A Common Path: Historical Events in the Christian and Islam Perspective

Essay by mikeboss December 2009

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Both Christianity and Islam have been around for thousands of years. In fact, they share many other historical similarities beyond their age. Firstly, both have a similar creation story. Secondly, both have accounts of Jesus Christ. Finally, both religious groups were involved in the Crusades. Therefore, Christianity and Islam share an entwined history.

According to the creation stories associated with Islam and Christianity, this entwined history starts at the beginning of time. The creation story is found in the Old Testament in Christianity where it is stated that on the sixth day “the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array” (New International Version, Genesis 2:1). Similarly, the Qur’an, the Islamic bible, states, “Allah created the heavens and the earth, and all that is between them, in six days” (Qur’an 7:54). It is important to note that the word for day in Arabic, youm, does not denote a specific amount of time (Huda, 7).

In other words, a day could be twenty-four hours or could be thousands of years. Thus, though the Qur’an says the creation of the world took six youm this could be much longer than 144 hours. Some may argue that this is a key historical difference from the Christian belief that the world was created in a mere 144 hours. However, in the New Testament it is written that “[w]ith the Lord a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years are like a day” (New International Version, 2 Peter 3:8). Thus, both sources account for the fact that six days does not literally mean a specific amount of time. Most religions have some sort of creation story and the creation story associated with Christianity and Islam proves that their account of human history had an identical starting point. Nonetheless, the beginning of time was not then only point in history where Islam and Christianity intersected.

Though Islam was started hundreds of years after Christianity, Muslims still believe in Jesus, just as the Christians do.

One of the most important historical events that affected both Islam and Christianity was the Crusades. Starting in the eleventh century, Christians who fought in the Crusades to reclaim the Holy Land from the Muslims were granted indulgences by the Church (Mayer, 23). An indulgence was a form of payment for sins, by being granted one; people could reduce their or their relatives’ sentence in purgatory (Ibid). At this time in history, Christianity had spread throughout Europe whereas Islam spread throughout Asia. Kingdoms in both the East and West continued to expand and fight over land, especially the Holy Land. There were periods were Muslims and Christians co-existed in Jerusalem, however, from 1095-1272 the Christians staged nine Crusades in an attempt to win back the Holy Land as they believed that is what God wanted them to do (Ibid, 4). The main difference in the accounts of the Crusades between Christians and Muslims is that Muslims do not refer to the wars as the Crusades or even as wars; instead they are simply called the Frankish Invasions (Ibid, 72). To them, the Crusades were not a holy war; they were an invasion by a foreign people who massacred their civilians. One thing that both Western, Christian historians and Eastern, Islamic historians agree on is that Crusades solidified the divide between the East and the West (Ibid, 320). It is an old saying that history is written by the winners, since both the Muslims and the Christians deemed themselves the winners of these wars, it makes sense that both see each other as the evil enemy. Even though the description of the Crusades differs in Eastern and Western history, the fact remains that both see the other side as the evil foreigner.

For these reasons, Christianity and Islam share an intertwined history. To begin with, their description of the creation of the universe and humanity is identical. Furthermore, both recognize the existence of Jesus Christ. Moreover, in the Crusades, the two religious groups fought with one another over the Holy Land. Though Islam and Christianity seem very different from one another, their history tells another story. From a historical point of view they share many key events. Perhaps the other differences that people believe exist between these two religions, the reasons for Holy Wars and jihads, are not as major as people assume them to be. If they share a similar history, it is possible that other similarities exist too.

Works CitedHoly Bible. New International Version. Michigan: Zondervan Corporation, 1984.

Huda. “Islam – Creation of Humanity.” About.com. January 1, 2009. January 3 2009 < http://islam.about.com/od/creation/a/creation.htm>.

Mayer, Hans E. The Crusades. London: Oxford University Press, 1972.

The Qur'an: Translation. Trans. Abdullah Yusuf Ali. Elmhurst: Tahrike,2000.