How Emphasis and Vocabulary Can Lead to Misunderstanding in Religion





The Qur’an and the Bible are very much alike. While there are fundamental differences between Christianity and Islam, the common viewpoint that both religions and cultures are wholly alien is completely undeserved. In fact, with the huge amount of similarities between both faiths, the state of the relationship between the faithful of both religions is surprising, to say the least. The exalted place that Jesus holds in the Islamic faith and the large volume of common ground in both religions’ divine texts should be a source for agreement.

However, now more than ever, many Muslims and Christians consider each other mutual enemies.
This is despite the Christian admonition to love one’s neighbor, or the passages in the Qur’an that refer to Christians as “People of the Book”. Many religious scholars have rightly observed that one of the main causes for misunderstanding between both religions is simply a matter of differences in the vocabulary that is used and the emphasis that certain concepts receive in both faiths. Often, both religions are articulating the same point, but these elements give the impression that two different things are being said.

Islam places a higher emphasis on doing well, while Christianity focuses on having faith.

Often, Christians will extrapolate from the vocabulary that Muslims use that Muslims believe in earning salvation by doing good deeds rather than by having faith in the One True God.

Many times, the practice of the Hadith and of following Prophet Muhammad’s example has also given rise to the impression that Muslims are more concerned with outward actions than in an inner transformation. However, this is a misunderstanding, because Muslims understand that good deeds have absolutely no value if there is no faith behind them. Also, Muslims should not be motivated by legalism to follow the Prophet’s example, but by the love they have for God’s messenger.

In the same way, Muslims often believe that Christians are allowed to do absolutely anything they want and, regardless of their acts, believe that they can still achieve salvation.

Many Muslims seem to think that Christians believe that a whole amoral person can still enter Paradise merely by having faith. The Western media has also influenced the Muslim view of Christian’s morality, by usually focusing on those things that sell: violence and sex. However, the fundamental misunderstanding here is that real Christians do not sin precisely because of their faith and love for God – the very same God that Muslims worship. A temporal shortsightedness often causes adherents of both faiths to forget this fact, that they both worship the same God. That both religions call for many of the same actions, beliefs, and core values. It is important to look beyond our prejudices and truly try to understand what the other side is trying to say.

A Common Ground Between Islam And Christianity

The modern idea that Christians and Muslims have nothing in common would seem absurd to the founders of Islam. In the very beginnings of Islam, Muslims considered Christians as brothers and believers in the same God as them. However, today Christians tend to view Muslims with suspicion, with a preconceived idea of Islam as a violent religion that advocated bloody Jihad and is oppressive to its followers and non-Muslims alike. Meanwhile, many Muslims adhere to the ridiculous idea that Christianity is a permissive religion that allows its followers all manner of perversions, sinful behavior and blasphemy. This point of view is completely wrong and both religions are extremely similar in most of their tenets, especially since they both share much of the Old Testament. In fact, most of the differences that have grown between the followers of both religions are not due to the actual faiths but to social and cultural aspects and differences between the Western lifestyle and Arab traditions.



Even in the New Testament, there are many things that are quite similar between Christianity and Islam. In fact, many of the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad are extremely close to what was preached by the apostle and Christian saint Paul in the New Testament. The emphasis on the importance of faith and the urging for one to try to live a righteous life by doing no harm to others is quite evident in both cases. Both Christianity and Islam also place a marked importance on the concept of love, especially in God’s love for humanity. This concept of a benevolent God that loves his creation is a central part of both faiths. Islam and Christianity also share the belief in the afterlife and in eternal salvation, the belief in a kind of Paradise that is real and awaits those that have faith and live righteous lives.


A major point of discussion between both religions is what is needed to gain access to this paradise in the afterlife. Much of this discussion is moot, however, because both religions say the same things, although with a different emphasis. In this discussion is where many of the misunderstandings about both religions come about. Many followers of both religions fail to realize that both religions preach that both faith and good deeds are essential in achieving salvation. However, in Christianity there is quite a lot more weight on the faith than in good deeds. This is due to the historical circumstances, since Christianity was meant as a new way for the Jewish people to live their lives, away from pointless rule-following that tended to be the norm among many, the Pharisees being a typical example. In Islam, the emphasis is on doing good deeds, also due to historical circumstances. The religion was initially aimed at an Arab population that was still living in relative lawlessness in a tribal society. Rules were needed to create a functional and united Arab community. It is important to note that neither religion preaches that it is enough to have one without the other, faith in God or living a good life by doing good deeds. Both religions state clearly that having faith in God and living a good and righteous life are both needed when following the righteous path. Understanding this would go a long way towards clearing the more common misconceptions Muslims have about Christianity and Christians about Islam.

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