A SURVEY OF MAJOR FAITHS
To fully appreciate the religion of Islam and to be
able to explain its excellences to other people, Muslims
must learn something about the beliefs, traditions and
history of the world's other major faiths.
An important aspect of modern research in the area
of religion has been the application of comparative
methods of inquiry. Under this system of investigation,
one compares the beliefs, modes of worship, ethical
and moral codes, social directives, and the philosophies
of two different religions. Since most of us are quite
familiar with at least one religion, we can appreciate
the concepts and tenets of another religion when compared
with our own.
But, unfortunately, a study of comparative religions
frequently deteriorates into a study of competitive
religions. In most such studies the student learns little
about the other faith except how ridiculous it is. And
this is not the purpose of true learning.
Ahmadi Muslims believe that at the root of all major
religions is the process of revelation. It is through
this process that spiritual knowledge and wisdom is
given to man by God. The knowledge thus received is
considered to be the most authentic and truest form
of learning. The founders of all major religions have
either explicitly claimed to have received revelation,
or their lives clearly demonstrate this fact.
While there are many aspects of earlier religions which
became outdated with time due to man's continuing progress
in the fields of social behaviour, technological achievements
and religion: philosophy, there are certain wisdoms
expressed in all religions which are "everlasting"
and of universal appeal. These gems of wisdom have an
uncanny ability to survive the vagaries of time and
could be unearthed even in the ruins of some of the
oldest faiths on earth. For that reason, selected words
of wisdom taken from their sacred books have been included
under each religion.
CLASSIFICATION OF RELIGIONS
As we mentioned at the beginning of this book, there
are about ten major religions in the world. In alphabetical
order, these are: Buddhism, Christianity, Confucianism,
Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, Judaism, Shinto, Taoism and
Zoroastrianism. Although Sikhism is not considered a
major religion or a revealed faith, it is included in
this section for the benefit of the reader.
To simplify the study of comparative religions, the
scholars classify these faiths into various categories
based on certain criteria. For example, on the basis
of geographic origin, the world's major religions may
be classified as follows:
Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism, which originated in
Confucianism and Taoism, which originated in China
Shinto, which originated in Japan
Zoroastrianism, which originated in Iran
Judaism, Christianity and Islam, which originated in
the Near East.
Another criterion that can be used in classifying these
religions is their ethnic aspect. Some religions have
appeal to their own people and are, therefore, called
ethnic. Preaching to outsiders and conversions in these
ethnic faiths have always been uncommon. Other faiths
claim to be of more universal: appeal, have been vigorous
in missionary work and have actively sought conversions.
Following is the division of the world's major religions
into these two classes:
Ethnic Religions Missionary Religions
Another classification of these religions is based
on the relative importance of "prophecy" in
these faiths. Religions in which prophecy has been demonstrated
to have played an important role are called "Religions
of Prophecy" while all other faiths are called
"Religions of Wisdom". On this basis, the
major religions could be divided into:
Religions of Prophecy Religions of Wisdom
Muslims believe that God sent His messengers to all
the nations in the world. For this reason, Muslims should
carry out any comparative religious study with due objectivity
and proper consideration for the convictions of others.
Muslims should realize that for many people a religion
is not simply a rational set of beliefs and worships
but also a way of life in which loyalty to one's country,
ancestors, traditions and culture, all play an important
role. Muslims, therefore, should treat the religions
of other people with great respect and strongly refrain
from ridiculing them in any way.
Now, one by one, we will study the major religions
of the world. We will study their essential beliefs,
modes of worship and philosophy of fife, and will frequently
quote words of wisdom from their sacred Scriptures.
In each case, brief comparisons will be made with the
religion of Islam. The treatment of the world's major
religions in this section is intended to be informative
and educational rather than competitive and contentious.
It is hoped that the student will benefit from this
Some Basic Facts:
Name The word "Hindu" is the Persian word
for Indus, the
river along which the ancient Indus Valley civilization
flourished. Hindus themselves prefer to speak of their
Religion as Sanatan Dharm or the True Teachings.
Founder Hinduism has no known founder. Also, the followers
of Hinduism do not recognize any "prophets"
their religious tradition. Non Hindu scholars believe
that personages such as Krishna and Ram Chandra
were Hindu prophets.
Place of Origin India
Sacred Books The Hindu sacred literature is divided
into two kinds: the Sruti or revealed and Smrti or remembered.
The Sruti or revealed literature
Rig Veda lyric hymns to various deities
Santa Veda hymns in reference to the Soma sacrifice
Yajur Veda sacrificial prayers Atharva Veda incantations
Brahmanas commentaries of the Vedas and concerned with
ritual and prayer
Upanishads philosophical and speculative texts dealing
with Brahman and Aatman
Smrti or remembered literature
Mahabharata epic literature of the third century BC.
Ascribed to the sage Vyasa. The hero of the epic is
the avatar Krishna. This epic contains the famous Bhagavad-Gita
or the Song of the Lord.
Ramayana epic literature of the second century BC and
ascribed to the saint Valmiki. It narrates the life
of the avatar Rama.
Puranas devotional texts dealing with religious
practices, mythology and cosmogony.
Sacred Places City of Varanisi or Banaras, on the Ganges.
Allahbad, where Ganges and Jamna meet. Vrindaban
Festivals Holi a spring festival associated with
Divali the Feast of Lights, an autumn festival
Dasehra a ten day festival celebrating Rama's
battle against Ravana
The word Hinduism covers a large number of indigenous
faiths that developed and flourished in the Indian subcontinent,
over the past four thousand years. On the lowest level,
these faiths include the most primitive type of animism
and, on the highest level, a rarefied monism.
The Hindu religion is very old, diverse, and evolved
considerably over the first 1,000 to 1,500 years of
its existence. Due to its great antiquity, a great deal
of mythology got incorporated with the wisdom and philosophical
The history of the Hindu religion dates back to the
arrival of the Indo Aryans in India around 1500 BC.
The word "Aryan" is a linguistic term indicating
a speech group of Indo European origin and is not an
ethnic term. The arrival of the Indo Aryans coincided
with the decline of the Indus Valley civilization which
had existed in India since 3000 BC. The Indo Aryans
came from the region of the Caspian Sea and the southern
Russian steppes. They entered north India through the
passes in the Hindu Kush mountains.
The Indo Aryans brought many beliefs with them. Over
the centuries the beliefs of the Aryans mixed with those
of the local Dravidian people giving rise to what is
known today as Hinduism.
Essential Beliefs Of Hinduism
Without any attempt to rank them in their order of
importance, following are the essential Hindu beliefs:
1. The Hindu Triad
The central belief of Hinduism is that there is One
Universal Spirit called Brahman which has no beginning
or end. In Bhagavad-Gita, the Song of the Lord, we find
the following description of the Supreme Spirit:
"I am He by Whom the worlds were created and shall
be dissolved ... There is nothing higher than Me...
The whole world is pervaded by Me, yet My form is not
seen. All living things have their being in Me, yet
I am not limited by them... 1, the Supreme Self, am
the cause and upholder of all. Under My guidance, Nature
produces all things movable and immovable ... I am the
Father of the universe and its Mother. I am its Nourisher.
I am the Knowable and the Pure .... I am the Goal, the
Sustainer, the Lord, the Witness, the Home, the Shelter,
the Lover and the Origin. I am Life and Death; I am
the Fountain and the Seed Imperishable.
"I am the Source of all; from Me everything flows.
The Supreme Spirit, the Eternal Home, the Holiest of
the Holy, the Eternal Divine Self, the Primal God, the
Unborn and the Omnipresent. The Source and Master of
all beings, the Lord of Lords, the Ruler of the universe.
"Could a thousand suns blaze forth together it
would be but a faint reflection of the radiance of the
Lord God. He is the Light of lights, beyond the reach
of darkness; the Wisdom, the only thing that is worth
"The aspects of My divine life are endless. Whatever
is glorious, excellent, beautiful and mighty, be assured
that it comes from a fragment of My splendour"
In the Hindu religious philosophy, Brahman, the Supreme
Spirit, has three main attributes or manifestations
which are identified as:
o Brahma, the Creator
o Vishnu, the Preserver
o Shiva, the Destroyer
Because of these three main attributes or forms of
Brahman, He is also called Trimurti or the Three in
One God. Besides Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, there are
many other attributes of Brahman which are all symbolized
in the Hindu religion as "gods".
Brahman is the Absolute, impersonal World Soul Who
cannot be known without its various manifestations which
then become the personal deities. Different groups of
Hindus worship Brahma or Vishnu or Shiva as their personal
Hindus believe that at the end of each cycle of creation,
called a "Day of Brahma", Shiva destroys the
old world, Brahma creates a new one and Vishnu appears
on earth in various forms or incarnations called "avatars".
With this "usual belief in the Brahman on one
hand and in its various manifestations on the other,
Hinduism is at once a monotheism and a polytheism.
According to Hindu belief there are ten avatars or
incarnations of Vishnu:
1. Matsya, the fish
2. Kurma, the tortoise
3. Varaha, the boar
4. Nara Simha, the man lion
5. Vamana, the dwarf
6. Parusha Rama, Rama with an axe
7. Rama Chandra, the hero of the Ramayana epic
8. Krishna, the main character in the Bhagavad-Gita
9. Buddha, the founder of Buddhism
10. Kalki, the tenth avatar who is yet to come
3. World Is Eternal
Hindus believe that the world is part of a beginingless
and endless process which follows fixed cycles known
as the Days of Brahma. Each day of the Brahma lasts
for four and a half billion years.
4. The Soul is Eternal
Hindus believe that the souls have existed from time
immemorial and are not necessarily created by Brahma.
5. The Law of Dharma
Very simply, this is the Law of Moral Order or right
conduct. According to this law each person has his own
dharma which depends upon his own race, caste or family.
Although dharmas of various people may be different
according to their station in society, they all lead
to the same objective: reunion with Brahman, the World
6. The Caste System
Hinduism is the only religion in the world that believes
in a caste system. Under this system people are assigned
certain specific functions and duties in the society.
The four castes recognized under
this system. are:
Brahmins the priests, philosophers and holy people dedicated
to the study of the sacred books. Brahmins belong
to the highest caste.
Kshatriyas engage in military and governmental activities.
They represent the upper middle class.
Vaisyas the tradesmen, merchants, farmers and Indus
Shudras these carry out menial jobs in the society and
essential purpose is to serve the other three castes.
Samsara is the endless cycle of birth and rebirth through
which each soul goes until it attains liberation. This
concept of reincarnation applies to the individual as
well as the universe.
8. The Law of Karma
According to this law every action produces its inevitable
result so that the conditions of each rebirth are determined
by the acts performed during the previous life. Under
this law, "From good must come good; and from evil,
9. Moksha or Salvation
Salvation is achieved in Hinduism when the soul is
finally released from its continuous process of birth
and rebirth and becomes one with Brahman, the World
Hindu Acts Of Worship
In Hinduism, there are many ways and methods to achieve
religious objectives. There is the way of penance and
the way of sacrifice. There are the ways of meditation,
of devotion, of renunciation and of religious acts.
There are no specific practices or creeds that are
held essential in Hinduism and there are many forms
of religious worship in this faith:
These are devotional rituals that are performed three
times a day: at dawn, at midday and in the evening.
These rituals begin by bathing oneself in the morning
and include meditation, making of offerings and uttering
Puja, which literally means worship, involves the paying
of respect to the god. The Hindu gods are invariably
in the form of idols. These idols are usually kept in
the temple but may also be kept at home. The idol or
statue of the god is the symbol of divine presence to
the Hindus. The Hindu worship is seldom congregational
and is largely individual. Certain rituals are followed
during the puja both at home and in the temple.
Katha is the communal worship and involves recitations
from the Scriptures.
Yoga is the general name for certain disciplines which,
the Hindus believe, should be followed to achieve the
state of "nirvana" or enlightenment. These
disciplines are extremely ancient and are considered
necessary to gain complete control of one's emotions
and morals. It is through the yogas that the Hindus
try to identify with the Brahman.
In the Hindu religion certain rituals are performed
which relate to the various stages of one's life. These
name giving ceremony
shaving of the child's head initiation into the caste
post cremation ceremonies
The pilgrimages are a very important aspect of Hindu
religion. There are local, regional and national pilgrimage
sites across India. The objectives of performing these
pilgrimages are manifold: for salvation, for absolution
of sins, for worship, for experiencing the divine, for
obtaining relief from illness or for receiving some
other specific blessings.
The Philosophy Of Life In Hinduism
risk of over simplification, we could reduce the Hindu
philosophy of life to four basic objectives:
(i) Dharma: The acquisition of religious knowledge
through right conduct and right living
(u) Artha: The lawful making of wealth
(iii) Karma: The satisfaction of human needs and desires
covering the entire lifetime
(iv) Moksha: The quest for liberation and salvation.
Wisdom Of Hinduism
Below is a sampling of some of the wisdom of Hinduism
taken from its sacred books:
"The end and beginnings of beings are unknown.
We see only the intervening forms. Then what cause is
there for grief"
"Sacrifice is the noblest form of action"
"All action originates in the Supreme Being"
"Neither in this world, nor elsewhere, is there
any happiness in store for the one who always doubts"
"In sorrows not dejected, in joys not over joyed;
outside the stress of passion, fear and anger, steadfastly
calm in lofty contemplation; such a one is the wise
"Be not overglad attaining joy, and be not oversad
"That man alone is wise who remains master of
"Do your earthly duty free from desire, and you
shall well perform your heavenly purpose"
"If you were the worst of all wrong doers, the
ship of truth would bear you safe across the sea of
"Four sorts of mortals know Me; he who weeps,
the man who desires to know, he who toils to help, and
he who is sure about Me"
"Whoever offers Me in faith and love a leaf, a
flower, a fruit, or water poured froth, that offering
made lovingly with pious will, I accept"
"Those who worship Me with love, I love; they
are in Me and I in them"
"Be certain that none can perish, trusting Me"
"Passion binds by toilsome strain; but ignorance,
which shuts the beams of wisdom, binds the soul to sloth"
"The doors of hell are threefold, through which
men to ruin pass: the door of lust, the door of wrath,
and the door of avarice"
"The faith of each believer conforms itself to
what he truly is"
"Religion shown in acts of proud display is rash
Below, we will try to compare the various beliefs and
acts of worship of Hinduism with their counterparts
(i) Concept of God
Hinduism, with its belief in One Supreme God called
Brahman, is basically a monotheistic religion. But the
symbolization of the various attributes of Brahman into
different deities turns this fundamental monotheism
into a kind of polytheism. Furthermore, the concept
of One God is not central to Hinduism as it is with
the religion of Islam. In Islam, God is One and no manifestations
of God exist in any form.
(ii) Inequality of people
With its institutionalized caste system, Hinduism advocates
a strong inequality among people. This caste system
is unique to this religion and nothing similar to it
can be found in the other major religions of the world.
It is conceivable that the caste system originated in
ancient India essentially to bring certain order to
the society and to allocate different duties to the
people. With time, this social order could have become
ingrained in the Hindu society and eventually became
a source of considerable sorrow to the people in the
The Hindu philosophy of reincarnation is obviously
based on intellectual speculation regarding the nature
of death and what happens to the soul afterwards. Belief
in reincarnation also exists in two other faiths of
Indian origin: Buddhism and Jainism. In Islam, the death
in this life leads to resurrection on the Day of Judgment
and then an everlasting life afterwards in a spiritual
Because of its belief in reincarnation, Hindu concept
of salvation is concerned with release from this endless
cycle of births and rebirths. In Islam the concept of
salvation relates to the receiving of God's pleasure
and nearness on the Day of Judgment.
(v) The Worshiping of Idols
Although the Hindus worship idols, they do not believe
that the statues themselves have any powers. To them
the idols are mere representations of gods and help
to create the proper mood for prayer. Other religions,
such as Judaism, Zoroastrianism and Islam, consider
this representation of divine existence into various
statues, a rather primitive action and attribute it
to the great antiquity of this religion. In Islam, all
worship is performed to the One Invisible God and no
representations of any nature are permitted.
(vi) The Hindu Sacred Books
The Hindus perhaps have the most extensive sacred literature
of any religion in the world. But, because of their
great antiquity, it is difficult to assign the various
books to their original authors. Also, much of the sacred
texts relate to intellectual speculation, a field that
is continually challenged by man's increasing knowledge.
How much of this sacred literature is the product of
revelation and how much owes to human interpolation,
is a question difficult to answer with any certainty.
There is great wisdom in the Vedas to elicit the view
that they were originally revealed. With the passage
of time they could have easily suffered at the human
hand, much like the sacred texts of many other religions.
As regards authenticity, the Holy Quran is the only
sacred book in the world today which has remained unchanged
since it was first compiled during the lifetime of the
(vii) The Hindu Avatars
The avatar in Hinduism is perhaps the closest thing
to the prophet in the Near Eastern faiths. Although
the Hindus believe that the various avatars such as
Rama Chandra and Krishna were manifestations of the
god Vishnu, to the outsiders these avatars appear to
be sages, saints or prophets who, because of the great
reverence by the followers, were elevated to their divine
status. Muslims believe that Rama Chandra and Krishna
were indeed prophets of God, much like Moses, Jesus
BUDDHISM: Some Basic Facts
Name The religion is named after Gautama Buddha
Founder Siddhartha Gautama Buddha (560 480 BC)
Place of origin India
Sacred Books Tripitaka the Three Baskets of Wisdom,
accepted by Mahayana branch
Pali Canon accepted by Hinayana or Theravada
Sacred Places There is no one sacred place for all
the Buddhists of the world. Pilgrimages are usually
carried out in individual countries to local shrines
and historic places.
Festivals Perahera a festival held in August
Wesak (Kason) a festival in May celebrating
Buddhism was founded in India in the sixth century
BC, at a time when the people of India had become disillusioned
with the Hindu caste system and certain other Vedic
The founder of this new faith was Siddhartha Gautama
who was a Hindu prince living in northern India. At
a very young age, he became deeply affected by the great
suffering and pain that existed in the world. He left
his family, renounced his princely status and went out
searching for the answers to these problems. He wandered
from place to place in search of wisdom when, suddenly,
he received enlightenment. Since that day he has been
known as the Buddha or the Enlightened One.
Buddha lived for about eighty years and taught his
new found wisdom all over India. For the next thousand
years or so, Buddhism spread very rapidly in India and
south east Asia. In every country, Buddhism adapted
itself to the local conditions and absorbed many of
the local beliefs and rituals. Over the years, many
sects developed in Buddhism, two of which are very important:
Mahayana, or Greater Vehicle of Salvation, and
Hinayana (also called Theravada), or Lesser Vehicle
The Mahayana Buddhism is currently practiced in eastern
Asia including China, Japan, Korea and Vietnam. Hinayana
Buddhism is dominant in southern Asia including Sri
Lanka, Burma, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand. A relatively
minor sect, known as Northern Buddhism, flourishes in
Tibet, Mongolia and the Himalayas.
Initially, Buddhism started as a reform movement within
Hinduism but eventually became an independent religion.
Buddhism was the first missionary religion of the world
where the followers of Buddha carried this faith to
other countries and peoples with a strong sense of universal
mission. Buddhism shares a number of beliefs with the
traditional Hinduism such as the doctrine of reincarnation
and the Law of Karma. The main differences between the
two faiths originate from the rejection by Buddhism
of the Hindu caste system, of the authenticity of the
Vedas, and of the belief that an individual soul must
be united with the World Soul or Brahman. To many Hindus,
Buddha still remains the ninth avatar or incarnation
of their god Vishnu.
Essential Beliefs Of Buddhism
Following are the essential beliefs of Buddhism as
the religion exists today:
1. From good must come good, and from evil must come
evil (this is the Hindu Law of Karma).
2. Prayers and sacrifices to the gods are useless.
3. The Vedas are not sacred books.
4. The world always was and always will be.
5. Brahma did not create the caste system.
6. The aim of life is not pleasure or happiness but
the end of individual existence through the practice
of the Ten Perfections.
7. He who attains perfect wisdom enters nirvana, and
is freed from the endless chain of births and rebirths.
In addition to the above, the Buddhists believe in
the Four Noble Truths:
According to the First Noble Truth, there are many
kinds of sufferings in this world including old age,
illness, death, failure, separation, etc.
According to the Second Noble Truth, the cause of all
these sufferings is the human desire which grasps for
the wrong things.
According to the Third Noble Truth, all human suffering
can be dissolved by getting rid of the human desire.
According to the Fourth Noble Truth, the desire can
be rid of by following the Eightfold Path.
The Eightfold Path
1. Right Belief
2. Right Resolve
3. Right Speech
4. Right Behaviour
5. Right Occupation
6. Right Effort
7. Right Contemplation
8. Right Concentration
The Buddhist DO's and DON'T's:
Among the extensive codes of Buddhism are the Ten Commandments
and the Ten Perfections.
The Buddhist Ten Commandments:
1. Do not destroy life
2. Do not take what is not given to you
3. Do not commit adultery
4. Tell no lies and do not deceive anyone
5. Do not become intoxicated
6. Eat moderately
7. Do not watch dancing or plays nor listen to singing
8. Wear no garlands, perfumes or ornaments
9. Do not sleep in luxurious beds
10. Do not accept any gold or silver.
The Buddhist Ten Perfections:
1. Giving (in charity)
2. Duty (religious and worldly)
3. Renunciation (from worldly pleasure)
4. Insight (and wisdom)
8. Resolution (in all undertakings)
9. Loving kindness (towards friends and enemies alike)
10. Serenity (towards joy and sorrow).
The Worship In Buddhism
Worship is not considered extremely important in Buddhism
and varies a great deal between Mahayana and Hinayana
branches. Some forms of Buddhist worship are noted below:
(i) Relic Worship: Actual and symbolic relics of Buddha
are worshiped by the followers by prostration, chanting
and making offerings.
(ii) Meditation: Meditation is the main religious activity
in which the individual attempts to control his self
and tries to achieve nirvana.
(iii) Paritta: This involves chanting of discourses
from the sacred Pali books. This chanting may be done
at special events such as death, illness, danger or
when embarking upon a new activity.
Buddhist Philosophy Of Life
Buddha strongly preached his followers to follow what
he called the "Middle Way". He told them to
avoid both extremes. One extreme is to indulge in the
pleasures and comforts of this material world and the
other extreme is to starve oneself, go without sleep
or inflict self punishment.
In the Buddhist philosophy of life, man can overcome
the suffering in this world by controlling his desires
and following the Eightfold Path. When man obtains perfect
wisdom and masters his emotions and his self, he gains
salvation and is ready for the final reward, that is
Nirvana, in the Buddhist religion, is not only the
blissful state in which all suffering ceases, but it
also marks the release of the soul from the endless
cycle of birth and rebirth.
The Wisdom Of Buddhism
Following are some of the sayings taken from the Buddhist
sacred book, Tripitaka:
o "A man who conquers himself is the greater conqueror
than the one who battles against a million men"
o "Hatred is not diminished by hatred, but by
o "The evildoer mourns in this world, and he mourns
in the next"
o "Few there are among men who arrive at the other
shore; most of them run up and down this shore"
o "An evil deed, like freshly drawn milk, does
not turn sour at once"
o "The scent of flowers does not travel against
the wind; but the fragrance of good people travels even
against the wind"
o "Not in the sky, nor in the midst of the sea,
nor in the clefts of the mountains, nor in the whole
world is there a spot where a man could avoid death"
o "The fool wishes for precedence among the monks,
for lordship in the monasteries, for honour among other
o "Without knowledge there is no meditation, without
meditation there is no knowledge"
o "All created things perish"
o "No suffering befalls the man who calls nothing
o "He whose evil deeds are covered by good deeds
brightens up the world, like the moon freed from clouds"
o "No amount of effort can purify a man who has
not overcome his doubts"
o "There is no fire like passion; there is no
evil like hatred; there is no pain like this body; there
is no happiness greater than peace"
"You yourself must make the effort; the Buddhas
are only teachers"
As we mentioned earlier, Buddhism started essentially
as a reform movement within Hinduism. Gradually, however,
Buddhism started to diverge away from Hinduism and reverence
for Buddha increased so much that he began to be portrayed
by his followers as a semi divine and, ultimately, as
a celestial being.
Buddhism maintains belief in the process of reincarnation
and the Law of Karma, as understood by the Hindus. Buddhism,
however, rejects the Hindu caste system and the authenticity
of the Vedas.
Buddhism of today places little emphasis on the concept
of God. But then Buddhism has changed so much to adapt
itself to the local conditions in the various countries,
that it is almost impossible to ascertain with any great
deal of accuracy what its original teachings used to
be in this respect.
Buddhism is at once a philosophy of fife and a practical
discipline. Although Buddhism lacks a well developed
spiritual philosophy, it is an extremely humanistic
religion and has found great popularity among the people
in the western countries. What people find attractive
in this religion is its great tolerance, its high moral
and ethical standards, its relatively bloodless history
and its concept of nirvana.
JAINISM: Some Basic Facts
Name Jainism means "Religion of the Conquerors"
Founder Prince Vardhamana, known to his followers as
the Great Hero (540 468 BC)
Place of Origin India
Sacred Books Siddhanta (of the "sky clad"
Jains) Angas (of the "white clad" Jains)
Festivals Pajjasama, a festival held for eight days
at the close
of the Jain year.
Divali, originally a Hindu festival but celebrated by
the Jains in honour of Mahavira.
The Jain religion was founded by Prince Vardhamana
who lived in northern India from 540 to 468 BC. He was
a contemporary of Buddha and, like him, was born into
a Hindu family and studied Hindu religion in his early
years. Prince Vardhamana was given the title of Mahavira
by his followers which means the Great Hero. The followers
of this religion are called Jains, meaning Conquerors
who had conquered their own selves.
While both Buddhism and Jainism rebelled against the
Hindu caste system and the authority of the Vedas, they
both accepted Hinduism's Law of Karma and the belief
in Reincarnation and Nirvana. But at this point the
two new faiths parted company. Buddhism followed the
"Middle Way" of moderation while Jainism followed
the way of self denial and asceticism.
There are only about three million Jains living today,
almost all in India. But these followers have retained
a degree of influence out of proportion to their numbers
and the Jain philosophy has played an important role
in the history of Indian religions.
Essential Beliefs of Jainism
The two essential beliefs in Jainism which set this
religion apart from traditional Hinduism or contemporary
Buddhism, relate to the conquering of one's self and
the sanctity of all living things.
1. Conquest of Self
In Jainism, the self can only be conquered by self
denial, renunciation of worldly pleasures, asceticism
and giving up of all desires and ambitions.
2. Principle of Ahimsa
By far the most important tenet of Jainism is the principle
of Ahimsa or "non injury". The Jains accord
great reverence to all living things and killing of
any form of life is strictly forbidden.
3. The Law of Karma
Jainism believes in the Hindu Law of Karma that from
good must come good and from evil, evil. The Law also
determines the conditions of each rebirth according
to the acts performed in the previous life.
Jainism also believes in the Hindu principle of Samsara
or the endless cycle of births and rebirths. This process
of reincarnation continues till the soul finally attains
Moksha or salvation in Jainism can only be achieved
by the conquest of one's own self and by practicing
the principle of Ahimsa.
The Does and Don'ts In Jainism
There are five important commandments in Jainism:
Do not kill or hurt any living thing
Do not steal
Do not lie
Do not covet or desire anything
Do not live an unchaste life.
Do not become intoxicated
The Worship In Jain Religion
The Jains worship many Hindu gods and also their own
saints. Jains believe that Mahavira was the 24th saint
and that twenty three saints had passed away before
him. Jain temples are filled with images of these twenty
four saints called Tirthankaras, who are the object
of worship by the followers.
Aside from the temple worship, Jains spend about an
hour every day in unbroken meditation in which they
try to be at peace with the world and contemplate on
spiritual heights. If possible, this meditation is carried
out three times a day, in the morning, afternoon and
The Jains also devote their time to temporary monkish
living at least six times a month. The Jains have a
well developed ethical system in which gambling, eating
of meat, drinking, adultery, hunting, stealing and speaking
ill of others, are strongly forbidden.
Similarly the concept of charity is a very important
part of the Jain religion and is widely practiced. In
fact the religion demands that at least one act of charity
be carried out each day. Jains today are very active
in promoting public welfare and building schools and
Jain Philosophy of Life
The Jains believe in the principle of Samsara, the
endless cycle of births and rebirths. According to Jains
it happens only rarely that a soul is born in the human
body. Man, therefore, should use every opportunity to
obtain moksha or salvation. The path to achieving salvation
lies in acquiring the Three Jewels:
o Right Knowledge
o Right Faith
o Right Conduct
Right knowledge comes through knowing the Jain principles,
right faith through believing in them and the right
conduct through following them.
The Wisdom Of Jainism
o "All living things hate pain; therefore do not
o "No man should seek fame and respect by his
o "There are three ways of committing sin: by
our actions, by authorizing others, and by approval"
o "Knowing the truth one should live up to it"
o "A blind man, though he may carry a light, still
does not see"
o "A man should treat all creatures in the world
as he himself would like to be treated"
o "He who is carried away by passion will not
get very far"
Jainism, very much like Buddhism, developed as an offshoot
of the Hindu religion. It maintained many of the Hindu
beliefs such as Samsara, Karma and Nirvana. The only
two beliefs that are new to Jainism relate to extreme
self denial and the sanctity of life. Basically, both
these concepts exist in the other major religions of
the world but are not taken to the degree practiced
in Jainism. Islam and the other religions also de emphasize
worldly pleasures and comforts but do not go to the
extreme of giving them up completely. Similarly, all
religions teach sanctity of human life and kindness
to animals but do not carry this teaching to such extremes
that one is forced to give up ploughing the land for
fear of killing the rodents or insects. Although the
principle of Ahimsa, as taught by Jainism, is not really
practicable, it has highlighted the fact that all living
things suffer pain and should not be needlessly hurt.
THE SIKH RELIGION: Some Basic Facts
Name The word Sikh means a disciple
Founder The Sikhs regard Baba Nanak as the founder
faith. History, however, shows that the Sikh religion
its present form was founded by later successors of
Baba Nanak. Baba Nanak lived from 1469 to 1539 AD
Place of Origin Punjab, North India
Sacred Books Guru Granth
The Sikh movement started in India as a small group
of devoted disciples who gathered around the saintly
person of Baba Nanak. Baba Nanak was a contemporary
of Babar, the first Moghul Emperor of India, and was
born in April 1469 AD, in a village called Nankana Sahib,
not far from Lahore. Although born in a Hindu family,
he was disillusioned by the Hindu caste system, the
power of the Brahmin priests, and the custom of "sati"
in which the widows were burned on the funeral pyre
of their husbands.
There is considerable evidence in historical records
that Baba Nanak embraced Islam, used to perform the
Islamic rituals and undertook the pilgrimage to Mecca.
These records also point to the fact that Baba Nanak
did not found any new religion. Over the years his disciples
and successors, however, did form a new identity and
a religion for themselves.
After the death of Baba Nanak, there came a succession
of nine Gurus (teachers) who formalized the teachings
of the various Gurus, organized the Sikhs into a proper
community and implemented the various social institutions
found among the Sikhs today. Below are given the names
of the various Sikh Gurus, their periods and the periods
of their guruship
1. Guru Nanak 1469 1539
2. Guru Angad 1504 1552 (Guru 1539 1552)
3. Guru Amar Das 1479 1574 (Guru 1552 1574)
4. Guru Ram Das 1534 1581 (Guru 1574 1581)
5. Guru Arjan 1563 1606 (Guru 1581 1606)
6. Guru Har Gobind 1595 1644 (Guru 1606 1644)
7. Guru Har Rai 1630 1661 (Guru 1644 1661)
8. Guru Har Krishna 1656 1664 (Guru 1661 1664)
9. Guru Tegh Bahadur 1621 1675 (Guru 1664 1675)
10. Guru Gobind Singh 1666 1708 (Guru 1675 1708)
Excluding the period of Baba Nanak, the period of the
nine successors lasted 169 years.
These Gurus served as the spiritual and temporal heads
of the Sikh community. Each Guru was nominated by his
predecessor on the basis of his spiritual ability and
worthiness. But, starting with the Fourth Guru, the
office became hereditary in the line of his male descendants.
Each of the Gurus contributed something which helped
Guru Nanak taught the Unity and love of God
Guru Amar Des established the "langar" or
communal eating facility which helped significantly
in fostering the bonds of mutual brotherhood
Guru Ram Das initiated the building of the city of
Guru Arjan established a number of other Sikh towns
in Punjab and built the now famous Hari Mandir, or the
Golden Temple, at Amritsar. It was during the time of
this Fifth Guru that confrontations with the Muslims
started. Guru Arjan died while in Muslim custody and
gave the Sikhs their first martyr.
Guru Har Gobind, Guru Har Rai and Guru Har Krishna
the sixth, seventh and eighth Gurus did not make any
significant contribution to the Sikh religion and spent
most of their efforts in militarily organizing the Sikh
Guru Tegh Bahadur was the surviving son of Guru Har
Gobind. During his period, Moghul King Aurangzeb was
actively pursuing the policy of Islamization in India.
Guru Tegh Bahadur opposed many of the Emperor's policies.
The Guru was imprisoned and later executed and is revered
by the Sikhs as a great martyr.
Guru Gobind Singh was the tenth and the last Guru of
the Sikhs. He took up the office at the age of nine
and for the next 33 years consolidated the military
power of the Sikhs, leading them against the Islamic
powers with considerable success. In fact most of the
visible aspects of the Sikh community today owe their
origin to Guru Gobind Singh. He gave them the name of
"Khalsa" meaning the Pure. The male members
of the community were given the title of Singh (lion),
and the females that of Kaur (princess). He also introduced
the five symbols for the Sikhs known commonly as the
five K's. These are:
o Kesh (uncut hair)
o Kangha (comb)
o Kirpan (sword)
o Kara (steel bangle)
o Kach (shorts)
Guru Gobind Singh's four sons were all killed during
his lifetime. When the Tenth Guru himself was lying
on his deathbed, he told the Sikh community that from
then on no more human Gurus will appear and that their
sacred scriptures, the Granth, would be their Guru.
That is why the Sikhs call their sacred book Guru Granth.
Essential Beliefs Of The Sikh Faith
I. The most important belief of the Sikh religion concerns
the Unity of God. God is One, the Creator of all things,
existing from beginning and the source of all man's
2. Man can become one with God only by walking on the
path of the Gurus. By sincere worship and meditation,
the Sikhs believe, one can experience God.
3. The sacred book, Guru Granth, can lead the followers
to find God and salvation. No more religious leaders
are necessary after the Granth was declared the Guru
of the Sikhs.
4. Salvation results with a love union with God. Until
this union takes place, individuals may go through many
reincarnations. This principle of reincarnation is taken
It should be noted that Guru Granth does not present
the Sikh beliefs in any systematic manner. The Granth
emphasizes the stimulating aspects of its teachings
on the human heart, to love God.
Worship In The Sikh Religion
The focal point of all Sikh worship is the Guru Granth.
In the gurdwara, the Sikh place of worship, the Sikhs
sing hymns from the scriptures and members of the congregation
give readings and expositions from the Granth. No weekly
holy day is observed by the Sikhs.
Although the Sikhs reject the symbolization of God
by idols, the paintings of Baba Nanak are highly revered
and displayed prominently in the Gurdwara.
In their homes, the Sikhs recite various shabads or
verses from the Granth. The most important of these
is Guru Nanak's Japji which is recited silently by the
Sikhs every morning. Below are given some selected verses
from this Japji to give the reader some idea of the
fundamental beliefs of this religion:
o "There is One God whose name is true, the Creator.
Devoid of fear and enmity, Immortal, Unborn, Self Existent
o "The True One was in the beginning; the True
One was in the primal age
o "The True One is now also, O Nanak; the True
One also will be
o "The hunger of the hungry for God diminishes
not though they obtain the load of the worlds
o "If man should have hundred thousand devices,
even one would not assist him in finding God
o "How shall man become true before God? How shall
the veil of falsehood be rent?
o "By walking, O Nanak, according to the Will
of the Commander as ordained
o "Bodies are produced by His order; His order
cannot be described
o "By His order souls are infused into bodies;
by His order greatness is obtained
o "By His order men are high or low; by His order
they obtain predestined pain or pleasure
o "By His order some obtain their reward; by His
order others wander in transmigration
o "All are subject to His order; none escapes
from it. He who understands God's order, O Nanak, is
never guilty of egoism
o "Who can sing His power? Who has power to sing
it? "Who can sing His gifts or know His signs?
"Who can sing His attributes, His greatness, His
deeds?"Who can sing His knowledge whose study is
laborious? "Who can sing Him, Who fashions the
body and then destroys it?"Who can sing Him, Who
takes away life and then restores it? "Who can
sing Him, Who appears to be far, but is actually so
"Who can sing Him, Who is All Seeing and Omnipresent?"In
describing Him there would be no end"
The Sikhs claim that Baba Nanak founded their faith
which, they profess is distinct from either Hinduism
or Islam. Historical records, however, prove that Baba
Nanak, who was born and raised in a Hindu family, later
accepted Islam. Also, many of the shabads of the Granth
are simply Gurmukhi renderings of the Quranic verses.
Similarly, the concept of God presented in the Granth
is exactly the same as given in the Quran. Many of God's
attributes mentioned in the Granth are again translations
of the Quranic attributes of God.
It is for this reason that many western scholars of
religion do not regard Sikhism as an independent religion
but an offshoot of Islam.
The Ahmadis believe, and this belief is borne out by
ample historical evidence, that Baba Nanak was a Muslim
saint and a mystic who was greatly affected by the general
lack of education and awakening in his agrarian community
in the Punjab. His teachings were directed essentially
at his own people and that is the reason why Sikhism
later developed as a strongly ethnic religion.
The beliefs and modes of worship of Sikh religion were
greatly influenced by the surrounding Hindu tradition
and environment. The principle of reincarnation, prostrating
in front of the Granth, and the use of Baba Nanak's
portraits in the gurdwara, are a few examples.
CONFUCIANISM: Some Basic Facts
Name Religion named after Confucius, the founder
Founder Ch'iu K'ung, who was known to his followers
K'ung-fu-tse (K'ung the Philosopher). This was
changed in the western countries to Confucius.
Period: 551 -479 BC.
Place of Origin: China
Sacred Books The Five Kings:
Yi K'ing (The Book of Changes)
Shu K'ing (The Book of Annals)
K'ing Shih (The Book of Poetry)
Li K'ing (The Book of Ceremonies)
Ch 'un Ch 'in (The Book of History)
Lu Yu (The Book of Analects). This book contains Confucius'
sayings and was compiled after his death.
Confucianism is a Chinese religion founded by Confucius
who lived from 551 to 479 BC, around the same time that
Mahavira and Buddha were founding two new faiths in
India. The real name of Confucius was Ch'iu K'ung but
his followers used to call him K'ung-fu-tse meaning
K'ung the Philosopher. This, over the years, got simplified
to Confucius in the western countries.
Although Confucius accepted the traditional concept
of God and the Divine Law, his teachings mostly emphasized
ethics, wisdom, governmental system, regard for justice
and the value of tradition. Confucius was a great teacher
and he traveled throughout China, teaching and preaching
his philosophy and his system of ethics. He laid great
emphasis on the seeking of knowledge and the need to
question anything that was ambiguous, until the ambiguity
The Teachings Of Confucius
The teachings of Confucius can be condensed into six
principles and five virtues. These are given below:
The Six Principles of Confucius
1. Human nature is good and evil is unnatural.
2. Man is free to choose his conduct as he wills.
3. Virtue is its own reward. Doing good for a reward
or avoiding evil for fear of punishments, is not virtue.
4. The rule for behaviour is: what you do not want
others to do to you, do not do to them.
5. A man has five duties: to his ruler, to his father,
to his wife (and she to him), to his elder brother,
and to his friend.
6. Man should strive to become a superior man.
Five Constant Virtues taught by Confucius
1. Benevolence, which is to think of other people first
2. Righteousness, which is not to do to others which
you would not want them to do to you
3. Propriety, which is to behave with respect and courtesy
4. Wisdom, which is to be guided by knowledge and understanding
5. Sincerity, which is to be sincere, truthful and
honest in all your actions
The Wisdom of Confucius
Following are some of the sayings of Confucius which
have been selected from the Book of Analects:
o "He who does not recognize the existence of
a Divine Law cannot be a superior man"
o "Repay kindness with kindness, and enmity with
o "Men of superior mind first get down to the
root of things; then the right course is open to them"
o "To prize the efforts above the prize, that
o "Do not wish for speedy results nor trivial
o "The superior man will be agreeable even when
he disagrees; the inferior man will be disagreeable
even when he agrees"
o "The superior man seeks what is right, the inferior
one what is profitable"
o "A good man is neither liked by everybody nor
disliked by everybody. He is liked by all the good people
and disliked by the bad"
o "Do not set before others what you yourself
do not like"
o "In a good country, people speak out boldly
and act boldly'
o "When you have erred, be not afraid to correct
o "We know so little about life, how can we then
know about death"
o "To see what is right and not do it, that is
o "Only the supremely wise and the abysmally ignorant
do not change"
o "When you know a thing, maintain you know it;
when you do not, acknowledge it. This is the characteristic
o "Let there be three men walking together, and
in them I will be sure to find my instructors"
o "One should not be greatly concerned at not
being in office, but rather about the requirements in
one's self for that office"
o "The superior man is slow to promise, but prompt
The Chinese religions have developed so differently
from the Near Eastern or Indian religions that a proper
or valid comparison is difficult to make. While most
major religions emphasize the spiritual aspects of man's
life, Chinese religions emphasize only the moral and
The moral and ethical teachings of the Chinese religions
are quite comprehensive. It is in the area of spiritual
philosophy and man's relationship with God that these
faiths fall short. The Chinese religions lack the intellectual
speculation of the Indian faiths and the spirituality
of the Near Eastern religions. For this reason many
Chinese people practice the teachings of Confucianism
but try to seek salvation in Buddhism.
TAOISM: Some Basic Facts
Name The religion derives its name from the Chinese
Tao meaning The Way. Note that Taoism is
pronounced as dowism
Founder Lao tze (604 524 BC)
Place of Origin China
Sacred Books Tao Teh King
Festivals Chinese New Year
Chio, the festival of cosmic renewal
Very little is known about the life of the founder
of Taoism except that he was known to his followers
as Lao tze, meaning the Old Philosopher. Lao tze was
a contemporary of Confucius and about fifty years his
senior. There are historical records indicating that
the two had met more than once. Lao tze lived in that
golden century of religious awakening when four new
religions were being founded in the world: two in India
and two in China.
The teachings of Taoism are completely different from
Confucianism or from any other major religion. Tao teachings
are highly metaphysical and lend themselves to such
a variety of interpretation that one doesn't really
know for sure what Lao tze intended them to mean.
The teachings of Lao tze, as they are available today,
lack in theology, social laws and institutions. The
religion emphasizes living naturally and ethically but
not necessarily spiritually.
Very early in its life, this religion branched into
two movements: one purely philosophical and the other,
religious. As a philosophy Taoism moved towards naturalism
while as a religion it deteriorated into superstitious
beliefs and occult practices. The followers of Taoism
started worshiping nature gods along with Lao tze and
many other gods borrowed from Buddhism.
Over the years, Buddhism exerted great influence on
the development of Taoist beliefs and acts of worship.
Since Taoism lacked a formalized or systematic mode
of worship, Buddhism promptly filled this vacuum.
Although Taoism is not a major religious order in China
today, it has continued to influence the thinking and
ethical standards of the Chinese people who still try
to seek mystic and philosophical wonders in the teachings
of the Tao sacred book, Tao Teh King.
Most Taoists today worship Buddhist gods, make offerings
to their ancestors, and follow many other Buddhist rites
and ceremonies. They also believe in spirits both good
The Wisdom Of Taoism
Following are some of the selected sayings from Tao
Teh King, the sacred book of Taoism:
o "Nameless are the origins of all creation"
o "The wise man wears a coarse garment, but carries
a jewel in his heart"
o "The way of heaven is impartial; but it favours
o "Absence of desires brings tranquility"
o "A thousand mile journey can be made one step
at a time"
o "He who conquers others is strong, he who conquers
his own will is mighty"
o "The world is lost to those who try to win it"
o "Everything difficult can be dealt with while
it is still easy"
o "In serving Heaven and in ruling men, use moderation"
o "To the good I would be good, and to the bad
I would be good"
o "The more prohibitions, the more poverty; the
more laws, the more crimes;
the more weapons, the more chaos"
o "Sincere words are not fine, fine words are
o "The wise reject all extremes"
o "The way of Tao is to recompense injury with
o "Little faith is put in those who have little
o "The value of an act is judged by its timing"
o "Get rid of your preachers and discard your
teachers and the people will benefit a hundred times"
o "If you trust people not enough, they may trust
you not at all"
SHINTO: Some Basic Facts
Name Shinto is the Chinese rendering of the Japanese
word Kami no Michi which means the Way of the gods.
Founder There is no specific founder of this religion
which is largely based on Japanese traditions and mythology
Place of Origin Japan
Sacred Books Kojiki (Records of Ancient Writings),
assembled in 712 AD
Nihongi assembled in 720 AD
Sacred Places Ise, east of Osaka, main island of Honshu.
Izumo, north of Hiroshima, island of Honshu
Festivals Gion festival in Kyoto
Takayama festival in the Hida region
Chichibu festival in the mountains north west of Tokyo
The Japanese religion Shinto is not considered to be
a revealed religion by the scholars and historians.
Although some fundamental ideas of this religion date
as far back as 600 BC, the religion was organized into
a systematic set of beliefs and worships around 350
to 550 AD.
One important reason for the organization of this national
religion was to meet the challenge of the two imported
religions: Buddhism from Korea and Confucianism from
China. Over the years, Shinto and Buddhism intermingled
so much in the Japanese society that today many Japanese
would declare themselves to be both, Shintoist and Buddhist.
It is very common for a Japanese to have a Shinto wedding
and a Buddhist funeral.
In the Japanese mythology, the islands of Japan were
created by two gods, Izangi and Izanami, who then descended
from heaven to populate them. The first emperor of Japan
is said to have descended from these two gods. The roots
of the Japanese religion, therefore, lie in animism
a belief that supernatural forces reside in natural
objects such as animals, trees and mountains.
The central concept in the Shinto religion is that
of Kami. Kami is a general term of respect for something
holy and awesome. According to the Japanese, spiritual
forces may reside in people, animals, trees, mountains
or other objects. The Japanese appease to these forces
by revering or worshiping these objects and respectfully
call them Kami.
In rare cases, a living person may be regarded as a
Kami. The Japanese believe that a god may take possession
of a person's soul and use him as a medium to speak
the words of the god. This is the closest thing to the
Shinto concept of a prophet.
The Beliefs Of Shinto
Although the Shinto religion has no revealed commandments,
it has a fairly well developed code of ethics and social
behaviour. The basic beliefs of the Shinto faith could
be summarized in the five tenets given below:
1. To be courageous, loyal and to observe cleanliness
2. That the Japanese race originated from two gods names
Izangi and lzanami
3. That life is good
4. That the world reveals itself in beauty
5. That the deeds are more important than arguments
The Shinto DO's and DON'T's
There are two sects of Shinto which have developed
formal decalogues or Ten Commandments.
The ten DO's of the Shinshu Kyo sect are:
1. Worship the great deities of Shinto
2. Pacify your spirit
3. Practice the Way of the gods
4. Revere the divine origin of the state
5. Be loyal to the ruler
6. Be zealous in your duty towards your parents
7. Be kind to others
8. Be diligent in business
9. Be steadfast
10. Cleanse away the rust of your body
The ten DONT's of the Shinri Kyo sect are:
1. Do not transgress the will of the gods
2. Do not forget your obligations to the ancestors
3. Do not transgress the decrees of the state
4. Do not forget the great goodness of the gods which
removes misfortune and sickness
5. Do not forget that the world is one great family
6. Do not forget the limitations of your own person
7. Do not become angry
8. Do not be lazy in your business
9. Do not cause dishonour to the teachings
10. Do not be carried away by foreign teaching
Worship In The Shinto Religion
Much of Shinto worship is an individual matter. Usually,
before undertaking a journey, or an examination, or
a new venture, a Shintoist will visit the shrine to
appease the gods.
The concept of the shrine is very important in the
Shinto religion. In the Japanese language the word for
shrine means spiritual dwelling place of a god. It is
very common for a shrine to enshrine a different deity.
The deities of Shinto are not supernatural beings or
gods, but rather the spiritualization of ordinary natural
The shrines are generally located at places of natural
beauty such as mountain tops. Inside the shrine is a
large trough of clean water for the worshiper to perform
ablution. The worshiper then performs a short prayer
in the worship hall of the shrine.
In the Shinto religion, ancestor worship has an important
place. In Shinto philosophy, man can only exist in this
world by receiving the blood of countless ages of ancestors.
These ancestors, therefore, must not be forgotten. Reverence
and worship of ancestors is one of the fundamental principles
of the Shinto faith.
Wisdom Of Shinto
o "All men are brothers"
o "When prayer fails to help you accomplish your
purpose, know that something is lacking in your sincerity"
o "Do not profess love with your lips while you
harbour hatred in your heart"
o "One should not be mindful of suffering in his
own life and unmindful of suffering in the lives of
o "In all the world there is no such thing as
The Shinto religion is an "unfounded" religion
in the sense that it cannot be traced to any known founder
and appears to have evolved from ancient Japanese folk
While the ethical system of the Shinto faith is reasonably
well developed, its spiritual philosophy is very primitive.
The religion revolves around nature worship and is highly
disinterested in intellectual and philosophical speculation.
Among the major religions of the world, the Shinto
religion comes closest to Hinduism. Both have a rich
blend of tradition and mythology and both lack a known
founder. But while most Hindu beliefs are a result of
intellectual curiosity and philosophical speculation,
Shinto beliefs appear primitive and superstitious by
comparison. While Hindu triad has its basis in Brahman,
the One God, there is no such concept of One Supreme
Being in the Shinto religion, not at least in the way
the faith exists today.
The Shinto religion is an ethnic faith; it is meant
for the people of Japan only. Until very recently, the
Shinto religion demanded complete loyalty to the King
of Japan. The Japanese monarchy is a hereditary institution,
existing in the same family for 124 generations since
Emperor Jimmu, the first Emperor of Japan. The Japanese
Emperor is also the high priest of the Shinto religion.
Today, Shinto is more of a Japanese culture or a way
of life than a true religion.
ZOROASTRIANISM: Some Basic Facts
Name Religion named after the founder, Zoroaster
Founder Zarathustra, called Zoroaster by the Greeks
Place of Origin Steppe lands to the east of the Caspian
Sacred Books Zend Avesta (The Law and Commentaries)
Sacred Places Yazd and Kerman, in Iran;
Udwada, in India
Muktad the festival of all souls
Khordad Sal celebration marking the birth of
Zarthosht no diso celebration marking the death of
Zoroaster was born in the area east of the Caspian
Sea. At the time of his birth this area was in north
east Persia, but now it lies in southern USSR. The Indo
Iranian race living in that part of the world used to
worship many nature gods such as the Rain god, the Sun
god, the Fertility god, and so on.
According to legend, Zoroaster used to meditate a great
deal. One time he went up to the top of Mount Sabalan
to live in isolation. There, in a flash of enlightenment,
he found what he was seeking:
"From good must come good; and from evil, evil"
The good cannot create evil, and the evil cannot create
According to Zoroastrianism, there are two forces in
the world: one is the Wise Lord (Ahura Mazda), and the
other is the Destructive Spirit (Angra Mainyu). The
two great forces or beings have no contact with each
other. Men must choose between the two spirits because
there can't be any compromise. Ahura Mazda is the Supreme
God in the Zoroastrian religion and, therefore, worthy
of absolute worship.
The Zoroastrians believe that Zoroaster was a prophet
through whom the Divine revelation was given to mankind.
Zoroaster forbade the worship of idols and instead instituted
the worship of Ahura Mazda, the Wise Lord. He also told
the people that on a Day of Judgment, good will overcome
History Of Zoroastrianism
The first 1,000 years of Zoroastrian religion are shrouded
in mystery. Persia at the time was just emerging out
of the stone age and writing was not known to the people.
No records, therefore, exist of this early period.
Then in 599 BC, Cyrus came to power in a small Persian
kingdom and, in a matter of twenty years, conquered
all of Persia and the mighty Babylonian Empire. After
the fall of Babylon, Cyrus allowed the Jews to return
to their homeland. These Jews had been exiled since
Babylon conquered the southern kingdom of Judah in 586
BC, during the time of Prophet Jeremiah.
Cyrus founded the Achaemenid dynasty which ruled the
greatest empire the world had then known. He adopted
Zoroastrianism as the state religion, spreading it in
the entire kingdom. Some of the great kings of this
dynasty include Darius (522 486 BC), Xerxes (486 465
BC), and Artaxerxes (465 424 BC). The Achaemenid Empire
was eventually brought to an end in 331 BC by Alexander
the Great or, as he is known in the Persian history,
Alexander the Vandal.
After the death of Alexander, the descendents of one
of his generals, the Seleucids, ruled Persia for many
years until a new Persian dynasty by the name of Parthians
grew powerful enough to expel them. The Parthians ruled
Iran for nearly 500 years and continuously fought with
the Roman Empire in the west. It was during the Parthian
rule that the teachings of Zoroaster began to be compiled
in the form of a holy book, the Avesta.
Around 224 AD, a ruler of a south western province
in Persia rebelled against the Parthians and established
the Sasanid Empire, named after a legendary ancestor,
Sasan. The Sasanids ruled Persia for over four centuries
till the Muslim armies defeated their kingdom in 642
AD, in the battle of Nihawand. In 652 AD, the last Zoroastrian
king of the Sasanid Empire, Yazdigard III, died. It
is from his coronation, held in 632 AD, that the Zoroastrians
date their calendar using the convention AY, for After
After the fall of the Sasanid Empire, a majority of
the population of Iran accepted Islam and the number
of Zoroastrians started to decline rapidly. In the tenth
century AD, a small group of Zoroastrians left their
Persian homeland and emigrated to India where they began
to be called Parsis meaning Persians. Although the religion
of Zoroastrianism originated and flourished in Persia,
today there are more followers of this ancient faith
living in India than in their original homeland.
Essential Beliefs Of Zoroastrianism
1. Zoroastrians believe that there are two independent
and rival forces in nature: the good force in the form
of Ahura Mazda (the Wise Lord) and the evil force in
the form of Angra Mainyu.
2. Man has the free will to choose either good or evil.
3. Man must stay on the side of Ahura Mazda so that
on the Day of Judgment the good may overcome evil.
4. To properly ally himself with Ahura Mazda, man must
acquire the following virtues:
o Good thoughts, good words, good deeds.
5. A man should pray to Ahura Mazda for all his needs.
6. When a man dies, his soul crosses a narrow bridge
over hell. The good man crosses over safely and is welcomed
by a beautiful maiden. But for the evil man, the bridge
becomes narrow until he falls down in hell.
7. Hell and heaven are not eternal in Zoroastrian belief.
The purpose of all punishment is to reform.
8. At the end of time there will appear a saviour who
will revive the dead, reward the good and punish the
Worship In Zoroastrianism
Zoroastrians say their daily prayers five times each
day. Before saying their prayer, they perform ablution.
The prayers are always said facing a light (sun, fire
or lamp). All prayers are said while standing and in
the sacred language of the Avesta.
Many stages in the life of a person are marked by religious
ceremonies. These include:
o Birth rites
o Initiation, around the age of ten
The Zoroastrians neither bury their dead nor cremate
them. The dead body is first washed, then wrapped in
clean clothes, and finally placed in the Towers of Silence
to decompose naturally and to be consumed by birds.
The fire is considered sacred in this religion and
plays an important role in all their worships and ceremonies.
Zoroastrianism is a very ancient religion going back
to about the time of Moses. But while Judaism was blessed
by a series of Israelite prophets who came after Moses,
no such successors seem to have come in Persia after
Zoroaster. Zoroastrianism, therefore, maintained much
of its early primitive features and teachings and its
religious philosophy did not keep pace with the times.
Both Judaism and Zoroastrianism appeared in the world
around the same time and in areas not too distant from
each other. Over the years, the two faiths influenced
not only each other but also the religions of India
and China. Some of the religious concepts that are common
to both Judaism and Zoroastrianism are;
o concept of One God
o concept of Angels
o concept of devil or swan
o concept of hell and heaven
o concept of a day of judgment
o concept of a latter day Messiah
Because of the discontinuation of revelation in the
Zoroastrian religion, this faith started to become outdated
and by the time Islam came, a majority of the Zoroastrians
adopted the new religion. It is interesting to note
that of the three pre Islamic religions of the Near
East Judaism, Christianity and Zoroastrianism only the
followers of Zoroaster embraced Islam in large numbers.
Today, Zoroastrianism is gradually becoming extinct
from the world; there are less than 100,000 followers
remaining, mostly in India. One reason for this gradual
decline is the fact that Zoroastrianism is a strongly
ethnic religion and conversions are not possible. People
can get out of this faith but no new converts can enter
it. A faith meant for a people, therefore, dies with
JUDAISM: Some Basic Facts
Name The names Judaism, Judea and Jew are all derived
from Judah, the brother of Joseph and the fourth
son of Jacob
Founder Judaism in the present form was founded by Moses
(1525 1405 BC)
Place of Origin Babylon Canaan Egypt area
Sacred Books The Hebrew Bible (Old Testament), consists
of 39 books including the five books of the Torah
Sacred Places Jerusalem
Festivals Rosh Hashanah the Jewish New Year
Yom Kippur the Day of Atonement
Sukkot the feast of Tabernacles
Simchat Torah rejoicing of the Law
Judaism is one of the oldest religions in the world
and had significant influence on the development of
two other monotheisms, Christianity and Islam. The central
doctrine of Judaism is the Unity of God. But along with
this doctrine goes the belief that the Jewish people
are God's chosen people, and that God wants them to
be an example to all mankind.
Judaism, therefore, is an ethnic religion and its history
is the history of the Hebrew people. These people trace
their ancestry to the great patriarch, Abraham, who
lived in Chaldaea around 2,000 BC. Chaldaea is in the
eastern part of the Fertile Crescent which extends from
the areas of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers to the
eastern coast of the Mediterranean.
The Chaldaeans used to worship idols and images, and
Abraham revolted against this practice. Abraham used
to receive revelations from God and during one of these
revelations God made a Covenant with his people. In
this Covenant, God promised Abraham's descendents all
the land of Canaan and God's protection in exchange
for their homage and allegiance. The followers of Judaism
still call themselves the Sons of the Covenant or B'nai
B'rith in Hebrew.
Abraham spoke the Hebrew language and his descendents,
therefore, are called Hebrew people. But a grandson
of Abraham, by the name of Jacob, was given the title
of Israel by God in one of his revelations, and the
descendents of Jacob began to be called Israelites.
Jacob had twelve sons from whom descended the Biblical
A son of Jacob, by the name of Joseph, was appointed
a governor of a province of Egypt by a benevolent king.
During his time many Israelites migrated to Egypt from
their homeland in the Canaan Babylonia area. The later
kings of Egypt, however, treated the Israelites badly
who spent the next three hundred years in bondage and
servitude under their Egyptian masters.
Some five hundred years after Abraham, one of his descendents
by the name of Moses arose and unified the Israelites
living in Egypt. Moses eventually led the Israelites
out of Egypt towards the land of Cancan.
On the way to Canaan, Moses experienced a vision on
Mount Sinai and received the famous Ten Commandments
from God. These ten Commandments became the foundation
on which the teachings of the Torah were later amplified.
Although Judaism contains teachings going as far back
as Noah and Abraham, its present form and structure
was established essentially by Moses.
After the death of Moses and after their wanderings
in the desert for nearly forty years, the Israelites
finally settled down in the Canaan area. Here, in the
year 1043 BC, the first Israelite kingdom was established
by King Saul. Saul was followed by the two great prophet
kings of the Israelites, David and his son Solomon.
After the death of Solomon, the united kingdom of Israel
broke up into two separate kingdoms: the northern kingdom
of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah.
The northern kingdom of Israel lasted until 722 BC
when its capital, Samaria, fell to the conquering Assyrians.
The southern kingdom of Judah lasted till 586 BC when
its capital, Jerusalem, fell to the conquering Babylonians.
The Babylonians exiled the Jews from Jerusalem and destroyed
their holy city. It was only when Cyrus of Persia defeated
the Babylonians in 539 BC that the exiled Israelites
were allowed to return to their homeland and rebuild
the city of Jerusalem.
The six hundred year period, from the start of the
united kingdom to year 400 BC, is one of the most glorious
periods in the Israelite history or, for that matter,
the history of the world. It was during this period
that most of the known prophets of the world appeared.
One could even call this period the Age of the Prophets.
Some of the great prophets like Elijah, Elisha, Jonah,
Amos, Ezekiel, Job, Ezra and Malachi appeared in this
period. It was also during this period that the founders
of four other great religions, Mahavira, Buddha, Confucius
and Lao tze, appeared in India and China. With the death
of Malachi, the last of the Israelite prophets, the
Old Testament comes to a close around 400 BC.
The Old Testament, or the Hebrew Bible as the Jews
prefer to call it, is the sacred book of Judaism. It
contains not only the five books of Torah revealed to
Moses, but many other books attributed to later prophets
such as Joshua, Samuel, Ezra, Nehemiah, Job, Solomon,
Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos,
Obadiah, Jonah, Zechariah and Malachi.
Besides the Hebrew Bible, there are two other texts
considered sacred by the Jews: the Mishnah and the Talmud.
The Mishnah is a collection of religious laws arranged
in six orders which cover agricultural tithes, festivals,
marriage, civil laws, sacrifices and ritual purity.
The Mishnah was codified around 200 A.D. under Rabbi
Judah the Prince. The Talmuds are commentaries on the
Mishnah and were written by the middle of the sixth
century A.D. in Aramaic, the everyday language of the
Jewish people of the time.
The Essential Beliefs Of Judaism
Although there are many beliefs in Judaism, there are
13 articles of faith considered essential. These are:
1. The belief in God
2. The belief that there is only one God
3. The belief in the non corporeal nature of God
4. The belief that God is the First and the Last
5. The belief that God is All knowing, All Seeing and
6. The belief that prayers should only be directed to
7. The belief that God rewards the good and punishes
8. The belief that all the words of the prophets are
9. The belief that Moses is the chief of all prophets
10. The belief that the present Torah is the same as
revealed to Moses
11. The belief that the Law of Torah is the last law
12. The belief in the coming of the Messiah
13. The belief in the Resurrection
The central belief expressed in the Hebrew Bible concerns
the Unity and love of God. This is evident from the
Hebrew declaration of faith, the Shemah, which could
be considered equivalent to the Islamic Kalima:
"Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is One.
And you shall love the Lord your God with all your
heart, and with all your soul and with all your might
And these words which I command you shall be upon your
heart" (Deuteronomy 6:4 6)
The Codes For Social And Moral Conduct
The Hebrew Bible contains hundreds of codes and directives
for the Israelites by which to conduct their spiritual
and worldly affairs. Of these, the Ten Commandments
are the most famous:
1. You shall have no other gods besides Me
2. You shall not make any image or likeness of anything
in heaven above
3. You shall not take the name of the Lord in vain
4. Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy
5. Honour your father and your mother
6. You shall not commit murder
7. You shall not commit adultery
8. You shall not steal
9. You shall not bear false witness
10. You shall not covet anything that is your neighbour's
Some additional directives besides the Ten Commandments
are given below:
You shall not oppress your neighbour
You shall do no injustice in weight or in measure
You shall seek no vengeance
Open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and
to the poor
You shall not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block
before the blind
You shall do no injustice in judgment; you shall not
be partial toward the poor, nor favour the mighty
You shall not wrong the stranger. The stranger among
you shall be as the home born among you, and you shall
love him as yourself
Modes of Worship In Judaism
All acts of worship in Judaism are based on three principles
(i) That God should be praised and worshiped
(ii) That man should ask his Lord for all his needs
(iii) That man can commune with God through prayer
The various acts of worship in Judaism including prayer,
singing of God's praise, fasting, observing the day
of Sabbath, giving of sacrifices, are all based on the
three fundamental principles given above. The various
rituals followed in Jewish worship are:
1. The Prayer
There are three daily prayers which include the Shemah
and other passages from the Hebrew Bible and the post
Biblical works. The prayer also includes meditation
and asking of individual favours and
blessings. The prayers are said in the morning, afternoon
and evening, either at home or in the synagogue.
This is a small wooden case inscribed with the Shemah
and another discourse from Deuteronomy. This case is
fastened to the doorpost of one's home and each time,
upon going out or coming in, the Mezuzah is touched
with the tips of two fingers, which are then kissed.
The entire ritual is symbolic of remembering God in
all goings in and goings out.
3. Feast of Passover
In this ritual, which takes place during the annual
Feast of Passover, the entire family participates. The
occasion marks the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt.
The ritual celebrations include the invoking of blessings,
singing of the fast chapter of Genesis and saying of
4. Observing the Sabbath
This is the Jewish weekly holy day and begins on Friday
after sunset and ends with the sunset on Saturday. The
day is essentially devoted to services in the synagogue
and prayers. No work of any kind is permitted on this
day. The orthodox Jews neither drive nor undertake any
journey on this day.
5. Kosher Foods
It is a duty of the Jews to eat kosher food food fit
according to Jewish dietary laws. According to these
laws, meat and dairy products must not be served in
the same meal. Only meat of certain animals is permitted;
pork and shellfish are forbidden. Furthermore, the animals
must be slaughtered in the proper Jewish way.
The Wisdom of Judaism
The following sayings are taken from the Hebrew Bible
to give the reader some idea of the wisdom contained
in this religion:
o "What does the Lord require of you? Only to
do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your
o "What is hateful to thee, do not to thy fellow
o "He who oppresses the poor blasphemes his Maker,
but he who has mercy on the needy, honours Him"
o "One can enter the heavenly kingdom without
diamonds, but not without honesty"
o "The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away"
o "Better a dinner of herbs where love is, than
a roasted ox with hatred"
o "Say not anything which cannot be understood
o "Separate not yourself from the community"
o "The price of wisdom is above pearls"
o "Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all
o "Have we not all one Father? Has not one God
o "To the wise the path of life goes upward"
o "Where there is no vision, the people perish"
o "As he thinks in his heart, so is he"
o "Let justice flow like waters, and righteousness
like a mighty stream"
o "Rejoice not when your enemy falls, and let
not your heart be glad when he stumbles".
o "If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to
eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink"
o "For everything there is a season, and a time
for every purpose under the heaven: a time to be born
and a time to die: a time to plant and a time to harvest"
While the beliefs and principles of Judaism are of
universal appeal, its history has associated them with
a national group, speaking a national language and living
in their native land. Judaism, therefore, developed
strictly as an ethnic religion for the descendents of
Abraham and Jacob.
Despite being fairly ancient and ethnic, Judaism formalized
some of the most basic principles of man's religion,
in a form not accomplished before. Two other faiths
that are as old as Judaism Hinduism and Zoroastrianism
both lack the sophistication in spiritual philosophy
and in the social and moral codes, which we find in
Of all the religions of the world, Islam is closest
to Judaism. Both are strongly monotheistic, far more
than Christianity. Both have a well developed law and
social and moral codes. Both have more or less similar
religious philosophies: beliefs in One God, the angels,
the prophets, the Day of Judgment, and the carrying
out of service to humanity. In fact, both religions
trace their ancestries to Prophet Abraham; the Jews
through Abraham's son Isaac, and the Quraysh of Mecca
through Abraham's son Ishmael.
Basically, there are two differences that set these
(i)The Jews believe in the finality of the Mosaic Law
while the Muslims believe in the finality of the Quranic
(ii)The Jews do not believe in the prophethood of any
one after the Prophet Malachi. The Muslims believe in
the continuity of prophethood after Malachi in the persons
of John the Baptist, Jesus Christ, and Muhammad.
All other differences are either as a consequences
of the above, or interpretational, and fundamentally
Although the Jews believe in the coming of the Messiah,
they do not recognize him in the person of Jesus Christ.
The reason for this is the statement in the Book of
Malachi which prophesied the return of the Prophet Elijah
before the coming of Messiah. The Jews take the returning
of Elijah literally, and do not agree with the Christian
or Muslim belief that Elijah has returned in the form
of John the Baptist.
CHRISTIANITY: Some Basic Facts
Name The word Christian was first used by the Greeks
the followers of Christos, as the Greeks used to call
Founder Jesus Christ, which is the Greek rendering of
original Hebrew name Isa al Masih, meaning Isa the
Anointed. (Born: 4 7 BC)
Place of Origin Palestine area
Sacred Books The New Testament. It includes the four
Gospels and 23 other books
Sacred Places Bethlehem, Nazareth, Jerusalem
Festivals Christmas which celebrates Jesus' birth
Easter which celebrates the resurrection of
Ascension which celebrates the ascension of Jesus
to heaven, forty days after the Easter
Pentecost which celebrates the coming of the Holy
Spirit to the apostles, ten days after the
Christianity is the faith with the largest following
in the world. The term Christian was used for the first
time after the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, for people
who associated themselves with the teachings of Christos.
Although other religions like Zoroastrianism, Buddhism
and Confucianism are also named after their respective
founders, the attachment and the reverence which the
Christians display for Jesus Christ is quite different.
The person of Jesus Christ is worshiped by his followers
and is central to the teachings and philosophy of Christianity.
Strangely, no other prophet has appeared in history
whose birth, life, death, and teachings have been the
subject of greater controversy than Jesus Christ's.
Likewise, very few other religions have been so drastically
misinterpreted by their own followers as the religion
of Christianity. In what follows, we will try to explain
the reasons for this rather unique development of this
Jesus was born in Bethlehem, in the province of Judea,
anywhere between 4 to 7 BC. The Christians believe,
and majority of the Muslims concur with this belief,
that Jesus was born to Mary, his mother, without the
agency of a human father. Joseph, the husband of Mary,
is supposed to have married her after the conception
Jesus was born among the Israelites and the Gospels
trace his ancestry to Prophet David, through his "father"
Joseph. Jesus, therefore, was not only born a Jew but
was also raised and educated according to the Judaic
Early in his life he became a Jewish rabbi, but was
opposed by the orthodox Jewish priests for preaching
his radical teachings. At the age of thirty, Jesus was
baptized in the Jordan River by John the Baptist, who
was then heralding the coming of the Messiah. Jesus'
ministry is believed to have started after his baptism.
When the Jews raised the objection that how the Messiah
can come before the reappearance of Prophet Elijah,
Jesus is said to have responded by pointing out that
John the Baptist was in fact Elijah.
Jesus' ministry in the Palestine area lasted about
three years. During this short period he is said to
have performed a number of miracles and healed many
a people of their illnesses. Jesus' teachings emphasized
the gentler elements of the Mosaic teachings and condemned
the rigid, often cruel, application of the Law. His
open criticism of the Jewish priests and his rapidly
increasing popularity among the masses made him an enemy
of both the Jews and the Romans.
As a result, Jesus was first made to appear in front
of the Jewish religious authorities who, after questioning
him at great length, passed him on to the Roman Governor,
Pontius Pilate. Pilate believed in the innocence of
Jesus Christ but, at the demand of the people and the
priests, condemned him to crucifixion.
Jesus was put on the cross on Friday. With the start
of the Jewish Sabbath at sunset, Jesus' body was released
to his followers, after the Roman soldiers had assumed
that he had died. For the next two days Jesus' body
was placed in a cave. After this period Jesus was seen
alive by a number of his disciples and ate with them.
Later on, according to the Christian belief, Jesus was
taken up to heaven.
The Ahmadi belief in this regard is that Jesus recovered
from his wounds, met and ate with his disciples and
left the Palestine area, traveling eastward to Afghanistan
and Kashmir. The Ahmadis believe that Jesus lived to
a ripe old age, died in Kashmir and is buried in Sri
Development Of Christianity After The Crucifixion
Although all religions change with time, the changes
which occurred in Christianity after the crucifixion
of Jesus Christ, affected the fundamental beliefs and
principles of this religion. The developments in Christianity,
from the moment of crucifixion when there were only
a handful of devoted followers, to the time when it
became a dominant force in much of Middle East and Europe,
can be divided into two phases: the Jewish Phase and
the Greek Roman Phase.
The Jewish Phase (30 70 AD)
In the beginning, Christianity was totally limited
to the Jewish people. The God of Christians had the
same attributes as the God of the Israelite people.
The early Christians also followed the Jewish traditions
of circumcision, offering animal sacrifices and observing
the Sabbath. They did not believe that Jesus was the
son of God, not at least in the literal sense.
The early Christians also knew that Jesus had survived
the ordeal of the crucifixion and, therefore, did not
subscribe to the idea of his resurrection. The only
difference between these early Christians and the Jews
was that the former believed in Jesus as the Messiah
and considered faith in God more important than the
following of the rigid Mosaic Law or the rituals of
The Greek Roman Phase (70 500 AD)
Initially, the disciples of Jesus Christ preached the
new faith only to the Hebrew peoples. But with the conversion
of Saul, a Jewish rabbi, to Christianity, all this changed.
He took on the name of Paul and traveled extensively
throughout Asia Minor and Eastern Europe, preaching
the new religion to the gentiles or non Israelites.
The Greek civilization was the most advanced at the
time and very receptive to the teachings of the new
faith. Having no emotional or traditional attachment
with the Judaic tenets, the Greek converts quickly gave
up many Jewish customs such as animal sacrifice, circumcision
and the observing of the Sabbath and the Law.
Then, with accession of Constantine the Great to power
in 313 AD, Christianity became the official religion
of the Eastern Roman Empire. The establishment of Christianity
as the state religion of the Roman Empire brought it
great respect and prestige. Armed with this powerful
political backing and supported by Greek intellectualism,
Christianity started spreading rapidly among the "barbarian"
tribes of northern and western Europe.
As the number of Hebrew Christians declined and the
number and influence of the Greek Christians increased,
many of the fundamental beliefs and practices of this
new faith started to undergo significant changes. The
concept of God changed from the personal, loving God
of the Israelites to an impersonal, supreme deity, palatable
to the Greek philosophical rationalism.
Similarly, while the Hebrew Christians were ingrained
in the strong monotheism of the Old Testament and could
accept Jesus as the son of God only in a metaphorical
sense, the Greeks, having no such reservations, took
the words literally. The Greeks used to believe in many
gods and deities and had no intellectual hurdle in transforming
a prophet into a god.
It was during this Hellenistic period, therefore, that
the divinity of Jesus Christ and his resurrection after
crucifixion became popular Christian beliefs. It was
also in the same period that the terminology of Trinity
came into existence to explain the combination of God,
Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.
The Essential Beliefs Of Christianity
Although there are over 250 sects of the Christians
today, some essential beliefs are shared by all of them.
These basic beliefs are:
1. Belief in God, Almighty, Creator of all things
2. Belief in Jesus as the Messiah, and the Son of God
(whether metaphorically or literally)
3. Belief in Trinity: the Father, the Son, and the
4. Belief in eternal sin (that man is born a sinner)
5. Belief that Jesus Christ came down to earth from
heaven for the salvation of mankind
6. Belief that the Bible (both Old and New Testaments)
is the only proper guidance for mankind
7. Belief in baptism as a remission of sin
8. Belief that sins can be forgiven through repentance
9. Belief in life after death
10. Belief that those who repent and follow Jesus Christ
will enter the Kingdom of Heaven
The Christians not only believe that Jesus Christ is
alive and accessible, but also that he is directing
the affairs of the Church from his seat in heaven and
that one day he will return to this world to establish
the Kingdom of God. Except for a small minority of Unitarians
and Universalists, all Christians today worship Jesus
Christ in one form or another.
Worship in Christianity
Worship in Christianity varies considerably with the
sect and the geographic location in the world. Worship
may be private and individual or congregational. Private
worship generally takes the form of "silent prayer"
invoking God's mercy and help usually through the person
of Jesus Christ.
Congregational worship in the churches takes on the
form of an elaborate pageant involving priests in their
ornate robes and music sung by the choir. The congregation
usually joins in the singing of hymns and psalms while
the priest may deliver a sermon.
Many Christians keep the fasts of lent, a forty day
period before Easter. These fasts are kept in memory
of the forty days Jesus spent fasting in the wilderness
before beginning his public ministry.
An important Christian rite involves baptism. In the
early days of Christianity, baptism marked the initiation
into the new faith. The new convert was given a public
"washing" symbolizing the death and resurrection
of Jesus Christ. Today, some churches still carry out
this rite on the confession of personal faith by believers.
Other churches perform baptism on new born children
on the promise that they be "confirmed" in
their faith later.
The Teachings of Jesus Christ
To properly understand the teachings of Jesus Christ
one has to turn to the Gospels. The only place in the
Gospels where an attempt has been made by the narrators
to quote Jesus Christ word for word is the account of
the Sermon on the Mount. This sermon illustrates the
emphasis of Jesus' teachings which was directed towards
an unpretentious, honest and altruistic life. Below
are quoted some selected verses from this sermon.
"Blessed are the poor in spirit: for their's is
the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn:
for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek: for
they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are they who hunger
and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called
children of God. Blessed are they who are persecuted
for the sake of righteousness: for their's is the kingdom
"Rejoice, and be exceedingly glad: for great is
your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets
which were before you...
"Think not that I am come to destroy the law,
or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.
For verily I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass,
one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the
law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall
break one of these least commandments, and shall teach
men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom
"You have heard that it was said by them of old
time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill
shall be in danger of the judgment. But I say unto you,
that whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause
shall be in danger of the judgment.
"You have heard that it was said by them of old
time, Thou shalt not commit adultery. But I say unto
you, that whosoever looks on a woman to lust after her
has committed adultery with her already in his heart...
"You have heard that it has been said, An eye
for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. But I say unto
you, that you resist not evil; but whosoever shall smite
thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also...
"Give to him that asks of thee, and from him that
would borrow, turn not thou away.
"You have heard that it has been said, Thou shalt
love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say
unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you,
do good to them that hate you, and pray for them who
despitefully use you and persecute you...
"Take heed that you not give your alms before
men, to be seen of them; otherwise you have no reward...
Therefore when you do give alms, do not sound a trumpet
before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues
and in the streets... But when you do give alms, let
not your left hand know what your right hand does...
"And when you pray, you shall not be as the hypocrites
are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues
and in the corners of the streets, that they may be
seen of men...
"For if you forgive men their trespasses, your
heavenly Father will also forgive you...
"Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth,
where moth and rust does corrupt, and where thieves
break through and steal...
"For with what judgment you judge, you shall be
judged. and with what measure you mete, it shall be
measured to you again.
"And why do you notice the speck in your brother's
eye, but consider not the beam in your own eye? First
cast out the beam out of your own eye, and then you
shall see clearly to cast out the speck out of your
"All things you would like others do to you, you
do to them...
"Enter you at the straight gate. For wide is the
gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction.
Because straight is the gate and narrow is the way,
which leads unto life..."
Basically, there is little difference between the teachings
of Judaism and the teachings of Jesus Christ. Christianity,
shorn of its later encrustations, is simply a sect of
Judaism a sect which had recognized the Messiah in the
person of Jesus Christ.
The teachings of Jesus Christ are clearly of a reformatory
nature. He saw many wrongs in the way the Mosaic Law
was being interpreted and applied by the people, and
tried to correct them.
There is no doubt that some of Jesus' teachings about
love, forgiveness and charity were indeed revolutionary.
And it was this aspect of extreme humility that attracted
a number of his followers among the Hebrews and, later
on, among the Greeks and the Romans. But having a few
revolutionary ideas does not make a new religion.
The early Christians retained their Judaic traditions
and practices. It was only when the Greeks adopted the
teachings of Jesus Christ that they started formalizing
them within the framework of a new theology... a theology
now centred around the person of Jesus Christ himself.
History shows very clearly this gradual process of Jesus'
deification from an Israelite prophet to the Son of
From the point of view of a Muslim, the present day
Christians have grossly misunderstood some basic historic
facts. The misunderstandings are caused by:
(1) Taking literal meaning of the Hebrew phrase, "Son
(2) Shrouding the events of crucifixion in great mystery
(3) Not understanding the true purpose of prophets
(4) Considering the New Testament as the authentic
and final word of God.
Once all these misunderstandings are removed, the life
of Jesus Christ clearly shows that:
o he was an Israelite prophet
o his main objective was to reform Judaism
o he did not die on the cross
o he recovered from the ordeal of crucifixion
o he ate food with his disciples like mortal beings
o he traveled to the east in search of the lost tribes
of the Israelites
o he died and was buried in Kashmir.
BOOKS FOR FURTHER READING
SUGGESTIONS FOR FURTHER READING
1. The Essence of Islam
Extracts from the writings of the Promised Messiah alaihisslam
Volumes I and II (1979); pp 328 and 355
2. Philosophy of The Teachings of Islam, by Mirza Ghulam
[English translation of the Promised Messiah's book,
Islami Usool ki Philosophy]
3. The Religion of Islam, by Muhammad Ali (1973); pp
(A very comprehensive account of the beliefs, acts
of worship and social and moral codes of Islam. Arrangement
of the book is very good]
4. Islam in Focus, by Hammudah Abdalatai; pp 211
[A very well arranged, well written book on various
Islamic beliefs, concepts and acts or worship. A very
concise, to the point treatment of the subject]
5. The Spirit of Islam, by Ameer Ali (1982); pp 515
[A fairly comprehensive treatment of Islam]
6. The Eternal Message of Muhammad, by Abd al Rahman
Azzam (1979); pp 297
[As the name implies, this book emphasizes the essence
of the Prophet's teachings and its impact upon the people]
7. Islam, A Way of Life, by P.K. Hitti (1970); pp 198
[A well written book by the famous orientalist. Also
includes brief treatment of Arab science and Islamic
culture, philosophy and literature]
8. Islam, Edited by J.A. Williams (1962); pp 256
[A well written book. Also treats the Quran, Hadith
and the Law]
9. Islam, Its Meaning For Modem Man, by Muhammad
Zafarullah Khan (1980): pp 216
[Besides basic Islamic worships and social codes, the
covers such topics as public affairs, international
man and the universe, and the role of Islam]
10. Islam, by C. E. Farah
11. Understanding Islam, by T.W. Lippman
12. Themes Of Islamic Civilization, by J.A. Williams
13. Ideals And Realities of Islam, by S. H. Nasr
14. Islam, by R. el Droubie
15. Islam, by A. Guillaume
16. Islam, by Fazlur Rahman
17. The House of Islam, by K. Cragg
18. Understanding Islam, by F. Schuon
19. Introduction To Islam, by M. Hamidullah
20. Islam, Its Meaning And Message, by K. Ahmad
21. Islamic Worship, by M. Z. Khan
22. Islam At A Glance, by S. Islahi
23. Concept Of Islam, by S. Islahi
24. Hajj. by The Muslim Institute
25. The Venture of Islam, by M. Hodgson
26. The Most Beautiful Names, by S. al Halveti
27. Ninety Nine Names of Allah, by S. Friedlander
ISLAM AND RELATED SUBJECTS
1. The Economic Structure of Islamic Society,
by Hazrat Mirza Basheer-ud-Deen Mahmood Ahmad
2. Presenting Islam To The Christians, by Naseem Saifi
3. Islam and Human Rights, by M. Zafarullah Khan
4. Jesus, Prophet of Islam, by M. Ata-ur Raheem
5. Jesus in the Quran, by G. Parrinder
6. Islamic Philosophy, by M.S. Sheikh
7. Moral and Spiritual Training, by M. Bashir Ahmad
THE HOLY QURAN
1. Introduction to the study of the Holy Quran, by
Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmood Ahmad (1969); pp 262
[About 45 pages devoted to the Holy Quran; the rest
of the book covers the life of the Holy Prophet and
some comparative aspects of other faiths vis-à-vis
Islam. Subject matter is extremely well arranged]
2. Commentary on Surah Fatihah, by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad
[Compiled from the writings and pronouncements of the
Promised Messiah and translated into English by Muhammad
3. The Holy Quran, various English translations
4. Bell's introduction to the Quran, by W. Montgomery
Watt (1970); pp 258
[A good book covering such topics as the history of
the Quranic text, the Quranic style, the shaping of
the Quran, its chronology and the doctrines of the Quran]
5. The Wisdom of the Quran, by M. M. Katircioglu
6. The Jewels of the Quran, by al Ghazali
7. The Quran, Basic Teachings, by T.B. Irving
1. Sahih Bokharee (English translation)
2. Sahih Muslim (English translation)
3. Gardens of the Righteous, by M. Zafarullah Khan
4. A Manual of Hadith, by Muhammad Ali
5. Wisdom of the Holy Prophet, by M. Zafarullah Khan
6. A Selection of the Sayings of the Holy Prophet, by
B. A. Bashir
7. Thus Spoke the Holy Prophet, by Bannet & Browne
1. Muhammad, Seal of the Prophets, by Muhammad Zafarullah
Khan (1980); pp 289
[An excellent biography of the Holy Prophet. Material
is well arranged and the writing is very lucid]
2. A Study of Islamic History, by K. Ali (1978); pp
[Covers the period from the birth of the Holy Prophet
to the end of the Abbasid Caliphate in 1258 AD. An excellent
reference for dates. Brief, to the point accounts]
3. Spirit of Islam, by Ameer Ali (1982); pp 515
[Includes only 122 pages on the life of the Holy Prophet.
The rest of the book is devoted to selected aspects
of the religion of Islam]
4. Muhammad, His life Based on the Earliest Sources,
by Martin Lings (1983); pp 359
[Well written and extremely well arranged book. A very
unbiased account by an orientalist. Highly recommended]
5. The Life of Muhammad, by Muhammad Husayn Haykal (1976);
[An extremely detailed, well written and comprehensive
biography of the Holy Prophet. The material is very
well arranged and thoroughly researched]
6. History of the Arabs, by P. K. Hitti (1946); pp 767
[An excellent account of the history of the Arabs from
the time of the Holy Prophet's birth to early sixteenth
century. The life of the Holy Prophet is described briefly
and the bulk of the book is devoted to the later period]
7. The Arabs In History, by B. Lewis
8. The Glorious Caliphate, by Athar Husain
9. The Early Islamic Conquests, by F.M. Donner
10 A Short History of the Saracens, by Amir Ali
11. Hundred Great Muslims, by Jamil Ahmad
12. A Political History of Muslim Spain, by S.M. Imamuddin
13. Glimpses of Islamic History, by Irfan Faqih
14. Stories of Great Muslims, by A. Haye
15. Muhammad, Prophet and Statesman, by W. M. Watt
16. Muhammad, by M. Cook
17. Muhammad, by M. Robinson
18. Muhammad The Holy Prophet, by H.G. Sarwar
19. Muhammad in Quran, by A. M. Raza
20. Muhammad the Prophet, by Muhammad Ali
21. Muhammad in the Bible, by Jamal Badawi
22. Muhammad Rasulullah, by M. Hamidullah
23. The Eternal Message of Muhammad, by A. R. Azzam
24. Muhammad the Liberator of Women, by Mirza Bashiruddin
25. The Life Muhammad, by Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmood
26. Seerat un Nabi, by Shibli Nu'mani
(Available in Urdu and English)
27. Wives of the Prophet, by Fida Husain
28. The Battles of the Prophet of Allah, by Gulzar Ahmed
1. Ahmadiyyat, or the True Islam, by Hazrat Mirza Basheer-ud-Deen
2. Invitation to Ahmadiyyat, by Hazrat Mirza Basheer-ud-Deen
3. Tadhkira, by Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad
[A compilation of the dreams, visions and revelations
of the Promised Messiah alaihisslam. English translation
by Chauhdry Muhammad Zafarullah Khan]
4. Ahmadiyyat, The Renaissance of Islam, by Muhammad
Zafarullah Khan (1978); pp 360
[A historical account of Ahmadiyyat from the birth of
Mirza Ghulam Ahmad to the year 1974. A very well written
book but the material is poorly arranged, without headings
5. Life of Ahmad (Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement)
Part 1, by A. R. Dard (1948); pp 622
[Fairly detailed biographical account of Mirza Ghulam
Ahmad from the time of his birth to the year 1901. The
remainder of his biography was intended to be published
under Part 11, which could not be completed by the author
in his lifetime]
6. Ahmadiyyat, by Spencer Lawan
7. Hazrat Maulvi Noor-ud-Deen, by Muhammad Zafarullah
1. What the Great Religions Believe, by Joseph Gaer
(1963); pp 191
[A good compact book]
2. Eerdmon's handbook to the World's Religions, by various
contributors (1982); pp 448
[Material not arranged systematically; too many photographs;
otherwise fairly informative]
3. A Handbook of Living Religions, Edited by J. R. Hinnells
(1984); pp 528
[Recommended only for a scholar or a serious student]
4. Sacred texts of the World, Edited by N. Smart and
R.D. Hecht (1982); pp 408
[An anthology of selected portions of the sacred texts
of the various religions]
5. Jesus In India, by Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad
6. Where did Jesus Die, by J. D. Shams
7. Jesus in Heaven on Earth, by Khawja Nazir Ahmad
8. Jesus Lived in India, by Holger Kersten (1986); pp
9. For Christ's Sake, by Tom Harper (1986); pp 118
[A frank admission by a Christian journalist that Jesus
Christ was not the Son of God, that he was only a Prophet
and that his mission was not to found a new religion]
10. Religions Around the World, by L. Wolcott
11. A Comparison of World Religions, by H. J. Heydt
12. Introduction to the Study of Religion, by T. W.
13. Comparative Religion, by A. C. Bouquet
14. World Religions, by G. Parrinder
15. Judaism, by A. Hertzberg
16. Judaism, by M. Domnitz
17. Judaism, by 1. Epstein
18. The Prophets of Israel, by L. J. Wood
19. The History of the Jewish people, by M. A. Shulvass
20. Abraham, His Life and Times, by M. H. Zubeiri
21. Hinduism, by L. Renou
22. Hinduism, by Y. Crompton
23. Hinduism, by K. M. Sen
24. The Bhagvad Geeta
25. Budhism, by R. A. Gard
26. The Buddha, by M. Carrithers
27. Introduction to Sikhism, by G.S. Mansukhani
28. Zoroastrianism and the Parsis, by J. H. Hinnells
29. Zarathustra, by P. D. Mehta