The three largest and oldest religions of the world are Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The history of the Hebrews and their relationship with God is told into the first books of the Bible, known as the Old Testament. The Ten Commandments, which are also followed by Christians, is a set of rules that forbid immoral conduct, such as stealing and murder. Both Islam and Christianity developed out of Judaism. All three religions believe in one God (monotheistic) Christianity later divided into Eastern Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism. Finally, in the Protestant Reformation of the 1500’s, Western Europe divided into Roman Catholicism and Protestantism. Islam emerged on the Arabian Peninsula. Within a hundred years, Islam controlled an area larger than the Roman Empire at its height.
Judaism is one of the oldest religions in the worlds. Based on the teachings found in the Torah, it is a monotheistic religion that states that Jews are the chosen people of God. This information is found in the Old Testament. Jews believe that God spoke to them through Moses who set down rules regarding ethical behavior, family relations and forms of worship. According the Old Testament, Moses led the ancient tribes from Egypt to the Promised Land where they would have their own kingdom. Despite two thousand years of discrimination and dispersal throughout Europe, North Africa and the Middle East, the Jews retained their common beliefs and ethnic and religious identity. Jews are classified into three different orders: Reform, Conservative and Orthodox. In Judaism Saturday is a holy day, and Jews are presumed to observe the traditional holidays such as Yom Kippur and Roshashanah. Many Jews believe that Palestine, located in the Middle East was promised to them by God and have established the Jewish nation of Israel in that place. However, this nationalistic movement where Jews unite to form a nation is called Zionism. From Judaism sprang Christianity and then Islam.
Christianity is a religion based on the teachings and divinity of Jesus Christ. Developed in the Middle East, this monotheistic religion traveled north and west and is the common religion of Europe and the Americas. Devout Christians believe in the eternal life of Jesus Christ as the Son of God who was sent to Earth to spread His teachings. In the scriptures or the Gospel, it is said that Jesus was crucified for his beliefs and miraculously ascended into heaven. Christianity has two main divisions: Protestantism and Catholicism. Around the 16th century, many priests and devout Catholics detected corruption in the church. The emergence of Martin Luther, and the Reformation (reform within the church and its institutions) initiated this separation. The protestant reformation was aided really by the printing press. Luther’s 95 thesis and his other writings quickly spread throughout Northern Europe. Much of Northern Europe in the 1500’s broke away from the Catholic Church and formed their own denominations of Christianity. All Christians and Protestants believe that those who are baptized, believe in God, and follow the teachings of Christianity will live a life after death in heaven. They accept the Bible as the holy book of Christianity.
Islam is a religion fundamentally based on the teachings of Muhammad. This is the dominant religion of the Middle East, many parts of Southern Asia, southeastern Europe, and Northern Africa. Followers of Islam are known as Muslims. Islam is a monotheistic religion and declares that Muhammad is the prophet of the one true God. Muslims follow the sacred texts of the Koran, which is equivalent to the Bible and the Old testaments of the Jews and Christians. Muslims are expected to follow the Five Pillars of Wisdom that include faith in Allah, daily prayer, charity, fasting during the holiday of Ramadan, and making a pilgrimage to Mecca, at least once in their lifetime. A religious movement that focuses on a literal interpretation of religious texts and strict adherence to religious doctrines and customs of the Koran is Islamic fundamentalism. Islamic fundamentalism is on the rise in much of Middle East. Women in traditional Islamic society have a much inferior status. Though women have legal rights and may own and inherit property, men are taught by the Koran to provide hem with direction and protection. In fundamentalist areas, women are kept in seclusion in the home. Similar to the religion of Christianity, Muslims can be classified into two religious groups: Shiites and Sunnis.
Palaganas, Patrick “The Birth of Islam” 1992