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In the study of comparative religion, an Abrahamic religion is any religion deriving from a common ancient Semitic tradition and traced by their adherents to Abraham ("Father/Leader of many" Hebrew אַבְרָהָם ("Avraham") Arabic ابراهيم ("Ibrahim"), a patriarch whose life is narrated in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, and as a prophet in the Qur'an and also called a prophet in Genesis 20:7. This forms a large group of largely monotheistic religions, including Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Mandaeism and the Bahá'í Faith. Abrahamic religions account for more than half  of the world's total religious adherents. Many adherents of these religions, however, will reject this grouping of their faiths on the grounds that they contain inherently and fundamentally incompatible ideas concerning Abraham and God.
According to the Jewish tradition, Abraham was the first post-flood person to reject idolatry through rational analysis (Shem and Eber carried on the Tradition from Noah), hence he symbolically appears as a fundamental figure for monotheistic religion. In that sense, Abrahamic religion could be simply called monotheistic religion, but not all monotheistic religions are Abrahamic. In Islam he is considered as the first monotheist in a world where monotheism was lost (Abraham being a prophet in a line of prophets starting with Adam) and is often referred to as Ibrahim al-Hanif or Abraham the Monotheist.
The term, desert monotheism, is sometimes used for a similar purpose of comparison in historical contexts, but not for modern faiths, and the term today is considered to be derogatory.
Today, around 3.7 billion people are followers of Abrahamic religions.
- 1 Introduction
- 2 Overview
- 3 Origins
- 4 Patriarchs
- 5 The Supreme Deity
- 6 Religious scriptures
- 7 The coming
- 8 Afterlife
- 9 Worship
- 10 Circumcision
- 11 Food restrictions
- 12 The distinguishing character of sexuality in Abrahamic religions
- 13 Proselytism
- 14 See also
- 15 References
- 16 External links
Introduction[edit | edit source]
In the Torah and the Qur'an, Abraham is described as a patriarch blessed by God (the Jewish people call him "Our Father Abraham"), and promised great things. Jews, Christians and Muslims consider him father of the people of Israel through his son Isaac; Muslims regard him as the father of the Arabs through his son Ishmael. In Christian belief, Abraham is a model of faith, and his intention to obey God by offering up Isaac is seen as a foreshadowing of God's offering of his son, Jesus. In Islam, which holds that it was Ishmael rather than Isaac who was to be sacrificed, Abraham obeyed God by offering up Ishmael and is considered to be one of the most important prophets sent by God.
Overview[edit | edit source]
All the Abrahamic religions are related to (or even derived from) Judaism as practiced in ancient kingdoms of Israel and Judah prior to the Babylonian Exile, at the beginning of the 1st millennium BC. Many believe that Judaism in Biblical Israel was renovated and reformed to some extent in the 6th century BC by Ezra and other priests returning to Israel from the exile. Samaritanism separated from Judaism in the next few centuries. Noachide faith, see also Noahide Law, is also based upon the faith of Abraham as revealed in the Torah/Bible, yet Noachide's are not necessarily 'descendants of Abraham, although a Noachide might be of Abrahamic linegage through any of the children of Abraham, because there is no way of tracing this accurately the Noachide is determined by their ancestral connection to Noah, who was Abraham's ancestor. It is taught that Noah, and his son, Shem, who was Abraham's grandfather and also taught Abraham's son Yitzhak/Issac, was also monotheistic, however there is no evidence to show that they attempted to influence any one other than family members regard the elements of their faith. Abraham was the difference as he did gather many people who were not 'blood-relations' to follow the elements of his faith. The Druze of northern Israel and southern Lebanon hold to Abrahmic faith of the Noachide covenant through their ancestor Yitro/Jethro, the father-in-law of Moshe/Moses (Israel's greatest prophet).
Some Christian religions teach that Christianity began with Adam, but that its teachings were rejected and were temporarily replaced with what we now call Judaism, to be restored at the coming of the Messiah. Others believe that Christianity actually originated in Judea, at the end of the 1st century A.D., as a radically reformed branch of Judaism (see Early Christianity). Regardless, the Christianity of the common era spread to ancient Greece and Rome, and from there to most of Europe, Asia, the Americas, and many other parts of the world. Over the centuries, Christianity split into many separate churches and denominations. A major split in the 5th century separated various Oriental Churches from the Catholic church centered in Rome. Other major splits were the East-West Schism in the 11th century, separating the Roman Catholic Church from the Eastern Orthodox Churches; and the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century, that gave birth to hundreds of independent Protestant denominations.
Islam originated in the 7th century, in the Arabian cities of Mecca and Medina. Although not a dissident branch of either Judaism or Christianity, Muslims believe it to be a continuation and replacement for them. According to the Qur'an, holy book of Islam, that book (Qur'an) was the final word of God and its message was that of all the prophets. As an example of the similarities between the faiths, Muslims believe in a version of the story of Genesis and in the lineal descent of the Arabs from Abraham through Ishmael, who was conceived through Abraham's servant Hagar.
Origins[edit | edit source]
Judaism's origins—along with those of the ancestral Abrahamic religion—are still obscure. The only source generally agreed by all to be canonical that bears on that question is the Genesis book of the Hebrew Bible, which according to Rabbinic tradition was written by God and received by Moses after the Exodus from Egypt, sometime in the 2nd millennium BC. (Other movements—such as Reform Judaism and Secular Humanism—believe perhaps Moses and certainly others wrote the Bible over a period of time themselves.) According to Genesis, the principles of Judaism were revealed gradually to a line of patriarchs from Adam to Jacob (also called Israel); however the Judaic religion was only established when Moses received the Commandments on Mount Sinai, and with the organization of its priesthood and institution of its temple services.
Archaeologists so far have found no direct evidence to support or refute the Genesis story on the origins of Judaism; in fact, there are no surviving texts of the Hebrew Bible older than the Dead Sea Scrolls (2nd century BC or later). However, archaeology has shown that peoples speaking various Semitic languages and with similar polytheistic religions were living in Canaan and surrounding areas by the 3rd millennium BC. Some of their gods (such as Baal) are mentioned in the Bible, and the supreme god of the Semitic pantheon, El, is believed by some scholars to be the God of the Biblical patriarchs. There exist a number of inscriptions that some scholars believe to confirm the Biblical record, such as the Tel Dan Stele.
One school of thought, Siegmund Freud and Ahmed Osman being proponents, has argued that monotheism in fact began with Akhenaten, the heretical pharaoh of Egypt in the fourteenth century B.C. Akhenaten's innovations, however, were completely eradicated in Egypt after his death, leaving no resonance except for their possible survival in the neighboring Israelite monarchy, which began its rule under Egyptian cultural hegemony.
Patriarchs[edit | edit source]
There are six notable figures in the Bible prior to Abraham: Adam and Eve, their two sons Cain and Abel, Enoch, and his great-grandson, Noah, who, according to the story, saved his own family and all animal life in Noah's Ark. It is uncertain whether any of them (assuming they existed) left any recorded moral code: some Christian churches maintain faith in ancient books like the Book of Enoch — and Genesis mentions the Noahide Laws given by God to the family of Noah. For the most part, these 'patriarchs' serve as good (or bad, in the case of Cain) role models of behavior, without a more specific indication of how one interprets their actions in any religion.
In the Book of Genesis, Abraham is specifically instructed to leave the historical Mesopotamian city of Ur so that God will "make of you a great nation". Burton Visotzky, an ethicist, wrote Genesis of Ethics to explore the detailed implications of these adventures for a modern ethics.
According to the Bible, the patriarch Abraham (or Ibrahim, in Arabic) had eight sons by three wives: one (Ishmael) by his wife's servant Hagar, one (Isaac) by his wife Sarah, and six by another wife Keturah. Moses, Jesus, Muhammad, Bahá'u'lláh, and other prominent figures are all claimed to be descendants of Abraham through one of these sons.
Jews see Abraham as the progenitor of the people of Israel, through his descendants Isaac and Jacob. Christians view Abraham as an important exemplar of faith, and a spiritual, as well as a physical, ancestor of Jesus — a Jew considered the Son of God through whom God promised to bless all the families of the earth. In addition, Muslims refer to Christians and Jews, among others, as People of the Book ("the Book" symbolizes divine scripture, such as Tanakh and the New Testament). They see Abraham as one of the most important of the many prophets sent by God. Thus Abraham represents for some, a point of commonality whom they seek to emphasize by means of this terminology.
So, rather than being the sole "founding figure", Abraham is more correctly described as the first figure in Genesis who (a) is clearly not of direct divine origin, such as Adam and Eve are claimed to be; (b) is accepted by three major monotheistic faiths as playing some major role in the founding of their common civilization; and (c) is not claimed as the male genetic forebear of all humans on the Earth (as Noah is, in more literalistic interpretations).
Judaism treats Adam and Noah as minor prophets, while, along with Islam, it recognizes that there were possibly other prophets who are unknown today.
The Supreme Deity[edit | edit source]
- Main article: Tetragrammaton
Judaism and Islam worship a Supreme Deity which they conceive strictly monotheistically as one being; Christianity agrees, but the Christian God is at the same time (according to some branches of Christianity) an indivisible Trinity, a view not shared by the other religions. It should be noted that a sizable minority of Christians and Christian denominations do not support the belief in the doctrine of the Trinity, stating that the Trinity idea was founded in Roman religious culture, probably due to Rome's absorption of some Zoroastrian and some Pagan ideology as part of their homogenized culture, and was not part of the original, primitive Christianity. (See Nontrinitarianism.)
Judaism[edit | edit source]
- Main article: Judaism
Jewish theology is based on the Hebrew Bible, where the nature and commandments of God are revealed through the writings of Moses, the Torah, and the writings of the prophets, psalmists and other ancient canonized scriptures, together with the Torah known as the Tanakh. Additionally, it usually has a basis in its Oral Law, as recorded in the Mishnah and Gemora which form the Talmud.
This Supreme Being is referred to in the Hebrew Bible in several ways, such as Elohim, Adonai or by the four Hebrew letters "Y-H-V (or W) -H" (the tetragrammaton), which observant Jews do not pronounce as a word. The Hebrew words Eloheynu (Our God) and HaShem (The Name), as well as the English names "Lord" and "God", are also used in modern day Judaism. The latter is sometimes written "G-d" in reference to the taboo against pronouncing the tetragrammaton.
The word "Elohim" has the Hebrew plural ending "-īm", which some Biblical scholars have taken as support for the general notion that the ancient Hebrews were polytheists in the time of the patriarchs; however, as the word itself is used with singular verbs, this hypothesis is not accepted by most Jews. Jews point out other words in Hebrew that are used in the same manner according to the rule of Hebrew Grammar, and denotes respect, majesty and deliberation, similar to the royal plural in English and ancient Egyptian, and the use of the plural form "vous" for individuals of higher standing in modern French. Jewish Biblical scholars and historical commentary on the passage also suggest that Elohim in the plural form points to God in conjunction with the heavenly court, i.e. the angels. The pre-Christian era and early CE period Kabbalistic and later in the European Chasidic movements after the Baal Shem Tov, such as Breslov and Chabad, all point to the use of Elo
kim as denoting the multidimensional existence of G_d on, in, and through every possible dimension of the created existence. See Likutei Moharan and the Tanya, as well as the Zohar, Bahir, and the Kabbalistic texts of Sefer Yitzirah, Sefer Refayim, and Sefer Malachim, to name a few. Including the writtings of the Ramchal (R. Moshe Chaim Luzzatto), Drech HaShem and others such as the Rashbi (R. Shimon bar Yochai, author of the Zohar) all explain the use of the Elo kim as a pluralistic singularity, one essence sustaining all levels of creation from the mundane physical to the sublime and Holy spiritual.
Christianity[edit | edit source]
- Main article: Christianity
Christians believe that the God worshipped by the faithful Hebrew people of the pre-Christian era has always revealed himself as he did through Jesus Christ; but this was never obvious until the Word of the Lord, the revelation of God, became flesh and dwelt among us (see John 1). Also, despite the fact that the Angel of the Lord spoke to the Patriarchs, revealing God to them, it has always been only by the Spirit of God granting them understanding, that men have been able to perceive afterward that they had been visited by God himself. After Jesus was raised from the dead—according to Christian scriptures—this ancient Hebrew witness of how God reveals himself as Messiah came to be seen in a very different light. It was then that Jesus' followers began to speak widely of him as God himself (see John 20:28), although this had already been revealed to certain individuals during his Ministry, for example, the Samaritan woman in Shechem, and his closest apostles.
This belief was gradually developed into the modern formulation of the Trinity, which is the doctrine that God is a single holy God (YHWH), but that there is a real threeness in God's single being that has always been evident but not understood. This mysterious threeness has been described as, for want of better terms, hypostases in the Greek language (subsistences), and as "persons" in English. In the traditional Christian conception, God the Father has only ever been revealed through his eternal Word (who was born as Jesus, of the Virgin Mary), and his Spirit (who after the resurrection was given to men, establishing the Christian church).
Trinitarian theology is developed from the Christian Bible (comprised by the Old and New Testaments). As it was further elaborated by the early Church fathers, it was later codified by the Ecumenical councils at Nicaea and Chalcedon. Another famous formulation is called the Athanasian Creed. Some Trinitarian churches, however, do not accept the Chalcedon council at all, in part because it claimed to have excommunicated them. These are known as 'non-Chalcedonian', or Oriental Orthodox Churches.
This "trinitarian monotheism" has been rejected by several Christian denominations and Christian-based religions, such as Arianism and Unitarianism. Strict unitarian Christians believe that God the Father is the only divine being, but the others believe that Jesus is a created deity. Another minority viewpoint is that the personality expressed in earthly mainifestation as Jesus is in fact that of the one-and-only God; this belief system is usually described as Oneness Pentecostal and is largely found in North America.
Islam[edit | edit source]
- Main article: Islam
Muslims believe that the Jewish God is the same as their God and that Jesus is a divinely inspired prophet, but not God. Thus, both the Torah and the Gospels are believed to be based upon divine revelation, but Muslims believe them to have been corrupted (both accidentally through errors in transmission and intentionally by Jews and Christians over the years). Muslims revere the Qur'an as the final uncorrupted word of God brought through the last prophet, Muhammad, and Islam is viewed as a final correction of Judaism and Christianity.
Bahá'í Faith[edit | edit source]
- Main article: Bahá'í Faith
The belief in the Oneness of God is central to the Bahá'í Faith. According to Bahá'í doctrine, God is one being, and has created all the creatures and forces in the universe. He is also imagined by Bahá'ís as omnipotent and omniscient. In order to educate humanity, Bahá'ís believe that God sends his messengers to humanity. These messsengers are known in Bahá'í literature as "Manifestations of God," the most recent of whom Bahá'ís believe was Bahá'u'lláh. According to Bahá'í doctrine, these Manifestations reveal the nature and will of God in their teachings and through sacred texts, which (for Bahá'ís) include the Torah, the Christian Bible, the Qur'án, the Aqdas and the Book of Certitude, and Buddhist scriptures (though no Buddhist scripture is deemed authoritative in the Bahá'í doctrine). Bahá'ís maintain that the older texts contain allegories that should be interpreted in view of the most recent (and most perfect) revelations. However, Bahá'í doctrine teaches that the Supreme Deity is too great to be fully understood by humans.
Religious scriptures[edit | edit source]
All these religions rely on a body of scriptures, some of which are considered to be the word of God — hence sacred and unquestionable — and some which are the work of religious men, revered mainly by tradition and to the extent that they are considered to have been divinely inspired, if not dictated, by the divine being.
Judaism[edit | edit source]
- Main article: Tanakh
The sacred scriptures of Judaism are comprised of the Tanakh, a Hebrew acronym that stands for Torah (Law or Teachings), Nevi'im (Prophets), and Ketuvim (Writings). These are complemented by and supplemented with various originally oral traditions: Midrash, the Mishnah, the Talmud, and collected rabbinical writings. The Hebrew text of the Tanakh, and the Torah in particular, is considered holy, down to the last letter: transcribing is done with painstaking care. An error in a single letter, ornamentation or symbol of the over 300,000 stylized letters which make up the Hebrew Torah text renders a Torah scroll unfit for use, hence a Torah scribe is a specialist skill and takes considerable time to write and check.
Christianity[edit | edit source]
- Main article: Old Testament
The sacred scriptures of most Christian sects are the Old Testament, which is largely the same as the Hebrew Bible, and the New Testament, which comprises four accounts of the life and teachings of Jesus (the Four Gospels, traditionally attributed to his apostles Matthew and John and to Mark the Evangelist and Luke the Evangelist) and several writings by the apostles and early Fathers such as Paul. They are usually considered to be divinely inspired in some sense and together comprise the Christian Bible. Thus Christians consider the fundamental teachings of the Old Testament, in particular the Ten Commandments, as valid, although most reject the Sabbath; however they believe that the coming of Jesus as the messiah and savior of mankind as predicted in the Old Testament, and the fact that Jesus was raised Jewish and became a teacher of Judaism, would shed light on the true relationship between God and mankind — by restoring the emphasis of universal love and compassion (as mentioned in the Shema) above the other commandments, by de-emphasising the more "legalistic" and material precepts of Mosaic Law (such as the dietary constraints and temple rites). Many Christians believe that the link between Old and New Testaments in the Bible means that Judaism has been superseded by Christianity as the "new Israel" — and some hold that Jesus' teachings described Israel not as a geographic place but as an association with God and promise of salvation in heaven.
The vast majority of Christian religions (generally including Catholicism, Orthodox Christianity, Anglicans and most forms of Protestantism, but not Restorationism) derive their beliefs from the conclusions reached by the Council of Nicea in 325, in a document known as the Nicene Creed. This describes the beliefs that God (as a Trinity of distinct persons with one substance) became human on earth, born as Jesus pursuant to the Old Testament scriptures, was crucified by humanity, died and was buried, only to be resurrected on the third day, then to rise and enter the Kingdom of Heaven and "sit at the right hand of" God. Christians generally believe that faith in Jesus is the only way to achieve salvation and to enter into heaven, and that salvation is a gift given by the grace of God.
Unlike the Jews and Muslims, Christians generally do not consider a single version of their Bible as holy to the exclusion of the others, and accept good translations and re-translations as being just as valid, in principle, as the original. They recognize that the Gospels were passed on by oral tradition only to be set to paper decades after the death of Jesus, and that the extant versions are only copies of those originals. Indeed, the version of the Bible considered to be most valid (in the sense of best conveying the true meaning of the word of God) has varied considerably: the Greek Septuagint, the Latin Vulgate, the English King James Version, and the Russian Synodal Bible have been authoritative to different communities at different times. In particular, Christians usually consult the Hebrew version of the Old Testament when preparing new translations, although some believe that the Septuagint should be preferred, as it was the Bible of the Early Christian Church, and because they believe its translators probably knew Biblical Hebrew better than any person living today. Not surprisingly, many variant readings of the Dead Sea Scrolls are confirmed by the Septuagint — indicating that significant changes to the Masoretic Hebrew text occurred after the Council of Jamnia (90 AD). In the same sense that the Jewish mystics viewed the Torah as something living and existing prior to any written text, so too do Christians view the Bible and Jesus himself as God's "Word" (or logos in Greek), that transcends written documents.
The sacred scriptures of the Christian Bible are complemented by a large body of writings by individual Christians and councils of Christian leaders. Some Christian churches and denominations consider certain additional writings to be binding; other Christian groups consider only the Bible to be binding.
Islam[edit | edit source]
- Main article: Qur'an
Islam's holiest book is the Qur'an, comprised of 114 suras ("chapters of the Qur'an."). However, Muslims also believe in the religious texts of Judaism and Christianity in their original forms and not the current versions which they believe to be corrupted. According to the Qur'an itself, these were revealed from God and through the Archangel Gabriel to the Prophet Muhammad on separate occasions, and preserved as such by his disciples, until they were compiled into a single book (not in chronological order) several decades after his death. With the exception of Al Fatihah (The Opening), which is always the first Surah, the longer Surahs appear at the beginning of the Qur'an while shorter ones appear at the end.
The Qur'an includes several stories from the Jewish Bible (chiefly in Sura 17, "The Night Journey"), and mentions Jesus many times as a divinely inspired prophet. However the detailed precepts of the Tanakh and of the New Testament are not adopted outright; they are replaced by the new commandments revealed directly by God (through Gabriel) to Muhammad and codified in the Qur'an.
Like the Jews with the Torah, Muslims consider the original Arabic text of the Qur'an as uncorrupted and holy to the last letter, and any translations are considered to be interpretations of the meaning of the Qur'an, as only the original Arabic text is considered to be the divine scripture.
Like the Rabbinic Oral Law to the Hebrew Bible, the Qur'an is complemented by the Hadith, a set of books by later authors that record the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad. The Hadith interpret and elaborate Qur'anic precepts. There is no consensus within Islam on the authority of the Hadith collections, but Islamic scholars have categorized each Hadith at one of the following levels of authenticity or isnad: genuine (sahih), fair (hasan), or weak (da'if). Amongst Shia Muslims, no hadith is regarded as Sahih, and hadith in general are only accepted if there is no disagreement with the Qur'an.
By the ninth century, six collections of Hadiths were accepted as reliable to Sunni Muslims. Shia Muslims however, refer to an alternate tradition of authenticated Hadiths.
The Sunni Collections:
- al-Bukhari (d. 870)
- Muslim b. al-Hajjaj (d. 875)
- Abu Da'ud (d. 888)
- al-Tirmidhi (d. 892)
- al-Nasa'i (d. 915)
- Ibn Maja (d. 886).
The Hadith and the life story of Muhammad (sira) form the Sunnah, a scriptural supplement to the Qur'an. The legal opinions of Islamic jurists (fiqh) provides another source for the daily practice and interpretation of Islamic tradition.
Baha'i Faith[edit | edit source]
Baha'is recognize the Holy Bible, Jewish texts, the Qu'ran, and Buddhist texts, among others, as Holy Books and Scripts inspired by God. Internally, Baha'is follow the teachings in the Kitab-i-Aqdas (The Most Holy Book), the Kitab-i-Iqan (the Book of Certitude), and dozens of other writings by Baha'u'llah. Books and tablets by Abdu'l-Baha, the founder's son, are also held in high regard.
Rastafari movement[edit | edit source]
Some Rastafarians use the King James Version of the Bible as their main scripture, while many others disdain it. A great many nowadays make special efforts to study the Orthodox Amharic version. Rastas often claim that the Bible only has half of God's Word, and that the other half is written in the heart of mankind. The teachings of Marcus Garvey and the Holy Piby are among other important documents, as are the writings and speeches of Emperor Haile Selassie I.
The coming[edit | edit source]
Main article: Millennialism
In the major Abrahamic religions, there exists the expectation of an individual who will herald the end of the world, and/or bring about the Kingdom of God on Earth, in other words the fulfillment of Messianic prophecy. Judaism awaits the coming of the Jewish Messiah (the Jewish concept of Messiah differs from the Christian concept in several significant ways despite the same term being applied to both). The Jewish Messiah is not a "God" but a mortal man who by his holiness is worthy of that description, and will make his appearance only during an era of peace and holiness. Christianity awaits the Second Coming of Christ. Islam awaits both the second coming of Jesus (in order to complete his life and die, since he is said to have been risen alive and not crucified) and the coming of Mahdi (Sunnis in his first incarnation, Shi'as the return of Muhammad al-Mahdi). The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community believes that both Mahdi and Second Coming of Christ were fulfilled in Mirza Ghulam Ahmad. Conversely, members of the Bahá'í Faith believe that these were fulfilled in the person of Bahá'u'lláh. Rastafari awaits the return of Haile Selassie.
Afterlife[edit | edit source]
Most Abrahamic religions agree that a human being comprises the body, which dies, and the soul, which need not do so. The soul, capable of remaining alive beyond human death, carries the essence of that person with it, and God will judge that persons life accordingly after they die. The importance of this, the focus on it, and the precise criteria and end result differs between religions.
Reincarnation and transmigration tend not to feature prominently in Abrahamic religions. Although as a rule they all look to some form of afterlife, Christianity and Islam support a continuation of life, usually viewed as eternal, rather than reincarnation and transmigration which are a return (or repeated returns) to this Earth or some other plane to live a complete new life cycle over again. Kabbalic Judaism, however, accepts the concept of returning in new births through a process called gilgul neshamot, but this is not Torah-derived, and is usually studied only among scholars and mystics within the faith. It is a mainstream belief of Hassidic Jews and many Orthodox Jews.
Judaism[edit | edit source]
- Main article: Olam Haba
Judaism's views on the afterlife ("the World to Come") are quite diverse. This can be attributed to the fact that even though there clearly are traditions in the Hebrew Bible of an afterlife (see Naboth and the Witch of Endor), Judaism focuses on this life and how to lead a holy life to please God, rather than future reward, and its attitude can be mostly summed up by the rabbinical observation that at the start of Genesis God clothed the naked (Adam and Eve), at the end of Deuteronomy He buried the dead (Moses), the Children of Israel mourned for 40 days, then got on with their lives.
There is general agreement that there is some sort of reward for the righteous in Gan ‘Edhen (the Garden of Eden) and (less agreed upon) punishment in Ge-Hinnom. Popularly it is claimed that the maximum time of punishment for all but the most evil is one year. The mystically inclined also claim the souls (or sparks of souls) may be reincarnated, through Gilgul. Alone of the three Abrahamic religions, Judaism believes that the good of all the nations will get to heaven, one of the reasons Judaism does not normally proselytize.
Islam[edit | edit source]
In Islam, God is said to be most compassionate and most merciful. However, Islam prescribes a literal Hell for those who disobey God and commit gross sin. While sinners are punished with fire, there are also many other forms of punishment described, depending on the sin committed; Hell is divided into numerous levels, an idea that found its way into Christian literature through Dante's borrowing of Muslim themes and tropes for his Inferno.
Those who worship and remember God are promised eternal abode in a physical and spiritual Paradise. In Islam, Heaven is divided into numerous levels, with the higher levels of Paradise being the reward of those who have been more virtuous, For example, the highest levels might contain the Prophets, those killed for believing, those who help orphans, and those who never tell a lie (among numerous other categories cited in the Qur'an and Hadith).
Upon repentance to God, many sins can be forgiven as God is said to be the most Merciful. Additionally, those who ultimately believe in God, but have led sinful lives, may be punished for a time, and then ultimately released into Paradise. If anyone dies in a state of Shirk (the association God in any way, such as claiming that He is equal with anything or worshiping other than Him), then it is possible he will stay forever in Hell; however, it is said that anyone with "one atom of faith" will eventually reach Heaven, and Muslim literature also records reference to even the greatly sinful, Muslim and otherwise, eventually being pardoned and released into Paradise.
Once a person is admitted to Paradise, this person will abide there for eternity.
Bahá'í Faith[edit | edit source]
The Bahá'í Faith regards as symbolic the conventional description of the afterlife (heaven and hell) as a specific place. Instead the Bahá'í writings describe heaven as a "spiritual condition" where closeness to God is defined as heaven; conversely hell is seen as a state of remoteness from God. Bahá'u'lláh, the founder of the Bahá'í Faith, has stated that the nature of the life of the soul in the afterlife is beyond comprehension in the physical plane, but has stated that the soul will retain its consciousness and individuality and remember its physical life; the soul will be able to recognize other souls and communicate with them.
For Bahá'ís, entry into the next life has the potential to bring great joy. Bahá'u'lláh likened death to the process of birth. He explains: "The world beyond is as different from this world as this world is different from that of the child while still in the womb of its mother." The analogy to the womb in many ways summarizes the Bahá'í view of earthly existence: just as the womb constitutes an important place for a person's initial physical development, the physical world provides for the development of the individual soul. Accordingly, Bahá'ís view life as a preparatory stage, where one can develop and perfect those qualities which will be needed in the next life. The key to spiritual progress is to follow the path outlined by the current Manifestations of God, which Bahá'ís believe is currently Bahá'u'lláh.
The Bahá'í teachings state that there exists a hierarchy of souls in the afterlife, where the merits of each soul determines their place in the hierarchy, and that souls lower in the hierarchy cannot completely understand the station of those above. Each soul can continue to progress in the afterlife, but the souls development is not dependent on their own conscious efforts, but instead on the grace of God, the prayers of others, and good deeds performed by others on Earth in the name of the person.
Worship[edit | edit source]
Worship, ceremonies, and religion-related customs differ substantially between the various Abrahamic religions. Among the few similarities are a seven-day cycle in which one day is nominally reserved for worship, prayer, or other religious activities; this custom is related to the Biblical story of Genesis, where God created the universe in six days, and rested in the seventh. Islam, which has Friday as a day for special congregational prayers, does not subscribe to the 'resting day' concept.
Jewish men are required to pray three times daily and four times daily on the Sabbath and most Jewish holidays, and five times on Yom Kippur. Before the destruction of the Temple, Jewish priests offered sacrifices there; afterwards, the practice was stopped. Jewish women's prayer obligations vary by sect; traditionally (according to Torah Judaism), women do not read from the Torah and are only required to say certain parts of these services twice daily. Conservative Judaism, Reform Judaism, and the Reconstructionist movement have different views.
Christianity does not have any sacrificial rites as such, but its entire theology is based upon the concept of the sacrifice by God of his son Jesus so that his blood might atone for mankind's sins. However, offerings to Christian Churches and charity to poor are highly encouraged and take the place of sacrifice. Additionally, self-sacrifice in the form of lent, penitence and humbleness, in the name of Christ and according to his commandments (cf. Sermon on the Mount), is considered a form of sacrifice that appeals God.
The followers of Islam, Muslims, are supposed to pray five times daily (salat) towards the direction (qibla) of what is considered to be the holiest site in Islam, the Kaaba in Mecca. The abled Muslims are obliged to fast in the month of Ramadan.They are also urged to undertake a pilgrimage, known as the Hajj, to Mecca at least once in one's life. During this pilgrimage, the Muslims spend several days in prayer, repenting and most notably, circumambulating the Kaaba among millions of other Muslims. At the end of the Hajj, sheep and other permissible animals are slaughtered to commemorate the moment when God (Arabic:Allah) replaced Abraham's (Arabic:Ibrahim) son, Ishmael with a sheep preventing his sacrifice. The meat from these animals is then distributed around the world to needy Muslims, neighbors and relatives.
Baha'is do not have a strict worship regimen but do, however, follow guidelines for prayer passed on by Baha'u'llah and Abdu'l Baha. Baha'is are to perform ablutions before prayer and to recite at least one of three obligatory prayers (written by Baha'u'llah) daily. Prayer often takes the form of a a private activity during which Baha'is may choose to face the Qiblih (the Shrine of Baha'u'llah). Many Baha'is also host devotional meetings in their homes where prayers and holy writings are read, sung, chanted or recited. Baha'i Devotional meetings are commonly open to people of any faith. A Baha'i pilgrimage was laid out by Baha'u'llah, but political conditions in Iraq and Iran prevent most Baha'is from visiting these locations. Originally, Baha'is were to visit either the House of Baha'u'llah in Baghdad or the House of the Bab in Shiraz, Iran. Currently, Baha'i references to 'pilgrimage' generally apply to a nine-day journey that visits Baha'i holy places in Haifa, Bahji, and Akka, Israel. It should also be noted that aside from prayer and pilgrimage, Baha'is put emphasis on grounding worship in daily life. Work is considered a form of honoring God as is scriptural study.
Circumcision[edit | edit source]
- Main article: Circumcision in the Bible
Both Judaism and Islam prescribe circumcision for males as a token symbol of dedication to the religion. Islam also recommends this practice as a form of cleanliness. Christianity replaced that custom by a baptism ceremony that varies according to the denomination, but generally includes immersion, aspersion or anointment with water. Because of the decision of the Early Church (Acts 15, the Council of Jerusalem) that circumcision is not mandatory, it continues to be optional, though the Council of Florence  prohibited it and the Catholic Catechism paragraph #2297 calls non-medical amputation or mutilation immoral . Many countries with majorities of Christian adherents have low circumcision rates (with the notable exception of the United States and the Philippines). Coptic Christianity and Ethiopian Orthodoxy still observe circumcision.
Food restrictions[edit | edit source]
- Main article: kashrut
Judaism and Islam have strict dietary laws, with lawful food being called kosher in Judaism and halaal in Islam. Both religions prohibit the consumption of pork; Islam also prohibits the consumption of alcoholic beverages of any kind. Halaal restrictions can be seen as a subset of the kashrut dietary laws, so many kosher foods are considered halaal; especially in the case of meat, which Islam prescribes must be slaughtered in the name of God. Catholic Christianity developed ritual prohibitions against the consumption of meat (but not fish) on Fridays, and the Christian calendars prescribe abstinence from some foods at various times of the year; but these customs vary from place to place, and have changed over time, and some sects have nothing comparable. Some Christians oppose the consumption of alcoholic beverages, while a few Christians also follow a kosher diet, sometimes identified as a "What Would Jesus Eat?" diet. Some approaches to faith and practice have developed in sects of Protestantism such as the Seventh-day Adventist Church, which strongly advise against certain foods; and in some cases vegetarianism or veganism is encouraged. Adherents to the Baha'i Faith are prohibited from drinking alcohol. They are also prohibited from using opiates and other recreational drugs, unless prescribed by a competent physician.
The distinguishing character of sexuality in Abrahamic religions[edit | edit source]
It may be that a distinguishing characteristic of the Abrahamic religions is their generally negative stance on homosexuality, zoophilia and, in some cases, human sexuality in general, notably outside of marriage and in non-procreative contexts. This contrasts the Abrahamic traditions strongly against the backdrop of the views of their immediate neighbors. In the regions surrounding the geographical homelands of Abrahamic religions (i.e. the Near east and Aegean), sexuality was considered in a more positive light (positive in the sense that it was not recommended by their Non-Abrahamic religions to legislate death punishments for the practices of homosexuality or prostitution.)
It seems to be a mark among some versions of the rise of Abrahamic traditions that all sexuality was eliminated from the concept of the divine. Notable exceptions include Judaism (i.e. Song of Songs, Kabbalah, Hassidism), Sikhism and some denominations within Islam.
By the time of the triumph of Christianity, in the late 4th century CE this was generally true throughout the realms of the declining Roman Empire. For example, within territories where Christianity and Judaism held political power the presence of femininity in local deities as well as the Godhead was eliminated. Contrastingly, the Non-Abrahamic religions accepted female high-priestesses. They also believed in the existence of many powerful female divinities like Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom, and Isis, who was worshipped as the archetypal wife and mother. In general Abrahamic Religions negate the possibility of sexual openness with respect to the divine nature.
Homosexuality[edit | edit source]
Many of the sacred texts of the Abrahamic Religions refer to homosexual behavior as an abomination, deriving from the Holiness Code of the book of Leviticus and an interpretation of the legend of Sodom and Gomorrah. By the first century, the writings of Philo Judaeus and Flavius Josephus evolved it into a fully developed form. Thus the condemnation of homosexuality in all three faiths has a single Old Testament source. While all three religions unequivocally condemn male homosexuality, lesbianism is nowhere explicitly mentioned in the Old Testament, the New Testament, or the Qur'an; though some scholars have argued the passage in Romans 1:26, "Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural," is a reference to it.
The enforcement of this prohibition took different forms in each religion. Early Judaism referenced Leviticus and later Talmudic law in prescribing the death penalty. However, high legal hurdles, such as requiring two witnesses of the act following a previous warning by at least two people, made executions extremely rare. Early Christian emperors also advocated the death penalty: Theodosius I ordained death by the sword, and the Byzantine emperor Justinian, in his summary on Roman law, prescribed burning at the stake. Islamic jurists prescribe a death by stoning or crushing with a wall.
Proselytism[edit | edit source]
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Christianity encourages evangelism — convincing others to convert to the religion; many Christian organizations, especially Protestant churches, send missionaries to non-Christian communities throughout the world. See also Great Commission.
Forced conversions to Catholicism have been documented at various points throughout history. The most prominently cited allegations are the conversions of the pagans after Constantine; of Muslims, Jews and Eastern Orthodox during the Crusades; of Jews and Muslims during the Spanish Inquisition; and of the Aztecs by Hernan Cortes. Many Hindutva organizations in India allege that some Christian missionaries in India are converting the illiterate Dalits (the so-called low castes of the Hindus) by "fraudulent means" (sic). Forced conversions are condemned as sinful by major denominations such as the Roman Catholic Church, which officially state that forced conversions pollute the Christian religion and offend human dignity, so that past or present offenses are regarded as a scandal (a cause of unbelief). 
Despite accusations and some documented incidents of forced conversions, Islam does not permit forcing someone or repeatedly trying to convince them to convert. Islam does not have missionaries comparable to Christianity, though it does encourage its followers to learn about other religions and to teach others about Islam; one converts to Islam on their own free will. W. Heffening states that in Qur'an "the apostate is threatened with punishment in the next world only" however "in traditions, there is little echo of these punishments in the next world ... and instead, we have in many traditions a new element, the death penalty."  Heffening states that Shafi'is interpret verse
- REDIRECT: Template:Cite quran
as adducing the main evidence for the death penalty in Qur'an. The Qur'an has a chapter (Sura) dealing with non believers (called "Al-Kafiroon") (Q 109). In the chapter there is also an often quoted verse (ayat) which reads, "There is no compulsion in religion, the path of guidance stands out clear from error" [2:256] and [60:8]. This means that no one is to be compelled into Islam and that the righteous path is distinct from the rest. According to this verse, converts to Islam are ones that see this path. The Muslim expansion during the Ummayad dynasty held true to this teaching, affording second-class citizenship to People of the Book instead of forced conversion. Nevertheless, it should be noted that pagan Arab tribes were given the choice of 'Islam or the sword.' The view at the time was that these were conquered people who were going to be killed anyway as a part of the more political conquest of their lands and were generously being offered a way to earn a pardon. By this logic they were not being forced to convert to Islam, but were being saved from death by Islam.
While Judaism accepts converts, it does not encourage them, and has no missionaries as such. Judaism states that non-Jews can achieve righteousness by following Noahide Laws, a set of seven universal commandments that non-Jews are expected to follow. In this context the Rambam (Rabbi Moses Maimonides, one of the major Jewish teachers) commented, "Quoting from our sages, the righteous people from other nations have a place in the world to come, if they have acquired what they should learn about the Creator." Because the commandments applicable to the Jews are much more detailed and onerous than Noahide laws, Jewish scholars have traditionally maintained that it is better to be a good non-Jew than a bad Jew, thus discouraging conversion. Most often, converts to Judaism are those who marry Jews; in the United States, the number of such converts is estimated at 10,000-15,000 per year. See also Conversion to Judaism.
The Baha'i Faith puts special emphasis on not proselytizing. It is actually prohibited. Baha'is do accept converts from all religious and ethnic backgrounds and actively support personal investigation into faith. Baha'is have special "pioneers" and "traveling teachers" that will move to areas where Baha'i communities are small to help strengthen and expand them. Believers of other faiths are held in high regard and seen in many ways as spiritual equals. While Baha'is view the Baha'i laws and revelation as unique, they do not discourage believers of other faiths in their spiritual endeavors and are leaders of interfaith efforts.
See also[edit | edit source]
- Dharmic religions
- Abrahamic conceptions of God
- Abrahamic mythology
- Abrahamic religions on God and gender
- Comparing and contrasting Judaism and Christianity
- Major world religions
- People of the Book
- Sons of Noah
- Ten Commandments
References[edit | edit source]
- Ask Rabbi Simmons
- Johansson, Warren Abrahamic Religions. Encyclopedia of Homosexuality (Dynes, Wayne R., ed.) Garland Publishing, 1990. pp. 5&6.
- Preston Hunter, Major Religions of the World Ranked by Number of Adherents
- Masumian, Farnaz (1995). Life After Death: A study of the afterlife in world religions, Oxford: Oneworld Publications. ISBN 1-85168-074-8.
- Bahá'u'lláh (1976). Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, pp. 157, Wilmette, Illinois, USA: Bahá'í Publishing Trust. ISBN 0-87743-187-6.
- W. Heffening, in Encyclopedia of Islam
- Watt, Montgomery. "A Historical Overview." Introduction to World Religions. Ed. Christopher Partridge. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2005. 360.
[edit | edit source]
- What's Next? Heaven, hell, and salvation in major world religions A side-by-side comparison of different religion's views from Beliefnet.
- The Abrahamic Faiths: A Comparison How do Judaism, Christianity, and Islam differ? More from Beliefnet
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