The holy books of both Christianity and Islam are more similar than we realize. While the grand narratives around both religions have unfortunately been wrapped up in a “clash of civilizations” hypothesis, at least in contemporary times, it has not always been that way. While it is true that both religions and the respective traditions have points of differences, I believe the similarities outweigh the differences. Here's why:
1. Narratives of creation (Adam and Eve):
The Bible as well as the Koran say that Adam and Eve were created by God in his image, from dust. This is evident in several verses of the Koran: ”The similitude of Jesus before Allah is as that of Adam; He created him from dust, then said to him: 'Be.' And he was." (3:59).
A similar narrative exists in the Book of Genesis: "And he said, "Behold Adam is become as one of us, knowing good and evil: now, therefore, lest perhaps he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever." ( 3:22)
2. The day of judgment:
The narrative surrounding how the world will end, the resurrection of mankind, and return of Jesus are strikingly similar in both the scriptures.
For example, Koran: ”The Sun is to be folded up will lose its light.” (81: 1-29) The biblical narrative is similar, as illustrated here: “Immediately after the oppression of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the earth shall be shaken: and then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet.” (Matthew 24:29–31)
3. Prophets and angels:
There is a common belief in the status of prophets as inspired people, who received divine guidance. As is the belief about angels.
4. Focus on compassion and mercy:
Both scriptures focus on mercy, compassion as being a virtue that we should all strive for. For example, Koran: "Nor can Goodness and Evil be equal. Repel (Evil) with what is better: then will he between whom and thee was hatred become as it were thy friend and intimate!” (41:34)
A similar strand runs through the Bible: “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12)
5. Focus on charity:
Charity is one of the five pillars of Islam and is repeatedly stressed as a virtue. The Bible also lays a great stress on giving and helping the needy. For example: "In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” (Acts 20:35)
The Koran points out: "You shall give the due alms to the relatives, the needy, the poor, and the travelling alien, but do not be excessive, extravagant.” (17: 26-29)
While no means being an exhaustive account, nor a very thorough analysis of the verses or the context in which they were revealed (very important in the study of both religions), nevertheless they do offer a glimpse of what both the scriptures say about foundational issues of both the faiths. Being derivatives of the “Abrahamic tradition,” one can confidently say that they have more similarities than differences and it is about time we focus on that, rather than look for areas of divergence.
Our world, which is becoming more diverse by the day, needs better religious literacy. As Dr. Diana Eck of Harvard University has said, we need a serious study of religion as essential equipment for the age of pluralism we are in.
I invite you on this journey!