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Islam And Christianity

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Christianity and Islam continue to be the two fastest growing religions in the world. Men and women, both Christian and Muslim, are now asking the question, must these two religions collide? Is there no common ground between them? Many Muslims are taught that Christianity seeks to eliminate Islam; that Christians have no knowledge or understanding of their faith; that Christians condemn Islam, and hold the teachings of Islamic Fundamentalism responsible for many if not all the terrorist activities throughout the world.

Many Christians are taught that Islam teaches the worship of a false God; that Islam was and still is spread by force and terror; that all Muslims are Arabs, and that both oppose the policies of the United States and the essentials of democracy. Millions of Christians have been taught for decades that Islam is an intolerant religion, forbidding the free choice and practice of any religion except Islam. By far the great majority of citizens of the West continue to teach, repeat and believe the distortions and prejudices created centuries ago by a European civilization which regarded Islam as the "traditional enemy."

False images of Islam were formed by literary accounts and given exotically sinister coloring in lurid tales of harem intrigues , voluptuous heavens, and dangerous casbahs. Textbooks on European civilization , then and now, presented Islam as the religion which put an end to ancient centers of primitive Christianity in the Middle East and North Africa, replaced Christian Constantinople in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Balkans, and occupied Spain for almost 900 years.

Somehow omitted and forgotten are the fruitful scientific collaboration and theological discussions which occurred in Baghdad in the 9th and 10th centuries, where Christians and Muslim scholars worked together to translate and comment upon Greek philosophy and science. Omitted is the fact that under the Nordic rule in Sicily, the first translation of Arab philosophy was accomplished which would have profound effect and influence on the works of Albert the Great and the famous Christian scholar Thomas Aquinas.

Forgotten and omitted are the myriad of historical accounts of Christians and Muslims living and working together for the common good of their societies, as evidenced in the 9th century by the visit of Francis of Assisi to the Mamluk Sultan in Egypt at the height of the Crusades, and the 16th century dialogues between Christian and Muslim scholars organized at the initiative of the Mogul Emperor Akbar in modern India and Pakistan.

Christianity existed in Arabia many centuries prior to the birth of Muhammad. Separate communities of Christians settled primarily in western and southern Arabia. Christians were the predominant businessmen in Medina, along with many Jews. Christianity was present in the area but had less impact on Islam due t the fact that the primary Christian centers were located on the periphery of the peninsula north of Yemen, in Syria and lower Iraq. There is a historical record of a small Christian community thriving in Mecca prior to the birth of Islam as well as during the lifetime of prophet Muhammad. This community consisted of caravan leaders, monks, merchants, doctors and dentists, blacksmiths, carpenters, and intellectuals such as teachers, orators, and scribes.

The Apostle Paul's mission to Damascus firmly established Christianity in Syria, the land area directly to the north of Arabia. Historical evidence reveals that the outreach of the early Christian community in Syria was successful and extended to the area of Mecca. A variety of Christian monks located their retreats in the semi-arid grass covered areas of north Arabia in the midst of the popular caravan routes. Persistent oral tradition asserts that Muhammad, as a caravan leader, became friends with one of these monks named Bahira, and that he even wore tunics that were gifts from other Christian monks. Monasteries lining the caravan routes were open and available to the roaming Bedouins as well as the numerous traveling caravans. It is noteworthy that ancient monastery records reveal that the frequent visitors not only received food and shelter, but were directly exposed to the daily practice of prayer, fasting, and the giving of alms, three of the five basic tenets of Islam. Thus, Christianity prepared the way for the Quran's message of monotheism. Those listening to Muhammad would be familiar with his call to recognize and worship the One True God of all mankind !

In the earlier periods of history, Christianity was a new and hated religion. Those who called themselves Christians were belittled, abused, even arrested and executed solely because they proclaimed themselves and their religion to be from God. Dislike and disdain accompanied nearly every Christian throughout the Roman empire; false charges and accusations , including the misrepresentation of the teachings of the Bible, were commonplace, and political rulers used all manner of false and malicious propaganda to foment hate and distrust between their citizens and the adherents of the new religion called Christianity.

Today, similar attacks, including the use of the same propaganda methods used to assail Christianity from its earliest inception, are being utilized to attack and discredit the great religion of Islam. Daily attacks appear in both the print and electronic media of the Western nations, and after years of such attacks, great walls and barriers now separate not only Christians from Muslims, but fact from fiction, truth from lies, and therefore, peace from war, tolerance from intolerance.

The mass media have centered their reporting on the more menacing and extreme aspects of Islam creating, sustaining, and promoting the false image of Islam as violent, xenophobic, aggressive, fanatical and fatalistic religion. This artificial, stereotyped image is presented in serious books and articles, as well as popular films and literature. The Muslim has become the modern day "whipping boy" for secular politicians as well as the "God-haters" of the world. Sadly, millions of Christians have accepted the distortions and propaganda as fact without the slightest knowledge of the tenets and teachings of Islam.

The majority of Muslims world-wide believe their faith means carrying out the will of God in their daily lives, a life of religious commitment nourished by means of prayer and fasting; by reading, reciting and meditating upon the words of the Holy Quran. To the true Muslim, family life is of primary importance. Central values revolve around honesty in business, hospitality and cordiality, sexual purity and morality, pardoning others who offend them, and generosity towards the poor. The Islamic ideal, from the very beginning in Mecca and for the greater number of Muslims



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