Truth is to believe and to believe is to see the truth. Sometimes the truth is behind walls, beyond time, in the past, or buried deeply. But no matter how deeply hidden it is, we can find it if we look for it, for truth has to be found if there is to be any truth at all.
The three great monotheistic religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, come from the same source, flowing out of the Divine like rivers flowing out of the same ocean. Historically, Judaism came first and then was followed by Christianity, which later was followed by Islam. Prophet Abraham is the ancestor of Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad, as attested to in each religion's holy book. In all of them we read that Abraham had two sons: Ishmael and Isaac. Hajar was Ishmael's mother, while Sarah was Isaac's mother. Isaac had a son named Jacob (Ya˜qub in the Qur'an), from whom all Jews trace their descent, whereas Arabs trace their descent from Ishmael.
Islam and Christianity
Muslims are required to observe six articles of faith, for if they have no faith and no trust in God, they cannot move forward in spiritual development. These are faith in God, angels, previously revealed scriptures (in their uncorrupted form), all Prophets (e.g., Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad), destiny, and the Resurrection and Day of Judgment.
Judaism and Christianity have many beliefs in common, but differ in the way they are implemented. In the case of Islam, these beliefs are displayed by:
- Proclaiming there is no god but God and Muhammad is His Messenger, which means that one has entered the fold of Islam. This is similar to such Christian practices as baptism and confirmation.
- Praying five times a day. Christians also pray, although the manner and time is left up to them.
- Pilgrimage. The pilgrimage to Makka is one of the most important ritual practices that a Muslim can undertake. Historically, pilgrimage also was an important feature of the Catholic church.
- Charity. This is central to both Islam and Christianity.
- Fasting. Muslims fast during the month of Ramadan both to obey God and to experience what it feels like to be hungry and thirsty. It is still present in Judaism and, to a much smaller degree, in Christianity.
Muslims believe that God has sent 124,000 Prophets to guide humanity. Their messages were similar: Be good to others, starting with your own family, do not kill each other, help poor people, and many more. Moses was given the Ten Commandments to lead the Jewish people back to the right path. Jesus was sent to guide the Jews yet again to the right path. Finally, Muhammad was sent to guide all of humanity with the final revelation: Islam.
Judaism and Christianity were revealed to meet the needs of the people living at that time. As magic was important during Moses' time, God gave him a heavenly stick to swallow the magic sticks of the court magicians during a contest, and also allowed him to perform other miracles that the magicians could not duplicate. Medicine was uppermost during Jesus' time, and so his miracles were related to healing and raising the dead. Jesus tried to revive his people's dead spiritual life and make them see that life's real enjoyment lay in praying, leading a spiritual life, purifying oneself from materialistic things, and living honorably.
During the Prophet's time, eloquence was the highest value. Thus his most important miracle is the Qur'an, the eloquence and beauty of which has never been surpassed. Some people converted to Islam due to its eloquence alone. He taught his people to stop murdering their infant daughters, killing each other, engaging in polytheistic practices, and drinking wine. Out of his followers emerged the leaders of what would become the most advanced civilization of its time.
The role of believers today
At present, believes need to concentrate on the common ground between these three monotheistic religions, for greater understanding will increase our ability to live together in peace and harmony. As they all come from the same source, no threat will face them in the future.
Following the Prophet's example, we should reach out to the unbelievers among us and inform them of God's Existence and their ultimate accountability on the Day of Judgment. This will cause them to think before they act.
Moreover, believers are told to raise a new generation that will not repeat the mistakes of the past. Future generations should believe in God and be friends with everyone. They should soar to new heights on the wings of science/education and religion.
Our generation faces many challenges. One of the hardest is proving that jihad does not mean holy war. During the Prophet's time, war was part of jihad because the Muslims had to defend themselves. But they did this only after God revealed that they could do so, and only after the Prophet had tried for years to bring his enemies to Islam through peaceful preaching and personal example. When the Prophet reached out to the Persian and the Byzantine rulers, the same pattern was followed.
Today, the most appropriate form of jihad is setting a good personal example and helping others. In other words, believers must practice what they preach. Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad did this, and thereby won the hearts of their people and others without violence or coercion.
For example, when a recently deceased Jewish man was borne to his grave, the Prophet stood up in respect and the mourners passed by where he was sitting. When the Companions asked why he was standing for a Jew, he replied: Because he was a human being. This is part of the real teaching of all religions: sincere respect for others regardless of race, color, religion, or any other temporary distinction.
We should honor the Prophets who brought Judaism, Christianity, and Islam by following their calls for us to unite and work for world peace and understanding. This is another facet of this generation's jihad, for it is becoming ever more obvious that we must find a way to sincerely love and respect each other if humanity is to survive.