Comparison of Judaism and Islam
Because of the history of political and religious warfare that has separated them, the underlying unity of Judaism, and Islam is seldom recognized except by scholars. Yet these two great world religions have the same origins, the same central belief in monotheism, and to a large extent the same genealogical and scriptural authorities. It is in a greater sense a tale of two sons or two brothes. It is not surprising that these religions should share a common belief of creation and patriarchy, since the roots of these two are to be found in the basin of Mesopotamia, in the “Fertile Crescent” of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. There, in the ancient civilization of Sumeria, the descent of the Patriarchs of the Bible can be traced to an historical basis:
“Abraham was probably born in the Sumerian City of Ur four thousand years ago a scholar invented a label for the descendents of Shem; he called them Semites.” (Chaim Potok, p.23)
The story of Abraham and Sarah is the basis of the real distinction between the religions of the Semitic peoples; from their two sons are descended the patriarchy of the Hebrew and Arab peoples. The question of descent and the patriarchy is basic to any understanding of the origins of Judaism and Islam. God promised Abraham that he would have a son. In their old age Abraham and Sarah had yet to conceive this promise. According to ancient Mesopotamian law, a man could have many wives, and if a legitimate wife could not bear him children, he could take a servant as a wife. Sarah was barren, so according to custom and law she gave her Egyptian servant Hagar to Abraham to bear his children; and a son was born. However, this went against the promise of God to Abraham. As promised Sarah miraculously gives birth to a son as well, and a rift develops between these two brothers for what would be their birthright. Sarah orders Hagar and her son Ishmael cast out:
“But God appears to Hagar as she sits a distance from the child, in despair, unable to endure watching him die. God promises to make Ishmael father of a great nation. The boy is saved. Arab nations claim descent from Ishmael.” (Chaim Potok, p.32)
Similarly, God intervenes to save Sarah’s son Isaac from the sacrificial knife of Abraham in the famous test of his faith. The Hebrew people claim descent from Isaac. In this paper, I will examine the beliefs and practices of Judaism, and Islam, with the view that these two “brothers” common origins and ideas are more significant than their obvious differences.
Starting with Judaism we see Abraham is regarded by his people as the first Jew, however a better case can be made for regarding Moses as the founder of Judaism. Born in roughly the 14th century B.C.E., Moses was raised in anonymity in the court of the Egyptian pharaoh Seti I, having been saved from a decree ordering the death of all new-born Hebrew males. Moses thus had an Egyptian upbringing, and the...