Christianity & Islam

Islam shares a number of beliefs with Christianity. They share similar views on monotheism, judgment, heaven, hell, spirits, angels, and a future resurrection. Jesus is acknowledged and respected by Muslims as a great prophet. However, while Islam relegates Jesus to a lesser status than God — “in the company of those nearest to God” in the Qur’an, mainstream (Trinitarian) Christianity believes quite firmly and without question that Jesus is God the Son, one of the three Hypostases (common English: persons) of Christianity’s Holy Trinity, equally God as are God the Father and the Holy Spirit.
The religions both share a belief in the virgin birth of Jesus, his miracles and healings, and that he ascended bodily into heaven. However, Jesus is not accepted as the son by Muslims, who strictly maintain that he was a human being who was loved by God and exalted by God to ranks of the most righteous. They believe in God as a single entity, not as the Trinity accepted by the vast majority of Christians. Neither do Muslims accept Jesus’ crucifixion. Since Muslims believe only in the worship of a strictly monotheistic God who never assumed human flesh, they do not accept the use of icons, and see this as shirk (idolatry). Muslim influence played a part in the initiation of iconoclasm and their conquests caused the iconoclasm in the Byzantine Empire. For the same reason, they do not worship or pray to MuhammadJesus, or any other prophets; only to God.
Adherents of Islam have historically referred to themselves, Jews, and Christians (among others) as People of the Book since they all base their religion on books that are considered to have a divine origin. Christians however neither recognize the Qur’an as a genuine book of divine revelation, nor agree with its assessment of Jesus as a mere prophet, on par with Muhammad, nor for that matter accept that Muhammad was a genuine prophet.
Muslims, for their part, believe that parts of the Gospels, Torah and Jewish prophetic books have been forgotten, misinterpreted, or distorted by their followers. Based on that perspective, Muslims view the Qur’an as correcting the errors of Christianity. For example, Muslims reject belief in the Trinity, or any other expression of the divinity of Jesus, as incompatible with monotheism.
Not surprisingly, the two faiths have often experienced controversy and conflict (an example being the Crusades). At the same time, much fruitful dialogue has occurred as well. The writings of Catholic theologian Thomas Aquinas frequently cite those of the Jewish philosopher Moses Maimonides, as well as Muslim thinker Averoes (‘Ibn-Rushd).
On May 6, 2001 Pope John Paul II, the first pope to pray in a mosque, delivered an address at Omayyad Mosque in Damascus, saying: “It is important that Muslims and Christians continue to explore philosophical and theological questions together, in order to come to a more objective and comprehensive knowledge of each others’ religious beliefs. Better mutual understanding will surely lead, at the practical level, to a new way of presenting our two religions not in opposition, as has happened too often in the past, but in partnership for the good of the human family.” This Mosque of Damascus is famous for contain the head of John the Baptist.
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