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Abrahamic religions (also known as Abrahamic faiths, Abrahamic traditions, and the religions of Abraham) has become a popular and often used designation for the monotheistic faiths of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, the Bahai Faith, and certain smaller religions, emphasizing their common origin and values. For some 1,300 years their histories and thought have been intertwined. The four are all considered inextricably linked to one another because of a 'family likeness' and a certain commonality in theology. They are faiths that recognize a spiritual tradition identified with Abraham. However, relationships among them have varied from time and place and have often been characterized by mistrust, hatred and even war/persecution (e.g., the Crusades, the Arab-Israeli conflict, and the Inquisition). Phrased another way, the sacred narratives of all four of these religions feature many of the same figures, histories and places in each, although they often present them with slightly different roles, perspectives and meanings.

Today, there are an estimated 3.8 billion followers of the three largest Abrahamic religions, accounting for more than half of the world's population. By some measurements, Islam is the fastest growing.

By contrast, the major non-Abrahamic world religions are Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism. They are the "Eastern religions" that include the "Dharmic" religions of India and the "Taoic" East Asian religions.


The term "Abrahamic religion" is derived from a term of Islamic origin, Millat Ibrahim, although in Muslim use only Islam is seen as truly reflecting the "Faith of Abraham". It thus refers to the claim of Muslims to be following the pure orthodox form of monotheism practiced by Abraham. There is also a traditional claim of relationship of Muhammed to Abraham through his son Ishmael Arabs from the Mecca region trace their lineage to Abraham via Ishmael. Although the Qur'an does not name the child whom Abraham was about to sacrifice, Muslims believe it was Ishmael, while Jews and Christians accept the biblical view that it was Isaac. Christians refer to Abraham as a "father in faith." It has been suggested that the phrase may mean that all three religions come from one spiritual source.

Abraham is recorded in the Torah as the ancestor of the Israelites through his son Isaac, born to Sarah through a promise made in Genesis.

The term is, however, far from universal and somewhat problematic. It conveys an unspecified historical and theological commonality which upon closer examination is problematic. There is commonality, but in large measure it is peripheral to their respective beliefs. For example, the core Christian beliefs of Incarnation, Trinity, and Jesus' Resurrection are categorically denied by Judaism and Islam (see for example Islamic view of Jesus' death.) There are key beliefs in both Islam and Judaism that are not shared by Christianity, and so on. Thus, commonality is present but it hides crucial differences. Hence, the term 'Abrahamic faiths' is both partially helpful and misleading.

Common aspects

Abrahamic religions share the following similarities:

  • Monotheism: all three religions claim to be monotheistic, worshiping an exclusive God, though known by different names. For all three, God creates, is one, rules, reveals, loves, judges, and forgives. However, Christianity's complex Trinitarian doctrine conflicts with Jewish and Muslim concepts of monotheism. They reject the incarnation of God in Christ which is one of the distinctive features of the Christian religion. Although Christianity does not believe in three gods, rather three personalities in one "Almighty God," the concept of Trinity remains a problem for the other major Abrahamic religions.
  • Jerusalemmarker:
    • Judaism: Jerusalem became holy as a city to Judaism over three thousand years ago. Jews pray in its direction, mention its name constantly in prayers, close the Passover service with the wistful statement "Next year in Jerusalem," and recall the city in the blessing at the end of each meal. Jerusalem has served as the only capital of a Jewish state. It is the only city that has had a Jewish majority during all of the twentieth century.
    • Islam: Jerusalem, the city of David and Christ, became a very holy place to Muslims like Meccamarker and Medinamarker. The Al-Aqsamarker mosque is known as the "farthest mosque" in sura Al-Isra in the Qur'an and its surroundings (Jerusalem) as "the holy land". The first Muslims didn't pray towards Mecca, but to Jerusalem. Another reason of significance is its connection with the Miʿrāj (the Prophet Muhammad’s ascension to heaven).
    • Christianity: Palestine was once a Christian country. There has been a continuous Christian presence there since the time of Jesus. According to the New Testament, Jerusalem was the city to which Jesus was brought as a child to be presented at the Temple and for the Feast of the Passover. He preached and healed in Jerusalem, ceremonially cleansed the Temple there, held the Last Supper in an "upper room", possibly the Cenacle, there the night before his death on the cross, was arrested in Gethsemanemarker, the six parts to Jesus' trial—three stages in a religious court and three stages before a Roman court—were all held in Jerusalem. His crucifixion at Golgotha, his burial nearby, and his resurrection and ascension and prophecy to return all are said to have occurred there.
  • Prophetic tradition. All three religions affirm one personal eternal God who created a contingent universe, who providentially rules history, who sends prophetic and angelic messengers and who reveals the divine will through inspired Scriptures. They also affirm that obedience to this creator God is to be lived out historically, and that one day God will unilaterally intervene in human history on the day of judgment and will determine for all humanity their eternal destinies of heaven or hell based upon a person's beliefs and actions.

: This theological continuity among them is profound, especially given that the great religions of Eastern Asia, the dominant schools of Greek philosophy, modernity and postmodernity, in short almost all other religious and philosophical systems, cannot claim anything close to this level of doctrinal continuity. They all believe that God guides humanity through revelation to prophets, and each religion recognizes that God revealed teachings up to and including those in their own scripture. However, each rejects revelations claimed by the later religions. Jews accept, for example, that God guided Melchizedek and then Abraham but no prophets claimed by other religions after them. Christians accept the Hebrew prophets and scripture, but reject Islam's prophet and scriptures. Islam accepts that God revealed guidance for Jews and Christians and then adds their own preceived revelations in their scripture.

  • Genesis and the Qur'an: The Qur'an talks about the Great flood and the story of Noah's ark that was also mentioned in the Old Testament with some minor differences.
  • Semitic: The peoples and languages Abrahamic religions arose from were in fact of one people—Jews and Arabs are among the Semites (and Christianity arose from Judaism).
  • An ethical orientation: all three religions speak of a choice between good and evil, which is associated with obedience or disobedience to a single God and to Divine Law.
  • An eschatological world view of history and destiny, beginning with the Creation of the world and the concept that God works through history, and ending with a Resurrection of the dead and final judgment.
  • Association with the desert, sometimes called desert monotheism, which some commentators believe has imbued these religions with a particular ethos.
  • Acceptance of some of Judaism's religious obligations found in the Bible as a spiritual devotion to the traditions of Abraham (rather than of Moses) by Christianity (see also Biblical law in Christianity and Judeo-Christian); and by Islam, including those which have parallel accounts in the Qur'an, such as the stories of Adam, Noah, Abraham and Moses.

Notable differences in beliefs

Some Christian beliefs about Jesus Christ are incompatible with Judaism and Islam. Some Christians see Christianity without the incarnation of God as meaningless and useless. For Muslims and Jews the Christian belief in Jesus Christ as God the Son, both human and divine at the same time, is considered incompatible with their understanding of Idolatry. Likewise, most Christians find Islamic and Hebrew belief about Jesus quite insufficient.


Abraham had eight sons by three women: Ishmael by his wife's servant Hagar, Isaac by his wife Sarah and six by his wife Keturah.


Judaism is unquestionably the oldest of the still extant Abrahamic religions. Jewish historical origins begin with Abraham after he married Sarah, left Ur Kaśdim ( or Ur of the Chaldees). Through his son Isaac and grandson Jacob (also known as Israel) the Jews derive an almost continuous history. The Jewish people are generally referred to as the Children of Israel, signifying their descent from Jacob. The genealogy is recorded in the Torah.

Judaism moved from an unorganized religion of the Hebrew tribes, to a Torah-based religion with an emphasis on prophets, to Rabbinic Judaism.


The Christian faith is generally accepted to have begun in Judeamarker in the 1st century A.D., then part of Iudaea provincemarker, as a radically reformed branch of Judaism (see Early Christianity). After centuries of trying to establish a unified Christendom, Christianity split into many separate churches and denominations.


Muslims believe that Islam is a faith that has always existed and that it was gradually revealed to humanity by a number of prophets including Adam (the first human), David and Christ. Their book, the Qur'an, also discusses Judaism and Christianity. They consider that the final and complete revelation of the faith was made through the Islamic prophet Muhammad, a descendant of Abraham, in the 7th century CE cities of Meccamarker and Medinamarker. As Arabs, they hold to a tradition of lineal descent from Abraham through Ishmael by Hagar.

The Bahá'í Faith

In the Bahá'í Faith, religious history is seen to have unfolded through a series of divine messengers, who each established a religion that was suited to the needs of the time and the capacity of the people. These messengers have included Abraham, Buddha, Jesus, Muhammad and others, and most recently Bahá'u'lláh. In Bahá'í belief, each messenger taught of those to follow, and Bahá'u'lláh's life and teachings fulfill the end-time promises of previous scriptures. Humanity is understood to be in a process of collective evolution, and the need of the present time is for the gradual establishment of peace, justice and unity on a global scale.

The significance of Abraham

See also Abrahamic Covenant

Even as Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all acknowledge Abraham as an ancestor, members of the three traditions have also tried to claim him as exclusively theirs.

For Jews

For Jews, Abraham is, through Isaac and Jacob, the founding patriarch of the Children of Israel. God promised Abraham: "I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you." With Abraham, God entered into "an everlasting covenant throughout the ages to be God to you and to your offspring to come."

Abraham is primarily a revered ancestor or patriarch (referred to as "Our Father Abraham") to whom God made several promises: chiefly, that he would have numberless descendants, who would receive the land of Canaan (the "Promised Land.") Somewhat less divisively, according to Jewish tradition, Abraham was the first post-Flood prophet to reject idolatry through rational analysis, although Shem and Eber carried on the tradition from Noah.

Abraham not only symbolically appears as a fundamental figure for Judaism, but is recognised to have observed the tenets of the Torah before it was given to Moses. Modern scholars do not accept that the K'tav Ivri is named after Abraham (who was known as the "Ivri", which occurs in Genesis with the phrase Avram ha-Ivri, and is the origin of the English word Hebrew). The early Midrashic sources explicitly state that the laws of Torah (Passover) were observed by the Patriarchs long before Sinai, and in one case with a simultaneous explicit example for chronological calculations:

For Christians

Christians view Abraham as an important exemplar of faith, and a spiritual, as well as physical, ancestor of Jesus—a Jew considered the Son of God through whom God promised to bless all the families of the earth. For Christians, Abraham is a spiritual forebear rather than a direct ancestor, as defined by Paul the Apostle, with the Abrahamic Covenant "reinterpreted so as to be defined by faith in Christ rather than biological descent"; see also New Covenant. In Christian belief, Abraham is a role model of faith, and his obedience to God by offering Isaac is seen as a foreshadowing of God's offering of his son Jesus.

The tendency of Christian commentators to interpret God's promises to Abraham as applying to Christianity rather than Judaism, whose adherents rejected Jesus, is derived from Paul's interpretation of all descendants who believe in God as being spiritual descendants of Abraham. However, in both cases he refers to these spiritual descendants as the "sons of God" rather than "children of Abraham".

For Muslims

For Muslims, Abraham is a prophet, the "Friend of God" who stands in the line from Noah to Muhammad to whom Allah gave revelations, who "raised the foundations of the House" (i.e., the Ka'aba) with his first son, Isma'il. Ibrahim (Abraham) is the first in a genealogy for Muhammad. Islam considers Abraham to be the "first Muslim" (Surah 3)—the first monotheist in a world where monotheism was lost. He is also referred to in Islam as ابونا ابرهيم or "Our Father Abraham", as well as Ibrahim al-Hanif or "Abraham the Monotheist". Islam holds that it was Ishmael, (Isma'il, Muhammad's ancestor) rather than Isaac, whom Ibrahim was instructed to sacrifice. In addition to this spiritual lineage, the northern Adnani Arab tribes trace their lineage to Isma'il, and thus to Abraham.

Muslims see Abraham as one of the most important of the many prophets sent by God. Thus he represents, for some, a common focal point whom they seek to emphasize by means of this terminology.

The Supreme Deity

All three religions worship a Supreme Deity which they conceive strictly monotheistically as One Being. The Christian God is at the same time (according to most of mainstream Christianity) an indivisible Trinity (Tri-unity), a view not shared by the other religions.

God in Judaism

Jewish theology is based on the Hebrew Bible, where the nature and commandments of God are revealed through the writings of Moses, the Torah, the writings of the prophets, psalmists and other ancient canonized scriptures, together with the Torah known as the Tanakh. Additionally, it usually has a basis in its Oral Law, as recorded in the Mishnah and Gemora which form the Talmud.

This Supreme Being is referred to in the Hebrew Bible in several ways, such as Elohim, Adonai or by the four Hebrew letters "Y-H-V (or W) -H" (the tetragrammaton), which observant Jews do not pronounce as a word. The Hebrew words Eloheynu (Our God) and HaShem (The Name), as well as the English names "Lord" and "God", are also used in modern-day Judaism. The latter is sometimes written "G-d" in reference to the taboo against pronouncing the tetragrammaton.

The word "Elohim" has the Hebrew plural ending "-īm", which some Biblical scholars have taken as support for the general notion that the ancient Hebrews were polytheists in the time of the patriarchs; however, as the word itself is used with singular verbs, this hypothesis is not accepted by most Jews. Jews point out other words in Hebrew which are used in the same manner according to the rule of Hebrew Grammar, denoting respect, majesty and deliberation, similar to the royal plural in English and ancient Egyptian, and the use of the plural form "vous" for individuals of higher standing in modern French. Jewish Biblical scholars and historical commentary on the passage also suggest that Elohim in the plural form indicates God in conjunction with the heavenly court, i.e., the angels. The pre-Christian era, early CE-period Kabbalistic and later in the European Chasidic movements after the Baal Shem Tov, such as Breslov and Chabad, all indicate the use of Elokim as denoting the multidimensional existence of God on, in, and through every possible dimension of the created existence. See Likutei Moharan and the Tanya, as well as the Zohar, Bahir, and the Kabbalistic texts of Sefer Yitzirah, Sefer Refayim, and Sefer Malachim, to name a few. Including the writings of the Ramchal (R. Moshe Chaim Luzzatto), Drech HaShem and others such as the Rashbi (R. Shimon bar Yochai, author of the Zohar) all explain the use of the Elokim as a pluralistic singularity, one essence sustaining all levels of creation from the mundane physical to the sublime and Holy spiritual.

God in Christianity

Christians believe that the God worshipped by the faithful Hebrew people of the pre-Christian era has always revealed himself as he did through Jesus; but that this was never obvious until the Word of the Lord, the revelation of God, became flesh and dwelt among us (see John 1). Also, despite the fact that the Angel of the Lord spoke to the Patriarchs, revealing God to them, it has always been only through the Spirit of God granting them understanding, that men have been able to later perceive that they had been visited by God himself. After Jesus was raised from the dead—according to Christian scriptures—this ancient Hebrew witness of how God reveals himself as Messiah came to be seen in a very different light. It was then that Jesus' followers began to speak widely of him as God himself, although this had already been revealed to certain individuals during his ministry. Examples were the Samaritan woman in Shechem and Jesus' closest apostles

This belief was gradually developed into the modern formulation of the Trinity, which is the doctrine that God is a single entity (YHWH), but that there is a real "threeness" in God's single being which has always been evident albeit not understood. This mysterious "threeness" has been described as, for want of better terms, hypostases in the Greek language (subsistences in Latin), and "persons" in English. In the traditional Christian concept, God the Father has only ever been revealed through his eternal Word (who was born as Jesus, of the Virgin Mary, God the Son) and his Spirit (who after the Resurrection was given to humanity at Pentecost, establishing the Christian church).

God in Islam

There is only one God in Islam. Allah is the Arabic word for God, used by all Arabs of all faiths. Islamic tradition also describes the 99 names of God. These 99 names describe attributes of God, including Most Merciful, Most Just, The Peace and Blessing, and the Guardian. Islamic belief in God is distinct in that he accepts no partners or progeny of God. This belief is summed up in chapter 112 of the Qur'an titled Al-Ikhlas, which states "God is One, He is the Eternal, the Absolute. He does not beget nor was he begotten. And there is none like Him".

See also: Islamic concept of God

Muslims believe that the Jewish God is the same as their God, and that Jesus was a divinely inspired prophet and was neither God nor His son. The Qur'an also draws a similitude between Jesus and Adam—the first human being created by God—saying they were both 'created from dust' by God who said the simple word "Be" (Arabic, 'kun'). Thus, both the Torah and the Gospels are believed to be based upon divine revelation, but most Muslims believe them to have been corrupted (both accidentally, through errors in transmission, and intentionally by certain Jews and Christians over the centuries). Muslims revere the Qur'an as the final uncorrupted word of God, or 'The Last Testament' as revealed through the last prophet, Prophet Muhammad. Muhammad is regarded as the "Seal of the Prophets" i.e. the last in a long chain, and Islam as the final monotheist faith, perfect in all respects as taught by the Qur'an.

God in the Bahai Faith

Bahá'ís believe in God as a single, imperishable deity who created the universe. God is described as "a personal God, unknowable, inaccessible, the source of all Revelation, eternal, omniscient, omnipresent and almighty". Though inaccessible directly, God is nevertheless seen as conscious of the events in this world, with a mind, will and purpose. Bahá'ís believe that God expresses this will at all times and in many ways, including through a series of divine messengers referred to as Manifestations of God or sometimes divine educators. In expressing God's intent, these manifestations are seen to establish religion in the world. Bahá'í teachings state that God is too great for humans to fully comprehend, nor to create a complete and accurate image. Bahá'u'lláh often refers to God by titles (e.g. the All-Powerful, or the All-Loving). Bahá'ís believe that this anthropomorphic description of God amounts to Bahá'u'lláh, in his capacity as God's manifestation, abstracting him in language that human beings can comprehend, since direct knowledge of the essence of God is believed impossible.

Religious scriptures

All these religions rely on a body of scriptures, some of which are considered to be the word of God—hence sacred and unquestionable—and some the work of religious men, revered mainly by tradition and to the extent that they are considered to have been divinely inspired, if not dictated, by the divine being.


The sacred scriptures of Judaism are the Tanakh, a Hebrew acronym standing for Torah (Law or Teachings), Nevi'im (Prophets) and Ketuvim (Writings). These are complemented by and supplemented with various (originally oral) traditions: Midrash, the Mishnah, the Talmud and collected rabbinical writings. The Hebrew text of the Tanakh, and the Torah in particular, is considered holy, down to the last letter: transcribing is done with painstaking care. An error in a single letter, ornamentation or symbol of the 300,000+ stylized letters which make up the Hebrew Torah text renders a Torah scroll unfit for use; hence the skills of a Torah scribe are specialist skills, and a scroll takes considerable time to write and check.


The sacred scriptures of most Christian groups are the Old Testament, which is largely the same as the Hebrew Bible, and the New Testament. The latter comprises four accounts of the life and teachings of Jesus (the Four Gospels, traditionally attributed to his apostles Matthew and John, and the later converts Mark and Luke), as well as several other writings by the apostles (such as Paul). They are usually considered to be divinely inspired in some sense, and together comprise the Christian Bible. Thus, Christians consider the fundamental teachings of the Old Testament, in particular the Ten Commandments, as valid (see Biblical law in Christianity for details). However, they believe that the coming of Jesus as the Messiah and saviour of humankind as predicted in the Old Testament would shed light on the true relationship between God and mankind by restoring the emphasis of universal love and compassion (as mentioned in the Shema) above the other commandments, also de-emphasising the more "legalistic" and material precepts of Mosaic Law (such as circumcision and the dietary constraints and temple rites). Some Christians believe that the link between Old and New Testaments in the Bible means that Judaism has been superseded by Christianity as the "new Israel", and that Jesus' teachings described Israel not as a geographic place, but rather an association with God and promise of salvation in heaven. Religious Jews find this notion incomprehensible.

The vast majority of Christian faiths (generally including Catholicism, Orthodox Christianity, Anglicanism and most forms of Protestantism but not Restorationism) derive their beliefs from the conclusions reached by the First Council of Nicaea in 325 in a document known as the Nicene Creed. This describes the belief that God (as a Trinity of distinct persons with one substance) became human on earth, born as Jesus pursuant to the Old Testament scriptures, was crucified by humanity, died and was buried, then was resurrected on the third day to rise and enter the Kingdom of Heaven and "sit at the right hand of" God with a promise to return. Christians generally believe that faith in Jesus is the way to achieve salvation and to enter into heaven, and that salvation is a gift given by the grace of God.

Christians recognize that the Gospels were passed on by oral tradition, and were not set to paper until decades after the death of Jesus, and that the extant versions are copies of those originals. Indeed, the version of the Bible considered to be most valid (in the sense of best conveying the true meaning of the word of God) has varied considerably: the Greek Septuagint, the Syriac Peshitta, the Latin Vulgate, the English King James Version and the Russian Synodal Bible have been authoritative to different communities at different times. In particular, Christians usually consult the Hebrew version of the Old Testament when preparing new translations, although some believe that the Septuagint should be preferred, as it was the Bible of the Early Christian Church, and because they believe its translators used a different Hebrew Bible to the ones which make up the current Masoretic Hebrew text, as there are some variant readings of the Dead Sea Scrolls confirmed by the Septuagint. In the same sense that the Jewish mystics viewed the Torah as something living and existing prior to any written text, so too do Christians view the Bible and Jesus himself as God's "Word" (or logos in Greek), transcending written documents.

The sacred scriptures of the Christian Bible are complemented by a large body of writings by individual Christians and councils of Christian leaders (see canon law). Some Christian churches and denominations consider certain additional writings to be binding; other Christian groups consider only the Bible to be binding (sola scriptura).


Islam's holiest book is the Qur'an, comprising 114 suras ("chapters of the Qur'an"). However, Muslims also believe in the religious texts of Judaism and Christianity in their original forms, albeit not the current versions (which they believe to be revised or changed). According to the Qur'an (and mainstream Muslim belief), the verses of the Qur'an were revealed from God through the Archangel Gabriel to the Prophet Muhammad on separate occasions. These revelations were written down during Muhammad's lifetime and also memorized by hundreds of hafiz. These multiple sources were collected into one official copy in 633 AD, one year after his death. Finally, the Qur'an was given its present order in 653 AD by the third Caliph.

The Qur'an mentions and reveres several of the Israelite prophets, including Jesus, among others (see also: Prophets of Islam). The stories of these prophets are very similar to those in the Bible. However, the detailed precepts of the Tanakh and the New Testament are not adopted outright; they are replaced by the new commandments revealed directly by God (through Gabriel) to Muhammad and codified in the Qur'an.

Like the Jews with the Torah, Muslims consider the original Arabic text of the Qur'an as uncorrupted and holy to the last letter, and any translations are considered to be interpretations of the meaning of the Qur'an, as only the original Arabic text is considered to be the divine scripture.

Like the Rabbinic Oral Law to the Hebrew Bible, the Qur'an is complemented by the Hadith, a set of books by later authors recording the sayings of the prophet Muhammad. The Hadith interpret and elaborate Qur'anic precepts. There is no consensus within Islam on the authority of the Hadith collections, but Islamic scholars have categorized each Hadith at one of the following levels of authenticity or isnad: genuine (sahih), fair (hasan) or weak (da'if). Amongst Shia Muslims, no hadith is regarded as Sahih, and hadith in general are only accepted if there is no disagreement with the Qur'an.

By the ninth century, six collections of Hadiths were accepted as reliable to Sunni Muslims. Shia Muslims, however, refer to an alternative tradition of authenticated Hadiths.

The Sunni Collections:

The Hadith and the life story of Muhammad (sira) form the Sunnah, a scriptural supplement to the Qur'an. The legal opinions of Islamic jurists (fiqh) provide another source for the daily practice and interpretation of Islamic tradition.

The Qur'an contains repeated references to the "religion of Abraham" (see Suras 2:130,135; 3:95; 6:123,161; 12:38; 16:123; 22:78). In the Qur'an, this expression refers specifically to Islam; sometimes in contrast to Christianity and Judaism, as in Sura 2:135, for example: They say: 'Become Jews or Christians if any woud be guided (to salvation).' Say you: 'No! (I would rather) the Religion of Abraham the True, and he joined not Allah with Allah.' In the Qur'an, Abraham is declared to have been a Muslim (a hanif), not a Jew nor a Christian (Sura 3:67).

End times and afterlife

In the major Abrahamic religions, there exists the expectation of an individual who will herald the time of the end and/or bring about the Kingdom of God on Earth; in other words, the Messianic prophecy. Judaism awaits the coming of the Jewish Messiah; the Jewish concept of Messiah differs from the Christian concept in several significant ways, despite the same term being applied to both. The Jewish Messiah is not seen as a "god", but as a mortal man who by his holiness is worthy of that description. He will make his appearance only during an era of peace and holiness and his coming may not end history.

Christianity awaits the Second Coming of Christ, though Full Preterists believe this has already happened. Islam awaits both the second coming of Jesus (in order to complete his life and die, since he is said to have arisen alive and not crucified) and the coming of Mahdi (Sunnis in his first incarnation, Shi'a as the return of Muhammad al-Mahdi). The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community believes that both Mahdi and the Second Coming of Christ were fulfilled in Mirza Ghulam Ahmad.

Most Abrahamic religions agree that a human being comprises the body, which dies, and the soul, which is capable of remaining alive beyond human death and carries the person's essence, and that God will judge each person's life accordingly after death. The importance of this and the focus on it, as well as the precise criteria and end result, differs between religions.


Judaism's views on the afterlife ("the World to Come") are quite diverse. This can be attributed to the fact that although there clearly are traditions in the Hebrew Bible of an afterlife (see Naboth and the Witch of Endor), Judaism focuses on this life and how to lead a holy life to please God, rather than future reward, and its attitude can be mostly summed up by the rabbinical observation that at the start of Genesis, God clothed the naked (Adam and Eve); at the end of Deuteronomy, he buried the dead (Moses) and the Children of Israel mourned for 40 days before getting on with their lives.


Christians have more diverse and definite teachings on the end times and what constitutes afterlife. Most Christian approaches either include different abodes for the dead (heaven, hell, limbo, purgatory) or universal reconciliation in which all souls are made in the image of God. A small minority teach annihilationism, the doctrine that those persons who are not reconciled to God simply cease to exist.


In Islam, God is said to be "Most Compassionate and Most Merciful" (Quran 1:1, as well as the start of most suras). However, God is also "Most Just"; Islam prescribes a literal Hell for those who disobey God and commit gross sin. Those who obey God and submit to God will be rewarded with their own place in Paradise. While sinners are punished with fire, there are also many other forms of punishment described, depending on the sin committed; Hell is divided into numerous levels.

Those who worship and remember God are promised eternal abode in a physical and spiritual Paradise. In Islam, Heaven is divided into numerous levels, with the higher levels of Paradise being the reward of those who have been more virtuous. For example, the highest levels might contain the prophets, those killed for believing (martyrs), those who helped orphans and those who never told a lie (among numerous other categories cited in the Qur'an and Hadith).

Upon repentance to God, many sins can be forgiven as God is said to be supremely merciful. Additionally, those who ultimately believe in God, but have led sinful lives, may be punished for a time, and then ultimately released into Paradise. If anyone dies in a state of Shirk (i.e., in associating God in any way, such as claiming that He is equal with anything or worshiping other than Him), then it is possible he will stay forever in Hell; however, it is said that anyone with "one atom of faith" will eventually reach Heaven, and Muslim literature also records reference to even the greatly sinful, Muslim or otherwise, eventually being pardoned and released into Paradise .

Once a person is admitted to Paradise, this person will abide there for eternity.

Bahá'í Faith

In Bahá'í belief, creation does not have a beginning nor end, and instead views the eschatology of other religions as being symbolic. In Bahá'í belief, human time is marked by a series of progressive revelation where successive messengers or prophets come from God. The coming of these messengers is seen as a day of judgement to the adherents of the previous religion, who may choose to accept the new messenger and enter the 'heaven' of belief, or denounce the new messenger and enter the 'hell' of denial. In this view the terms heaven and hell are seen as symbolic terms for the person's spiritual progress and their nearness to or distance from God. In Bahá'í belief, the coming of Bahá'u'lláh, the founder of the Bahá'í Faith, signals the fulfilment of previous eschatological expectations of Islam, Christianity and other major religions.

Worship and religious rites

Worship, ceremonies and religion-related customs differ substantially among the Abrahamic religions. Among the few similarities are a seven-day cycle in which one day is nominally reserved for worship, prayer or other religious activities - the Sabbath; this custom is related to the biblical story of Genesis, where God created the universe in six days, and rested in the seventh.


Orthodox Judaism practice is guided by the interpretation of the Torah and the Talmud. Before the destruction of the Temple, Jewish priests offered sacrifices there three times daily; afterwards, the practice was replaced by Jewish men being required to pray three times daily, including the chanting of the Torah, facing in the direction of Jerusalemmarker's Temple Mountmarker. Jewish women's prayer obligations vary by denomination; in contemporary orthodox practice, women do not read from the Torah and are only required to say certain parts of these daily services. Other practices include circumcision, dietary laws, Shabbat, Passover, Torah study, Tefillin, purity and others. Conservative Judaism, Reform Judaism and the Reconstructionist movement have different views.


The followers of Islam (Muslims) are to observe the Five Pillars of Islam. The first pillar is the belief in the oneness of God, and in Muhammad as his final prophet. The second is to pray five times daily (salat) towards the direction (qibla) of the Kaabamarker in Meccamarker. The third pillar is Zakah, a portion of one's wealth which must be given to the poor or to other specified causes, which means the giving of a specific share of one's wealth and savings to persons or causes which God mentions in the Qur'an. The normal share to be paid is two and a half percent of one's saved earnings. Fasting during the Muslim month of Ramadan is the fourth pillar of Islam, to which only able-bodied Muslims are required to fast. Finally, Muslims are also urged to undertake a pilgrimage to Meccamarker at least once in one's life. Only individuals whose financial position and health are insufficient are exempt from making Hajj. During this pilgrimage, the Muslims spend several days in worship, repenting and most notably circumambulating the Kaabamarker among millions of other Muslims. At the end of the Hajj, sheep and other permissible animals are slaughtered to commemorate the moment when God replaced Abraham's son Ishmael with a sheep, thereby preventing his sacrifice. The meat from these animals is then distributed around the world to needy Muslims, neighbours and relatives.


Orthodox Judaism practices circumcision for males as a matter of religious obligation, as does Islam as a symbol of dedication to the religion. Islam also recommends this practice as a form of cleanliness.

Western Christianity replaced that custom with a baptism ceremony varying according to the denomination, but generally including immersion, aspersion or anointment with water. The Early Church (Acts 15, the Council of Jerusalem) decided that circumcision is not required for Gentile Christians. The Council of Florence in the 15th century prohibited it. Paragraph #2297 of the Catholic Catechism calls non-medical amputation or mutilation immoral.
Many countries with majorities of Christian adherents have low circumcision rates (with the notable exceptions of the United States and the Philippinesmarker). Coptic Christianity and Ethiopian Orthodoxy still observe circumcision. See also Aposthia.

Male circumcision is among the rites of Islam and is part of the (in Arabic): fitrah, or the innate disposition and natural character and instinct of the human creation.

Bahá'ís do not have any particular tradition or rituals regarding male circumcision, but view female circumcision as mutilation.

Food restrictions

Judaism and Islam have strict dietary laws, with permitted food known as kosher in Judaism, and halaal in Islam. These two religions prohibit the consumption of pork; Islam prohibits the consumption of alcoholic beverages of any kind. Halaal restrictions can be seen as a modification of the kashrut dietary laws, so many kosher foods are considered halaal; especially in the case of meat, which Islam prescribes must be slaughtered in the name of God, hence in Moroccomarker Muslims used to consume kosher food. However, it must be noted that there is a higher degree of flexibility in consuming non-halal beef in Islam, than is the case with kosher food in Judaism. Similarly, some foods not considered kosher are considered halaal in Islam.

With rare exceptions, Christians do not consider the Old Testament's strict food laws as relevant for today's church, see also Biblical law in Christianity. Most Protestants have no set food laws, but there are minority exceptions.

The Roman Catholic Church believes in observing abstinence and penance. For example, all Fridays through the year and the time of Lent are penitential days. The law of abstinence requires a Catholic from 14 years of age until death to abstain from eating meat on Fridays in honor of the Passion of Jesus on Good Friday. The U.S. bishops' conference obtained the permission of the Holy See for Catholics in the U.S. to substitute a penitential, or even a charitable, practice of their own choosing. Eastern Rite Catholics have their own penitential practices as specified by the Code of Canons for the Eastern Churches.

The Seventh-day Adventist Church (SDA) embraces numerous Old Testament rules and regulations such as tithing, Sabbath observance, and Jewish Food laws. Therefore, they do not eat pork, shellfish, or other foods considered unclean under the Old Covenant. A "Fundamental Belief" of the SDA if that their members "are to adopt the most healthful diet possible and abstain from the unclean foods identified in the Scriptures." among others

In the Christian Bible, the consumption of strangled animals and of blood was forbidden by Apostolic Decree and are still forbidden in the Greek Orthodox Church, according to German theologican Karl Josef von Hefele, who, in his Commentary on Canon II of the Second Ecumenical Council held in the fourth century at Gangra, notes: "We further see that, at the time of the Synod of Gangramarker, the rule of the Apostolic Synod [the Council of Jerusalem of Acts 15] with regard to blood and things strangled was still in force. With the Greeks, indeed, it continued always in force as their Euchologies still show." He also writes that "as late as the eighth century, Pope Gregory the Third, in 731, forbade the eating of blood or things strangled under threat of a penance of forty days."

Jehovah's Witnesses abstain from eating blood and from blood transfusions based on .

Sabbath observance

Sabbath in the Bible is a weekly day of rest and time of worship. It is observed differently in Judaism and Christianity and informs a similar occasion in several other Abrahamic faiths. Though many viewpoints and definitions have arisen over the millennia, most originate in the same textual tradition. Though not a day of rest (as God did not rest on the 7th day in Muslim belief), Islam holds Friday as a day of worship in the Mosque.



Judaism accepts converts, but has no explicit missionaries as such since the destruction of the Temple Era. Judaism states that non-Jews can achieve righteousness by following Noahide Laws, a set of seven universal commandments which non-Jews are expected to follow. In this context, the Rambam (Rabbi Moses Maimonides, one of the major Jewish teachers) commented: "Quoting from our sages, the righteous people from other nations have a place in the world to come, if they have acquired what they should learn about the Creator". Because the commandments applicable to the Jews are much more detailed and onerous than Noahide laws, Jewish scholars have traditionally maintained that it is better to be a good non-Jew than a bad Jew, thus discouraging conversion. In the U.S., as of 2003 28% of married Jews were married to non-Jews. See also Conversion to Judaism.


Christianity encourages evangelism, as Jesus did—convincing others to convert to the religion; many Christian organizations, especially Protestant churches, send missionaries to non-Christian communities throughout the world. See also Great Commission.

Forced conversions to Catholicism have been documented at various points throughout history. The most prominently cited allegations are the conversions of the pagans after Constantine; of Muslims, Jews and Eastern Orthodox during the Crusades; of Jews and Muslims during the time of the Spanish Inquisition, where they were offered the choice of exile, conversion or death; and of the Aztecs by Hernan Cortes.

Some organizations in India have alleged that some Christian missionaries in India are converting the illiterate Dalits (the so-called low castes) by fraudulent means. A government investigation in the mid-1950s failed to substantiate that Christian missionaries used force, fraud or offer of material inducement. However, that investigation recommended that the Missionaries be asked to withdraw, demanded Indianization of Church and called upon the Christian Church in India to severe all its relations with any such body abroad. This demand was repeated by K. Sudarshan, the Sar Sangh Chalak after Kandhamal violence in 2007 and 2008.

Forced conversions are condemned as sinful by major denominations such as the Roman Catholic Church, which officially states that forced conversions pollute the Christian religion and offend human dignity, so that past or present offenses are regarded as a scandal (a cause of unbelief). According to Pope Paul VI, "It is one of the major tenets of Catholic doctrine that man's response to God in faith must be free: no one therefore is to be forced to embrace the Christian faith against his own will."


Muslims are encouraged to proselytize for their religion, which the devout believe is the only path to salvation from hellfire. Most mainstream Muslim groups say that the Qur'an verse 2:256, which reads "Let there be no compulsion in religion" and furthermore "the apostate is threatened with punishment in the next world only," prevents Muslims from using violence to spread the religion.

During the Ummayad dynasty Muslim rulers imposed a Jizya (poll tax) on non-Muslims, something that some argue encouraged conversion. However, Muslims refer to the Zakat that every Muslim is obliged to pay as an indication that Muslims would still have to pay more tax than a non-Muslim, refuting the claim that the Jizya some how encouraged conversion. The Jizya also afforded the non-Muslims protection by the ruler and exemption form serving in the army.

Islam has missionaries, these are known as Dawah networks and encourage followers to learn about Islam. Since the arrival of Islam, Dawah networks and schools have travelled all over the world with the objective of garnering converts to Islam, places such as Indiamarker, present day Pakistanmarker, Malaysiamarker, Indonesiamarker, Russiamarker, Central Asia, parts of Africa the Balkans and Eurasia have all successfully garnered converts through these networks and schools. In the present day there are many Dawah schools which aim to gain more followers.

Bahai Faith

Though it actively seeks converts, the Bahá'í Faith prohibits proselytism and does not pursue "missionary" work. In sharing their Faith with others, Bahá'ís are cautioned to "obtain a hearing" – meaning to make sure the person they're proposing to teach is open to hearing what they have to say. "Bahá'í pioneers," rather than attempting to supplant the cultural underpinnings of the people in their adopted communities, are encouraged to integrate into the society and apply Bahá'í principles in living and working with their neighbors.

Bahá'ís recognize the divine origins of all revealed religion, and believe that these religions occurred sequentially as part of a Divine plan (see Progressive revelation), with each new revelation superseding and fulfilling that of its predecessors. Bahá'ís regard their own faith as the most recent (but not the last), and believe its teachings – which are centered around the principle of the oneness of humanity – are most suited to meeting the needs of a global community.

In most countries conversion is a simple matter of filling out a card stating a declaration of belief. This includes acknowledgement of Bahá'u'llah – the Founder of the Faith – as the Messenger of God for this age, awareness and acceptance of His teachings, and intention to be obedient to the institutions and laws He established.

Conversion to the Bahá'í Faith carries with it an explicit belief in the common foundation of all revealed religion, a commitment to the unity of mankind, and active service to the community at large, especially in areas that will foster unity and concord. Since the Bahá'í Faith has no clergy, converts to this Faith are encouraged to be active in all aspects of community life. Indeed, even a recent convert may be elected to serve on a Local Spiritual Assembly – the guiding Bahá'í institution at the community level.

Smaller Abrahamic religions

Many respected religious, legal, and scholarly sources explicitly include the Bahá'í Faith in the family of Abrahamic religions, while sometimes smaller religions are mentioned — Samaritanism, Yazidi, the Unification Church, and Rastafarianism. Restricting the members of the group to the large religions has been criticized. The Bahá'í Faith, which was founded within Islam, also asserts descent of its founder, Bahá'u'lláh, from Keturah and Sarah while also sharing many of the same commonalities of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. See for example God in the Bahá'í Faith, Progressive revelation, and Manifestation of God.

See also

Further reading

  • Freedman H. (trans.), and Simon, Maurice (ed.), Genesis Rabbah, Land of Israel, 5th Century. Reprinted in, e.g., Midrash Rabbah: Genesis, Volume II, London: The Soncino Press, 1983. ISBN 0-900689-38-2.
  • Guggenheimer, Heinrich W., Seder Olam: The rabbinic view of Biblical chronology, (trans., & ed.), Jason Aronson, Northvale NJ, 1998
  • Massignon, Louis, "Les trois prières d'Abraham, père di tuos les croyants", Dieu Vivant, 13, (1949) 20-23.
  • Reid, Barbara E., Choosing the Better Part?: Women in the Gospel of Luke, Liturgical Press, 1996
  • Scherman, Nosson, (ed.), Tanakh, Vol.I, The Torah, (Stone edition), Mesorah Publications, Ltd., New York, 2001
  • .


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