Islam and Christianity:Two
Faiths, One God
at: The University of Vienna, Austria May 18, 1979
By the late Shaykh Ahmad Kuftaro, the Grand Mufti of Syria
the name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful
The mission of all God's Prophets and Messengers, peace be
upon them, was based on an essential cornerstone and well-grounded
pillar, which is their mission to guide human beings to the
existence of the Creator of the universe. Therefore, all humans
must believe in and worship God in order to be happy in this
world and lead a righteous life. God's Messengers emphasized
the fraternity of human creatures whom God created (Adam and
Eve were their parents), the criterion of excellence being
piety, righteousness, and virtuous deeds. The Qur'an says:
Humankind! We have created you from a single pair of a male
and a female, and have made you into nations and tribes, so
that you may know and cherish one another (not that you may
despise each other). Verily, the most honored of you in the
sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And
Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all
al Hujurat (The Inner Chambers), 49:13.
As a result of belief in God and the fraternity of all human
beings, we must necessarily live a life of love, agreement,
cooperation, and peace. All God's legislation were revealed
to emphasize this. The Prophets of God at various times showed
us that God's religion is always the same, that they are intimate
brothers with no enmity or conflict, that the aim of their
message is one, that He Who raised them is One, and that the
fundamentals of their religions are one - void of any contradiction
In order to fix this fact in our minds and hearts from one
generation to the next, strenuous efforts and close collaboration
must take place on the part of the global thinkers of all
revealed religions. This is the doctrine that I have been
striving to propagate and preach for the last thirty-five
years among all sincere believers. I am motivated by this
doctrine because it is the key to the welfare of human beings
in their efforts to live peacefully without malice or hatred,
and also because many verses in the Qur'an and the Gospel
testify and prove that no revealed religions disagree in their
doctrinal origins and human objectives. The Qur'an says:
"He has ordained for you the same
religion that He enjoined on Noah, which we have sent by inspiration
to you, and which We enjoined on Abraham and Moses and Jesus,
saying, 'Establish the Faith and do not be divided in it.'" Surah al Shura (Consultation), 42:13.
This text is a clear testimony that God's religion is the
same at all times and with all Prophets, and that God orders
His prophets and their peoples to unite and agree and not
be different and separate. In the Qur'an there are many examples
of this, such as:
"We have sent you Inspiration to
know Our Will, as We sent it to Noah and the Messengers after
him. We sent Inspiration to Abraham, and Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob
(Yakub) and the Tribes, to Jesus, Job (Ayub), Jonah (Yunus),
Aaron (Harun), and Solomon, and to David We gave the Psalms." Surah al Nisaa (The Women), 4:163.
gave the same Revelation in both substance and quality, so
that all Prophets draw from one main spring or source. Moreover,
it is evident that the Qur'an orders the Muslims to believe
in all God's Prophets and to obey their commandments:
"Say (O Muslims): We believe in Allah
and what is revealed to us and in what was revealed to Abraham,
and Ishmael, and Isaac, and Jacob and the Tribes, and hat
Moses and Jesus received, and what the other Prophets received
from their Lord. We make no distinctions among any of them." Surah al Baqara (The Cow),
Anyone who reads the Qur'an will see that its long Surahs
or chapters ennoble and dignify Jesus and his mother, the
Virgin Mary. The Qur'an also mentions and clarifies Jesus
Christ's miracles and it tells of miracles not found in the
Gospel itself, such as creating birds of clay into which he
breathed and gave life with God's assistance. Another miracle
of Jesus is speaking to people from the cradle.
In the Qur'an there are two other long Surahs pertaining to
Christ. The first is Mary and the second is The Imran Family,
the family of Jesus Christ. In these two Surahs we are told
of Mary's giving birth to Jesus after her angelic conception
through the Holy Spirit:
"Behold! The angels said, O Mary!
Allah has chosen you and made you pure, and has preferred
you above (all) the women of creation. O Mary! Allah gives
you glad tidings of a Word from Him. His name will be the
Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary. He will speak to mankind in his
cradle and in the prime of manhood, and he is of the righteous." The Family of 'Imran, 3:42
[Note: 'Imran is the name of the father of Moses and of the
maternal grandfather of Mary, both of the same line.] The
Qur'an addresses the Muslims clearly indicating Jesus Christ's
high rank with God:
"The Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary,
was a Messenger of Allah, and His Word which He bestowed on
Mary, and a spirit proceeding from Him." Surah
al Nisaa (The Women), 4:171.
These ideas, or more precisely, this belief that Muslims are
ordered to embrace about Jesus Christ and Christianity, made
their hearts open to receive all of the Christ's teachings
and facilitated convergence and cooperation between Muslims
and Christians, under the good care of the Qur'an and the
Messenger of Islam and all the believers. The Qur'an shows
very clearly that Christians are the closest to Muslims on
account of the good morals and virtues that they share with
them. It says:
"You will find that the nearest among
men in affection for the believers are those who say, Verily!
We are Christians, because there are among them men devoted;
to learning and men who have renounced the world and because
they are not given to arrogance. When they listen to what
has been revealed to the messenger; you see their eyes overflow
with tears for they recognize the truth. They pray, Our Lord,
we believe. Inscribe us as among the witnesses. Allah has
rewarded them for their prayer with Gardens underneath which
rivers flow, wherein they abide forever. This is the reward
of the good." Surah al
Ma'ida (The Banquet Table), 5:82-83 & 85.
As a result of this positive attitude of Islam toward Christianity
and the Gospel, many ancient Christians were stimulated to
express their belief and recognition of Muhammad and his religion.
Some of them even granted the Muslims moral and financial
aid to solidify and propagate Islam, such as the Emperor of
Ethiopia (Abyssinia) in the 7th century A.C., who asked the
oppressed Muslims who migrated to his country to recite some
verses from the Qur'an concerning Christ and his faith. He,
as well as his monks, wept and declared their recognition
that Muhammad was a Prophet. He said, "The
teachings of Christ and Muhammad flow out from one source." That emperor did not give up Christianity when he said
this, for Islam does not require Christians to ignore the
commandments and teachings of Jesus Christ. The Qur'an addresses
Christians as follows:
"Let the people of the Gospel judge
by what Allah has revealed therein." Surah
al Mai'da (The Banquet Table), 5:47.
"And: We bestowed on him (Jesus)
the Gospel wherein is guidance and light." Surah
al Ma'ida (The Banquet Table), 5:46.
Prophet Muhammad has said,
"I am the closest of all people to
Jesus, son of Mary." He also said, "Prophets
are brethren from one father, from different mothers, but
with one religion." He further said, "You
Muslims shall conquer Egypt. When this happens, be kind to
its Christian people."
fourth Caliph, 'Ali, and the great leaders of Islam used to
say to their contemporary Christians,
"We do not prevent you from believing
in Christianity; indeed we beseech you to obey it."
Such examples are countless. Is it not the utmost degree of solidarity, love, affection, and collaboration when Muhammad made his private mosque a place for worship for his Christian guests in Medina?
One should not be surprised to learn that, when Damascus was the capital of their great Islamic nation, the Muslims made of their great Omayyad Mosque a joint temple of worship for Muslims and Christians who entered it through one gate. They divided the mosque into two parts and used to say their prayers in each others' presence.
All this was the inevitable outcome of understanding the great
closeness and respect between these two great revealed religions
in ancient times. They agreed in purpose and goals and had
no conflict in their essence and origin. It is well-known,
in this respect, that 'Umar, the second caliph, when in Jerusalem,
refused to say his prayers in the Holy Sepulcher out of concern
that the Muslims might turn that church, or part of it, into
an Islamic mosque. Thus, he observed its sanctity. Muhammad
commanded Muslims to be kind to Jews and Christians, the followers
of the two other revealed religions. He said,
"Whoever causes mischief to a Christian
or a Jew shall be my enemy on doomsday and he shall pay for
it." He also said: "Be
good to Coptic Christians."
When the son of the Muslim governor of Egypt beat a Christian
on his head after a quarrel, the latter went over to 'Umar
in Medina asking for justice. 'Umar summoned the governor
and his son and after hearing their cases, he gave the Christian
a whip to beat his opponent in the presence of the great men
of state. After the Christian took revenge for himself from
the son of the governor of Egypt, 'Umar asked the Christian
to beat the Governor himself, 'Amr. "I have received
justice," the Christians said. 'Amr then asked: Why beat
me oh Prince of the Faithful? 'Umar replied: It was because
of your position as a governor what caused your son to commit
the wrong." 'Umar then said his famous words: "Why
do you enslave people, yet their mothers delivered them free?"
Islam has gone further than this in protecting other revealed
religions. It has implanted emotional love. We recall that
the Muslims grieved when the Persian idolaters defeated the
Byzantine Christians. Gabriel descended, consoled the Muslims,
and brought good tidings that the Christians would be victorious
in less than nine years. This was forecast with divine certainty
in the Qur'anic Surah, Rum.
"Alif. Lam. Mim. Defeated has been
the Roman Empire in the lands close-by; yet it is they who,
notwithstanding their defeat, shall be victorious within a
few years. With Allah rests all power of decision in the past
and in the future. And on that day the believers shall rejoice
in Allah's help. He helps whomever He wills, since He alone
is almighty, a dispenser of grace." Surah al Rum (The Roman-Byzantine
The prophecy came true and the Muslims were delighted. Islam, by its teachings and principles, has been able to turn millions of non-believers into believers in God, in Jesus Christ, and in all prophets and revealed testaments. The Qur'an has made of Muslims and Christians affectionate members of one family who live in happiness and cooperation. Why don't we see this again in our time among ourselves, especially when atheism has shrouded most parts of the world with its dark shadows and injustice and is seeking to swallow the remainder.
It is high time we called aloud for a meeting between Muslim and Christian religious leaders and thinkers to promote affinity between the souls of all followers of revealed religions, and spiritual familiarity, and the familial unity of all humankind by adopting this maxim: Cooperation in common points and tolerance concerning trifles of difference.
In this world of trouble and disorder there is no need for
separation or discord. Why don't we meet and come to a mutual
understanding since both of our religions require kindness,
charity, piety, and virtue. Christianity says, "Love God your Lord with all your heart and mind and
love your fellow man as you love yourself!" Muhammad
says, "None of you will be a true
believer unless he loves for his fellow humans what he loves
for himself." Jesus says, "The
merciful will be in Paradise by virtue of their mercy."
Muhammad says, "The Merciful Allah
will be compassionate to those who show mercy. Be merciful
to those on earth in order to receive mercy from Him in heaven." Jesus says, "Give to whoever
begs from you and do not turn away whoever wants to borrow
from you." Muhammad says, "All
creatures are Allah's dependents. The most favored to Him
is he who is most beneficial to them."
Even the theological doctrine about God, the Creator, the
Matchless, the Partnerless Lord, is clearly illustrated in
the Bible and in the Qur'an. In the Gospel of John, Jesus
says, "And this is life eternal,
that they might know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ
whom You have sent." In Matthew we read, "To
the Lord, your God, kneel, and Him alone worship." God addressed Muhammad in the Qur'an saying: "Say,
He is Allah, the One! and Know that there is no god but Allah."
When Jesus was asked about doomsday, he said, "None
knows when that day and that hour comes." The
same was told to Muhammad in the Holy Qur'an:
ask you of the (destined) Hour, when it will come to pass.
Say, Knowledge of that is with my Lord only." Surah al A'raf (The Heights), 7:187.
Countless texts in the Qur'an and the Bible suggest that the
two religions agree on the worship of the Almighty and Only
Creator. It is taken for granted that there should be trifling
differences in interpretation. This occurs even among the
followers of one religion, which ought not to prevent compromise
and accord of hearts and spiritual affiliation for the benefit
of peace, faith, and humanity, the likeness of which is a
bouquet of many-colored flowers that dazzles and fascinates
when arranged in good proportion.
The data affirming the closeness of our two religions in origins
and aims have led many scholars and theologians Muslims as
well as Christians, to preach cooperation and to urge careful
study and dialogue between Islam and Christianity for the
sake of faith and the welfare of humanity and peace. This
standpoint led the great Christian poet, Hamil Damous, to
"By God, all religions are merely
windows through which worshipers see God. Mankind would not
discriminate between Muhammad and Jesus if they understood
the essence of their religion. I feel the presence of Jesus
in the Qur'an, and in the Bible I sense the spirit of Muhammad."
The Arab poet-laureate Ahmad Shawqi warned:
"The diversity of religions must
not lead to separation or hostility among human creatures
nor among their books and prophets. All faiths are the store
of utmost wisdom, because their essence is the love and fear
of God as well as tolerance."
As a consequence of this meeting of love and affection among
the followers of both religions and among their leaders, scholars,
men and women of letters, and the devotees of the Qur'an,
here in the Orient, in the cradle of Islam, have greeted the
devotees of the Gospel, and the followers of Jesus have blessed
the followers of Muhammad. The spiritual branches
of the tree of Abraham have met in their essence and in their
core, wherein the fundamentals are one and the prophets are
brothers from one father, of one religion but various mothers.
Isn't it incumbent upon us, therefore, we the believers of
all revealed religions, to meet and cooperate as our prophets
did in their teachings and commandments? Must not all leaders
of religions rise in a spiritual revolution to reject fanaticism
and stagnation, and to preach affection, fraternity, and peaceful
living? Is it not necessary to do our best to build a new
world of spiritual enlightenment for humanity in order to
progress toward genuine well-being and happiness?
The politicians and diplomats of this century established
the United Nations and the Security Council, after the failure
of the League of Nations. They hold everlasting conferences
and councils on disarmament, and on banning nuclear and strategic
weapons, which, if used only once without restraint, might
not leave a living creature on this earth. But has the world
gained the long awaited peace? Do human beings live in peace?
Has misery been abolished? Is there no more hunger? Are there
no more wars? Have inventors stopped producing destructive
Can't the theologians and leaders of religion immensely contribute
to the enlightenment of people of various countries and religions
by asserting and emphasizing that God and His Prophets command
nothing but familial unity, peace, and affection among all
members of the human race, and that malice and hostility are
denounced by the Prophets?
If humanity does not receive deliverance through the
people of profound integrity and faith working to know, respect,
and cooperate with each other, the situation will be terrible
and God will rebuke us in the world Hereafter for every shortcoming,
fanaticism, and discord that may increase agony, bloodshed,
We, the faithful, are badly in need of a divinely inspired
spiritual organization to help us collaborate in bringing
peace to a world that needs cooperation and brotherhood. We
pursue modern science and technology with great effort and
diligence, but we still find the weak and the powerful, the
oppressed and the oppressor, the usurped and the usurper.
All the modern accomplishments in geology, in outer space,
in the depths of the oceans, in polar expeditions, and in
the oil and metal industries, have not been able to cure mankind
of malice and ill-will.
Remedies are available, but the illness is pernicious. It
calls for cures and operations by heart-and-soul, and for
physicians who have excellent prescriptions to rid humanity
of wretchedness and ruin.
We are not enemies of the atheists. We are their fellow
beings. We call them to present their arguments and seek the
truth. We call them to the path of safety and friendship.
We mean to be sincere advisers to them, and this can be achieved
by cooperation among the faithful thinkers of the revealed
religions and other schools of thought.
call of the contemporary politician for peace has proved to
be fruitless. So, let us try the call of the modern rational
faith. Let the followers of the three religions collaborate.
Muhammad says, "Man is the brother
of man whether he likes it or not." Christ says, "Love your fellow man as you love
And Moses preached the same thing. Even the Soviet Communists,
though professing the non-existence of God and that life is
materialistic, have held scores of religious conferences for
the sake of peace. What has the free world of the West done?
How many religious conferences have been held here? Very few.
Despite the shortcomings of both Muslim and Christian clergy
and negative indications from their respective political leaders, I am hopeful and optimistic that the Christian must
one day embrace the Muslim and the Gospel must come to an
understanding with the Qur'an. Here in the Orient
they have long been living peacefully with each other. And
they will meet once more, with God's leave, in our present
day all over the world. Thus, a new spirit will be imparted
to the world with the fragrance of love, familial unity, and
peace, and will obtain God's reward and pleasure in the Hereafter.
This optimism of mine is not sentimental or emotional. It
is impelled by what many Christian and non-Christian thinkers
have declared in some religious conferences in various parts
of the world. Before relating to you their recommendations,
I would like to impart to you what the wise Bernard Shaw wrote:
have always held the religion of Muhammad in high esteem for
its overflowing vivacity. But owing to some ignorance or hateful
fanaticism it was portrayed to be the opponent of Christianity
and Christ. After I had studied the life of Muhammad as being
a great man, I found out that he was far from being Christ's
adversary. He is indeed a savior of mankind like his brother
Lamartine, the great French poet exclaimed,
was a prophet, a leader, an intellectual conqueror and propagator
of a doctrine that is in agreement with the free conscious
Tolstoy, the famous
Russian writer, stated,
did not claim to be the only prophet; he affirmed that Moses
and Jesus were prophets too. He taught that Jews and Christians
should not be compelled to abandon their faiths. One of the
advantages of Islam is its good will toward Christians, Jews,
and their men of religion."
Mahatma Gandhi, the supreme Indian leader, declared,
"I shed a stream of tears when I
read the life of Muhammad, the great prophet. How can anyone
who seeks truth like me not bend his head to this unique person
who labored for nothing more than the advantage of humanity?"
What I have quoted is scanty when compared with what hundreds
of writers and thinkers have said about Muhammad, his personality
and his teachings.
back to the resolutions that the world religious conferences
made, the Vatican declared in the clearest terms that Islam
is a revealed religion. This is a step forward. The conference
of Cordova, in 1977, declared that Muhammad is a prophet and
messenger of God. All these expressions of confidence and
many others have led me to be hopeful that the future must
be replete with goodness, cooperation, and love among the
revealed religions, because they are branches from the tree
of Abraham. When this goal is achieved, humanity will lead
an affectionate and peaceful life that will exclude ruin and
I repeat that Islam agrees that the followers of other religions
may continue in their beliefs, for the rudiments of all religions
are the same. Excuse me if I say to you that we, the Muslims,
have surpassed you in love of your Prophet and in our devotion
to Christianity. Our Qur'an has always supported and befriended
the Old and the New Testaments. In one of its texts it says:
"Say (O Muslims): We believe in Allah
and in what is revealed to us and in what ;was revealed to
Abraham, and Ishmael, and Isaac, and Jacob and the Tribes,
and in what Moses and Jesus received, and in what the other
Prophets received from their Lord." Surah
al Baqara (The Cow), 2:136.
After all this, will the followers of the Torah and the Gospel
embrace and love the followers of the Qur'an? Muhammad says
to the Muslims, "I am the closest
adherent of Jesus and Moses both Here and in the Hereafter." So let the Christians say also,
"We support you, our Muslim friends, for our God is One
and the source of our religions is the same."
We have come to know you through our Qur'an and the
teachings of our Prophet; therefore know us. We shook hands
with you, embraced you, studied you, and we venerate Jesus
Christ and his revealed Gospel and his Virgin Mother; therefore,
shake hands with us, embrace us, study us, and reciprocate
in the same terms or better.
Our remoteness from each other resembles two brothers who
have been lost for several years. One day, one of them wandering
in a wasteland catches sight of some distant object and takes
it for a beast. He is aiming to kill it when, on approaching
closer and closer, he meets his lost brother face to face.
They embrace and shed tears of joy at reunion after such a
We need to come nearer and nearer until we meet and embrace
in full understanding. This will soon be accomplished by the
cooperative efforts of all sincere and faithful adherents
of every religion. There will remain one obstacle only, about
which believers will not be concerned. We wonder if we could
This is Satan's great anger over our alliance, because it
will please the Merciful God and cause joy among His Prophets
and believers everywhere. Let us conclude with what the Qur'an
says of Christians:
"You will find that the nearest among
men in affection for the Believers are the Christians, because
there are among them men devoted to learning and men who have
renounced the world, and because they are free from pride." Surah al Ma'ida (The Banquet
let all lovers of peace in the East and the West, theologians
and scholars, opinion elites in the media, and honest political
leaders, every lover of humanity and every believer in God
all come to this discussion and dialogue in the spirit of
agreement and cooperation. This summons makes those who hear
it responsible to obey it - otherwise God and their conscience
shall reproach them.
our hope come true. Therefore, let us start working, thinking,
discussing, and holding councils. God says in the Holy Qur'an:
say, 'Act!' Allah will soon behold your actions, and so will
His Messenger and the believers." Surah
al Tauba (Repentance), 9:105.
God will assist us as long as we support His cause. God will
give victory to those who strive to make His cause victorious.
Peace and God's Mercy and Blessings be always on you all!