Judaism, Christianity, and Islam

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These three religions are called "Western Religions," even though they arose in the area now known as the Middle East. The Middle East is west of the Far East, which is home to the "Eastern Religions" (Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Shintoism, etc.).

They are more accurately called "Abrahamic religions" because all three religions claim to be the true heirs of God's covenant with Abraham.

Sibling Rivalry among the Children of Abraham

The Jewish Claim on the Covenant

The Jews are blood-descendants of Abraham. They are the "literal" — or, perhaps more precisely, biological — fulfillment of God's covenant with Abraham.

BC event issue
~1700 Covenant with Abraham God promised Abraham children and land.
1010 Covenant with David God promised David his Kingdom would last "forever."
922 Breakup of Kingdom of Israel into Northern Kingdom (Israel) and Southern Kingdom (Judah) The United Kingdom of twelve tribes lasted less than one century.
722 Destruction of Northern Kingdom (Israel) by Assyrians. The ten tribes in the Northern Kingdom have disappeared from history. The Judahites (Jews) are all that remain of the twelve tribes.
586 Babylonian Captivity of Southern Kingdom (Judah) The Jews have not had a Messiah (man anointed to be King) since then.

The Christian Claim on the Covenant

The Muslim Claim on the Covenant

Ishmael was Abraham's first-born son. By right of being first-born, he should have succeeded Abraham as the patriarch.

Sons of Abraham
mother son
Hagar Ishmael
Sarah Isaac
  • Zimran
  • Jokshan
  • Medan
  • Midian
  • Ishbak
  • Shuah

The Myth of Muslim Toleration

"The Cordoba House and the Myth of Cordoban Ecumenism."
Expanding upon Jane Gerber's thesis about the "garish" myth of a "Golden Age," the late Richard Fletcher (in his Moorish Spain) offered a fair assessment of interfaith relationships in Muslim Spain and his view of additional contemporary currents responsible for obfuscating that history:
The witness of those who lived through the horrors of the Berber conquest, of the Andalusian fitnah [ordeal] in the early eleventh century, of the Almoravid invasion — to mention only a few disruptive episodes — must give it [i.e.: the roseate view of Muslim Spain] the lie.
The simple and verifiable historical truth is that Moorish Spain was more often a land of turmoil than it was of tranquility. … Tolerance? Ask the Jews of Granada who were massacred in 1066, or the Christians who were deported by the Almoravids to Morocco in 1126 (like the Moriscos five centuries later). … In the second half of the twentieth century a new agent of obfuscation makes its appearance: the guilt of the liberal conscience, which sees the evils of colonialism — assumed rather than demonstrated — foreshadowed in the Christian conquest of al-Andalus and the persecution of the Moriscos (but not, oddly, in the Moorish conquest and colonization). Stir the mix well and issue it free to credulous academics and media persons throughout the Western world. Then pour it generously over the truth … in the cultural conditions that prevail in the West today, the past has to be marketed, and to be successfully marketed, it has to be attractively packaged. Medieval Spain in a state of nature lacks wide appeal. Self-indulgent fantasies of glamour … do wonders for sharpening its image. But Moorish Spain was not a tolerant and enlightened society even in its most cultivated epoch.
"The Golden Age of Islam is a Myth."
To be fair, the myth of the golden age of Islam does have a partially valid starting point: there were times in the past when Moslem societies attained higher levels of civilization and culture than they did at other times. There have been times, that is, when some Moslem lands were fit for a cultivated man to live in. Baghdad under Harun ar-Rashid (his well-documented Christian-slaying and Jew-hating proclivities notwithstanding), or Cordova very briefly under Abd ar-Rahman in the tenth century, come to mind. These isolated episodes, neither long nor typical, are endlessly invoked by Islam’s Western apologists and admirers.
This "golden" period in question largely coincides with the second dynasty of the Caliphate or Islamic Empire, that of the Abbasids, named after Muhammad’s uncle Abbas, who succeeded the Umayyads and ascended to the Caliphate in 750 AD. They moved the capital city to Baghdad, absorbed much of the Syrian and Persian culture as well as Persian methods of government, and ushered in the "golden age."
This age was marked by, among other things, intellectual achievement. A number of medieval thinkers and scientists living under Islamic rule, by no means all of them "Moslems" either nominally or substantially, played a useful role of transmitting Greek, Hindu, and other pre-Islamic fruits of knowledge to Westerners. They contributed to making Aristotle known in Christian Europe. But in doing this, they were but transmitting what they themselves had received from non-Moslem sources.


  • Question about how Muslims treat Christians and Jews as "People of the Book."

Short Form

Does the Koran call Jews and Christians "People of the Book"? Have Muslims historically been more tolerant of Christians and Jews than Christians have been of Muslims and Jews?

Q: I'm reading What Everyone Needs To Know About Islam by John Esposito. He says that Muslims call Christians and Jews 'People of the Book' and allowed them to practice their religion in Muslim countries. He claims that at some times and in some places, the Muslims were much more tolerant of Christians and Jews and gave them more religious freedom than Christians gave Muslims and Jews. Can you help me understand this excerpt?

"Historically, while the early expansion and conquests spread Islamic rule, Muslims did not try to impose their religion on others or force them to convert. As "People of the Book," Jews and Christians were regarded as protected people, who were permitted to retain and practice their religions, be led by their own religious leaders, and be guided by their own religious laws and customs. For this protection, they paid a poll or head tax. While by modern standards this treatment amounted to second-class citizenship, in premodern times, it was very advanced."
"No such tolerance existed in Christendom, where Jews, Muslims, and other Christians (those who did not accept the authority of the pope) were subjected to forced conversion, persecution, or expulsion."
"Although the Islamic ideal was not followed everywhere and at all times, it existed and flourished in many contexts."
The prime example is Al-Andalus (Andalusia [a.k.a. Cordoba?]), the Moorish (African Muslim) territory in southern Spain and Portugal.

Wars of Religion

We are in a religious war with militant Muslims. It must be fought religiously. Thinking that religion is the cause of all evil and wishing it didn't exist (John Lennonism) won't work. The only thing that can defeat a bad form of religion is a good form of religion.