Similarities and Differences in the Divine Heavenly Messages

(Mohamed Baianonie, Imam of the Islamic Center of Raleigh, delivered this sermon on Friday, December 1st, 2006)


         I want to welcome our visiting friends from the "1 God 3 Faiths Program" to the Islamic Center of Raleigh. Thank you for attending the Friday prayer and sermon. As part of the educational program for this group, I would like to highlight the similarities and differences in our faiths.


From the Islamic perspective, there are many similarities and some differences in the three major divine messages of Judaism, Christianity, and Islaam. It's no wonder that we find these similarities since they all came from the same source, Allaah or God, and they all serve the same creation, mankind. During my sermon today, I will briefly shed light on the main similarities and some of the differences of these faiths. May this help us all have a better understanding of one another, so we can respect each other and live in harmony.


Similarities in the Three Faiths:

All the divine heavenly messages were sent by Allaah (S.W.T.)[1]. We can conclude from the Qur'aan, the holy book of Muslims that all the messengers called for one religion, Islaam. Allaah says in the Qur'aan what can be translated as: "Truly, the religion with Allaah is Islaam…" [Qur’aan 3:19]


            Islaam in the Qur'aan is not the name for a certain religion, but the name of a common religion, monotheism, revealed to all the Prophets of Allaah throughout human history. This started with Noah all the way to Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and lastly, Muhammad, peace be upon them all. Noah (PBUH)[2] said in the Qur'aan what can be translated as: "…And I have commanded [by Allaah] to be of the Muslims [i.e. those who submit to Allaah’s command]." (Qur’aan 10:72)


            Islaam is the religion that Allaah (S.W.T.) commanded upon the father of the Prophets, Abraham (PBUH). Allaah says in the Qu'raan what can be translated as: "When his lord said to him, “Submit, [i.e. be a Muslim]!” He said, “I have submitted myself [as a Muslim] to the lord of the [mankind, Jinn, and all that exists].” (Qur’aan 2:131)


Also, both Abraham (PBUH) and Jacob (PBUH) commanded their children, as is indicated in the Qur'aan what can be translated as: "...Then die not except in the faith of Islaam…" (Qur’aan 2:132)


The children of Jacob (PBUH) answered their faith, saying in the Qur'aan what can be translated as: "…We shall worship your God [Allaah] the God of your fathers, Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, One God, and to Him we submit [in Islaam]." (Qur’aan 2:133)


Similarly, Moses (PBUH) said to his people in the Qur'aan what can be translated as: “O my people! If you have believed in Allaah, then put your trust in Him if you are Muslims [those who submit to Allaah’s command].” (Qur’aan 10:84)


Furthermore, the disciples said to Jesus (PBUH) in the Qur'aan what can be translated as:"…We believe in Allaah, and bear witness that we are Muslims [i.e. submit to Allaah command]." (Qur’aan 3:52)


            Also, during the time of the prophet Muhammad (PBUH), a group of people of the scriptures heard the Qur’aan and said what can be translated as: "…We believe in it. Verily, it is the truth from our lord. Indeed, even before it we have been those who submit themselves to Allaah in Islaam as Muslims." (Qur’aan 28:53)


How Islaam was understood at various times

            Islaam means obedience and submission to Allaah (S.W.T.) by observing His commands and abstaining from His prohibitions. Therefore, Islaam, at the time of Noah (PBUH), meant following Noah’s message, Islaam at the time of Moses (PBUH) meant following Moses' (PBUH) ordinance, Islaam at the time of Jesus (PBUH) meant following the Gospel, and Islaam from the time of Muhammad (PBUH) meant following all that was sent with him.


Another similarity is the core of the messages

The core of all divine messages is monotheism: the call to worship Allaah (S.W.T.) Alone and to reject all other deities. The Qur’aan has mentioned this issue on many occasions.

It also mentions that all the great messengers had one religion: Allaah says in the Qur'aan what can be translated as: "He [Allaah] has ordained for you the same religion [Monotheism] which He ordained for Noah, and that which We [Allaah] have revealed to you [O Muhammad], and that which We ordained for Abraham, Moses and Jesus, you should establish religion [i.e. to do what it orders you to do practically], and make no divisions in it [religion]..." (Qur'aan 42: 13)


The earlier messages gave reasons for Allaah's worship

The earlier messages not only called the people to worship Allaah (S.W.T.) Alone, but also gave the reasons showing why they had to worship Him. They mentioned Allaah's attributes and the favors He bestowed on His slaves. They also asked the people to use their common sense and to pay special attention to the heavens and earth to gain a better understanding of God's greatness.


Other Similarities are the Eternal Principles of Belief:

The call to worship Allaah (S.W.T.) alone is not the only common principle in all the messages, but there are many others. These beliefs are the unifying foundation for all the messengers and their followers. Believing in Allaah as one God, believing in the Angels, believing in the God revealed books, believing in the prophet and messengers of God, believing in the in the Day of Judgment, and believing in predestination and freewill.

All the Messengers and Prophets warned their people of the Anti-Christ. Ibn 'Umar (R.A.) narrated that the Prophet (PBUH) said: "Allaah (S.W.T.) has sent no Messenger who did not warn his people of the Anti-Christ, Noah (PBUH) did, and so did the Prophets after him." [Reported by Imaam Bukhaari]

Other Similarities Among the Faiths are the General Rules

The holy books define the general rules that mankind has to abide by in order to receive rewards and if not, punishment. This means that a person is accountable for his deeds and punished for his sins, but he is not blamed for the sins of others

True success can be reached by purifying oneself by following the way of Allaah (S.W.T.) and by submitting to Him. And it is stated that it is the righteous people who will be heirs of Paradise

Prophet Muhammad's companion, Abu Dharr (R.A.), asked the Prophet (PBUH) about the contents of the scriptures of Abraham (PBUH) and of Moses (PBUH).

Abu Dharr (R.A.) asked: "O Allah's Messenger what was in the scriptures of Abraham (PBUH)?" Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) replied: "They were all proverbs: {For example] '0 you authoritative arrogant ruler, I did not send you to collect the luxuries and comforts of this world, but to answer on my behalf the invocations of the grieved, because I never reject it even from a disbeliever.'

[Also] "A wise man shall have a period to whisper his secrets to Allaah (S.W.T.), a period to settle the accounts with himself, a period to contemplate Allaah's creation, and a period to provide for his need of food and drink.

[And also] A wise man should not travel except for three reasons: provisions for the Hereafter; livelihood; or a desire that is not prohibited. A wise man should be aware of his time, mind his business, and keep his tongue. Whosoever considers his speech, as part of his deeds will speak only in matters that concern him."


Abu Dharr then asked: "What was in the scriptures of Moses (PBUH)?" The Prophet (PBUH) replied: ''They were all lessons: 'I am amazed by the one who becomes certain of death and then is happy, the one who becomes certain of Hell and then laughs, the one who becomes certain of predestination and then exerts himself, the one who sees how life is unpredictable and then remains assured, the one who becomes certain about being held accountable in the Hereafter and then performs no good deeds." [Reported by Imaams Ibn Hibbaan and Al-Haakim]


The Qur'aan tells us that all the messengers have judged their people with justice. Also the messengers were ordered to earn their livelihood in legal ways.

It is clear from the Qur'aan that most of the present rituals in Islaam were known to the former messengers, such as, performing prayers, giving alms, fasting and performing the pilgrimage.

All the divine messages have pointed out falsehood and ordered against evil such as idol worship, arrogance, deviation from human nature (like the people of Lot), aggression, robbery, and fraudulence in the measurements of goods.

Some Differences in the Laws of Each Message

The religion sent down to all the messengers was the same (i.e. Islaam) but the regulations of each were different from those of the others. Thus, the Law with Jesus (i.e.) was different from that with Moses (PBUH) on some issues, and the legislation of Muhammad (PBUH) is different from the legislation of both Jesus (PBUH) and Moses (PBUH). Allaah says in the Qur'aan what can be translated as: "...To each among you, we have prescribed a law and a clear way..." (Qur'aan 5:48)

But that does not mean that the ordinances were completely different. They agreed on the principles of prayer, giving alms, fasting, pilgrimage, and so on, but differed in the details.

For example, the number of prayers and their conditions, or the amount of alms, may differ from one ordinance to the other. While something may be lawful in one ordinance, it may be prohibited in another by Allaah's wisdom and the development of human life.

Another example of how the rules changed from time to time happened with the Children of Israel. During their time, it was not forbidden to reveal their private parts while taking a bath in public. The prophet Muhammad said: "The Children of Israel used to bathe naked looking at each other, but Moses (PBUH) used to do so alone." [Reported by Imaams Bukhaari and Muslim]

Another forbidden act that Allaah (S.W.T.) only made permissible for Adam (PBUH) was to marry his daughters to his sons.


Similarly, Allaah made it permissible for Jacob (PBUH) to marry two sisters at the same time; however, this ruling was later abrogated in the Torah. Later, Jacob (S.A.W.) forbade himself camel's milk and meat because he made a vow to Allaah during a severe illness that if he was healed, he would abstain from this milk and meat.

What was made unlawful for the Jews is indicated in the following Qur'anic verse where Allaah says what can be translated as: "And unto those who are Jews, We forbade every [animal] with an undivided hoof, and We [Allaah] forbade them the fat of the ox and the sheep except what adheres to their backs or their entrails, or is mixed up with a bone. Thus, We [Allaah] recompensed them for their rebellion [committing murder and taking usury]. And verily, We [Allaah] are Truthful." (Qur'aan 6: 146)


This prohibition for the Children of Israel was not because the things forbidden were harmful, but because of their father Jacob's vow and because of their sinful deeds. Later, Jesus (PBUH) came as a mercy from God and made lawful to the Children of Israel some of that which used to be prohibited for them.


After learning about our faiths' similarities and differences, we should realize that all of us are originally brothers and sisters or at least half-brothers or half-sisters. This is based on the prophet Muhammad's (PBUH) saying that, "The Prophets are half-brothers: their mothers are different, but their religion is the same." [Reported by Imaams Bukhaari and Muslim, and others] We should appreciate God's mercy and wisdom and live in peace and security by following His commands; surely our Creator knows best.


[1] (S.W.T.): Subhannahu Wa Ta'ala, or The Sacred and The Might, stated after the name of Allaah.

[2] (P.B.U.H): Peace Be Upon Him, stated after the name of each Prophet.