The tragedy of 9/11 renewed west’s interest in Islam even if it was shaped by negative perceptions and I was no different. Like some other people, I also saw it as a clash between Islam and Christianity. I used to believe that differences usually arise from dissimilarities between ideologies and Islam and Christianity are no exception. But one unplanned visit to a mosque with a Muslim friend revealed to me that differences do not always result from dissimilarities but similarities also.
As I talked with Muslims in the mosque and sought answers to different questions I have had for a long time, I am taken aback by the fact that Islam and Christianity are probably more similar to each other than they are to any other religion. Christianity claims Jesus is the key to salvation and one cannot enter heaven without acknowledging Jesus. Islam claims Muhammad is the key to salvation and one cannot enter heaven without acknowledging Muhammad. Christianity believes in Jesus’ virgin birth and the only other religion to believe in Jesus’ virgin birth is Islam. Similarly, the only other religion to acknowledge New Testament as word of God is also Islam even though Muslims claim New Testament has been modified. Christians believe that this world is a testing ground for the life hereafter and Muslims believe the same. They both believe in eternal life in either heaven or hell. Both also believe in angels such as Gabriel. Muslims also believe in Jesus’ miracles such as healing sick and bringing people back from death.
As I thought about it later, I finally got my answers that these similarities lead to differences because both want to stake a claim on the same god. They both think they are the true representatives of god on earth. In other words, the clash between Islam and Christianity due to similarities is not very different from clashes we often witness among sects within the same religion. Often times, similarities between ideologies are the key to differences rather than dissimilarities because of human beings’ innate desire to be right.