How Is Orthodox Christianity Different from Islam?

Orthodoxy and Islam are both Abrahamic religions, and their doctrines have much in common. They both proclaim a faith in one almighty God Who created the world and all its beings and then sent His prophets to preach Him. Both have the notions of Hades and Paradise and foretell the Judgement Day. Yet both have fundamental differences pertaining even to these common tenets. Let us consider these distinctions in greater detail.

Originally appeared at: The Catalogue of Good Deeds

The nature of God

Similar to Orthodox Christianity, Islam negates the possibility of rational understanding of the essence of God. Nevertheless, in the Orthodox Christian doctrine, the Lord disclosed to the people a part of the mystery of His being by manifesting Himself as the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. In the Gospel, the Lord Jesus Christ commanded to His apostles, “go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 28:19). 

Islam is silent on the inner nature of God and negates the knowability of God in principle. It rejects the Christian doctrine of the Holy Trinity and offers a different interpretation of its three persons. “And God will say, “O Jesus son of Mary, did you say to the people, `Take me and my mother as gods rather than God?’“ He will say, “Glory be to You! It is not for me to say what I have no right to. (Sura 5, Verse 116). “They disbelieve those who say, “God is the third of three.” But there is no deity except the One God. (Sura 5, Verse 73).

Conversely, the bible says directly, “The Lord is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:17), while the Christian doctrine adheres to the allegorical interpretation of all instances of anthropomorphism. Islamic doctrine is different in this respect: “We believe that the Almighty Allah has a glorious and praiseworthy face. We believe that the Almighty Allah has two glorious generous hands. We believe that the Almighty Allah has two eyes. The adherents of Sunnah agree that Allah has two eyes, as confirmed by the teaching of the Prophet on the false messiah: “He is one-eyed, and your God is not one-eyed” (Teachings of the adherents of Sunnah and supporters of a single community of Muslims, Muhammad ibn al Uthaymeen).

The roots of evil in the world

In the Christian doctrine, the Lord will do no evil. Instead, evil was the result of the free choice of God’s creation to distance himself from Him.  In the Bible, we read, “God is light; in him, there is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1:5). Conversely, the Akida (a document similar in function to the Christian creed) from the early Muslim theologian Ahmad ibn Hanbal says, “Good and evil are both from Allah. The Bible proclaims, “God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone”. In contrast, The Quran reads, And if God wills any hardship for a people, there is no turning it back; and apart from Him, they have no protector (Sura 13, verse 11).

The relationship of God to evil has implications for matters of salvation. The Bible says, “As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live.” (Ezekiel 33:11). Conversely, the Quran reads, Had We willed, We could have given every soul its guidance, but the declaration from Me will come true: “I will fill Hell with jinn and humans, altogether.” (Sura 32, Verse 13). 

Remarkably, the choice between good and evil in the Orthodox doctrine is the product of man’s free will. “sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it” (Genesis 4:7). “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.”
(Galatians 5:13), “This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life, and he will give you many years in the land.” (Deuteronomy 30:19, -20). 

In Islam, Allah’s predestination is the key notion. “Your Lord creates whatever He wills, and He chooses. The choice is not theirs. (Sura 28, Verse 68). “49. Everything We created is precisely measured. And Our command is but once, like the twinkling of an eye. (Sura 54, Verses 49 – 50). “When God created you, and what you manufacture” (Sura 37, Verse 96). ” I heard the Messenger of Allāh (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) say: “ Allāh wrote down the decrees of creation fifty thousand years before He created the heavens and the earth.”

In the Quran, we find fragments that state directly that Allah had destined some people to eternal torment. We have been destined for Hell multitudes of jinn and humans. They have hearts with which they do not understand. They have eyes with which they do not see. They have ears with which they do not hear. These are like cattle. In fact, they are further astray. These are the heedless. (Sura 7, Verse 179).

The person of Jesus Christ

The Gospel teaches that Jesus Christ is the incarnate God, the holder of the universe who had assumed human flesh while remaining of divine nature. “I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades. (Revelation 1:17-18). I and the Father are one.
(John 10:30), “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” (John 8:58), “Who are you?” they asked. “Just what I have been telling you from the beginning,” Jesus replied. (John 8:25). In the Orthodox teachings, Christ assumed human nature fully, and His humanity was not different in any way from that of all other people. 

In the Quran, as remarked earlier, Jesus not only did not claim divine authority but was only a human selected by Allah to prophesise. At the same time, Allah bestowed on Jesus the qualities that no ordinary human could attain. For example, he could talk from birth and declared his prophetic mission on the day when he was born. So she pointed to him. They said, “How can we speak to an infant in the crib?” He said, “ I am the servant of God. He has given me the Scripture and made me a prophet. And has made me blessed wherever I may be; and has enjoined on me prayer and charity, so long as I live.

Conception of heaven

Let us compare the teachings of both religions about heaven. 

The Bible reads, “I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.” (Revelation 21:2, 22:3 – 5).

The Quran offers the following description of heaven. On luxurious furnishings, Reclining on them, facing one another. Serving them will be immortalized youth. With cups, pitchers, and sparkling drinks. Causing them neither headache nor intoxication. And fruits of their choice. And meat of birds that they may desire. And lovely companions. The likenesses of treasured pearls. (Sura 56, Verses 15 – 23). But for the righteous there is triumph. Gardens and vineyards. 33. And splendid spouses, well-matched. And delicious drinks. (Sura 78, Verses 31 – 34).

For Christians, heaven is the place of unity with God, sharing in His kingdom and living in divine love and grace. The Quranic description makes no mention of Allah and promises the faithful only worldly delights. 

Miracles

As in the Quran, the prophets in the bible had the power of working miracles, but on completely different grounds. Schematically, two types of miracles can be distinguished – prophetic and instrumental. Miracles of the first type served as omens and were performed to remind the spectators of God or as demonstrations of prophetic power. Those of the first type were motivated by the love of the people.

The Old Testament of the Bible describes the miracles of both types. One example of a prophetic miracle can be found in the fragment on the opposition of Prophet Elijah to the Vaal, in which the prophet offers them to perform a miracle to prove the power of their God and performs his miracle when the priests of the Vaal fail (3 Kings 18:22-39). Yet the Prophet Elijah also petitioned God not to take the life of the young son of the Sarapetha widow. And Elijah said to her: Give me your son. And he took him out of her bosom, and carried him into the upper chamber where he abode and laid him upon his own bed. And he cried to the Lord, and said: O Lord my God, hast thou afflicted also the widow, with whom I am after a so maintained, so as to kill her son? And he stretched, and measured himself upon the child three times, and cried to the Lord, and said: 0 Lord my God, let the soul of this child, I beseech thee, return into his body. And the Lord heard the voice of Elijah: and the soul of the child returned into him, and he revived. He prayed with a zeal and an honest desire to help the woman. In performing his miracle, he was guided exclusively by the desire to help the needy.

The New Testament has so many examples of the miracles of healing the sick that it is impractical to describe all of them in detail, e.g. John 4:43-54, Mark 1:21-28, Matthew 08:14-15, Matthew 8:2-4, Matthew 8:5-13, Luke 08:26-37, Matthew 9:1-8, Matthew 9:20-22, Matthew 9:27-31, Matthew 9:32-33, Matthew 5:1-16, Matthew 12:9-14, Matthew 12:22-23, Matthew 15:21-28, Mark 7:31-37, Mark 8:22-26, Matthew 17:14-23, Matthew 9:1-38, Matthew 13:11-17, Luke 17:11-19, Luke 14:1-4, Matthew 20:30-34, Luke 22:50-51), the resurrection of the dead (Luke 07:11-17, Matthew 9:18-26, Matthew 11:1-57) feeding the hungry (Luke 5:1-11, Matthew 14:14-21, Matthew 15:32-38, John 21:1-14. The only motivation for all of them was God’s love for His creation. Conversely, when the Pharisees demanded an omen from Christ as proof of his prophetic power (i.e. a miracle for miracle’s sake), Christ replied, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.” (Matthew 12:39).

In Islam, prophetic miracles prevail. Even the miracles of healing and resurrection performed by Jesus were prophetic, contrary to the Christian understanding of their meaning. “I have come to you with a sign from your Lord. I make for you out of clay the figure of a bird; then I breathe into it, and it becomes a bird by God’s leave. And I heal the blind and the leprous, and I revive the dead, by God’s leave. And I inform you concerning what you eat, and what you store in your homes. In that is a sign for you, if you are believers.” (Sura 3, Verse 49).

There is an even sharper contrast between the biblical miracles of the New Testament and those of the Prophet Muhammad. Here are a few examples from the Sunnah. 

“One night the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), aided by Burak, a celestial animal, travelled from the Holy Mosk of Mecca to the Al-Aqsa Mosk in Jerusalem, from where they both ascended to the sky. There had been nothing like this miracle of the Prophet’s ascension before; the journey happened in one instant.”

“At the beginning of his prophetic mission, when the number of Muslims was small, the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), was reading his sermons standing on a stump. When the number of Muslims grew, he commanded to make a pulpit and put it on a three-step minbar. During one of his Friday sermons from the Minbar, he heard a moan from the Mosk. It was coming from the stump lonely for the Prophet, (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him). Having heard the moaning, the prophet stepped off from the minbar, came to the stump and patted it. After that, the moaning stopped.

“The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) did not cast a shadow, because he fully consisted of light, and light has no shadow, Over his head was a single cloud, and it followed him to every place he went. His eyes saw ahead of him, and also behind him. With one look, he could see the East and West. When he slept, his ears could hear just as well as when he was awake. He smelled the approach of the Jibril with the revelation as soon as he detached himself from the skies, and that was also a miracle. The glowing of his teeth lighted his path at night. If anyone lost something, they could find it in the ray of his light.

The differences described above are only a portion of their actual number, giving the reader a general idea about the understanding of the matters of faith in Orthodox Christianity and Islam.

  • Shqip
  • العربية
  • English
  • Français
  • Deutsch
  • Bahasa Indonesia
  • Italiano
  • Português
  • Русский
  • Español