Christianity and Islam are two religions that are still widely practiced today all over the world. These religions are similar in many ways, such as the way they spread and the difficulties they faced in the very beginning of their existence. Although they are similar in some ways they are extremely different in others and throughout this paper I will speak of them both and the many resemblances and differences between the two.
The religion of Christianity began with its founder, Jesus of Nazareth. Although he was believed to be born in 1 B.C.E. it has been later proven that it was probably four years earlier. Jesus began a three year mission to teach people about love for their neighbors and to avoid sin. He spoke of the kingdom of heaven and how good deeds and love will bring those good citizens closer to this kingdom. On this mission Jesus was reported of performing many miracles such as walking on water, healing the sick, and casting out demons. The spread of Christianity would have not been accomplished without the help of the twelve apostles, who also traveled from village to village spreading the preaching’s of Jesus. Jesus’ preached of a spiritual not an earthy kingdom, and this brought many problems. Many people turned against him when they saw that he was not going to start a campaign against the Romans. This caused Jesus to have many enemies including, money makers, Pharisees, people who felt he was disrupting the status quo, and some who just saw him as a blasphemer of Yahweh. Claiming to be the Son of God, Jesus was condemned for blasphemy and later crucified for his actions. It was not until after Jesus’ death that the spread of Christianity really began.
After his death there were many mystery religions throughout Rome. All of these mystery religions had one thing in common and that was the notion of a divine savior and the assurance of everlasting life. Followers of theses mystery religions found it very easy to convert to Christianity due to the similarities in their practices. These religions were happy with the founder who was not a creature of myth like their former beliefs, but a real person whose teachings were preserved in a special record, the New Testament, which included his death and resurrection. The Jews happily agreed with the concept of a single God, similar to the jealous yet loving God of the Hebrew Scriptures. Christianity unlike most religions at the time was a forceful one. It made all people feel as equals. In the eyes of God all his children, poor or rich, men and women, were seen as equals. Christianity preached that God had sent down a son, Jesus, to atone for human sins and offer a new idea of immortality and an opportunity to be “born again.” The belief of avoiding sin (or Satan) is a belief that was first revealed in the earlier religion of the Persians called Zoroastrianism. This religion spoke highly of good thoughts of the mind, good deeds of the hand, and good words of the tongue.
Christianity, one of a number of religions that attempted to gain adherents in the Roman Empire, first achieved notoriety during the reign of Nero. Nero constantly made Christians scapegoats for many problems that happened at that time.
Although Jesus had only died 35 years earlier, by 50 AD a Christian community had developed in Rome.
At the end of the first century, the pattern of toleration then persecution would continue until the fourth century when Constantine became emperor. Domitian, like Nero, allegedly persecuted Christians, other so called “good” emperors that came after Domitian chose to ignore the existence of Christians. The harsh persecutions began in the third century when Christianity was well established, even among the ruling classes, but came to be seen as a threat to the state. In the mid third century AD, many Christians suffered torture and death for not making sacrifices to traditional gods of Rome.
Persecution was once again renewed in the early fourth century to try to revitalize the old faith but in 312 the Emperor Constantine made Christianity the state religion. Churches were then built throughout Rome. Constantine became involved with the church and this lead to a close tie between the state and church, a tie that was to continue for centuries to come.
The birthplace of the Islamic religion was Arabia. Islam is based on a single, powerful god, a final prophet, and a belief in revelation. This new religion provided the community with a system of laws, a guide for social organization, and a framework for a highly diverse culture. The Qur’an is the sacred text followed by Muslims that envisioned a life in which marriage was the preferred state, women were considered less then men, the wealthy took care of the poor, and everyone would come together as one to form a community of believers. Islam was one of the fastest spreading religions, reaching the Indian and the Atlantic Ocean within one century after Muhammad disseminated its message in the seventh century.
The founder of Islam, Muhammad, was born in the late Sixth century in Mecca. Muhammad was an orphan who grew up with his uncle, and was like by his fellow Meccans, so much so that they gave him the nickname al-Amin, “trustworthy.”
Later in his life he would periodically leave Meccan society, due to his beliefs that Meccan society was too materialistic and irreligious, and spend hours alone in a cave on a nearby Mount Hira. In this cave Muhammad often spent time meditating, which at sometimes was very exhausting and mentally draining. During one of these times of meditation he heard a voice that would later alter history. These voices were known as revelations from God. The collected revelations given to Muhammad are known as the Qur’an, an Arabic word meaning “reading.” As the revelations continued he was later persuaded that he was a messenger of God. He began to think of himself and his mission as one similar to prophets before him in that he announced the existence of one God, Allah, “the God.” This God is the same God that is worshipped by the Christian and Jews, but now Allah had chosen Muhammad to be his last and greatest prophet to perfect the religion revealed earlier to Abraham, Moses, the Hebrew prophets, and Jesus. This religion that Muhammad preached would later be known as Islam, which means “Submission” to the will of God.
In the beginning Muhammad had trouble getting followers in Mecca. His first were family members and close friends who would later help him spread his beliefs. Muhammad met with much opposition from Mecca’s leading citizens. Many people said that he was just an ambitious poet who was just expressing his writing and claiming it to be words from God. His belief of monotheism threatened the popular idea at the time of polytheism. Many of Muhammad’s first followers were poor and many of the upper class citizens were afraid of a social revolution. During a troubling time in which Abu Talib and Khadija both died Muhammad and his beliefs were greatly tested. He was inspired by earlier prophets such as Abraham and Moses, who were also tested and persecuted. After his years of preaching Muhammad finally died in 632 AD.
After the death of Muhammad there was an intense increase in the expansion of Islam through the remarkable success in the form of military conquest and conversion. Immediately after his death, Caliph Abu continued the efforts to abolish polytheism. The spread of Islamic belief had finally succeeded in spreading throughout the Arabian Peninsula, and eventually spread north towards Syria.
Both Islam and Christianity have spread to all parts of the globe and are considered to be two of the most followed religions to this date. Without these two prophets and the ones who helped them, the religions would have never survived in the times in which they began. Both religions began with a single prophet who at the time was going against all that was believed. Islam and Christianity are based around a single God, which at that time was unheard of. Both prophets faced extreme ridicule for their preaching’s, so mush that one paid the ultimate sacrifice. In the end, after all these two religions have faced, they are still here today, they did not give into the uphill battle of society’s beliefs, the battle which lead to much persecution and torture; these two religions have beat the odds and are widely and happily practiced throughout the world.
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