How Emphasis and Vocabulary Can Lead to Misunderstanding in Religion
03 Sep 2011 04:41 GMT
The Qur'an and the Bible are very much alike. While there are fundamental differences between Christianity and Islam, the common viewpoint that both religions and cultures are wholly alien is completely undeserved. In fact, with the huge amount of similarities between both faiths, the state of the relationship between the faithful of both religions is surprising, to say the least. The exalted place that Jesus holds in the Islamic faith and the large volume of common ground in both religions’ divine texts should be a source for agreement.

However, now more than ever, many Muslims and Christians consider each other mutual enemies. This is despite the Christian admonition to love one's neighbor, or the passages in the Qur'an that refer to Christians as “Brothers of the Book.” Many religious scholars have rightly observed that one of the main causes for misunderstanding between both religions is simply a matter of differences in the vocabulary that is used and the emphasis that certain concepts receive in both faiths. Often, both religions are articulating the same point, but these elements give the impression that two different things are being said.

Islam places a higher emphasis on doing well, while Christianity focuses on having faith. Often, Christians will extrapolate from the vocabulary that Muslims use that Muslims believe in earning salvation by doing good deeds rather than by having faith in the One True God. Many times, the practice of the Hadith and of following the Prophet Muhammad's example has also given rise to the impression that Muslims are more concerned with outward actions than in an inner transformation. However, this is a misunderstanding because Muslims understand that good deeds have absolutely no value if there is no faith behind them. Also, Muslims should not be motivated by legalism to follow the Prophet's example, but by the love they have for God's messenger.

In the same way, Muslims often believe that Christians are allowed to do absolutely anything they want and, regardless of their acts, believe that they can still achieve salvation. Many Muslims seem to think that Christians believe that a whole amoral person can still enter Paradise merely by having faith. The Western media has also influenced the Muslim view of Christian's morality, by usually focusing on those things that sell: violence and sex. However, the fundamental misunderstanding here is that real Christians do not sin precisely because of their faith and love for God – the very same God that Muslims worship. A temporal shortsightedness often causes adherents of both faiths to forget this fact, that they both worship the same God. That both religions call for many of the same actions, beliefs, and core values. It is important to look beyond our prejudices and truly try to understand what the other side is trying to say.

-- Al Arabiya Digital