Islam 101: Botched Comparisons to Christianity
In my first post in this series, I broke down the basic, bare-bones definitions regarding Islam. In the comments, I compared a Muslim who doesn't believe that Islam is submitting to Allah's will to a Christian who doesn't believe in Jesus: they might exist, but they're pretty far from the mainstream.
In Western countries, it's easy to try to draw comparisons between Islam and Christianity in order to attempt to understand the latter faith. After all, much of Western culture's understanding of religions stems from Christianity or, at the very least, is seen through a Christian lens. However, most of these comparisons could be made more precisely.
Muhammad in Islam is not the equivalent of Jesus in Christianity.
Christ is who gives Christianity its name; the fact that Muhammad's name is not part of the name of the religion he founded (unless you're an archaic-term-loving type) is significant. While Muslims are deservedly well-known for how they get up in arms (literally) over any perceived insult to the man, Muhammad is not the path to salvation for a Muslim. Belief in Jesus is what "saves" Christians. In the same way, it is sincere belief in the oneness of Allah (tawheed) that is most important in Islam, followed very closely by adherence to the Quran. On that note…
The Quran is far more important to Muslims than the Bible is to Christians.
Islam is a textually-based religion. Muslims take incredible pride in the (questionable) notion that the Quran has been kept in its original form since Muhammad brought it about. Unlike with the Bible in Christianity, where Christians see it as the word of God through inspired men, the Quran is considered to be Allah's direct word. There are Muslims who doubt what Muhammad was alleged to have said and there are Muslims who claim that religious practice is not as important as becoming closer to Allah, but you'd be hard-pressed to find any Muslim seriously claim that the Quran should be ignored. On the other hand, many Christians believe that Jesus's word and practice supercede anything said in the Bible, especially the Old Testament.
Love, at least as Christians understand the term, is not Islam's focus.
It is striking that this video refers to "Islamic love" in its description. Intentionally or not, the tagline plays into the notion that religions are about love, a notion mostly derived from understandings of Christianity. In many versions of Christianity, the focus is on loving and being loved, accepting and being accepted by Jesus. God is called "Our Father in Heaven" and forgiveness plays a prominent role. While Allah is said to love all creation in Islam and Muslims are ordered to love Allah more than anything else, the role of that love is far less, for a lack of a better term, mushy. The love is focused on respect and adherence; a Muslim proves her or his love of Allah through actions and is rewarded with Allah's love and blessings in return.
In a way, these differences in a deity's love mirror the differences in parental love between, broadly speaking, Western and Eastern culture. In the latter, a child is expected to show respect through obedience and be rewarded with parental pride and love, which in the former, unconditional love and acceptance are considered of utmost importance.