Table of contents
- Similarities between Christian and Islamic eschatology
- Differences between Christian and Islamic eschatology
Traditionally, human beings attempted to find the explanation of their existence in the world and often they referred to religious teachings to satisfy their spiritual needs. At the same time, there was another, probably much more disturbing question concerning the afterlife and perspectives of humans after their physical death. In actuality, people could hardly accept a purely materialistic and atheistic approach to this problem since, as a rule, people are unwilling to accept the idea that their existence ends their physical life comes to the end. Instead, even nowadays, in the age of the development of high technologies and the domination of science, people still tend to believe in the afterlife and appeal to the major religions such as Christianity and Islam to support their beliefs.
On the other hand, such religious teachings as Christianity and Islam strongly support the beliefs of their adepts in the afterlife. Moreover, these religions do not only promise the happy afterlife to their most devoted adepts, but they also have developed the concept of eschatology, the end-times, which implies the threat to the existence of the entire mankind. According to this concept, all people living on the earth are supposed to be undergo the final judgment and they will be either saved or sent to Hell. In such a way, both Christianity and Islam promote the idea that only true adepts of Christianity and Islam respectively will find salvation. Obviously, such a perspective is a strong stimulus for people to get converted into Christianity or Islam that is one of the major goals of these religions. Historically, Christianity and Islam targeted at the converting of new adepts and becoming the global religions. Nevertheless, in spite of the similarity of their goal and certain similarities in views on eschatology, Christianity and Islam still have substantial differences in regard to the end-times.
Similarities between Christianity and Islam
Historically, Christianity and Islam were competing religions which were practically in the permanent conflict with each other. Christians and Muslims traditionally viewed each other as the major opponents and they considered the views of their counterparts erroneous, while the idea of conversion or destruction of opponents was extremely popular among both Christians and Muslims (Pearce, 2003). For instance, it is possible to mention the Crusades organized by the Catholic Church in the epoch of the Middle Ages or the principles of the Jihad developed in Islam.
However, historical antagonism of these religions could not prevent them from significant similarities in their religious and philosophical views at large and their views on eschatology in particular.
To put it more precisely, Christianity and Islam are actually closely interlinked and they produce a profound impact on each other since both religions originate from the cultures, which historically contacted with each other, though, their relations were often characterized by numerous conflicts (Lewis, 2001). In such a situation, it is quite natural that such contacts between Jewish and Arab cultures, which actually created the basis for Christianity and Islam, resulted in significant similarities in their views. In this regard, the concept of eschatology is particularly noteworthy.
In fact, the concept of the end-times is very important for both religions. Basically, it should be said that the development of the concept of eschatology was one of the essential parts of both religions. Christianity and Islam promoted the idea of the end-times in order to show that the life on the earth is not endless. Instead, both religions insisted on the perspective of the end of life and the final, judgment day, when all humans will end their physical life on earth. In such a way, both religions stimulated the belief of adepts that they cannot remain indifferent and ignore religion. Instead, they should choose the correct religion to find the salvation. The major reason of the development of the concept of end-times makes both religions very close to each other.
Furthermore, both Christianity and Islam pay a lot of attention to the personality of Jesus, or Isa in Muslim tradition. Both religions closely interlink the concept of the end-times with the return of Jesus. To put it more precisely, Christianity and Islam insist on the idea that Jesus will return to establish the dominance of Christianity and Islam respectively as the only world religion (Riddlebarger, 2004). In other words, the return of Jesus is associated with the establishment of the total domination of Christianity or Islam.
Also, it is worthy of mention the fact that the major ideas concerning the concept of eschatology are similar in both religions. For instance, there are practically the same important stages and principles, according to which the end-times will actually occur. Christianity and Islam argue that the end-times will be preceded by signs which indicate to the upcoming judgment day. Even though these signs are different in a way, it is still possible to estimate that the major indicators and elements of the eschatology are similar. For instance, the end-times is strongly associated with the return of Christ, who brings the victory and dominance to Christianity or Islam.
Moreover, both religions strongly associate the end-times with the destruction of the present world. This fact is very important because it is the backbone of the concept of eschatology. In fact, it proves beyond a doubt that the destruction of the present world is actually the major stimulus that is supposed to make people religious and choose either Christianity or Islam in order to find salvation. At the same time, the destruction of the present world is quite natural for both religious teachings because the present world is too imperfect and sinful and unfaithful people naturally lead the world to self-destruction (Riddlebarger, 2004). Such a perspective of the total destruction of the present world indicates to the intention of Christianity and Islam to emphasize the significance of their views and faith because the destruction will be the result of the disobedience to the norms and rules of Christianity and Islam respectively.
Another important and essential part of the end-times is the idea of salvation. It is very important to underline that both religions suggest that the destruction of the present world does not necessarily mean the total extension of humans. At any rate, their life will not end with the end of the world but some of them will survive. The salvation is a logical and essential idea because it is the concept of salvation that is supposed to make people really faithful.
Otherwise, without the perspective of salvation neither Christianity nor Islam could really encourage people to convert into Christians or Muslims in face of a threat of the end of the world.
Also, it should be said that both religions implies the judgment procedure in the result of which people will either find the salvation or be sent to Hell. In fact, the concept of Hell is very important because both Christianity and Islam underline that Hell will be the punishment for all those people who fail to find the salvation. Naturally, each religion suggests salvation only to its own adepts, while all the rest will be sent to Hell where they will suffer eternally (Lewis, 2002). In such a way, Hell is the implication of punishment for those who do not accept basic principles and ideas of Christianity or Islam. In actuality, Hell is the punishment juxtaposed to the reward that those people, who are granted with salvation after the judgment, receive.
Differences between Christian and Islamic eschatology
Obviously, there are a lot of similarities between Christianity and Islam in their views on the concept of eschatology.
However, these similarities are rather conceptual than total. To put it more precisely, it is possible to trace certain differences even at the points where Christianity and Islam are similar. For instance, the concept of the end of the world, which is similar in both religions, still differs in details because the end of the world will lead to the destruction of the present world and death of all people, according to Islamic tradition, and all people but those living when Jesus returns.
However, probably the most striking difference may be found in the procedure of the judgment and its outcomes, which are similar in principle but are different in their performance. According to Islam, the judgment is performed by Allah and Allah is arbitrary (Pentecost, 2003). In actuality, it is possible to compare the role of Allah to human judges and the procedure of judgment is also similar to the one taken from real life. To put it more precisely, Allah will judge humans according to the actions and beliefs and it is only those people, whose good actions outweigh evil one and whose faith was really strong and life virtuous, could find salvation.
In contrast, Christian God is represented as the just God. All his actions and decisions are just and unarguable.
Consequently, the judgment is mainly based not on the actions of humans during their lifetime but rather on the decision of God in regard to humans (Robbins and Palmer, 2003). What is meant here is the fact people can find salvation, even though they used to be sinful and sins they committed during their lifetime may be very significant, but the all-pardoning God can reward even the most villains if they accept Christianity and if their faith is really strong and sincere. In such a way, God’s decisions are based on the will of God practically independently from deeds of people during their lifetime.
In this respect, it is necessary to underline the major difference between Christianity and Islam since for Christianity the devotedness to God and Christian faith prove to be more important than actions and deeds of humans during their lifetime and God is not actually a judge as human judges are, while Allah, in contrast, rather resembles human judges because the faith and devotedness to Islam is not sufficient for the salvation but it is also necessary to make good deeds during the lifetime and it is only when good deeds outweigh bad, sinful deeds, an adept can have a chance for salvation.
Probably, such a striking difference between God and Allah and the perspective of salvation for people are determined by the view of both religions on humans. According to Christianity, people have a sinful nature and, therefore, they do not have good chances for salvation during the judgment because sin is in their nature and this is why bad or sinful actions can outweigh good ones. In contrast, Islam insists on the idea that humans are basically good and, therefore, they are responsible for their actions during the judgment because, being born good, they could either develop this innate goodness or become sinners.
Finally, the afterlife after the judgment is supposed to be quite different in spite of certain similarities. Even though both religions are similar in their views concerning to those who fails to get salvation and will be send to hell for eternal torment, Christianity and Islam have different views on perspectives of those who are saved. Christianity implies the life in New Jerusalem in accordance with basic Christians norms where religious aspects of life will be performed, such as worshipping, service, praising, while Islam implies more earthly life in Paradise, where true Muslims will be rewarded for their good deeds and faith and where sensual pleasures will constitute a considerable part of the existence of Islamic adepts.
In such a way, Christian and Islamic traditions suggest quite a different view on the concept of eschatology. On the one hand, Christians scholars (Sproul, 2002) stand on the ground that the end-times will be accompanied by the total destruction of the present world and the salvation will be granted only for those who have accepted Christianity and God as the only God and whose faith is sincere. According to Christian tradition, the faith is a sufficient criterion of defining the fate of an individual. This means that God can forgive sins and errors made by humans during their lifetime if they turn to Christianity and accept Jesus as their savior. On the other hand, Islamist theology (Cragg and Marston, 1980) suggests that the end-times the destruction of the present world is inevitable but people can save themselves by means of their actions. Unlike Christians, Muslim scholars (Gatje, 1976) do not view Allah as just God but they view Him as an arbitrary who can judge and it is in Allah’s power to save those Muslims whose good deeds outweigh evil ones.
Thus, Christianity and Islam view the concept of eschatology as one of the major elements of their religious teaching.
In principle, this concept is similar in Christianity and Islam since both religions implies that the day will come when the present world is totally destructed and people will either be sent to Hell or get salvation and live in Paradise or New Jerusalem. At the same time, the principles of judgment of people and the reasons for their salvation are not absolutely identical. This is why it is possible to estimate that Christian and Islamic concepts of eschatology are quite different and the major difference probably is the domination of deeds of people in Islam and faith in Christianity as determinant factors that give people the way to salvation. In such a way, Christianity stands on the ground that actions of humans are not irrevocable and Christianity accepts the idea that to error is human. Consequently, unlike Islam, Christianity gives a chance for salvation to all people.