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What Christians, Jews and Muslims have in common

Gianna GrünDecember 15, 2014

When it comes to discussing the world’s major religions, the focus is often on division. For our upcoming episode #forchristssake, we take a look at what the three monotheistic religions have in common.

Symbolbild Christentum Judentum Islam
Image: picture alliance /Godong/Robert Harding

Jesus Christ is not just an important figure in Christianity. As a prophet, he also features in the Muslim faith - not to mention that he was Jewish. Here are seven lesser known facts about what unites the three major religions.

1. Abraham: the founding father

Abraham is another important figure uniting the three religions. That’s why Christianity, Judaism and Islam are referred to as the #link:www.pbs.org/wgbh/globalconnections/mideast/themes/religion/index.html?pagewanted=all:Abrahamic religions#. Abraham belongs to the Aramaic people and is believed to be #link:http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/judaism/history/abraham_1.shtml:the Patriarch of the Jewish people#.

Gottes Versprechen an Abraham
Painting of the moment when God promises Abraham many descendants.Image: gemeinfrei

According to the Bible, he and his son are said to be the founding fathers of the Arabic people. But wait, there’s more. The Koran #link:http://quran.com/2/135-136:also explains# (Koran 2:135) that Islam was not a new religion, but #link:www.pbs.org/muhammad/ma_otherrel.shtml:rather to be seen# as a continuance of Abraham’s original religion.

2. Jerusalem: common holy city

The historic center of Jerusalem is home to members of all three religions. The Dome of the Rock is holy for Muslims, who worship it as the place from where Muhammad #link:www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/168491/Dome-of-the-Rock:ascended into heaven# to receive revelations from God. Jerusalem is also considered the #link:www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/657453/Zion:spiritual and ancestral homeland# of the Jews. Christians worship Jerusalem as the place where Jesus was buried and resurrected. Among the most important places of Christian worship there is the #link:goisrael.com/tourism_eng/tourist%20information/christian%20themes/details/Pages/the%20church%20of%20the%20holy%20sepulcher.aspx:Church of the Holy Sepulchre#.

Israel Klagemauer
View over Jerusalem's historic city center: the Western Wall (front) and the golden cupola of The Dome of the Rock.Image: DW/J. Talee

3. Scriptures

The scriptures belonging to the three Abrahamic religions have similarities too. The Jewish holy book consists of the Tanakh and the Talmud. Christians #link:www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/259039/Hebrew-Bible:adopted the Tanakh for their Bible#, but call it Old Testament.

Deutschland Religion Projekt Lutherbibel 2017
Old Lutheran BibleImage: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft Stuttgart

The Koran #link:quran.com/4/157-158:also tells the story# of Jesus’ crucifixion. Muslims believe it represents a spiritual, rather than actual event and that God intervened to save Jesus in what would otherwise have been his final moments (Quran, 4:157).

4. Sing-song

In the past, when churches were teeming with worshippers, a speaking voice alone couldn’t reach those seated in the back pew. The choral tradition of chanting and singing has its roots in the attempt to repair this acoustic deficit. Whether it’s church Gospel music, the chanting tradition in synagogues or the characteristic Muslim call to prayer, all these vocal traditions can be traced back to this primary need to get the message across.

Gospelchor vor St Martin's Courtyard, London
Gospel choir in LondonImage: picture-alliance/empics/David Parry

5. Pilgrimage

Mecca is the #link:http://www.dw.de/the-pilgrimage-to-mecca-the-hajj/a-6220442:famous destination for Muslim pilgrims# while Jews journey to #link:www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/12149-pilgrimage:Jerusalem# and Roman Catholics to #link:http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/669:Santiago de Compostela#, for example.

Muslime beten am Berg Arafat 03.10.2014
Muslim people praying at the Mount Arafat near Mecca in October 2014.Image: AFP/Getty Images/M. Al-Shaikh

6. The unspoken name

In all three religions, there are both common and specific names for “God”. Muslims use the Arabic word “Allah” #link:www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/15965/Allah:to refer generally to God#, as do Arabic-speaking Christians. But Muslims also use the term to speak #link:iichyderabad.org/article/who-allah-1:specifically about their god#. There is also a list with another #link:islam.about.com/od/godallah/a/asma_husna.htm:99 proper names#, each describing one aspect of his nature. A 100th name is also said to exist, but is unspeakable. A popular belief is that Jesus, the Messias (Mehdi), will come and reveal it to the people. Similarly, Christians and Jews also have a specific name for their god - Elohim or Yahweh. However, “#link:www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/651183/Yahweh:the divine name was increasingly regarded as too sacred to be uttered#” and was therefore replaced by referring to him, not with a particular name, but using the general terms “Lord” or “God”.

Schriftzug Allah
"Allah" in Arabic lettering in the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.Image: imago/UIG

7. Need for space

In an increasingly secularized world, it can be hard for a religious person on the move to find a place to worship. But many public places, like airports, universities and hospitals now offer dedicated interreligious prayer rooms. These are rooms that were jointly created by people of a number of different faiths and where any believer can enjoy a moment of personal reflection. These spaces are neutral in design and tend to avoid displaying symbols of any kind. There is one exception though: the internationally recognized, and pretty uncontroversial, emergency exit signs which hang on the wall.

Image: Fotolia/Christian Müller