Recent clashes between Muslims and Christians have left hundreds of civilians dead and thousands wounded in Nigeria and Egypt. When President Obama visited Cairo in June 2009, he appealed for a fresh relationship based on mutual interest and respect between the Muslim world and USA.
Coming more than seven years after September 2001, the landmark speech at Cairo University received mixed reactions from the Middle East commentators. An Israeli spokesman heard no surprises, Palestinians saw hope in a new American policy, but a West Bank settlers’ council member said the speech was out of touch with reality because the Muslim world was at war with the West.
Mind you, the September 11 attacks were perpetrated on a country founded on Christian principles by Muslims from the land that is the cradle of Islam. The war that lasted for decades in Sudan between Muslim north and Christian south had strong religious connotations.
Religion features strongly in conflicts in other parts of the world such as India and Indonesia. Why have conflicts between Christians and Muslims from 7thcentury to modern times persisted in peaceful and peaceless countries? Has mankind been using religion throughout history to justify tribal, ethnic or racial beliefs and wishes? In my journey to try and understand the Muslim-Christian divide, I tried to educate myself on the issues that divide these two main Abrahamic faiths.
There are many common beliefs between them and some serious differences. Muslims believe and accept Jesus Christ as a great prophet and messenger of God, the messiah who was born miraculously by the Virgin Mary. In the Quran chapter three, Aal-e-Imran, verse 42, the angels tell Maryam: surely Allah has chosen you and purified you above the women of the world.
In Quran 3:45 the angels told Maryam of the good news of the birth of the One whose name is the Messiah, Isa worthy of regard in this world and hereafter and of those who are made near (Allah). In Quran 3:47 Maryam said, My Lord when shall there be a son to me, and man had not touched me? The angel said, Allah creates what He pleases; when He has decreed a matter, He only says to it, Be, and it is. In Quran chapter 19 Maryam verses 20-21 say the same thing.
Jesus was conceived and born without intervention by any man. A son of God, say the Christians. Not, Isa was son of Maryam say the Muslims, creating a lakesize difference in beliefs. Since the Immaculate Conception was no myth for both Muslims and Christians, why the chasm about whether JC was God, man or both? Am still looking for my education, and if I have to go to China, so be it.
Muslims believe that Jesus was taken up by God Almighty alive, that he will come again to the world and then die and be resurrected. Muslims accept the Torah by Moses, Zabur of David and Injeel of Jesus Christ as word of God. That is huge, isn’t it? I have yet to hear a Muslim recite Psalm 23: The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
Yes, Muslims do not accept the bible in its entirety because of inconsistencies that make them doubt authors of the various books got divine inspiration for their scribbling. There are 66 books in the protestant bible and 73 in the Catholic bible and Muslim scholars contend not all the text in those books is word of God.
Muslims believe in many of the biblical messengers and prophets including Adam, Noah, Lot, Abraham, Isaac, Job, Ezekiel, Jacob, Elijah, Elisha, John the Baptist and Zachariah. The Quran chapter three verse 84 states: we believe in Allah and what has been revealed to Mohammad, Ibrahim, and Ismail and Jacob and what was given to Moses and Jesus and to the prophets from their Lord.
Christians believe in one God, the Almighty Father who created heaven and earth. Muslims believe in the one and same God and in all the prophets from Adam to Christ and yet Christians and Moslems have to be separate and distinct offspring of Abraham from now till the end of the world. Early in Mohammad’s prophet-hood, he and his companions were greatly oppressed by polytheists in Mecca so he sent some followers to seek asylum with King Negus of Abyssinia.
This just and righteous African king who was a Christian gladly granted asylum to the followers of Mohammad. Prophet Mohammad recognized Christians as one of “People of the Book”, respected and assured them the freedom to practice their faith under Islamic law. For example, when a large delegation of Christians from Najran visited the prophet in Medina, they stayed at the Prophet’s mosque. When they wanted to go outside to perform their church services, the Prophet offered the use of his Mosque.
I have trouble picturing a modern-day sheikh offering a delegation of Christian evangelicals the use of his mosque for an Easter crusade. But that is what sunnah is about, following the example and practice of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. As said by Prophet in a hadith, none is truly a believer until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself.
And as Jesus said to his disciples, the second of the two greatest commandments is to love your neighbour as you love yourself. Let us wish for a greater mutual respect and understanding of the two faiths so that we can become better people of faith and messengers of the word of Almighty God. Happy Easter