the two men is their remains. Mohammed’s remains are in a mosque courtyard in Medina, Saudi Arabia; the physical remains of Jesus Christ are no longer in the tomb were he was placed after death.
The Ways of Worship
These two religions may have had different founders, but the methods of worship are quite similar. Both religions require: declaring that there is only one, true God and that their prophet is a messenger from God: prayer and communication to God: giving a portion of ones salary to either the poor or to the place of worship: the specified times of fasting and how to fast: the celebration of religious holidays: and the meeting at a religious place for hearing the scriptures and sermons.
The way that these two religions differ is that Christianity encourages the habitual celebration of the “Lords Supper” or communion. This is a symbolic act of eating bread and drinking wine (or substitutes) as a sign of remembrance of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Christianity encourages inspirational psalms and hymns of worship along with the recognized religious holidays.
Islam requires a Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia at least once in a lifetime. This religion strongly encourages a specified modes dress code; especially for women. Islam forbids the consumption of alcohol or pork and does not encourage music or singing for religious purposes.
Their Message Being Carried Out Today
What many may not know about Islam is that if a Muslim leads another into the conversion of Islam they are guaranteed entrance into heaven. With this information one would think that Islamic conversion is quite forceful. This is not the case. There are specified conversion centers where non-Muslims may attend to ask questions and find out information. Pamphlets and books are distributed to non-Muslims; yet, it is not of Muslim etiquette to question others in their beliefs. Yet, being Muslim is not necessarily a choice but a matter of birth. If a father is Muslim then the children are born Muslim. However, conversion out of Islam is punishable by death; the killer will be justified and never step foot into a prison.
This is quite different from Christianity. Conversion to or out of Christianity is ones choice. A former Christian will be shunned or “excommunicated” for their decision. The same is said for a child who may be born into a Christian family, but this does not technically make him/her Christian. The child becomes a Christian when they profess Christianity as their own. Christians do not believe that leading others into the conversion of Christianity will gain them passage into heaven. However, Christians are quite aggressive on missionary outreaches. They are firm believers of going to unconverted areas to preach and share their faith.
Albert Einstein said “True religion is real living; living with all one’s soul, with all one’s goodness and righteousness.” (Petrie) The message that both Jesus and Mohammed preached was of a relationship and obedience towards God. Over the years it is apparent that the religions have made room for personal interpretations, which has caused the branching off of new denominations or sects. The point that everyone seems to miss is that “true religion is real living”. Religion is an individual choice that should not be made out of fear, pressure or aggression; but out of awe and reverence towards God.