Linking Faiths: Common Experiences in the Scriptures
Interestingly, the three Abrahamic faiths — Judaism, Christianity, and Islam — share much in common, including a lineage of noble prophets sent by God. At the root of commonality lies a deep connection to the legacy of Prophet Abraham and a belief in One God.
The Koran finds common ground with Christians and Jews (known as 'Ahl Al-Kitab, or People of the Book) in three broad ways:
- Theological belief in the Oneness of God
- Common divine laws
- A shared narrative of prophetic stories
Uniting faiths with belief in One God
The Koran addresses the Jews and Christians by saying, "O People of the Book! Come to common terms as between us and you: That we worship none but God; that we associate no partners with Him; that we erect not from among ourselves, Lords and patrons other than God . . ." (3:64).
The Koran finds commonality with Jews and Christians in the belief of strict monotheism, by which no prophet or saint is to be worshipped or venerated as divine alongside God.
Muhammad is also told by the Koran to remind People of the Book that God alone is "our Sustainer and your Sustainer" (2:139). As such, there is no need for dispute between the Muslims and their fellow monotheists, says the Scripture.
The Koran also attempts to fulfill its role as "The Reminder" by reminding Jews and Christians of their holy covenant with God, which among other things establishes belief and worship in God alone. The Koran confirms and praises the first Biblical covenant that says, "You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in the heaven above or on earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them . . ." (Exodus 20:4–5). This same understanding surfaces many times in the Koran (4:48, for example).
The Koran also shares the Biblical understanding of God as Creator of the universe (7:54), and reflects the same comprehension of God's sovereignty (6:59) as the Bible's insistence that everything is run by divine Will (Matthew 10:29–31).
With this spirit of unity in theological belief, the Koran encourages healthy dialogue (29:46) and coexistence in the form of marriage and the sharing of meat (5:5).
Bridging the gap between divine laws
Western commentators on religion and civilization often make it sound as if Islamic and Judeo-Christian laws are polar opposites. This is simply untrue. The Koran includes many of the same laws that you find in the Torah and Bible. In fact, the Koran is viewed in the Islamic tradition as a confirmation and reformation of previous divine laws.
The Ten Commandments
The Ten Commandments shared by Jews and Christians are almost identical to the laws found in the Koran, but the Koran doesn't list them as systematically as you find them in the Old Testament (Exodus 20:2–17):
- The first commandment in the Old Testament forbids taking any gods beside God. The Koran also strictly forbids associating partners with God, known as Shirk. It is considered the only unforgivable sin for one who dies without repenting (4:48).
- The second commandment forbids making images of God. The Koran too warns against idolatry and making images of God (6:103; 14:35).
- The third commandment forbids using God's name in vain. The Koran also prohibits Muslims from using God's name in casual swearing (2:224).
- The fourth commandment says that the Sabbath must be kept holy. This is the only commandment that the Koran does not include, because it believes that the Sabbath was prescribed only for the Children of Israel (16:124).
- The fifth commandment says to honor your parents. The Koran says that honoring your parents means not even expressing a word of frustration with them, such as an "uff," or its English equivalent of "ugh" (17:23).
- The sixth commandment prohibits unjust killing or murder. The Koran also prohibits murder and compares the unjust killing of one life to be equivalent to the murder of all of humanity (5:32; 17:33).
- The seventh commandment prohibits adultery, which is also equally prohibited by the Koran (17:32).
- The eighth commandment prohibits stealing. The Koran condemns the act of stealing as one of the worst crimes and punishes it severely (5:38–39).
- The ninth commandment prohibits lying and giving false testimony. The Koran also strongly condemns lying and false testimony (2:283; 24:7). And, the Koran commands Muslims to speak the truth even if it is against their own selves or their own family (4:135).
- The tenth commandment forbids coveting. The Koran also forbids the evil practice of coveting the possessions of others (20:131).
Everyday laws prescribed in Islamic law often resemble similar laws in the Torah. For example, the laws of purity after sexual intimacy between a husband and wife are almost exactly the same in Islamic law and the Torah as taught in Leviticus (16–18).
The penal codes of the Koran and Torah also have overlap. Islam is often criticized for including the death penalty for adultery as part of its penal code. However, the Torah establishes the same punishment for sexual immorality, such as adultery and incest (Leviticus, 20:10–16). Also, the Koran follows basically the same law in the cases of murder and killing — acts that prescribe the death penalty in both Scriptures (Koran, 2:178–179; Genesis, 9:6).
Same laws, different reasoning
Sometimes, the same laws appear in both Scriptures, but the wisdom or reasoning behind the laws may be different. Take for example the law requiring women to cover their hair. People often condemn Islam for requiring women to wear the headscarf, or Hijab in Arabic. However, if you read Corinthians, 11:3–10, it says that when a woman prays, she must either cover her hair or shave it. Also, traditional Rabbinical law states that modesty and nobility required covering the hair. Even modern paintings of traditional Jewish and Christian women, including the Virgin Mary, reflect this modest dress.
The required head-covering in Islam and Judaism share the same spirit — the desire to sanctify a woman's modesty and nobility. However, the Biblical passage on head-covering reasons it in the woman's position as "the glory of man."
Laws in the three faiths may overlap, but the wisdom and reasoning behind them can differ. This may explain why the West wrongly views the Hijab as a symbol of oppression, and even as a controversial legal issue in modern secular Europe.