When the roles and impacts of the three most dominant religions are viewed in regard to social and political realities over history, a remarkable fact emerges. Even as the varying faiths have been used to support conflicts and wars, there exists a number of important similarities between them, and to the extent that it may be argued that all three faiths represent the same values and tenets dictating human behavior and worship. These faiths uniformly assert the belief of God as the ultimate power, are monotheistic, and hold to the presences of sacred history, divine revelation, angels, and Satan. Moreover: “All stress moral responsibility and accountability, Judgment Day, and eternal reward and punishment” (Esposito, 2012). Peace is also central to each faith, despite the Muslim belief that the Old and New Testaments are corrupted versions of the Quran. It is then seen that the three great faiths are based on significantly similar values.
Without question, each faith also regards its own Scripture – the Bible, the New Testament, and the Quran – as the definitive statement defining the conduct and roles of the human being in relation to the creator, or God (Peters, 2010, p. 4). This in turn relates to the chief commonality between the religions. The Bible, New Testament, and Quran all hold to the prominence of Abraham as a great prophet, and each text emphasizes the concept of chosenness; the Christian, Jew, and Muslim are, respectively, singled out by God to adhere to the “true” faith and enjoy God’s favor (Ma’oz, 2009, pp. 19-21). It is as well important to note that Jesus and the Virgin Mary are cited more times in the Quran than in the New Testament (Esposito).
There is as well another critical similarity between the three faiths; namely, that each is subject to interpretation by its adherents in different eras. The ways in which Muslims live with the Quran, and Christians and Jews perceive their respective Bibles, change over the years, as exegesis is believed to reveal new meaning in each instance (Vroom, Gort, 1997, p. 7). Each religion, in other words, has undergone change as succeeding eras have reinterpreted its essential purpose.
Regarding changes in the three faiths concerning the roles of women, it seems that the most extreme forms of worship in all reflect, even today, the belief that women must be subservient to men, and in greater need of spiritual guidance and authority. For example, orthodox Christians have an ambiguous relationship with Muslims, in that they simultaneously seek to convert them to the Christian God, yet also sympathize with many of their tenets, which includes the belief that there are “proper tasks” for women typically based on the woman’s obligations to bear children and behave with modesty (Vroom, Gort, p. 239). Nonetheless, ambiguity regarding gender roles is evident in Islam and Christianity; in the latter, Paul asserts that, in Christ, there is no male or female, just as the first Muslim was Muhammed’s wife Khadijah. With Judaism, male authority over women has been emphasized from the origins of the faith (O’Brien, 2008, p. 709). This, however, has been modified over the centuries, and the three faiths then also share shifting and/or unclear ideas of the woman’s stature as dictated by belief.
Ultimately, the role of women in the three faiths is today in a state of flux. All three are rooted in the idea of a masculine God, just as they reflect patriarchal social norms. At the same times, changes in social and cultural development, as well as the impact of globalization and international interaction, have generated a greater emphasis on gender equality within Christianity, Judaism, and Islam (O’Brien, p. 709). Consequently, the three religions are further united by how social and political movements such as feminism influence the ways in which Scripture is interpreted in relation to women.
- Esposito, J. L. (22 Feb. 2012). How is Islam Similar to Christianity and Judaism? Retrieved 2 Oct. 2015 from http://www.islamicity.org/4654/how-is-islam-similar- to-christianity-and-judaism/
- Ma’oz, M. (2009). The Meeting of Civilizations: Muslim, Christian, and Jewish. Eastbourne, UK: Sussex Academy Press.
- O’Brien, J. (Ed.) (2008). Encyclopedia of Gender and Society. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.
- Peters, F. E. (2010). The Children of Abraham: Judaism, Christianity, Islam. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
- Vroom, H. M., & Gort, J. D. (1997). Holy Scriptures in Judaism, Christianity and Islam: Hermeneutics, Values and Society. Atlanta: Rodopi.