10 Common Questions About Islam, Answered


How Does Islam Differ From Judaism or Christianity?

Hagia Sophia
This interior of the Hagia Sophia shows a mural of Mary holding Jesus Christ as well as inscriptions of Allah and Muhammad. Hagia Sophia was once a Greek Orthodox Christian patriarchal basilica, and later an imperial mosque. It's now a major tourist attraction in Istanbul, Turkey. HADI ZAHER/Getty Images

The major tenets of Islam have much in common with the two other major monotheistic religions, Judaism and Christianity, but there are also some key differences.

The greatest similarity is that Islam, Judaism and Christianity believe there is only one true God. (This is called monotheism.) In Arabic, the name for God is Allah, and Muslims believe he is the very same God who revealed his teachings to previous prophets like Abraham, Moses and Jesus (among others), but that his final revelation was to the Prophet Muhammad. Allah, as described in the Quran, is compassionate and merciful, among his many other attributes [source: ING].

As for holy scriptures, Muslims believe that God had previously sent divine revelation to Abraham, Moses, David and Jesus. But they don't believe that these revelations exist in their original form today [source: ING]. Similarly, while Muslims believe that Jesus was a prophet and was born miraculously of the Virgin Mary, they don't believe in his divinity as the son of God [source: BBC].

The core beliefs of Islam are contained in what are known as the six Articles of Faith. These are:

  1. Belief that Allah is the one and only God
  2. Belief in angels
  3. Belief in the prophets, 25 of which are mentioned in the Quran, including Adam, Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Isaac, Ishmael, Moses, David and Jesus
  4. Belief in the holy books revealed to the prophets mentioned above
  5. Belief in the Day of Judgment
  6. Belief in predestination (that Allah knows all that will happen)

As we'll discuss next, the faith and practice of Islam is also guided by the Five Pillars. Several of these core teachings have strong parallels in Judaism or Christianity, like the injunction to give to charity, reflected in the Jewish practice of tzedakah, or providing for the poor. Islam and Judaism also share the practice of ritual circumcision of baby boys, refraining from eating pork and certain burial customs [source: Schneier and Ali].