The Cross and the Crescent Islamic book pdf english

Book Information
Book Name: The cross and the crescent
Author: Jerald F. Dirks
Publishing House: International Islamic Publishing House
ISBN:978-603-501-020-7
In this book, the author touches the lives of those Christians who have not been
given the knowledge the author have gained both about Islam, from his direct
contact with Muslims, and about Christianity from his seminary education. The
author digs deep into the roots of Christianity to bring out obscure information
that highlight what was once common between Christianity and Islam. He tries to
share with those Christians who are willing to listen – what is often known by
their clergy and church leaders, but seldom finds its way into their knowledge of
their own religion. Likewise, he also tries reaching out to the Muslims, in order to
help them understand the religious commonality that they share with Christians.
Dr. Jerald Driks, the Author, is a former ordained minister (deacon) in the United
Methodist Church and a graduate of Harvard Divinity School.
The book falls into 8 chapters:
Capter1:
Parallels between Christianity and Islam
Chapter2:
Judaism, Christianity and Islam
Chapter 3:
The books of revelation and scripture
Chapter 4:
The baptism of Jesus
Chapter 5:
The crucifixion
Chapter:6
The mission and ministry of Jesus
Chapter 7:
One size fits All
Chapter 8:
The Prophet Job (Ayyoub)
Preface
As recently as the late 19th century, it was not uncommon to find Christian men
and women prefacing a book by invoking the name of God. Today, that is a rare
occurrence, and often the cause of a raised eyebrow in what is becoming an
increasingly secular world. Within Christianity, such a formal invocation of the
name of God has become anachronistic and out of fashion. In contrast, most
publications by Muslim writers commence with the invocation “Bismillah AlRahman Al-Rahim, which reads “in the name of God, most Gracious, most
Merciful”. As such, one still finds within the Muslim world the continuation of a
practice that was formerly quite common within the Christian world.
Similarly, in days gone by, Christians frequently interspersed a statement of their
intentions or of their predictions by saying “God willing”. This served as an
acknowledgment by Christian men and women that, in the final analysis, their
intentions and predictions would be fulfilled only with the grace of God. Such
Christian verbiage is now considered a relic of the past. However, Muslim men
and women still constantly pepper their statements with the phrase “Insha ‘Allah”,
meaning “God willing”.
This manner of invoking the name of God, and of acknowledging the sovereignty
of the Almighty God in all that we do and plan, serves to highlight the central
tenet of this collection of essays, which draws close parallels between Islam and
Christianity. Further, as one investigates historical Christianity, and gets closer to
the roots of Christianity, that shared commonality and the interrelationship
between Islam and Christianity become ever stronger and more pronounced.
Unfortunately, this close interrelationship between these two religions is often
overlooked. For many Occidental Christians, Islam is seen as being decidedly
foreign, as being the religion of another place and of a foreign people, i.e., Arabia
and the Arabs. In reality, this perception is far from being accurate. Islam, no less
than Christianity, claims to be a universal religion, which cannot be appropriated
by any national or ethnic group nor by any geographic area. Arabs represent only
a minority of the world’s Muslims, and Islam has spread far beyond the borders of
the Middle East. Moreover, at present, Islam is the fastest growing religion in the
United States, having approximately seven million adherents.
Clearly, the need for mutual understanding and appreciation between Christians
and Muslims becomes ever more imperative. Unfortunately, for most Western
Christians, differences in language and in certain literary conventions add to the
perceived foreign nature of Islam. As one example, Western Christians are used
to the word “God”, and typically find the word “Allah” somewhat mysterious and
troubling.
They do not understand that “Allah” is nothing more than the contraction of two
Arabic words, which mean “the God”, or by implication “the One God”. As such, it
is not surprising that Arab Christians commonly use the word “Allah” when
speaking of the deity. As a second example, Western Christians are often uneasy
about the Islamic convention of conferring the phrase “peace be upon him” to the
names of the prophets of Allah. Yet, a third example finds Muslims typically
objecting to the use of such dating conventions as BC (before Christ) and AD
(annos domini, i.e., in the year of our Lord), since they maintain that none other
than Allah is Lord. Obviously, such linguistic sensitivities need to be overcome, in
order for Christians and Muslims to develop a proper appreciation of the
commonality between their religions.
Having said the above, I find it useful to introduce the author to the reader, so
that he may have some understanding of his qualifications to discuss the issues at
hand. He holds a Master of Divinity degree from Harvard Divinity School, and
was formerly an ordained minister (deacon) in the United Methodist Church. His
personal experience of the interrelationships between Christianity and Islam and
their common roots covers a journey of many years that has evolved in depth and
breadth with time. It began almost thirty years ago in a course at Harvard on
comparative religion. It developed further during the last two decades as he
studied the history of the Arabian horse, and grew to fruition as he started
moving within the Muslim communities in America and in the Middle East.
The Cross & The Crescent
The first essay in the book is a simple recounting of the author personal
experience of the commonality to be found between Christianity and Islam, and is
entitled “Parallels between Christianity and Islam”. Its targeted readership
includes both Muslims and Christians, but for each group a separate message has
been intended. The second essay, “Judaism, Christianity, and Islam: Origins and
Relationships”, seeks to resolve certain barriers to communication existing among
members of these three religious groups. In that regard, Muslims may better
understand the conceptual and communication barriers which separate
Christians and Jews from them, while Christians and Jews may appreciate those
conceptual and communication barriers separating Muslims from them. The
third essay presents a comparison and analysis of the structure and provenance
of the Qur’an, the received Torah, the Psalms, and the canonical gospels of the
New Testament. This essay presents some fairly technical information, which
sheds significant light on the formation of these sets of scripture, and thus
illuminates some aspects of the origins of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam not
covered in the prior essay.
The next five essays focus on specific topics in the Judeo-Christian tradition.
These essays contain a great deal of information regarding the basic foundations
of Christianity, and how they relate to Islam. To a great extent, this consists of
information not known to the Christian laity, but information that is known to
the better educated of their clergy. The primary reason behind writing these
essays is to educate Christians about the origins and foundations of their own
religion, in the hope that this may lead them to appreciate the heritage, which
they so closely share with Islam. Additionally, Muslims may gain a much better
appreciation of just how similar certain branches of early Christianity were to the
teachings of Islam.
The last essay, “A Concise Introduction to Islam: Articles of Faith and Pillars of
Practice”, is an introduction to Islam for the Christian reader. In that respect, I
have attempted to bridge the Judeo-Christian tradition and Islam wherever
possible, in order to help the Christian reader gain a better understanding of
Islam and of its similarity to his or her own religious tradition. As such, this
introduction to Islam approaches certain issues from a slightly different
perspective than do most such presentations on Islam. In conclusion, while this
final essay was written primarily for the Christian reader, it’s the author sincere
desire that the Muslim reader may also find it worthwhile reading.
Parallels between Christianity and Islam
Academic Encounters with Islam: Familiar Names
In pursuing his decision to enter the ministry, the author attempted to receive the
best education that he could. Thanks to Allah once again, he was lucky to be
admitted to Harvard College (Harvard University) on scholarship. During his
freshman year, he enrolled in a two-semester course in comparative religion,
which was taught by Wilfred Cantwell Smith, whose specific area of expertise
was Islam. He says: “As I began my study of Islam, I was surprised more than ever
before to learn how similar Islam was in so many aspects to my own Christianity.
Certainly, the religious history and heritage of the two religions seemed similar, if
not nearly identical. After all, my initial reading of the Qur’an revealed numerous
references to Adam, Noah, Abraham, Ismael, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David,
Solomon, John the Baptist, and Jesus, peace be upon them. In fact, those of the
Judeo-Christian tradition may be surprised to learn that the Qur’an specifically
names many Biblical figures far more often than it refers to Muhammad by
name”. In that regard, using ‘Abdullah Yusef ‘Ali’s English translation of The
Meaning of The Holy Qur’an? and counting the number of times a name is cited
in the text, the author found that Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph,
Moses, David, Solomon, and Jesus are all mentioned far more frequently than are.
Parallel Stories in the Qur’an and the Bible
In reading the Qur’an, the author quickly discovered that the similarities between
the Qur’an and the Bible (Islam and the Judeo-Christian tradition) are not limited
to the use of names of prominent Biblical characters alone.
Within the pages of the Qur’an, the author found many stories that are an
impressive parallel to those recorded in the Bible. Occasionally, the stories in the
Qur’an offer a slightly different perspective and detail from the parallel ones in
the Bible. However, the overall similarity is impressive, as is shown in the
following few examples.
The Creation and Fall of Adam
Both the Bible and the Qur’an address the issue of the creation of the first man,
Adam, and of his subsequent expulsion from the Garden of Eden. The Biblical
narration is recorded in Genesis 2:4-3:24, and details that Adam was created
“from the dust of the ground”; and Allah “breathed into his nostrils the breath of
life”, and Adam became a living being and was asked to give names to every
animal. Eve, Adam’s wife, was formed by Allah from one of Adam’s ribs. Allah
then declared that the two were free to eat from the fruit of the trees in the
garden, barring one particular tree. Satan, in the guise of a serpent, persuaded
Eve, who in turn persuaded Adam, to eat the fruit of the forbidden tree,
disobeying the command of their Creator. Thereupon, their nakedness became
manifest to them and they were ashamed of it. In punishment of their
disobedience, they were expelled from the Garden of Eden. In a distinct similarity
of description, the Qur’an the author says draws a close parallel to this instance:
Behold! Thy Lord said to the angels: “I am about to create man, from sounding
clay from mud molded into shape; when I have fashioned him (in due
proportion) and breathed into him of My spirit, fall ye down in obeisance unto
Him.”10
And He taught Adam the names of all things…
“O Adam! Dwell thou and thy wife in the garden, and enjoy (its good things) as ye
wish: but approach not this tree, or ye run into harm and transgression.” Then
began Satan to whisper suggestions to them, in order to reveal to them their
shame that was hidden from them (before): he said: “Your Lord only forbade you
this tree, lest ye should become angels or such beings as live forever”. And he
swore to them both, that he was their sincere adviser. So by deceit he brought
about their fall: when they tasted of the tree, their shame became manifest to
them, and they began to sew together the leaves of the garden over their bodies.
And their Lord called unto them: “Did I not forbid you that tree, and tell you that
Satan was an avowed enemy unto you?” They said: “Our Lord! We have wronged
our own souls: if Thou forgive us not and bestow not upon us Thy mercy, we shall
certainly be lost”. (Allah) said: “Get ye down, with enmity between yourselves. On
earth will be your dwelling-place and your means of livelihood—for a time”. He
said: “Therein shall ye live, and therein shall ye die; but from it shall ye be taken
out (at last).”
Cain Murders Abel
Genesis 4:1-16 states that Adam and Eve had two sons, i.e., Cain, the elder, and
Abel, the younger. Upon reaching maturity, both Cain and Abel offered sacrifices
to Allah, but only Abel’s sacrifice was acceptable to Allah. Realizing this, Cain was
furious, and murdered Abel in a rage of anger and frustration. Allah then cursed
and punished Cain for his homicidal behavior. The Qur’an offers an almost
identical narration, but with some additional details about Abel’s refusal to fight
his brother, Cain.
Recite to them the truth of the story of the two sons of Adam. Behold! They each
presented a sacrifice (to Allah): it was accepted from one, but not from the other.
Said the latter: “Be sure I will slay thee.” “Surely,” said the former, “Allah doth
accept of the sacrifice of those who are righteous. If thou dost stretch thy hand
against me, to slay me, it is not for me to stretch my hand against thee to slay thee:
for I do fear Allah, the cherisher of the worlds. For me, I intend to let thee draw
on thyself my sin as well as thine, for thou wilt be among the companions of the
fire, and that is the reward of those who do wrong.” The (selfish) soul of the other
led him to the murder of his brother: he murdered him, and became (himself) one
of the lost ones.
Moses and the Promised Land
According to the Bible (Numbers 13:1-14:38 and Deuteronomy 1:19-40) Moses
and the Israelites, having escaped from Egypt, were directed by Allah to invade
and take the land of Palestine. Before beginning their invasion, the Israelites sent
out spies into Palestine. Except for Joshua and Caleb, all the other spies reported
that a successful invasion was not feasible, since the inhabitants of Palestine were
far taller and stronger than the Israelites. Even though Joshua and Caleb urged
invasion and reliance upon Allah, the people refused to obey them. At this point,
according to Numbers 13:11-12, Allah reportedly threatened to disinherit the
Israelites, a punishment that Numbers 13:13-14:38 states was only averted by the
pleading of Moses to Allah. However, as punishment, the Israelites were forced to
continue wandering in the wilderness for 40 years, before they were allowed to
enter Palestine. A similar description appears in the Qur’an, but with some
greater detail.
Remember Moses said to his people: “O my people! Call in remembrance the favor
of Allah unto you, when He produced prophets among you, made you kings, and
gave you what He had not given to any other among the peoples. O my people!
Enter the holy land which Allah hath assigned unto you, and turn not back
ignominiously, for then will ye be overthrown, to your own ruin.” They said: “O
Moses! In this land are a people of exceeding strength: never shall we enter it
until they leave it: if (once) they leave, then shall we enter.” (But) among (their)
God-fearing men were two on whom Allah had bestowed His grace: they said:
“Assault them at the (proper) gate: when once ye are in, victory will be yours; but
on Allah put your trust if ye have faith.” They said: “O Moses! While they remain
there, never shall we be able to enter, to the end of time. Go thou, and thy Lord,
and fight ye two, while we sit here (and watch).” He said: “O my Lord! I have
power only over myself and my brother: so separate us from this rebellious
people!” Allah said: “Therefore will the land be out of their reach for forty years:
in distraction will they wander through the land: but sorrow thou not over these
rebellious people.”
However, there is one marked difference between the narration of this incident in
the two Holy Books. While the Qur’an reports that it was Moses who asked Allah
to separate him from the Israelites, the Bible maintains that Moses pled for Allah’s
forgiveness of the “rebellious people” – the Israelites – after Allah threatened to
disinherit them from His favors. Nonetheless, the Biblical and Qur’anic accounts,
in spite of this slight variation, are amazingly similar.
The Birth of John The Baptist
It is not only in the Old Testament that one finds similarities between the Qur’an
and the Bible, there are also similarities between the Qur’an and the New
Testament as well.
Parallels between Christianity and Islam
leading up to the birth of John (“Yahya” in Arabic) the Baptist, as reported in Luke
1:2-24, 57-66. According to this story, Zechariah and his wife, Elizabeth, were
an aged couple, who had never had children -Elizabeth being barren. Once,
when Zechariah was praying in the sanctuary, the angel Gabriel appeared, and
announced to Zechariah that his prayer had been heard and accepted by Allah.
Zechariah and Elizabeth were soon to have a son who would be named John, and
who would be a prophet to his people. Zechariah asked for a sign to confirm this
message regarding the birth of a son. According to the account of Luke, the sign
was that Zechariah was made mute, and allegedly remained mute throughout the
conception, gestation, birth, and first eight days of John the Baptist. Only upon
confirming his wife’s choice of the name John for their son, did Zechariah regain
his speech. The above account parallels the Qur’an, which, too, speaks of this
event.
“There did Zakariya pray to his Lord, saying: “O my Lord! Grant unto me from
Thee a progeny that is pure: for Thou art He that heareth prayer!” While he was
standing in prayer in the chamber, the angels called unto him: “Allah doth give
thee glad tidings of Yahya, witnessing the truth of a word from Allah, and (be
besides) noble, chaste, and a Prophet—of the (goodly) company of the righteous.
“He said: “O my Lord! How shall I have a son, seeing I am very old, and my wife is
barren?” “Thus,” was the answer, “Doth Allah accomplish what He willeth.” He
said: “O my Lord! Give me a Sign!” “Thy Sign,” was the answer, “Shall be that thou
shalt speak to no man for three days but with signals, then celebrate the praises of
thy Lord again and again. And glorify Him in the evening and in the morning.”
Bearing in mind that “Yahya” is merely the Arabic name for “John”, the above
passage from the Qur’an offers impressive similarity to the account reported in
Luke. The only significant discrepancy is in regard to the length of time that
Zechariah remained mute, which the Qur’an limits to only three days.
The Birth of Jesus
The Biblical account of the angelic announcement to Mary of the coming birth of
Jesus is related in Luke 1:26-38. Skipping over the later theologizing to be found
in this passage from Luke, the basic outline is that the angel Gabriel informs
Virgin Mary that she has found favor in the sight of Allah, and that she will soon
give birth to a son, who will be named Jesus. In a puzzled state, Mary asks as to
how she could possibly give birth, when she is still a virgin, to which Gabriel
reportedly answers that: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of
the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy;
he will be called Son of God.” The words attributed to Gabriel in the above quoted
passage call to mind the polytheistic Greek myths of the gods descending from
Mount Olympus to rape and impregnate mortal women. In contrast to this
polytheistic residual as found in Luke, the Qur’an, while paralleling the account
from Luke in most other respects, presents the virgin birth of Jesus as an act of
miraculous creation, not as an act of impregnation.
“Behold! The angels said: O Mary! Allah hath chosen thee and purified thee—
chosen thee above the women of all nations. O Mary! Worship thy Lord devoutly:
prostrate thyself, and bow down (in prayer) with those who bow down.” This is
part of the tidings of the things unseen, which We reveal unto thee (O Prophet!)
by inspiration: thou wast not with them when they cast lots with arrows, as to
which of them should be charged with the care of Mary: nor wast thou with them
when they disputed (the point). Behold! The angels said: “O Mary! Allah giveth
thee glad tidings of a word from Him: his name will be Christ Jesus. The son of
Mary, held in honor in this world and the hereafter and of (the company of) those
nearest to Allah; he shall speak to the people in childhood and in maturity. And
he shall be (of the company) of the righteous.” She said: “O my Lord! How shall I
have a son when no man hath touched me?” He said: “Even so: Allah createth
what He willeth: when He hath decreed a plan, He but saith to it, ‘Be,’ and it is!
And Allah will teach him the book and wisdom, the law and the gospel,…”17
Summary and Conclusions
There are many more parallels that can be illustrated between the Qur’an and the
Bible. In both books, one finds the story of Noah’s ark and the flood. In both
books, one finds similar and additional stories regarding Moses, e.g., the conflict
between Moses and the pharaoh of Egypt, the story of Moses receiving the
covenant at Mt. Sinai, etc. Likewise, one finds the story of Joseph, the Israelite
vizier of Egypt, which unfolds remarkably and in great detail in the Qur’an.
Furthermore, the Qur’an tells the story of David’s killing of Goliath, the story of
King Saul, the story of Abraham’s trials, etc. Unfortunately, time and space do not
permit that all of these parallel stories between the Qur’an and the Bible can be
individually addressed.
Biblical Characters in the Qur’an
However, it is also the case that the Qur’an reports numerous stories, regarding
well-known Biblical characters that cannot be found in the Bible. One example of
the Qur’an reporting a story not found in the Bible would be the allusion in the
above quoted passage from the Qur’an to various individuals casting arrows to
see who would be charged with the care of Mary during her pregnancy. Quite
simply, this story is not to be found in the contemporary Bible. Another example
would be the passage in the Qur’an that refers to Jesus fashioning a bird out of
clay, and then, by Allah’s leave, causing that clay bird to come to life. Once again,
this story cannot be found anywhere in the modern Bible. Nonetheless, one can
see that such stories do find expression in the early Christian literature, most
especially in the so-called apocryphal books of the New Testament. As such, these
stories illustrate that the Qur’an is often more consistent with the early roots of
Christianity, than is modern Christianity, itself.
Encounters with Early Christianity
Graduating from Harvard College in 1971, the author was accepted on
scholarship to the Master of Divinity program at the Harvard Divinity School
(Harvard University), having previously obtained his License to Preach from the
United Methodist Church in 1969. After completion of the first year of a threeyear study program at Harvard Divinity School, he was ordained into the
deaconate of the United Methodist Church in 1972, and was from that point an
ordained minister.
There is some irony, as the author mentions, in the fact that the supposedly best,
brightest, and most idealistic of ministers-to-be are selected for the very best of
seminary education (e.g., that offered at that time at the Harvard Divinity School).
The irony is that, with such an education, the seminarian is exposed to a vast
knowledge of historical truth – such as the formation of the early, “mainstream”
church, and how it was shaped by geopolitical considerations; the “original”
reading of various Biblical texts, many of which are in sharp contrast to what
most Christians read when they pick up their Bible, although gradually some of
this information is being incorporated into newer and better translations of the
Bible; the evolution of such concepts as a triune godhead and the “sonship” of
Jesus; the non-religious considerations that underlie many Christian creeds and
doctrines; the existence of those early churches and Christian movements which
never accepted the concept of a triune godhead, and which also never accepted
the concept of the divinity of Jesus; and those early Christian writings, once
regarded as scripture by many early Christian churches (known as the New
Testament apocrypha). Moreover, the information contained therein differed
from the information in the canonical New Testament that emerged some
centuries later.
Dwelling briefly on the subject, one must consider the issue of those early
Christian writings — not incorporated into the later formation of the New
Testament.
During the author`s seminary encounters in tracing the roots of early
Christianity, he amazingly discovered that certain specific stories in the Qur’an
(not found in the contemporary Bible, and occasionally even at odds with those
contained in the Bible) were preserved and recorded identically in the New
Testament apocrypha. Some examples of such occurrences are enumerated
below.
The Birth and Lineage of the Virgin Mary
The books of the contemporary New Testament offer nothing or very little
substance with regard to the background of Mary, the mother of Jesus. The only
readily available information can be seen in Luke, where Mary is said to have
been a relative of Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, and where it is stated
that Mary spent three months of her pregnancy in the house of Zechariah and
Elizabeth, the parents of John the Baptist. In contrast, the Qur’an offers a great
deal of information regarding Mary.
Behold! a woman of Tmran said: “Oh my Lord! I do dedicate unto Thee what is in
my womb for Thy special service: so accept this of me: for Thou hearest and
knowest all things.” When she was delivered, she said: “O my Lord! Behold! I am
delivered of a female child!”—And Allah knew best what she brought forth—
“And no wise is the male like the female. I have named her Mary, and I commend
her and her offspring to Thy protection from the evil one, the rejected.” Right
graciously did her Lord accept her: He made her grow in purity and beauty; to
the care of Zakariya was she assigned. Every time that he entered (her) chamber
to see her, he found her supplied with sustenance. He said: “O Mary! Whence
(comes) this to you?” She said: “From Allah: for Allah provides sustenance to
whom He pleases, without measure.”21
Three points emerge from the foregoing Qur’anic quote. First, the reference to “a
woman of Amran” appears to be a statement that the lineage of Mary’s mother
traced back to the Biblical Amram, the son of Kohath, a member of the Levite tribe
of Israel, and the father of Moses. As there was a pronounced tendency among the
Israelites to marry within their own tribe, in all probabilities, Mary was of the
Levite tribe. Second, the quotation specifically states that Mary was miraculously
“supplied with sustenance” from Allah. Third, the same passage from the Qur’an
distinctly says that Mary was placed in the care of Zechariah, while Luke merely
says that Mary visited Zechariah and Elizabeth for three months during her
pregnancy. As an additional fourth point, and referring back to a previously
quoted passage from the Qur’an, it is noted that several individuals cast lots with
arrows to see who would be entrusted with the care of Mary.
The above four points find specific support in the so-called New Testament
apocrypha. The Gospel of the Birth of Mary, preserved in a reference given by
Faustus, the Bishop of Riez in Provence, directly states that Mary was a Levite.
Further, a passage from the New Testament apocrypha says that angels fed Mary
during her stay at the Temple in Jerusalem. Regarding Mary being entrusted into
Zechariah’s care, the New Testament apocrypha provides support, by noting that
Zechariah petitioned the High Priest about Mary. Further, regarding the casting
of lots to determine who would care for Mary, two passages in the New
Testament apocrypha provide evidence for such an event, with Joseph being the
one who was chosen to succeed Zechariah in taking care of Mary.
Jesus Speaks in Infancy
In a moving passage, the Qur’an describes the reaction of people to Mary having
given birth to Jesus. Apparently, they were all too ready to think the worst about
this righteous young woman, her pregnancy, and her subsequent child. To all of
them, Mary said nothing in defense, but pointed to her infant child. Thereupon,
the infant Jesus spoke, defending his mother’s honor and preaching to the
onlookers.
At length she brought the (babe) to her people, carrying him (in her arms). They
said: “O Mary! Truly an amazing thing hast thou brought! O sister of Aaron! Thy
father was not a man of evil, nor was thy mother a woman unchaste!” But she
pointed to the babe. They said: “How can we talk to one who is a child in the
cradle?” He said: “I am indeed a servant of Allah: He hath given me revelations
and made me a prophet; and He hath made me blessed wheresoever I be, and
hath enjoined on me prayer and charity as long as I live: (He) hath made me kind
to my mother, and not overbearing or miserable;…”
The foregoing account of the birth of Jesus does not appear in the current New
Testament. However, the story of Jesus speaking while still an infant in the cradle
is preserved in the New Testament apocrypha. Two different passages in the
Qur’an refer to Jesus fashioning a clay bird, and then, by Allah’s will, making it
come alive.
Summary and Conclusions
Taken together the Bible and the New Testament apocrypha offer dramatic
parallels to many passages in the Qur’an. Such parallels suggest that Christians
are well advised to explore the substantial interface between Islam and
Christianity.
Judaism, Christianity, and Islam

  • Origins and Relationships
    One of the chief barriers to effective communication between people is when one
    assumes he is speaking the same language as others, being unaware of the fact
    that some key words and concepts of his conversation mean radically different
    things to others. One party to the conversation quickly concludes that the other
    does not understand what is being discussed, yet neither realizes that the
    common words they are using do not have a shared, common meaning for the
    two of them. This specific type of lack of communication is frequently
    encountered when people of different religious backgrounds are discussing the
    interrelationship of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Each discussant is operating
    from a different definition of Judaism, of Christianity, and of Islam, depending
    upon his or her prior religious education and training, which has inoculated each
    speaker with a different understanding of the origin of the religion in question.
    In some ways, it may seem strange that adherents of these three religions, which
    share so much common heritage, would have so much trouble communicating
    with each other. It is perhaps because of this common heritage that confusion is
    probable. When one is confronted by a radically different concept, which has no
    relationship to one’s typical mindset and mental representation of the world, one
    is forced to accommodate to that new concept, and to build a new mental
    framework for understanding the concept in question. However, when an
    apparently familiar concept, but one that is being used in a slightly different way
    confronts one, the temptation arises either to ignore the differences or to
    assimilate the concept to the individual’s pre-existing mental framework. In
    either case, the use of the concept is distorted. As such, it may be much easier, for
    example, for the Christian to develop a reasonably accurate understanding of
    advaitistic Hinduism, than of Islam.
    Advaitistic Hinduism is so foreign to the Christian’s everyday understanding of
    religious concepts, that he is forced to develop new and unbiased mental
    representations. However, Islam is so close to Christianity in so many ways that
    the Christian simply assumes he understands what the Muslim means, when the
    latter mentions terms such as “revelation”, “Torah”, and “gospel”. Likewise, the
    Christian is likely to assume that he understands who the Muslim means, when
    the Muslim names various prophets of Islam, such as Adam, Abraham, Jesus, and
    Muhammad, peace be upon them all. Not to be outdone, the Muslim is likely to be
    just as misled by a false assurance that he understands those same terms and
    names when used by the Christian.
    In the author’s experience, one of the easiest and simplest ways of clearing up
    these difficulties in communication is to examine the origins of the three religions
    in question. As soon as one begins to do that, it becomes obvious that there is a
    major gulf separating the Judeo-Christian perspective of the origins of Judaism,
    Christianity, and Islam, from the Islamic perspective of the origins of these same
    three religions. Even a modest study of the conceptualization of religious origins
    highlights some of the common causes of miscommunication between the
    adherents of the Judeo-Christian tradition and the adherents of the Islamic
    tradition. As such, in the hope of bridging that gap in communication, the present
    essay examines the origin and evolution of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam from
    two markedly different perspectives, i.e., the Judeo-Christian perspective and the
    Islamic perspective. In doing so, the present essay is necessarily somewhat
    simplistic and is definitely incomplete. A complete, thorough, and penetrating
    analysis of the topic in question would require its own multi-volume book, not a
    mere essay.
    The Judeo-Christian Perspective
    The Judeo-Christian perspective is one that is systematically taught throughout
    Western academic institutions, beginning in junior high school history classes
    and continuing throughout college level courses. It can be seen in such junior
    high school textbook statements as, “Judaism was the first monotheistic religion”.
    As a brief digression, it is noted that most Muslim parents in the United States
    probably fail to grasp that their children are being systematically proselytized
    with this Judeo-Christian perspective as part of their children’s public school
    education. Complicating the problem, because of their lack of familiarity with the
    Islamic perspective, the public school teachers of these Muslim children probably
    fail to realize that they are even engaged in an act of proselytizing.
    While the major points of the Judeo-Christian perspective are typically well
    known to most Christians and Jews, some of the specificity presented below may
    represent a level of knowledge not readily available to them. This is especially
    likely to be the case about the nature and causes of various sects within Judaism
    and Christianity, and concerning specific dates and events reported below.
    Ur- Judaism and the Covenant with Noah
    The Judeo-Christian perspective begins with Adam, peace be upon him, and
    traces the descent of man down through the various Old Testament patriarchs,
    until arriving at Noah, peace be upon him. The actual lineage proposed by
    Genesis is Adam to Seth to Enos to Cainan to Mahalaleel to Jared to Enoch to
    Methuselah to Lamech to Noah.3 It is with the arrival of Noah that something
    new enters the framework of the Judeo-Christian perspective. Reportedly, Noah
    was the first person with whom Allah entered into a covenant. Now, this
    covenant was reportedly quite primitive and limited, and very few details
    regarding the covenant are reported in Genesis. In fact, the only details listed in
    Genesis regarding this covenant are that Noah was to build the ark, and stock it
    with the animals of the earth; that Allah would never again destroy all mankind
    through a flood, and His promise of that was symbolized in the rainbow. It is of
    note that there is next to nothing in this report of Genesis about a monotheistic
    commitment of worship, etc. Nonetheless, this covenant of Noah can serve as the
    first possible point of origin for Judaism, or what might be better termed protoJudaism or ur-Judaism.
    More often, the Judeo-Christian tradition traces the origin of Judaism to
    Abraham, who lived approximately eleven generations after Noah. Here, one
    encounters the second covenant between Allah and man, as Allah reportedly
    established a new covenant with Abraham. Once again, Genesis only sparsely
    reports the details of this covenant. In short, this covenant can is summarized to
    mean that: Abraham and his descendants were to keep the covenant, and were to
    practice circumcision; Allah promised He would be the god of Abraham and his
    descendants through Isaac, peace be upon him; and Abraham and his
    descendants would be multitudinous. Further, Abraham and his descendants
    through Isaac would inherit the land of Palestine, and the covenant. The whole of
    history then pivoted on this covenant, the relationship between Allah and man
    was forever changed, and a special relationship was established between Allah
    and the descendants of Isaac.
    It is important to note that the Judeo-Christian tradition sees this covenant
    between Allah and Abraham as being one of exclusive inheritance. Only Isaac
    and his descendants, of all of Abraham’s many children, could inherit the
    covenant with Allah.” The exclusivity of inheritance was further refined, when it
    was maintained that the inheritance of the covenant passed over Isaac’s elder son,
    Esau, in favor of Isaac’s younger son, Jacob, peace be upon him. As Jacob’s name
    was later changed to Israel, making him the eponymous ancestor of the 12 tribes
    of Israel, the exclusivity of the covenant was seen to reside thereafter with Israel,
    and with Israel alone.
    Judaism Refined and the Mosaic Covenant
    Several centuries after Jacob, Allah reportedly refined his covenant with the 12
    tribes of Israel. This refinement, which for the first time left a recording of
    specified and explicit details regarding the worship of Allah and the laws of
    Judaism, was given to Moses, peace be upon him. The various stipulations of the
    Mosaic covenant are much too detailed and voluminous to go into at this point.
    However, it does need to be noted that, according to the Judeo-Christian
    perspective, this is the second point in time, in which history pivoted, and in
    which the relationship between man and Allah is seen as having been irrevocably
    changed. For those in the Judeo-Christian tradition, who resist seeing the
    covenant with Abraham as being the origin of Judaism, this Mosaic covenant is
    seen as constituting the beginning of Judaism as an organized religion.
    The Role of the Prophets
    A fully evolved religious structure having been decreed by the Mosaic covenant,
    it was inevitable that the Israelites, or at least some significant portion of them,
    would stray from fulfilling the obligations of the covenant. As such, Allah
    periodically sent prophets, i.e., those authorized to speak for Allah, to call the
    wayward and backsliding Israelites back to the true fulfillment of the Mosaic
    covenant. From the contemporary Judeo-Christian perspective, these prophets are
    seen as admonishing the Israelites to return to Judaism
    Despite the clarion call of these prophets, a sizable portion of the Israelites failed
    to listen, especially among those in the ruling class. As such, the Davidic and
    Solomonic Kingdom of Israel was fragmented into a northern Kingdom of Israel
    and a southern Kingdom of Judah around 930 BCE. From this point on, prophets
    were variously sent to both kingdoms. However, again, many failed to heed the
    message of warning, which was delivered by these prophets. As further
    punishment, Allah ordained the destruction of the northern Kingdom of Israel by
    the Assyrian Empire around 722 BCE. The Israelites of the northern Kingdom of
    Israel, comprising 10 of the 12 tribes of Israel, were carried away into captivity,
    and failed ever to re-emerge on the pages of history as an identifiable people,
    thus giving rise to the 10 lost tribes of Israel.
    The southern Kingdom of Judah, being primarily comprised of the tribes of
    Benjamin and Judah, continued in a rocky existence for about 150 years more.
    Prophets continued to be sent to these people, but true adherence to Judaism, as
    specified in the Mosaic covenant, was lacking. Thus, Allah allowed the fall of the
    southern Kingdom of Judah to the Babylonian Empire around 586 BCE. The
    Solomonic Temple (see below under “The Temple Cult”) was destroyed, many of
    the Jews were carted off into exile in Babylon, and the period of exile had begun.
    In understanding the role of the prophets from the Judeo-Christian perspective, it
    cannot be emphasized enough that these prophets were perceived as simply
    calling the people back to Judaism. They did not bring any real revision to the
    Mosaic covenant, although they may have offered some interpretation of it.
    However, even this “new” interpretation should be seen as simply correcting a
    prior, erroneous interpretation, which had arisen among the people. As such,
    although these prophets were seen as speaking for Allah, they did not bring any
    new revelation or any real modification of the Mosaic covenant. In that regard,
    revelation can be seen within the Judeo-Christian perspective as having been
    static since the time of Moses. Further, it must be emphasized that the JudeoChristian perspective frequently portrays these prophets as having spiritual feet
    of clay, i.e., of being as prone to sin, temptation, and degradation as those to
    whom they preached.
    The Temple Cult
    In the fourth year of the reign of King Solomon, peace be upon him, construction
    began on a magnificent temple in Jerusalem15, which measured about 90 feet in
    length, 30 feet in breadth, and 45 feet in height16, and which was surrounded by
    various courtyards and interconnected rooms.17 With the construction of this
    Temple of Solomon in the 10th century BCE, the religion of Judaism became
    centered on the concept and ritual of temple sacrifice.18 During three separate
    religious holidays or pilgrim feasts, Jews were enjoined to journey to Jerusalem to
    give a sacrifice from the first fruits of the harvest at the Solomonic Temple. These
    religious festivals included Passover (at the time of the harvest of barley), The
    Feast of Weeks (at the time of the harvest of wheat; conforming to the Christian
    holiday of Pentecost), and Tabernacles or the Feast of Booths (at the time of the
    harvest of fruits)19. In turn, this focus on temple sacrifice elevated the
    importance of the role of the priests and Levites in the religious life of Judaism.20
    However, not all of those who claimed to be Jews acknowledged the temple cult
    in Jerusalem. Among them were the Samaritans, a people of mixed Assyrian and
    Israelite descent, who had relocated in the area, which had been the northern
    Kingdom of Israel, after the Assyrian conquest of the Kingdom of Israel in 722 BC.
    The Samaritans did not finally break away from Judaism until after the return of
    the Jews from the Babylonian exile (see below). However, they avoided the temple
    cult in Jerusalem, worshipped at their own site at Mt. Gerisim at Shechem
    (modern Nablus), which they claimed to be the real and actual holy site selected
    by Allah (as opposed to Jerusalem). These people had their own version of the
    Torah, which differed in many parts from the Torah of the postexilic Jews in
    Judea.
    As noted above, the Babylonian army of Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the
    Solomonic Temple in 586 BC. Of marked significance to the maintenance of
    Judaism as a distinct religion was the building of a new temple in Jerusalem at the
    start of the second year of the reign (522-486 BCE) of Darius I of Persia.22 While
    helping to maintain Judaism as a distinct entity, this second temple had
    considerably less grandeur than the original Solomonic Temple, although it
    reportedly was larger, having a width and a height of about 90 feet.24 About five
    centuries later, around 19 BCE, Herod the Great, the Roman-appointed King of
    the Jews, began building a third and much more elaborate temple, which
    involved a massive reconstruction and expansion of the temple built in 520 BCE.
    This Temple of Herod stood until its destruction in August of 70 CE by a Roman
    army.
    Post Exilic Judaism
    The Persian Empire conquered the Babylonian Empire around 539 BCE. The
    following year, Sheshbazzar led the first group of returning Jews back to
    Palestine. This migration of returning Jews continued sporadically for the next
    140 years, and was almost complete with the return of Ezra to Palestine around
    397 BCE.
    Post exilic Judaism was characterized by the rise of numerous Jewish sects, most
    of which failed to survive to modern times, but which are known to have existed
    in the Hellenistic period, beginning with the conquest of Alexander the Great
    between the years 334 and 323 BCE. Religious and secular-nationalistic-political
    considerations differentiated these sects, which can be roughly categorized into
    three main groups: the Sadducees, meaning the “righteous ones”; the Hassidim
    (Chassidim); and the Zealots.
    The Sadducees, also known as the Zadokites, were political opportunists, who
    were willing to accommodate to other cultures and governments, including the
    Roman Empire. They were comprised mainly of members of the upper class and
    hierarchy, and their domain of influence was confined to the city of Jerusalem.
    Their philosophical rationale centered on a belief in a theocratic government,
    which was to be vested in the descendants of Zadok, the high priest during the
    reign of King Solomon. Their religious practice centered on the written law,
    ignoring the oral law and any written scripture outside the five books of the
    received Torah. For them, religious practice was focused on the rites and
    sacrifices of the temple. They apparently did not believe in the coming of a
    Messiah, in the concept of resurrection after death, or in the existence of the
    angels of Allah. With the destruction of Herod’s Temple in August, 70 CE, their
    reason for existence vanished, and they ceased to exist as a viable sect.
    The Hassidim, whose name can be translated as “the pious”, arose about the
    beginning of the second century BCE, and shortly thereafter split into two main
    groups: the Pharisees; and the Essenes. The prominence of these two main
    subgroups of the Hassidim calls for a separate discussion of each.
    The Pharisees were probably the dominant Jewish sect at the time of Jesus, and
    likely numbered about 6,000. They resisted assimilation of Hellenistic influences,
    and were more nationalistically oriented than the Sadducees. Likewise, they were
    more of a “people’s” movement, than were the more aristocratic Sadducees, but
    their influence was primarily felt on the outskirts of Jerusalem. The Pharisees
    gave rise to the various rabbinical schools and to rabbinical Judaism; and they
    were great proponents of the oral law, which attempted to interpret the Torah.
    They readily accepted as authoritative scripture the various books of the Nevi’im
    and of the Ketuvim, which today find their place alongside the Torah in the Old
    Testament. They awaited the coming of a Messiah, and believed in resurrection
    after death, in a final Day of Judgment, and in the existence of the angels of Allah.
    The Essenes, on the other hand, numbering about 4,000, tended to withdraw
    from society, and established “monasteries” such as that at Qumran, on the shore
    of the Dead Sea, or closed communities in and around Jerusalem and probably
    Damascus. Like the Pharisees, they resisted Hellenistic influences, accepted the
    Nevi’im and the Ketuvim as scriptural, although apparently not at the same level
    as the Torah, and awaited the coming of a Messiah (if not two Messiahs, one
    being priestly and one being kingly). They believed in resurrection after death, in
    a final Day of Judgment, and in the existence of the angels of Allah, as well as in
    the final, cosmic battle between good and evil, giving a dualistic color to their
    theology. The Essenes also utilized a number of books, which were not acceptable
    to the Pharisees, and which never were accepted as part of the Old Testament
    canon. By and large, these books are found in various collections of the
    pseudepigraphical writings, appear to have had a great influence on the early
    Christian churches, and are frequently quoted without reference in the New
    Testament. In terms of religious practice, the Essenes were characterized by their
    great emphasis on ritual ablution, on the repetitious use of immersion in water,
    by their wearing of white, by a frequently communal and ascetic lifestyle, by
    extremely strict marital limitations, and by a refusal to even defecate on the
    Sabbath. After the destruction of Herod’s Temple in 70 CE, various Essenic
    communities either ceased to exist, or were absorbed by the nascent Christian
    churches and possibly by the early Mandaean movement, which alleged its origin
    from John the Baptist, peace be upon him.
    The Zealots were primarily a political group with extreme nationalistic
    ambitions, which was fragmented into a variety of sub-sects, including the
    Galileans and the Sicarii (“dagger men” or “assassins”). They claimed their origin
    with the aborted uprising of Judas of Gamala (a.k.a. Judas the Galilean) in six CE.
    Thereafter, they engaged in isolated acts of guerrilla warfare against Rome, which
    were punctuated by armed uprisings, e.g., in 66 CE and in 132 CE. While
    Josephus claimed that their religious orientation was like that of the Pharisees, it
    is more likely that their nationalistic platform masked a variety of different
    religious practices and sects. To the extent they looked for the coming of a
    Messiah, they envisioned the Messiah as a warrior king, who would deliver them
    from foreign control. The Zealots ceased to exist after their final uprising under
    Simon bar Kochba in 132 CE.30
    Modern Judaism
    With the destruction of Herod’s Temple in 70 CE, the Pharisees were able to reinterpret the rites and rituals of the temple into life and worship within the
    synagogue and within the family. As such, not counting the small Samaritan sect
    of today, the Pharisees were able to survive into modern times as the only living
    sect of Judaism. even though in the process further sectarian groups emerged. In
    modern times, these sects are categorized into three main groups, which can be
    ranked on a conservative to liberal scale to include Orthodox Judaism,
    Conservative Judaism, and Reform Judaism.
    Christianity
    So far, the discussion of the Judeo-Christian perspective has focused solely on
    Judaism. However, with the advent of Jesus Christ, the Judeo-Christian
    perspective now divides into a Jewish and a Christian perspective. In what
    follows, the “Christian perspective” is traced.
    Christian perspective” refers here to that traditional corpus of beliefs, which today
    is held by the majority of Christian churches. In defining the Christian
    perspective” in this manner, it ought to be pointed out that there was no single,
    monolithic Christian church, which evolved immediately following the time of
    Jesus. Rather, there were a multitude of independent churches, each having its
    own set of recognized scriptures, each under its own independent bishop or
    leader, and each having its own viewpoint on such issues as: whether or not it
    was Jesus Christ, who was crucified; the nature of Jesus Christ, i.e., whether he
    was God, man, or some combination thereof; and the nature of God, i.e.,
    trinitarian of one formulation or another or one and indivisible. It was not until
    several centuries later that these issues began to be sorted out, and the traditional
    consensus of Christian belief began to emerge.
    With the above in mind, it can be stated that, from the Christian perspective, the
    birth of Jesus ushered in yet a third time in which history pivoted, and in which
    the fundamental relationship between Allah and mankind was forever altered.
    Although allegedly pre-existing his physical birth, Jesus was seen as the begotten
    son of God via a virgin birth, who opened up the covenant of Allah to all
    mankind, whose ministry was to both Jew and gentile, and who allegedly was
    crucified in atonement for the sins of mankind, before allegedly being
    resurrected. Although precise formulations of the concept of the trinity differ,
    Jesus was seen as one person among three (the Father, the Son, and the Holy
    Spirit), who shared the same divine substance.
    The Christian perspective typically sees the ministry of Jesus as having evolved
    out of Judaism, primarily the Judaism of the Pharisaic and Essenic movements,
    and as having ushered in a new covenant of faith, repentance, and atonement in
    the “blood of Christ”, which totally replaced the prior Mosaic covenant. In short,
    Christianity replaced Judaism, which was no longer relevant or spiritually
    operative after the new covenant of Christ. The age of the Old Testament prophets
    was now over, and the age of the Holy Spirit had begun.
    As noted previously, it took some several centuries for the above consensus to
    emerge within Christianity. However, even then, the consensus was shaky.
    Disagreements as to the independence of and/or hierarchical ranking of the
    various bishops, and over the exact wording of the definition of the trinity, finally
    led to the great schism between the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Catholic
    Churches. The latter quickly fragmented, largely along nationalistic or ethnic
    lines. Some centuries later, the Roman Catholic Church underwent its own
    schism during the Protestant Reformation, giving rise to myriad and differing
    Protestant denominations.
    Islam
    According to the Judeo-Christian perspective, Islam did not exist until the
    ministry and preaching of Muhammad in the seventh century CE. Originally
    portrayed as the anti-Christ by many Christians, the image of Muhammad later
    began to be portrayed somewhat more favorably among certain elements of the
    Christian clergy and scholars. However, the Judeo-Christian perspective still
    perceives that Islam originated with Muhammad, and that Muhammad created
    Islam by borrowing heavily from both rabbinical Judaism and from Christianity.
    Concerning the alleged borrowing from Christianity, it is traditionally held that
    Muhammad most frequently took from the teachings of the Eastern churches and
    from a variety of apocryphal Christian writings. Thus, from the Judeo-Christian
    perspective, Islam originated in the seventh century CE as an amalgamation of
    Judaism and Christianity.
    Summary
    To summarize, the Judeo-Christian perspective posits the following step-wise
    evolution of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Primitive or roto-Judaism can be
    traced to the primitive covenant between Allah and Noah. However, Judaism
    really has its origin with the covenant between Allah and Abraham, a covenant,
    which was exclusively inherited by Isaac, then by Jacob, and then by the
    Israelites. The covenant was then reformulated with Moses, and Judaism as a fullblown religion began. Central to the maintenance of Judaism as a distinct
    religious practice was the temple cult, with its focus on the act of sacrifice at the
    Solomonic Temple in Jerusalem. Thereafter, various Israelites strayed from
    observance of the covenant, resulting in Allah sending prophets, who reaffirmed
    the Mosaic covenant, but neither added to nor modified it. This state of affairs
    continued until the new covenant of Christ, from which Christianity emerged.
    Almost 600 years later, Muhammad, borrowing heavily from both rabbinical
    Judaism and from Christianity, created the religion of Islam.
    The Islamic Perspective
    ‘Most Western non-Muslims do not even realize that there is an Islamic
    perspective, which is substantially different from that of the Judeo-Christian
    perspective, particularly with regard to the understanding of the origins of
    Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. As a matter of course, it is the Judeo-Christian
    perspective, which is systematically taught throughout Western school systems.
    As such, Muslim children in Western school systems are routinely indoctrinated
    with the Judeo-Christian perspective, often without their parents realizing it, and
    in direct violation, albeit unknowingly, of the American principle of separation of
    church and state. Ironically, even in Islamic schools in North America, classes in
    world history, etc. are often forced to use Western textbooks, which propagate the
    Judeo-Christian perspective.
    Judaism, Christianity and Islam
    If the teacher of such a class were not a Muslim, then the state-certified, nonMuslim teacher would probably blithely teach the Judeo-Christian perspective
    without even realizing that he or she is subtly proselytizing. Just as alarming,
    some Muslims, especially those who were educated in a Western-oriented
    institution of learning, or who were educated in Israeli-controlled Palestine, have
    come to accept the Judeo-Christian perspective, without being fully aware of the
    Islamic perspective.
    Given the above background, the Islamic perspective is presented below. As will
    be seen, it sometimes parallels and at times deviates from the Judeo-Christian
    perspective. This is most apparent when considering terms such as Judaism,
    Christianity, Islam, covenant, and revelation.
    Like the Judeo-Christian tradition, Islam traces the origin of mankind to Adam.
    However, unlike any conceptualization within the Judeo-Christian tradition,
    Islam posits its beginning with Adam. Islam means “submission”, i.e., submission
    to Allah, and a Muslim is “one who submits” to Allah. Thus, the religion of Adam
    was Islam, as was the religion of Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, etc.
    The same religion has He established for you as that which He enjoined on
    Noah—that which We have sent by inspiration to thee—and that which We
    enjoined on Abraham, Moses, and Jesus: namely, that ye should remain steadfast
    in religion, and make no divisions therein: to those who worship other things
    than Allah, hard is the (way) to which thou callest them. Allah chooses to Himself
    those whom He pleases, and guides to Himself those who turn (to Him).
    This is not, however, to say that the Islamic religion of Adam was the same in
    every detail as that of Noah, or of Abraham, or of Moses, or of Jesus, or of
    Muhammad. In fact, it was not. However, to understand that difference, one has
    to understand the Islamic concepts of covenant and of progressive revelation.
    Covenant and Revelation
    As noted above, the Judeo-Christian tradition perceives the concept of covenant
    to represent a fundamental re-ordering of the cosmos, in which the relationship
    between mankind and Allah is completely redefined, and in which an entirely
    new concept of religion is introduced. Covenants are thus seen as being few and
    far between, represented only by: (1) the primitive or proto-covenant with Noah;
    (2) the defining covenant with Abraham, which was exclusively inherited by
    Isaac, by Jacob, and then by the Israelites; (3) the revision and elaboration of the
    Abrahamic covenant with Moses, with inheritance of the covenant limited to
    Israelites and Jews; and (4) the new covenant with Jesus, which for the first time
    was open to participation by non-Jews.
    In marked contrast, Islam affirms a multiplicity of covenants between Allah and
    mankind. Every prophet of Allah, most of whose names are not even known to
    contemporary man, has had his own covenant, which was inherited by that
    prophet’s people. The following quotations from the Qur’an serve to illustrate this
    latter point.
    Remember We made the House a place of assembly for men and a place of safety;
    and take ye the station of Abraham as a place of prayer; and We covenanted with
    Abraham and Ismael, that they should sanctify My House for those who compass
    it round, or use it as a retreat, or bow, or prostrate themselves (therein in prayer).
    Behold! Allah took the covenant of the prophets, saying: “I give you a book and
    wisdom; then comes to you a messenger, confirming what is with you; do you
    believe in him and render him help.” Allah said: “Do ye agree, and take this my
    covenant as binding on you?” They said: “We agree.” He said: “Then bear witness,
    and I am with you among the witnesses.”
    And remember We took from the prophets their covenant: as (We did) from thee:
    from Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus the son of Mary: We took from them a
    solemn covenant.”
    Further, a prophet of Allah was sent to every people, not just to the Israelites.
    There are many passages in the Qur’an referring to the fact that a prophet was
    sent to every people. The following represents a brief sample of those passages.
    Before thee We sent (messengers) to many nations, and We afflicted the nations
    with suffering and adversity, that they might learn humility.
    To every people (was sent) a messenger: when their messenger comes (before
    them), the matter will be judged between them with justice, and they will not be
    wronged.
    For We assuredly sent amongst every people a messenger, (with the command),
    “Serve Allah, and eschew evil”: of the people were some whom Allah guided, and
    some on whom error became inevitably (established). So travel through the earth,
    and see what was the end of those who denied (the truth)Verily We have sent
    thee in truth, as a bearer of glad tidings, and as a warner: and there never was a
    people, without a warner having lived among them (in the past).
    Thus, between the time of Adam and Muhammad, covenants were plentiful, and
    were non-exclusive. Every person, regardless of ethnic, national, or racial
    descent, had the potential opportunity to inherit a covenant with Allah, and to
    enter into a proper, worshipful relationship with Allah.
    This concept of a multiplicity of covenants is linked with the Islamic concept of
    progressive revelation. Since each prophet received his own covenant with Allah,
    the revelation of Allah as to how best to worship Him was progressively revealed
    over an evolutionary period. Unlike the cosmic re-orderings followed by long
    periods of revelatory stagnation posited by the Judeo-Christian tradition, Islam
    affirms a gradual evolution in the relationship between man and Allah and in
    man’s worship of Allah. Prior revelations could and were modified, elaborated,
    and abrogated. In fact, such evolution and progressive revelation occurred not
    only between prophets, but also within a given prophet’s own message and
    revelation. With regard to this, one needs only look to the progressive revelation
    within the lifetime of Muhammad, which led from no prohibition against alcohol,
    to prohibition against alcoholic consumption interfering with the performance of
    mandatory prayers, to total prohibition of alcohol. This concept of progressive
    revelation is summarized in the following passages from the Qur’an.
    None of Our revelations do We abrogate or cause to be forgotten, but We
    substitute something better or similar: knowest thou not that Allah hath power
    over all things?
    We did send messengers before thee, and appointed for them wives and children:
    and it was never the part of a messenger to bring a sign except as Allah permitted
    (or commanded). For each period is a book (revealed). Allah doth blot out or
    confirm what He pleaseth: with Him is the mother of the book.
    This Qur’an is not such as can be produced by other than Allah; on the contrary it
    is a confirmation of (revelations) that went before it, and a fuller explanation of
    the book— wherein there is no doubt—from the Lord of the worlds.
    When We substitute one revelation for another—and Allah knows best what He
    reveals (in stages)—they say, “Thou art but a forger”: but most of them understand
    not.
    Given the above, it can be seen that Islam began with Adam, gradually evolved
    through the different covenants and progressive revelations given to the various
    prophets, and finally culminated in the final revelation given to Prophet
    Muhammad. In this regard, the contrasts between the Judeo-Christian and
    Islamic perspectives are dramatic. The Judeo-Christian perspective posits a few
    stages of religious evolution, each of which is markedly different than the one
    before it. Metaphorically, one can compare the Judeo-Christian perspective to the
    drastic revolutions involved in the developmental stages of the caterpillar,
    cocoon, and butterfly. Each stage is fundamentally different in appearance than
    the stage before it. In contrast, the metaphor for the Islamic perspective would be
    that of the budding and opening of a flower, in which the message of Adam
    represents the first budding, and in which the final message of Muhammad
    represents the flower in full bloom. However, even within that first bud of Adam’s
    message, there were two fundamental truths, which have never been abrogated
    or modified, and which continued to be the centerpiece of the message of every
    later prophet: 1) there is no god but God (Allah), Who has no partners, and Allah
    is to be worshipped and served; and 2) avoid evil and wickedness, for there will
    be a day of final judgment.60
    Jesus and the origin of Christianity
    Islam affirms the virgin birth of Jesus, but sees this not as an act of begetting, but
    as an act of miraculous creation, caused by Allah’s verbal command. The
    following represents but one of several passages from the Qur’an that testifies to
    the virgin birth of Jesus.
    Behold! The angels said: “OMary! Allah giveth thee glad tidings of a word from
    Him: his name will be Christ Jesus. The son of Mary, held in honor in this world
    and the hereafter and of (the company of) those nearest to Allah; He shall speak
    to the people in childhood and in maturity. And he shall be (of the company) of
    the righteous.” She said: “O my Lord! How shall I have a son when no man hath
    touched me?” He said: “Even so: Allah createth what He willeth: when He hath
    decreed a plan, He but saith to it, ‘Be,’ and it is!”.
    However, in regard to the virgin birth, the miraculous origin of Jesus is seen as
    being akin to the creation of Adam. Just as Jesus was without a father, so Adam,
    having been created from the earth, was without a father and a mother.
    The similitude of Jesus before Allah is as that of Adam; He created him from dust,
    then said to him: “Be”: and he was.
    Islam affirms that Jesus was a prophet of Allah, and that Jesus was the Messiah or
    Christ. However, Islam denies the crucifixion of Jesus, and denies the divinity of
    Jesus. Like those prophets of Israel before him, Jesus’ message and ministry were
    confined to the remnants of Israel and to the Jews, and were a call to return to
    Islam and to proper submission to and worship of the Oneness of Allah. It’s worth
    noting that one part of the message of Jesus was the prophecy of an additional
    prophet yet to come, who would be called Ahmad, which is a variation of the
    name Muhammad.
    And remember, Jesus, the son of Mary, said: “O children of Israel! I am the
    messenger of Allah (sent) to you, confirming the law (which came) before me,
    and giving glad tidings of a messenger to come after me, whose name shall be
    Ahmad.” But when he came to them with clear signs, they said, “This is evident
    sorcery!”
    Jesus was not the founder or originator of a new religion, or even of a new
    religious movement within the Judaism of his times, but was one in a succession
    of prophets of Allah to the people of Israel. Likewise, attempts to link Jesus with
    this or that particular school of Judaic thought, whether Pharisaic, Essenic, or
    other, are rejected, as they distort the fundamental truth that Jesus was a prophet
    of Allah, who was bringing a portion of the progressive revelation of Islam. All of
    which is not to say that there was no new component to the message that Jesus
    brought. The Islamic concept of progressive revelation allows for the possibility
    that the revelation to Jesus may have partially altered, added to, or abrogated
    some parts of the revelations of earlier prophets.
    Muhammad and the Final Revelation of Islam
    Muhammad did not originate or create Islam, nor was Islam originated based on
    the revelations given to Muhammad by Allah. Rather, Muhammad was the Seal of
    the Prophets, i.e., the last in the line of Allah’s prophets, just as a seal at the end of
    a document is the last thing affixed to that document. It may be noted that
    Westerners and adherents to the Judeo-Christian perspective frequently attribute
    hierarchical significance to the title “Seal of the Prophets”, as though Muslims
    claim that Muhammad was the greatest or best of the prophets of Allah. This type
    of thinking is contrary to Islam, and is specifically prohibited by the Qur’an,
    which states that Muslims are to make no hierarchical distinctions among the
    prophets of Allah. Like all the prophets before him, Muhammad was not divine,
    but was only a man endowed with the message of Allah.
    However, it was through the progressive revelation given to Muhammad that
    Islam was perfected and completed. This revelation abrogated, elaborated, and
    altered parts of the revelations given to earlier prophets, was memorized and
    written down by the early companions of Muhammad, and became known as the
    Qur’an. Thus, Islam finds its final evolution in the message of Muhammad, not its
    genesis. Further, as he Seal of the Prophets, Muhammad was the “international”
    prophet, bringing Allah’s message not only to the people of Muhammad, whether
    defined as Makkans, the members of the Quraish tribe, or Arabs, but to the people
    of the world at large.
    Say: “No reward do I ask of you for this (Qur’an), nor am I a pretender. This is no
    less than a message to (all) the worlds.”84
    Summary
    The Islamic perspective affirms the following evolution of Islam, Judaism, and
    Christianity. Islam began with Adam, and has evolved in accordance with the
    progressive revelations given by Allah to His various prophets. This evolution of
    Islam finds its perfect culmination in the final revelations of Allah, which were
    bestowed upon Prophet Muhammad. Early on, among the descendants of Prophet
    Jacob, distortions of the basic message of Islam were codified and ritualized,
    giving rise to the religion of Judaism. Subsequent prophets to the house of Israel
    continually warned the Israelites and Jews to return to God, and to forsake their
    deviations, which included their unbelief. Among those prophets, whose ministry
    was limited to the Israelites and Jews, was Jesus (the Messiah or Christ, and the
    son of the virgin Mary). However, Jesus’ message and ministry were also distorted,
    giving rise to such concepts as the begotten son of God, the crucifixion of Jesus,
    and the trinitarian concept of God.
    Conclusions
    Words are sometimes deceiving in their ability to mislead others. This is
    especially the case when words are used to represent abstract concepts or
    complex systems or thoughts. As has been shown in the above discussion, words
    such as “revelation”, “covenant”, “Judaism”, “Christianity”, and “Islam” have
    radically different meanings for Muslims, than they do for adherents to the
    traditional Judeo-Christian perspective, which typically is the only viewpoint
    expressed in Western academia. Likewise, names such as Jesus, Muhammad,
    Moses, Abraham, etc., convey different images and associated concepts,
    depending upon the religious orientation of the individual. By contrasting the
    Judeo-Christian and Islamic perspectives on the origins of Judaism, Christianity,
    and Islam, some of these differences have been identified and discussed. Allah
    willing, this endeavor may contribute to better and heightened communication
    among the adherents of these three religious traditions.
    The Books of Revelation and Scripture
    Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all claim to be based on a book or books of divine
    revelation and scripture, which comprise the words (whether literally or
    figuratively understood) of Allah. While there is substantial overlap in the
    contents of these books, there are also certain obvious differences. An attempt has
    been made in this chapter to introduce and compare the structural aspects and
    provenance of these books of revelation and scripture. The book of revelation
    adhered to by Islam is a single book of revelation, i.e., the Qur’an, in contrast to
    the division of books found in the Christian Bible. The books of scripture adhered
    to by Judaism number 39 (as counted in the Christian Bible), whereas the
    scriptures propounded by Christianity include these 39 books of Judaism besides
    27 additional books2 that comprise the New Testament of the Bible.
    The Jewish Scriptures
    The Jewish books of scripture, i.e., the Tanakh, are traditionally organized into
    three categories known as: the Torah, i.e., “the law” or “the teaching”; the Nevi’im,
    i.e., “the prophets”; and the Ketuvim, i.e., “the writings”. This three-fold division
    serves as a rough chronological sequence, corresponding to the time, in which
    these books were accepted as canonical scripture by Judaism. This means that the
    Torah was probably accepted as a closed canon of scripture early in the fourth
    century BCE during the time of Ezra. The Nevi’im received acceptance perhaps
    after the schism separating Samaritans and Jews somewhere in the fourth century
    BCE or by the second century BCE. Finally, the Ketuvim became recognized as a
    category of scripture during the second century BCE, but the canon of the
    Ketuvim, and hence the Tanakh, was not officially closed until around the end of
    the first century CE, i.e., the council of Jamnia circa 85-90 CE.
    Of the 39 books comprising the Torah, Nevi’im, and Ketuvim, the Qur’an
    specifically mentions the Zabur (or Psalms) of David5, peace be upon him and the
    Torah (or Law) of Moses. These six books, viz., the five books of the Torah
    (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) and the one book of
    Psalms, are the only ones of the 39 books of Jewish scripture that are mentioned
    in the Qur’an.
    The Christian Scriptures
    The 27 books comprising the New Testament of the Bible represent those books of
    scripture that are exclusive to Christianity. Of these 27 books, one is an
    apocalypse, one is an early church history, 21 are epistles of one sort or another,
    and four are labeled as being gospels. It is highly improbable that any of these 27
    books were written by anyone who had first-hand contact with Jesus, peace be
    upon him, though each of the four gospels purports to be a history of the
    teaching and ministry of Jesus.
    The canon of the New Testament evolved gradually over several centuries.
    Initially, during the first three centuries of the so-called Christian era, there was
    no concept of an authorized and closed canon of New Testament scripture.
    Various books were viewed as scriptural on the sheer strength of their self-stated
    claim of being divinely inspired. Their circulation and popularity among the
    various Christian churches gave them a further impetus in this direction. As a
    result of this, what was regarded as Holy Scripture at one place was not
    necessarily regarded so in another.
    However, in the early fourth century CE, the situation began to change. In his
    Ecclesiastical History, Eusebius Pamphili, the fourth century CE bishop of
    Caesarea, proposed a canon of New Testament scripture in which he omitted
    many books currently found in the New Testament. In 367 CE, Athanasius, the
    bishop of Alexandria, circulated an Easter letter, which included the first listing
    of New Testament scripture in conformity with the current New Testament,
    although, only a few years earlier, he had been championing The Shepherd of
    Hermas as being accurate, canonical scripture. This New Testament scripture was
    later ratified at the Council of Hippo in 393 CE, the Synod of Carthage in 397 CE,
    and the Carthaginian Council in 419 CE. However, not all the Eastern churches
    agreed with this proposed canon until the time when the Syriac translation of
    circa 508 CE finally conformed to this canon.
    It took three to five centuries following the completion of the ministry of Jesus
    before early Christian churches formulated the final canon of the 27 books,
    presently comprising the New Testament. Of these 27 books, the Qur’an refers
    only to the Gospel of Jesus, a book of revelation that was given to Jesus Christ.
    However, the four canonical gospels of Christianity are definitely not this book of
    revelation, although they may include parts of this book in their alleged
    recordings of sayings” of Jesus. For understanding the crux of the subject, this
    chapter, instead of going into the details of all the 27 books, confines itself only to
    the structural composition of the New Testament gospels.
    The Book of Revelation given to Muhammad
    A structural analysis of the Qur’an is a fairly straightforward and simple task. The
    Qur’an consists of only one book of revelation, all of which was revealed to
    Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, from Allah through the angel Jibril
    (Gabriel). However, a crucial distinction needs to be understood between: the
    Qur’an, i.e., the revelation of Allah given to Muhammad; and the Ahadith
    (singular = Hadith), i.e., the recorded sayings of what Muhammad said and did.
    The Qur’an
    Prophet Muhammad reportedly received his first revelation in the year 610 CE.
    Thereafter, revelations continued on an episodic basis until the close of his life in
    632 CE. As such, the Qur’an can be said to have an earthly birth during the years
    610 through 632 CE. Throughout these 22 years, the companions of Prophet
    Muhammad listened to his recitations of the revelations, memorized them, and
    wrote them down on stones, palm leaves, and whatever other writing surface on
    which they could lay their hands. Those companions who successfully
    memorized the entire Qur ‘an were known as Hafez.
    Upon the death of Prophet Muhammad in 632 CE, Abu Bakr was chosen as the
    first Caliphof Islam. Approximately a year later, i.e., circa 633 CE, Abu Bakr
    appointed Zayd ibn Thabit to produce a written copy of the entire Qur’an, as
    revealed to Prophet Muhammad by Allah. Zayd ibn Thabit, himself a Hafez, and
    one who had served as the principle secretary to the Prophet, produced a
    complete copy of the Qur’an just about a year after the demise of the Prophet.
    Zayd completed this task by using: his own memorization of the entire set of
    revelations, as well as those of other Hafez:, and the available written fragments
    of the revelations.
    This single, authenticated copy of the Qur’an was preserved dearly by Abu Bakr
    until his death in 634 CE. Soon thereafter, the possession passed to ‘Umar ibn AlKhattab, the second Caliph of Islam. ‘Umar entrusted this copy of the Qur’an to
    his daughter, Hafsah, who was one of the widows of Prophet Muhammad. After
    ‘Umar’s death in 644 CE, the third Caliph of Islam, ‘Uthman ibn ‘Affan, directed
    Zayd ibn Thabit to utilize the copy of the Qur’an that had been entrusted to
    Hafsah, and to make a final recension of the Qur’an. This final recension
    consisted primarily of standardizing minor differences in dialect among the
    various Arab-speaking Muslims of the time.
    Within the Qur’an, there are divisions into Surat(chapters) and Ayat (signs or
    verses). Further, with some degree of accuracy, one can separate the Qur’an into
    earlier revelations and later revelations, into revelations received at Makkah and
    revelations received at Madinah, and into content areas such as sacred history,
    community rules and laws, and instruction on the proper belief in and worship of
    Allah. Nonetheless, the Qur’an remains a single, unitary book of revelation, i.e., a
    verbatim recording of Muhammad’s recitation of the revelations he received.
    It is thus clear that the Qur’an is a single document, representing a single source,
    which is dependent only on the revelations received by Muhammad. There has
    been no cut-and-paste compiling, layering of diverse material from different
    times, or editorial re-writes or redac-tionistic revisions of the Qur’an. In this
    regard, the provenance of the Qur’an as tracing solely to the Prophet Muhammad
    is historically indisputable. Whether or not Muhammad’s statements of received
    revelation are seen by contemporary readers as being divine revelations from
    Allah through Jibril is a religious verdict. However, the strictly historical verdict is
    unambiguously clear. The provenance of the Qur’an traces only to Prophet
    Muhammad.
    A sharp distinction needs to be made between the sayings of Muhammad,
    whether on religious or non-religious issues, and his recitation of the revelations
    he received. The former are Ahadith, while the latter is the Qur’an. Within Islam,
    only the Qur’an has the status of canonical scripture. However, as a source of
    religious information and instruction, Muslims rank the Ahadith of Muhammad
    as second in authority only to the Qur’an. If the Qur’an is a Muslim’s primary
    textbook for the final examination of life, the Ahadith, on the other hand,
    represent the practical, supplemental reading, which may well help make the
    difference between passing and failing that all important examination.
    Each Hadith is comprised of two parts: an Isnad, and a Matn (i.e., narrative). The
    Isnad consists of a complete listing of the narrators of the Hadith, and is an
    attestation as to the provenance of the Hadith. As a hypothetical example, an
    Isnad might state that the written recorder of the Hadith received the narration
    from X, who received it from Y, who received it from Z, that the Prophet
    Muhammad said… No Hadith is accepted as authoritative without a complete and
    unbroken Isnad. Furthermore, each Isnad is minutely examined in order to make
    sure: that X actually met Y; that Y actually met Z; that Z actually met the Prophet
    Muhammad; that X, Y, and Z had excellent memory skills; and that X, Y, and Z
    were individuals of high moral character and religious repute. Only if the Isnad
    passes this rigorous test is the Hadith accepted as authoritative.
    The second part of the Hadith consists of the Matn or narrative content of what
    the Prophet Muhammad reportedly said or did. This narrative content is also
    minutely examined to assure consistency with the Qur’an, and compliance with
    other, already verified, Ahadith. Assuming that the Hadith has already passed
    muster in regard to an examination of its Isnad, it is still not accepted as
    authoritative unless this narrative examination is also satisfactorily cleared.
    Summary
    Islam makes a sharp distinction between its canonical scripture, i.e., the Qur’an,
    and its supplementary books of religious instruction, i.e., the Ahadith. The Qur’an
    is primary, the Ahadith are secondary, but both are religiously authoritative.
    In regard to the structural composition of the Qur’an, it is a single, unitary
    document, which was revealed over a time span of about 22 years between 610
    and 632 CE. As stated earlier, there is no cut-and-paste composition, no layering,
    and no editorial redaction. It has a single source, and a complete, unbroken, and
    unambiguous provenance back to the Prophet Muhammad. Furthermore, it was
    compiled into a single, written document within one year of the death of the
    person who had originally received the revelations, viz., Prophet Muhammad. No
    variant versions of the Qur’an exist, resulting in the time interval between
    revelation and “final” compilation being the same. (The ‘Uthman recension of the
    Qur’an merely standardized dialectic differences, and the chain of possession of
    the Qur’an reiterates the fact that the first compilation of the Qur’an also happens
    to be its last compilation.) The short time interval between revelation and the first
    compilation of the Qur’an, and the care exercised by Zayd ibn Thabit and other
    Hafez involved in producing the complete written text, make it amply clear that
    there is complete and unbroken provenance between the original revelation and
    the initial compilation of the Qur’an. Further, as the first compilation of the
    Qur’an was also its last, the provenance of this book is totally complete and
    indisputably unbroken.