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Major Religions & Spiritual Beliefs, Islam


An example of Allah written in simple calligraphic Arabic

Islam's relation to other Faiths

Islamic view of Jews and Christians
The Qur'an uses the term People of the Book to include all monotheists, including Jews, Christians and Muslims. According to Islam, all nations were given a Messenger and guidance from Allah.

Islam holds that all Prophets of Judaism and Christianity came with the same message: there is only one god, and that He is indivisible, all-powerful, and God of every nation, tribe and people - whether they accepted it or not. Islam teaches that Judaism and Christianity both worship God - but that their holy books, scriptures, and teachings were changed over time and perverted with doctrines like the trinity (which Islam finds polytheistic), and ideas of any one people being the chosen people (which Islam considers to be racist).

Faisal Mosque, located in Islamabad, the capital city of Pakistan, was built in 1986. It's one of the largest mosques in Asia.

Inclusivistic thought in Islam

Some Muslims, who believe that people of faith in Islam, Christianity, and Judaism all serve the same God, cite verses such as the following:
  • "Those with Faith, those who are Jews, and the Christians and Sabaeans, all who have Faith in Allah and the Last Day and act rightly, will have their reward with their Lord. They will feel no fear and will know no sorrow." (Surat al-Baqara; 2:62).
  • "Call to the way of your Lord with wisdom and fair admonition, and argue with them in the kindest way. Your Lord knows best who is misguided from His way. And He knows best who are guided." (Surat an-Nahl; 16:125). "...You will find the people most affectionate to those who have iman are those who say, 'We are Christians.' That is because some of them are priests and monks and because they are not arrogant." (Surat al-Ma'ida; 5:82).
  • "Only argue with the People of the Book in the kindest way - except in the case of those of them who do wrong - saying, 'We have iman in what has been sent down to us and what was sent down to you. Our God and your God are one and we submit to Him." (Surat al-'Ankabut; 29:46).

Exclusivistic thought in Islam

Muslims believe that Judaism and Christianity started out with the same message as Islam, but that eventually, due to their abandonment of adherence to strict monotheism, the followers of Moses earned God's anger (by worshipping the Golden Calf, mentioned in the Biblical account of Moses, and later Ezra) and the followers of Jesus went astray (by worshipping him). It is popularly held by the vast majority of Muslims that the Holy Tawrat (revelation given to Moses) and the Holy Injil (revelation given to Jesus Christ) have been corrupted over time and that the present day Bible and Torah share little or no resemblance to the original message. According to Islam, Muhammad was sent during a time of spiritual darkness and once the Qur'an was finally established, all past revelations were abrogated, making the Last Testament not only for the Arab nation but for all mankind until the Day of Judgement.

Some parts of the Qur'an attribute differences between Muslims and non-Muslims to tahref-ma'any, a "corruption of the meaning" of the words. In this view, the Jewish Bible and Christian New Testament are true, but the Jews and Christians misunderstood the meaning of their own Scripture, and thus need the Qur'an to clearly understand the will of God. However, other parts of the Qur'an make clear that many Jews and Christians used deliberately altered versions of their scripture, and had altered the word of God. This belief was developed further in medieval Islamic polemics, and is a mainstream part of both Sunni and Shi'ite Islam today. This is known as the doctrine of tahref-lafzy, "the corruption of the text". Either way the Quran clearly states that the necessary information which was written in the previous scriptures can also be found in the Quran: "And We have sent down to you (O Muhammad) the Book (this Qur’aan) in truth, confirming the Scripture that came before it and Mohaymin (trustworthy in highness and a witness) over it (old Scriptures). So judge among them by what Allah has revealed" [al-Maa’idah 5:48]

Historically, Islamic scholars have agreed that the Qur'an gives "People of the Book" special status, allowing those who live in Muslim lands (called dhimmi—protected people) to practice their own religions and to own property. People of the Book were not subject to certain Islamic rules, such as the prohibitions on alcohol and pork. Under the Islamic state, they were exempt from the draft, but were required to pay a tax known as jizyah, part of which went to charity and part to finance churches and synagogues. (They were, however, exempt from the zakat required of Muslims.) This agreement has in the past led to Islamic countries practicing religious toleration for Christians and Jews, although they were never accorded the full status enjoyed by Muslims.

One verse of the Qur'an says "God forbids you not, with regards to those who fight you not for [your] faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them; for God loveth those who are just." (Qur'an, 60:8), which is interpreted as a clear admonition not to be disrespectful or unkind to non-Muslims. According to a hadith, Muhammad said to his people "The one who murders a dhimmi [non-Muslim under protection of the state] will not smell the fragrance of Paradise, even if its smell was forty years travelling distance" [Sahih Ahmed].

Islam and other religions

Views of monotheist religions

Islam views itself as the culmination of the Judeo-Christian monotheist tradition. In this sense, Muslims do not consider these to be other religions. However, their primary difference with Jews and Christians has always been the refusal of either to acknowledge the prophetic mission of Muhammad and the divine origin of the Qur'an. A further theological difference separates Islam from Christianity, in that Muslims deny the Trinity and the divinity of Jesus.

Views of non-Judaeo Christian religions, i.e., Hinduism

When Islam began to spread to regions like India, the Hindu worship of multiple gods and the prominent display of their images in temples may have reminded Muslims of pre-Islamic Arab practices. Qur'anic verses revealed in the context of Muhammad's war with the pagan Meccans may thus have provided justification for the imperial ambitions of some leaders; however, even in India mass conversions were not encouraged, and Hindus were ultimately given the tolerated religious minority status of dhimmi, even though they were monotheist in belief but not in practice. The Bhagavad Gita condemns worship of demigods as it does not lead to moksha which Vishnu alone can grant.

The nature of conversions (whether forcible or voluntary) is a contentious political issue, but the fact that it happened in one way or another is obvious in the Indian subcontinent (India, Pakistan and Bangladesh), where 45% of the formerly Hindu and Buddhist population is now Muslim. Bengal provides a case-study for the complexity of conversion; it was generally overlooked as a frontier province far from the center of Mughal power. However, the activity of Sufi mystics led to a syncretic mixing of Islam and Hinduism in the region, which apparently persisted for centuries. During this period it would have been very difficult to classify local religious beliefs and practices as exclusively Hindu or Muslim or Buddhist, as elements of all these were combined. It seems to have been the rise of Muslim revivalist movements in the 19th century, which focused 'purifying' the Islamic practices of the region, that led to it becoming the definitively Muslim population that exists today in Bangladesh. In Bangladesh, syncretic traditions such as Baul devotional music, which borrows both Muslim and Hindu religious images freely, persist even today.

The Islamic view of non-monotheist religions differs among scholars and varies according to time and place. Consequently, the relationship of Islam with Hinduism and non-monotheist religions varied greatly according to the religious outlook of individual rulers. For example, in India the Mughal emperor Akbar, for example, was very tolerant towards Hindus, while his successor Aurangzeb was less so. This variability persists today; while fundamentalists are often less tolerant, liberal movements within Islam often try to be more open-minded.

Conversion and warfare

The rapid spread of the early Islamic empire was due to a mixture of a zeal to spread the new religion and a desire to gain wealth and power from conquest. According to most scholars, forced conversions were almost unheard of at this time, in accordance with the Qur'anic injunction that there shall be 'no compulsion in religion'; in fact, the imposition of the extra jizya tax on non-Muslim subjects gave the Muslim rulers a material incentive to preserve the religions of conquered people, as the Umayyads attempted, even as it gave the conquered groups a material incentive to convert. This is one reason that Christian communities continue to remain in the Middle East, and small Zoroastrian ones in Iran. However, some people argue that forced conversions were more widespread, claiming that the near-complete conversion of countries such as Iran and modern day Afganistan and Pakistan to Islam could not have happened otherwise.

Forced conversions are sometimes attested in later periods, as for instance under certain Almohad rulers. Some compare such excesses to ones attested in other proselytizing faiths such as Christianity, seeing zeal to spread what they saw as the word of God as the common element.

Tolerance vs. fundamentalism

Some claim that Eastern traditions like Hinduism and Buddhism, which supposedly believe all religions to be different paths to reach the same supreme truth or God, are inherently tolerant. They use this line of reasoning to assert that monotheist religions like Islam and Christianity believe that theirs is the only true word from the God, and are thus inherently intolerant. While such a one-sided generalization may be justified when talking of Islamic fundamentalism, it is not universally true. Some Muslims in multi-religious communities such as Bangladesh have experienced long periods without any significant religious conflicts.

External Qur'an Links


The Noble Qur'an — three translations (Yusuf Ali, Shakir, and Picthal). Also, Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi's chapter introductions to the Qur'an

The Noble Qur'an — Translated by Dr.Muhammad Taqi-ud-Din Al Hilali, and Dr. Muhammad Muhsin Khan. A well-known English translation endorsed by the Saudi government. Includes Arabic commentary by Ibn Katheer, Tabari, and Qurtubi.

The Final Testament — Translation by Rashad Khalifa, considered heretic and an apostate by the main corpus of Muslims. See Rashad Khalifa.

Qur'anic Recitation with English Translation by Qari Muhammad Ayub, Spoken in English by J.D. Hall Search

Qur'an Search Search English, Turkish, French, Spanish, Malay, German

The Qur'an Browser

Qur'an Database

Qur-an Commentaries/Studies

Tafsir by Ibn Kathir

Exposition of Quran by G. A. Parwez

The Message of the Qur'an Translated and Explained by Muhammad Asad

Ulm (Quranic studies) Ulum al Qur'an (http://www.ymofmd.com/books/uaq/index.htm) by Ahmad von Denffer

Ilm ul Qur'an — by Hasanuddin Ahmad

The Easy Dictionary of the Qur'aan Compiled By Shaikh AbdulKarim Parekh

Islamic Views

Textual Variants of the Qur'an

The Skeptic's Annotated Qur'an — a version of the Qur'an annotated from a skeptical point of view.

Western academic discussion of the origins of the Qur'an ) Review of Christoph Luxenberg's book

Die syro-aramäische Lesart des Koran: Ein Beitrag zur Entschlüsselung der Koransprache Another Review by François de Blois, Journal of Qur'anic Studies, 2003, Volume V, Issue 1

What is the Koran? The Atlantic Online

Quranic manuscripts and calligraphy, Qur'an Manuscripts

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