Proceeding straight on from the Red Fort in New Delhi one runs into no less than five religious buildings, belonging to five different religions: a temple devoted to Jainism, a shrine belonging to Sikhs, a Hindu temple, a mosque, and a Baptist church. Who, then, is to question that human beings are basically religious, man quintessentially being a homo religious, constitutionally bound to ask fundamental philosophical questions like ‘’Where does everything come from?’’ ‘’What is the purpose of all this?’’ ‘’How will everything end?’’
The answers given to such truly primitive, i.e. primeval and foundational, questions by wise men and women crystallized as religions. And each of them developed its own particular world view, spiritually, ethics and rites as well as art with specific aesthetics. In short: Through tying man to GOD (religare in Latin), ultimate Reality and primary uncaused Causality of everything, religions became cultural factors as well; most turned into complex civilizations.
Religions adhered to by billions are considered ‘world religions’. Today this is the case with Confucianism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity and Islam. Given its global disseminations, the Mosaic faith is considered a world religion, too, although the number of Jews is limited to a few million. Islam became a world religion on both counts: Muslims now number 1.3 billion, and as of the 20th century their presence has become universal.
The Monotheistic Religion: Islam
One can divide all religions into two groups: Indo-Germanic ones (called Aryan in India) and others (called non-Aryan in India)
The first of these two groups can be divided,in turn,into ancient India religions of Vedic origin- like Hinduism and Brahmanism -and into non-Vedic origin-like Hinduism and Brahmanism- and into non-Vedic ones –like Buddhism,Jainism,Sikhism, and Zoroastrianism.
The non-Indo Germanic religions can as well be sub-divided: into Semitics ones –like Judaism, Christianity and Islam –and non-Semitic ones –like Confucianism, Taoism and Shintoism.
What sets the three Semitic world Religions apart is their concept of a personal God and the fact that they are basing religious convictions not on ancient myths or philosophical speculations but on revealed scriptures.
The far-eastern religions, unfamiliar with a personal concept of God, are supportive of a pantheistic-monistic interpretation of Reality. According to Indian mystical traditions Reality is understood as a cyclical cosmic process or as non-personal polarized energy: Everything is God.
In practice, however, Far-eastern religions either tended to degenerate into polytheism (like Hindu) or non-religious techniques for coping with life (like Buddhism).
In contrast, the Semitic religions are supportive of a dualistic-monotheistic interpretation of Reality: One single God and His creation. In Semitic thought God is understood as a self-conscious, intelligent person, self-subsistent and independent of His creation: Everything belongs to God.
Judaism, Christendom and Islam, all three, in this order founded in the Middle East, are the three monotheistic world religions in as much as they all focus on the ways and means of communicating with God.
Whether the Jewish people arrived at monotheism first and in fully independent fashion is, however, questioned by Egyptologists because during the 18th dynasty Pharaoh Amenhotep 4th (better known as Ikhnaton, husband of Nofretete) had already introduced, through the worship of Aton, a (short lived) monotheistic cult.(1350-1334 BCE)
The Ibrahimic Religion: Islam
The core faith of the three monotheistic religions historically goes back to a common religious ancestor: Abraham (Ibrahim in Arabic) who in the Qur’an [Āli `Imrān 3:65-68] is called a Muslim in the original sense of being submitted to Allah.
Muslims feel ontologically connected with all people who believe in God, their common Creator. But their Abrahimic linkage with Jews and Christians, in the Qur’an called Ahl al-Kitab (People of the Book), goes far beyond that. Islam is indeed the only existing religion which explicitly incorporates previous scriptural revelations. Thus Islam adopted the supreme traits of the Jewish faith-belief in God’s Justice-and of the Christian faith –belief in God’s love.
This being said, Muslims only see their own belief in Oneness of Allah (at-tawhid) as crystal clear and untainted. From an Islamic perspective, the Jewish Notion to belonging to a Chosen People privileged by Allah and that on a biological basis is incompatible with Allah’s Justice and Compassion for mankind as a whole [Al-Mā’idah5:18; Al-Jumu`ah62:6].For Muslims equally unacceptable is the Jewish idea of being partner with God of a bilateral treaty, so-called Covenant: it clashes with Allah being the Exalted, Sovereign, Supreme, and Absolute who rewards whom He wills and punishes whom He wills.
In turn, Muslims also reject the Christian concept of God, conditioned as it is by the construct that man, suffering from a Hereditary Sin, was in need of ‘Salvation’ that could only be won through the sacrifice of God incarnate, i.e. Jesus, His divine son. The idea that a human being -and be it a prophet- could be ‘Consubstantial’ with God was adopted as ecclesiastical dogma by the First Ecumenical Council in Nicaea, in 325
CE, is considered by Muslims as mere Gnostic speculation. In its 112th Surah, al-Ihklas, the Qur’an makes short shrift with any Notion of incarnation:
1-Say: ‘’He is the one God:
2-Allah the Eternal, the Uncaused Cause of all Being
3-He begets not, and neither is He begotten
4-and there is nothing that could be compared with Him.’’
By the same token, Muslims consider the Christian construct of Trinity as a serious modification of the Muslim belief in strict and unadulterated monotheism. The doctrine of the Oneness of Allah (at-tawhid) plays such a central role in Islam that the first part of the (two-part) Muslim declaration of faith (ash-shahada) reads ‘’I give witness that there is no god but Allah ‘’ (ashhaduan la ilahailla Allah)