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All About Islam

I enjoyed Rabbi Blech’s excellent online series about the differences between Judaism and Christianity. But now that Islam is gaining more attention in the world, could you explain the differences between Judaism and Islam?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

Islam, like Christianity, accepts the Jewish Bible and is based largely upon Jewish ideas and traditions. The philosophical underpinnings of Islam, however, are more closely aligned with those of Judaism. Whereas Christianity incorporates the idea of the "trinity," Islam believes in one all-powerful, infinite God.

Mohammed, the founder of Islam, based many of his beliefs on the practices of local Jewish population in his native Mecca. For example, the Muslim practices of circumcision, not eating pig, daily prayer and fasting during the first month of the year were all culled directly from Judaism.

Since Islam was so similar to Judaism, Mohammed assumed that the Jews would immediately accept his new religion. When the Jews did not live up to his expectations, he turned violently against them and many Jews died by the sword. (We are still suffering from this today; may there be peace soon.)

The real difference between the two religions, however, lies in the basis for belief. Judaism is based on the unique historical event of a divine revelation experienced by the entire nation. Whereas Islam is based on the prophetic claims of a single individual who subsequently convinced others to follow his ways. For more on this crucial point, see: “Did God Speak at Sinai?”

Talmudic tradition says that while Abraham's son Isaac became the forefather of the Jewish people, the Islamic line is descended from Abraham's other son Ishmael.

Maimonides states that the popularity of Christianity and Islam are part of God's plan to spread the ideals of Torah throughout the world. This moves society closer to a perfected state of morality and toward a greater understanding of God. All of this is in preparation for the Messianic age.

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