Judaism and Islam: Similar in their Paths toward Salvation
Whether it was their common descent from Abraham or a shared geographical region, Islam and Judaism have more fundamental similarities than differences in many of their written religious traditions, including the human quest. Through conducting a comparative scriptural analysis of the Hebrew Bible and the Islamic Quran, the human quest,entailing paths to salvation, and enlightenment, are very similar for both Muslims and Jewish people. In the Judaic scriptures, salvation means fulfilling the covenant with God, while in Islamic scriptures salvation means submitting to Allah. Although their meaning of salvation differs, their paths towards salvation are the same. Each path toward salvation entails participating in regular prayer, and conducting regular acts of good deeds.
In the Jewish Bible the human quest of the Jewish people is to fulfill the covenant that God made with the Jewish people. For example, in chapter 29 in the Book of Deuteronomy it says that God will punish those who “abandon the covenant,” by devastating their land. Therefore, fulfilling the covenant means pleasing a nationalistic deity which will reward its followers by providing good land. A similar message is in the next chapter,
"For I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess…Now choose life, so that you and your children may live."
This statement reinforces the idea of prospering in a good land as a reward and as an incentive for fulfilling salvation. The reward is to receive the land and gain a prosperous people, but the inventive is to continue acting accordingly to maintain the covenant. But, it also acknowledges the idea of free will, in that an individual has the choice to keep God’s commands. If an individual chooses the correct option, God will reward that individual. Chapter five from the Book of Amos states behavioral means to fulfilling the covenant with God. As it is written, “For I know how many are your offenses and how great your sins…Seek good, not evil, that you may live. Then the LORD God Almighty will be with you, just as you say he is.” God is portrayed as an omnipotent and omniscient entity which encourages good deeds. Therefore, the means of salvation in Judaism is to believe in God, to act justly and to do good deeds.
In the Quran, the human quest of Muslims is to submit to Allah. As in the Hebrew Bible, the scriptures in the Quran also entail a nationalistic deity which will reward those individuals who choose to believe in Allah with a Muslim nation. As it is written in Surah 24,
"Allah has promised to those among you who believe and work righteous deeds that He will of a surety grant them in the land inheritance (of power) as He grated it to those before them; that He will establish in authority their religion the one which He has chosen for them; and that He will change (their state) after the fear in which they (lived) to one of security and peace: ‘They will worship Me (alone) and not associate aught with Me.’ If any do reject faith after this they are rebellious and wicked."
This excerpt explains that those who believe in Allah and do good deeds will be granted a Muslim nation. As in the Book of Deuteronomy, this Surah of the Quran acknowledges the notion of free will. Those who follow the means to salvation, or choose to participate in the correct belief, pray regularly and donate to charity will achieve submission to Allah. This can also be inferred from Surah 31,
"Those who establish regular Prayer and give regular Charity and have (in their hearts) the assurance of the Hereafter. These are on (true) guidance from their Lord; and these are the ones who will prosper….For those who believe and work righteous deeds there will be Gardens of Bliss."
Both scriptures in Judaism and Islam convey the idea that salvation includes some type of identity with a land, whether it be a nation or paradise.
In both scriptures, enlightenment comes from faith in God. In the second chapter of the Book of Ecclesiastes from the Hebrew Bible, there is a verse titled, “Everything is Meaningless.” While this seems pessimistic, the content encourages individuals to shy away from earthly pleasures, such as materialism and money, since enlightenment and true value comes from knowing God. As it is written,
"A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment? To the man who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over the one who pleases God. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind."
The reference to wealth in this passage invokes the notion of value. Things in and of themselves do not have a value. The author of this passage is telling individuals that faith in God gives meaning because earthly pleasures do not have a purpose without this relationship. The Quran contains the same message. In Surah 54 it is written, “Desire nothing but the life of this world, Allah is everywhere and knows everything.” Again, earthly desires are discouraged since true satisfaction is in submission to God. In Surah 103, it says, “Faith gives a more positive outlook on life.” Just as faith gives the Jews meaning, faith gives the Muslim optimism.
In doing a comparative scriptural analysis, perhaps the most striking similarity is that salvation is only achieved in both religions by individuals practicing strict monotheism. In Christianity, for example, although Christians identify as monotheists, Jewish people and Muslims would not consider this to be true since worshippers revere the Holy Trinity consisting of God, the Holy Ghost, and Jesus. In Surah 98 of the Quran it says, “Those who reject truth among the people of the book and among the polytheists will be in hell fire to dwell therein for aye. They are the worst of creatures.” This illustrates the level of strict monotheism in Islam, which is also seen in Judaism.
Judaic scriptures strongly discourage worshipping idols, or any other God. Chapter 29 of in the Book of Deuteronomy from the Hebrew Bible says, “Make sure there is no man or woman, clan or tribe among you today whose heart turns away from the LORD our God to go and worship the gods of those nations, make sure there is no root among you that produces such a bitter person.” In both the Hebrew Bible and the Quran, God and Allah are written as omnipresent, omnipotent, and omniscient entities-and the only entity. In both scriptures, only those who worship God, or Allah, alone are eligible to reach salvation.
The most salient difference between the paths to salvation in Islam and Judaism is that salvation for the Jews in fulfilling the covenant is a group achievement while salvation for the Muslims in submitting to Allah is a personal achievement. Muslims take it upon themselves as individuals to ensure they submit to Allah. There is an individual punishment for those who choose not to submit to Allah, like not being admitted into a heavenly kingdom. But, Jews, on the other hand, take it upon themselves as a group to not introduce idols into the religion and to uphold the Ten Commandments since punishment will affect every other Jew and the generations to come since they will be punished into exile without a homeland.
In the Islamic means to salvation, Muslims must take it upon themselves to individually uphold the Five Pillars of Islam, which include many of the same behavioral standards as the Jewish people to reach salvation. Each path toward salvation entails praying regularly to only God, or Allah, and regularly doing good deeds. While the Quran specifically includes charity and the Hebrew Bible does not, charity is a good deed. The means to achieve salvation is the same in Islam and Judaism.