Islam and Christianity Term Paper
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belief systems of Christians and Muslim, particularly in how they view angels. Both religions believe angels exist, and that they are an important part of their religious beliefs. They both believe angels can guide and support people here on Earth, and they are messengers of God or Allah. They also believe they can be vengeful and destructive, and angels play an important role in the stories of the Qur'an and the Bible. Angels are only one of the commonalities between these two religions, but they are an important link to two very diverse religions, and they show that many religions have core beliefs that link them together, whether they want to admit it or not.
Comparing Angels in Islam and Christianity
The purpose of this paper is to introduce, discuss, and analyze the topic of Islam and Christianity issues. Specifically it will compare and contrast the faith doctrine of angels in both religions. Both of these religions have a great many differences, but they have many similarities, as well. Islam and Christianity both believe in angels and this is one commonality that exists for believers in both religions. Angels are central to the fundamental beliefs in Islam and Christianity, and angels play important, even vital roles in both religions.
Ultimately, each religion, especially at the fundamental level, believe that life on Earth is a constant battle between good and evil, and believers have to constantly fight enemies of God in order to gain eternal life after death (Zeidan, 2003, p. 231). In both religions, angels play an important role in those everyday battles. Historian Zeidan continues, "This world is a battlefield, with angels looking on to see how believers fight, and the struggle is not limited to this earth, but extends into all of space and time. In this world there are only partial defeats and victories, but the final victory of good is assured though reserved for the final judgment" (Zeidan, 2003, p. 232). As the angles look down on the battlefield, they make "notes" of the behavior of those fighting, and this helps guide the final judgement or the day of reckoning. It is entirely in context of both these religions that angels, who are messengers of God, would witness the daily battles of mortals, and decide who is worthy of eternal life in heaven.
One of the main differences between the two religions is how they view angels, and the angels' role in their religious beliefs. Muhammad believed that an angel, the Angel Gabriel, gave him the words that would become the Qur'an, the holy book of Islam, and made him the prophet of his people. He did not believe the words came directly from God, but from the angel himself. This is far different from the prophets in the Bible, who never claimed to be anything but messengers of God's words. A Christian writer notes, "Muhammad is the first (of the class of prophets that he put himself in (Moses, David, Isaiah, et al.) that proclaimed his prophetic words came from an angel -- and one that he first thought was demonic" (Gauss, 2009). Indeed, Muhammad did think the angel was Satan or one of Satan's messengers at first and even contemplated suicide for a time after receiving Gabriel's words (Gauss, 2009).
This leads to another commonality between the two religions, however. Both believe in Satan and his followers, who are all fallen angels, so their belief in angels continues to the Underworld, which both religions believe in, as well. Satan fell from God's grace in Heaven and left in disgrace, which both religions acknowledge. In the Qur'an, there are warnings to readers about Satan and his fate. It says, "Eat of what is on earth, lawful and good; and do not follow the footsteps of Satan, for he is to you an avowed enemy" (21:168, Ali, 2000, p. 21). Later the holy book says, "If a suggestion from Satan assail thy (mind), seek refuge with Allah; for He heareth and knoweth (all things)" (24:200, Ali, 2000, p. 235). The Bible speaks of Satan's (Lucifer's) fall from grace, as well. It says, How you are fallen from heaven, / O Lucifer, son of the morning! / How you are cut down to the ground, / You who weakened the nations! (Isaiah 14:12 New King James Version). Thus, Christianity acknowledges angels can fall from grace and
turn to the "dark side," following Satan for evil purposes and intents. These fallen angels tempt mortals, and even tried to tempt Jesus, and so Christianity recognizes the danger of these fallen angels, as well.
On the other hand, Muslims believe angels are created out of light, and that they have no will of their own, their only purpose is to serve Allah, and so, they cannot fall from grace. They do not call their devil Satan, his name is Iblis, as a group of writers note. They state, "In the beginning it was the first man, Adam, to whom God taught the names of all things and before whom he commanded the angels to bow down. All obeyed except Iblis, who refused and was punished" (Neusner, Chilton & Graham, 2002, p. 100). This is a difference in the way the two religions view Satan, and also how they view angels. Christians believe Satan is inherently evil, and cannot return to God's good graces, while Muslims believe that Iblis cannot fall, and that a Fire God rules in the underworld, while Iblis is punished by God dismissing him from heaven.
Both religions also believe that angels can help believers here on Earth in many ways. For example, Islam believes that angels have aided them in important battles, helping them defeat their enemies. Another historian notes, "After victory, Muslim soldiers insisted that angels, in white turbans, had come to their aid in a battle in which they were heavily outnumbered; believers to this day are convinced they will receive Allah's help in the midst of battle" (Akbar, 2002, p. 2). Likewise, the angels help clear the world of evildoers, leaving the righteous behind in Christianity. The Bible says, "So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come forth, separate the wicked from among the just, and cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth" (Matthew 13:49-50 New King James Version). Thus, both religions look at angels as helpers and support for good, and both recognize the power angels have over humanity, and how close they are to God or Allah.
The Bible shows that God unleashes destroying angels who lash out at those who are not following God's wishes. It says, "He unleashed against them his hot anger, / his wrath, indignation and hostility -- a band of destroying angels. / He prepared a path for his anger; / he did not spare them from death / but gave them over to the plague" (Psalm 78:49-50 New King James Version). Thus, angels can be helpful and supportive, but they can be vengeful and put the fear of God into people, as well. This is true in both religions, although for the most part, the vengeful angels are the exception, while the supportive angels are more in line with what people think of when they think of the image of angels.
Another aspect of angels and these two religions is that they both play very important roles in the stories of their holy scriptures. For example, Muhammad gets his prophet status from visits from the Angel Gabriel, who passes on the spiritual knowledge that becomes the Muslim faith and become the verses of the Qur'an. That makes Muhammad the religion's prophet, so an angel is essential to creating the faith. Angels help many of the people throughout the Bible, and are present heralding Jesus' birth, among many other duties. They serve God, and are somewhat like his eyes and ears on Earth, which is another commonality between the two religions. Angels serve good and moral purposes, and they represent the fight between good and evil, because they can be supportive, but they can be devastating, as well. In addition, Muslims believe that to be a true believer, you must believe in six things, and angels are one of those all-important things to believe in (Neusner, Chilton & Graham, 2002, p. 207).
There are also similarities in how the two religions view death and angel participation in death. In Islam, they believe that the angels come to get a person after death and take them on the way to resurrection. The three writers continue, "At death, the individual soul will be called forth by angels (S. 6:93; 25:21-2) to pass over from this world (al-dunyd) into the grave, into a state known as the barzakh, or 'barrier' (S. 23:100)" (Neusner, Chilton & Graham, 2002, p. 293). It is common in Christian belief to believe that angels carry the departed up to heaven, and there they will co-exist with the angels,…
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