Islam, Christianity & Judaism: a Common Monotheistic Heritage?
Islam is one of the three monotheistic religions along with Judaism and Christianity which are all based on the belief of the oneness of God, the sanctity of God’s prophets, belief in human’s accountability and the Last Day of Judgment yet Islam is being the subject of confrontational debate and heinous misnomers. The unfortunate reality is that many people are being fed with negative messages and illicit connotations when it comes to the Islamic faith. If lay people are excused by their lack of authentic knowledge on Islam, some self-claimed scholars and experts on Islamic studies who feed lay people such nonsense about the Muslim faith have no excuse at all.
The Oneness of the human family & the universal message of Islam
The Islamic faith is built on its universal message which is blind to racial origin, cultural heritage or religious affiliation. According to the Quran every human being is honored solely by the virtue of being human, without any further consideration of race, origin, or creed. The Quran says, “We have honored the children of Adam, provided them with transport on land and sea, and conferred on them special favors above a great part of our creation” (17:70)
Islam emphasizes the oneness of humanity as a family: “O mankind, fear your Guardian Lord, who created you from a single self and created-out of it- its mate, and made from them twain scattered (like seeds) countless men and women” (4:1). All people equally possess basic human rights, including the right to freely choose one’s religion without coercion, for within Islam the space of the “other” is well preserved and protected. Islam is not an exclusive religion, and no human being, clergy or otherwise, is permitted to set limits on God’s mercy and forgiveness, or to speak on His behalf in assigning reward or punishment. The ultimate judge is God Himself: “Your return in the end is toward Allah…He will tell you the truth of the things wherein you disputed” (6:164)
The People of the Book (Jews & Christians)
According to the Islamic creed both Jews and Christians are the closest to Muslims in terms of their canonical beliefs. They are fellow believers in the One God and the recipients of divine scriptures from Him. They share the belief in the line of prophethood. The three religions share a common moral code. The Quran says, “Say: we believe in God, and the revelation given to us, and the revelation given to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob and the Tribes, and that given to Moses and Jesus and that given to all the Prophets from their Lord: we make no distinctions between one and another of them and to Him we are submitters.” (2:136)
Intermarriages with the People of the Book
The divine bond of brotherhood created by the belief in the unity of God which is commonly shared by Muslims, Christians and Jews paved the way for a tighter and closer form of human relationship than the strong one that is already established by the virtue of shared humanity among all people across the globe. The divine belief in God and the long line of Messengers along with other common canonical beliefs has its profound impact on fostering these creedal commonalities with the sacred union of marriage between Muslim men and Christian and Jewish women. Marriage being the most intimate of bonds between a man and a woman indicates the level of proximity and commonality which Islam shares with Judaism and Christianity. God says in the Quran, “Lawful unto you in marriage are (not only) chaste women who are believers but chaste women among the People of the Book revealed before your time when you give them their due dowers and desire chastity and not lewdness, taking them as lovers” (5:5)
The Muslim husband can’t force his non-Muslim wife to convert to Islam
The renowned scholars of Islamic jurisprudence emphasized the impermissibility of the Muslim husband to force his non-Muslim wife to convert to Islam. They also maintained the importance of allowing the Christian or the Jewish wife to practice her religious rituals, go to the church or the synagogue for worship without ridiculing her beliefs or showing any signs of disrespect to her religious practices. Any pressures exerted by the Muslim husband on his non-Muslim wife would be in sheer contradiction to the Quranic verse which clearly indicates, “Let there be no compulsion in religion” (2:256). Muslims are firm believers in the divine origins of both Christianity and Judaism along with the belief, love and respect for Prophet Moses and Jesus. Muslims also believe in the divine revealed scriptures of the Torah and the Bible as the words of God.
Eating the food of the Jews and the Christians
Part of fostering the relationship between Muslims and the other members of the Abrahamic faith, Muslims are permitted and encouraged to accept the invitation of their Christian and Jewish neighbors over lunch and dinner as a token of friendship and harmony. Muslims are encouraged to eat the food (except for pork) of the people of the Book as they maintain the legal guidelines of slaughtering in the appropriate manner where the most merciful rules of slaughtering are applied. God states in the Quran, “The food of the People of the Book is lawful to you and your food is lawful to them”. (5:5)
Islam & the birth of religious plurality
Since the very inception of the Islamic society in Madinah, it was a pluralistic state. A treaty was concluded when Prophet Muhammad emigrated to Madinah between all tribes including the Jewish tribes who lived there, establishing religious freedom and equal rights and duties. Islam is not an exclusive religion. It is a universal call to mankind (not an Arab religion or an “Eastern” religion as some may depict it). Although the message of Islam was sent to people across the globe including the People of the Book (as the Islamic message is the natural continual of the long thread of the Abrahamic faith) yet the failure to embrace Islam is no reason to categorize them as enemies or infidels. As a matter of fact the term “infidel” is of a European origin, used at the time of the Crusades to describe Muslims. For Muslims the legal dictum about the People of the Book is that “they have our rights and owe our duties.” They are equally eligible for social security and other benefits the state provides. Muslims were warned against acts of bigotry or prejudice towards the People of the Book, and the Prophet Muhammad himself said, “Whoever hurts a person from the People of the Book, it will be as though he hurt me personally.”
Muslims are not holding themselves as superior to others but rather they acknowledge goodness wherever it resides. God states in the Quran, “Not all of them are alike: of the People of the Book are a portion that stand for the right; they recite God’s verses all night long and they prostrate themselves in adoration” (3:113) Thus no individual or group can claim monopoly over God’s mercy or deny it to others. God says, “Those who believe (in the Quran) and those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Christians, and the Sabians, any who believe in God and the last Day, and work righteousness, shall have their reward with their Lord, on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve” (2:62).
From the brief account of the Muslim’s attitude towards both Christians and Jews, one can easily notice the unfounded lies and half-truths by some self-claimed pseudo scholars who only aim at igniting animosity and inciting hatred among Abrahamic religions. It is the collective responsibility of the sensible people of the three monotheistic religions to rise up to their shared duty to fight the forces of division with the power of unity; to vanquish the loud cacophony of bigotry with the kind voice of reason and wisdom; to wash away the ugliness of hatred with the beauty of love and the hope of a shared bright future.