Islam, Christianity and Judaism
Ever since the fateful 9/11 terror attacks in America, Islam as a religion has been regarded with suspicion and received condemning remarks from almost every corner of the world because of the association of terrorism to Islam. Subsequent terror attacks perpetrated by Muslim jihadists in various parts of the world have also raised suspicion on anyone who professes Islam as a religion. These forms of violence have resulted in worldwide misconception of the beliefs and values of the Islamic religion (Curtis, 2010). Of relevance is the fact that Islam, just like Christianity and Judaism, is not only founded and practiced in the middle east, as commonly believed by most Americans. There are many other parts of of the world where the Islamic religion is practiced and these include Africa, Asia, Europe, America and many Arab countries. In such regions and countries, Islamic teachings have helped to shape different cultures while simultaneously being shaped by these cultures. These paper seeks to understand how Islamic teachings are practiced in different parts and cultures of the world as well as establish the differences these teachings and those held in Christianity and Judaism. Additionally, the paper will also examine the relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims based on Islamic teachings.
Islamic teaching and their interpretations in different countries and cultures
Islam is a monotheist religion which regards the Qur’an as the final and complete word of God and thus the main source of its teachings. In Islam Allah is revered as the only deity while the prophet Mohammad is Allah’s last prophet hence regarded highly in the religion. Muslims worship in mosques and believe in angels whom they regard as pure and sinless, having been created from light. In Islam angels are immortal beings whose main purposes are to serve as a link between man and Allah as well as act as guardians of humans and record their deeds on earth. Angels are also unique and sinless because unlike men, they find it compelling and wiser to obey God hence are incapable of unbelief and sin ( Pal, 2011). Islam is founded upon five important pillars which are to be practiced by all believers. The first of these pillars is the Shahada, which in itself is an affirmation that Allah is the only deity to be worshiped and the attestation that the Muhammad was his last prophet and messenger.
By making this affirmation, a believer chooses monotheism and embraces the teaching of prophet Muhammad and accepts Allah as the only deity (Malbouisson, 2006). Salat which means prayer is the second pillar and stipulates the general features of prayer according to Islam. Such features direct that Muslims must pray five times daily. Prayers are conducted in the morning, noon, mid-afternoon, at sunset and during the evening. During prayer, it is necessary for one to perform Raq’ah, which entails bowing down and prostrating as a sign of worship and total submission to Allah. In addition to these, Muslims are also to perform ablutions as a symbol of purification and this is practiced differently in different cultures and countries through washing the face, feet and hands using either water or sand. Qiblah is also another feature of prayer that individuals pray while facing Mecca. This pillar of prayer also requires believers to carry out private prayers also known as Du’a although these are consideredless important compared to communal prayers (Malbouisson, 2006).
Zakat is the third pillar under Islamic teachings and this requires believers to give alms for purposes of charity. Muslims are to give offerings called Saddaqah and this pillar also compels members of the Islamic religion to donate 2.5% of their annual income towards religious causes and also helping needy Muslims.Saum or fasting is the fourth pillar in Islam and is observed by Muslim faithfuls in remembrance of the revelation of the Qur’an during the holy month of Ramadan. During this month Muslims fast and keep themselves clean for a month until ‘Id al-Fitir which marks the end of Ramadan and the beginning of the following month. Muslims who face medical problems are allowed to postpone the fasting to a later date or period. Hajj or the Pilgrimage to Mecca is the fifth and final pillar of Islamic religion and it requires every Muslim who is financially able to make a trip to Mecca at least once during their lifetime (Pal, 2011). This pillar is significant as it teaches Muslims the daily activities that make an honorable life based on Islamic religion. During Hajj Muslimfaithfuls are required to don white garments and refrain from wearing jewelry or engaging in sexual intercourse and unnecessary arguments.
These five pillars of Islam have enhanced and transformed cultures in both Muslim populated countries such as Saudi Arabia and in countries that regard Islam as controversial like the United States. For instance, Chicago hosts a Muslim nonprofit humanitarian organization called the Zakat Foundation of America which aims to alleviate poverty and human suffering in diverse areas. This tax-exempt religious and charitable organization has gained international repute for having served needy and poor Muslims both within and outside the US hence showing that despite the controversial beliefs and regards of Islam by American, it plays an important role in poverty alleviation and fosters philanthropic acts.Zakatis a principle embedded within the Islamic religion which promotes cheerful giving (Curtis, 2010).
Of all the contentious issues in Islamic teachings, Jihad is regarded as the most controversial. In fact, Islam has been defined as a violent religion by people all over the world due to the information and knowledge they possess concerning jihad. Jihad is mainly defined as a holy war and in the Arabic language it simply means to struggle or to exhaust one’s effort with an aim of pleasing Allah. Nevertheless, Muslims have from time immemorial disagreed on the exact meaning of this concept. Some Islam clerics believe that the military meaning of the Jihad was coined when Islamic states were fighting for independence from colonialism (Malbouisson, 2006). For instance, the war by Pakistan against India, was linked to the jihad concept in the sense that Muslim faithfuls were fighting for political liberation of Islamic states such as Pakistan. Jihad in this respect is defined from an anti-colonialism perspective.
On the other hand, jihad as an Islamic concept and practice has been given diverse meanings by Muslims and Islamic radicals all over the world. Extremist groups and Islamic radicals such as Al Qaeda have chosen to focus solely on the violent struggle against domination, from outside Islamic states and oppression within such states by resisting any forms of perceived or existing injustices, political, cultural, social, economic or military assault on Islamic states (Bonner, 2006). Despite attracting great controversy, these groups have chosen to continually attach the violent meaning to jihad and perpetrate violent attacks to countries that they believe to have violated their beliefs and rights. The United States is one of the countries that has consistently been threatened by such violent attacks meted out by militant jihadists and Islamic extremists who regard the country as an enemy given their pursuits for dominance and assault of Arabic countries. These violent attacks has affected relationship betweenAmerican Muslims, Christians in US and American citizens from other denominations and religions (Pal, 2011).
The true Islamic teachings on Jihad condemn and refute the violent misinterpretation of this concept and they regard this misconception of the Holy War as a deliberate attempt by Muslim radicals to force their fellow practicing Muslims to embrace extreme doctrines that have been expressly prohibited in the Islamic religion. Essentially conceptual meaning of Jihad emphasizes on the struggle to perform good acts and eliminate all forms of injustices and evil from oneself and the society at large. Such efforts are not physical or violent in nature but can be economic, social or even political. As a matter of fact, one of the greatest form of Jihad is when a faithful stands before a tyrant and speaks the truth concerning his leadership methods. Self control and restraining oneself from committing wrong acts are also regarded as forms of Jihad. Islamic religion therefore does not acknowledge or uphold war as the only possible meaning of the concept of Jihad. In fact, numerous meanings of the term do not include violent acts of terrorism (Bonner, 2006).
In 1947, Pakistan became the first Islamic state which defined aligned its political, economic and social ideologies with the teachings of Islam. The financial and political institutions in Pakistan reveal the influence of local culture and Islamic values in shaping and defining corporate social responsibility. The United Arab Emirates is also another country wherecorporate social responsibility is largely drawn from cultural values that are embedded within Islamic teachings and values. As two of the countries with the highest Muslim populations in the world, Indonesia and India are not Islamic states yet many of their cultural practices and values, including language and social aspects such as dress codes and relations of the different genders, are derived from Islamic teachings (Pal, 2011).
Islamic teachings contrasted with Christianity and Judaism
Judaism, Islam and Christianity are all monotheistic religions which share the belief in one God. All these faiths regard peace as a central belief and this is evident in their modes of greetings which historically connote the similar meaning of the phrase “Peace be upon you.” The greeting “Shalom Aleichem” in Judaism, “Pax Vobiscum” in Christianity and “Salaam Aleikum” in Islam all share a common meaning even though they are used and meant primarily for members of the respective faiths. Additionally, all these faiths believe in the existence of Angels who are responsible for communicating messages from God to mankind through prophets (Catherwood, 2007).
Despite these common similarities, Judaism, Christianity and Islam have distinct disparities hat sharply distinguish each religious belief and practice from the other. All the three religions differ from each other based on the founders that started them. For Islam, the prophet Mohammad is regarded as the founder and is taught in the madrassa as the true messenger or prophet of God. Christianity on the other hand is is based on the belief in Jesus Christ who is the founder who came to Earth and died to deliver every sinner in the world. In Islamic teachings, Jesus is viewed as any other prophet but in Christianity, he is the main messenger of God and was actually God’s son. The founder of Judaism is Abraham, the father of faith who is also taught about in Christian teachings in the bible (Catherwood, 2007).
Even though Judaism, Islam, and Christianity all uphold monotheism, Christianity practices this concept om a different manner. While Christianity is based on monotheistic concepts, Christian teachings state that God exists in trinity as the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. This differs from the concept of monotheism practiced in Islam and Judaism in the sense that both Islamic and Judaism teachings stress on absolute monotheism with Islam observing the worship of none but Allah while Judaism affirms the worship of Yahweh only (Catherwood, 2007).
All these faiths base their teachings on holy books yet names and content ascribed to them are different. Islamic teachings are derived from the Qur’an which is considered the holy book that was written by Muhammad for around two decades. Muslims believe that the Qur’an is the final revelation from God (Allah) to mankind on how to live by Islamic precepts while on earth. Christianity on the other hand bases its teachings on the Bible which was written by many prophets and disciples of Jesus Christ who were inspired by God. For Christians, the Bible is regarded as the holy word from God. Like Christians, Judaism also uses a part of the Bible to derive its teachings and principles. The Hebrew Tanakh, is the Judaism holy book which is similar to the Old Testament of the Bible. This book contains the Ten Commandments which form the Hebrew Law combined with other prophetic writings that are used as a basis for teaching Judaism (Catherwood, 2007).
Additionally, these religions have rituals but all of them differ. Shahada, Salat, Zakat, Saum and Hajj are the main pillars in which Islamic rituals are embedded. Amongst the rituals that are performed by Christianity include baptism, providing sacraments and Holy Communion as well as anointing of the sick among others. Christian denominations also perform different rituals(Jacobs, 2009)
Like Judaism, Christianity and other religions, Islam is defined by certain principles and teachings that are essential in the defining its true followers. Despite controversial stances taken by extremist groups such as Al Qaeda and the adoption of belligerent connotations of certain Islamic principles and teachings such as Jihad, peace remains an essential aspect of Islam. Implementation of these five pillars, by Muslims across the world has shaped political, economic and religious cultures in different countries. Pakistan for instance is governed by Islamic principles hence these teachings define and influence the cultural values of the state. In the Middle East, countries like the United Arab Emirates have developed economically by following Islamic beliefs and principles.
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