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“Ask a Priest: May I Blend Islam and Christianity?”
Q: I was born into a Christian family and have read nearly the entire Bible, though I have not dedicated time for Scripture in several months. However, I feel very secure in my Christian faith. I recognize Jesus as the Son of God, and I hold on to the beliefs shared by the church. I doubt that anything could shake my belief in Jesus and in God. That being said, I have always been interested in other religions. I view them as fascinating and beautiful. I believe that God presents himself in different ways to different groups of people. For example, Allah in Islam is the same as God in Christianity. I have recently become very drawn to the Islam faith. I feel so connected to it. Make no mistake, I still consider myself a Christian and a follower of Jesus. But even in my most religious state, I felt as though I was lacking something. I would spend up to two hours a day reading the Bible, praying, and listening to worship music, but I still felt that something was missing to connect me to God. I believe that I’ve found that thing in Islam. I have taken to wearing hijab in private, away from family and friends. The hijab makes it so that I always think about God. It’s also very healing for me in a way that I can’t quite describe. It’s worth noting that I know hijab is not exclusively Islam, but it is closely associated with it. I want to read the Quran. What better way to learn about another religion than to study its scripture directly? I feel that Allah and God are the same, and that the Quran is another way that God has presented himself. I’ve also become more interested in the five prayers a day. I’ve done it only a few times now. I do the physical ritual of Muslims and open with the Muslim prayer, but I then say my own prayer in English to God. Is it acceptable to blend these two faiths? Please provide some guidance! – M.N.
Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC
A: It is good that you are interested in religion and believe in Jesus, and that you pray and read the Bible.
You rightly note that other religions have some beautiful aspects. To help you understand why that is the case, you might look at my colleague Father John Bartunek’s Spiritual but not Religious: The Search for Meaning in a Material World.
Your e-mail, however, seems to indicate that you are getting drawn into Islam a little more than you realize.
Let’s say upfront that the fullness of God’s revelation is in his Son, Jesus Christ.
Public revelation ended with the death of the last apostle. In other words, there will be no more public revelation as such. What needed to be revealed, was revealed by Christ to his disciples and especially his apostles. This gave rise to the New Testament.
Now, while Islam might worship the same one God, its understanding of God is deficient. It rejects the idea of the Trinity and the Incarnation, which are the two core beliefs of Christianity.
Islam sees Jesus as a prophet but denies his divinity. As a reader of Scripture, you might recall the words of 1 John 2:22 — “Who is the liar? Whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ. Whoever denies the Father and the Son, this is the antichrist.”
I don’t mean to imply that every Muslim is a liar. Rather, any religion that denies the divinity of Christ is seriously at odds with what God has revealed in and through his Son.
You seem to be overlooking some of those vital issues and focusing mostly on the things that seem palatable to a Christian.
While there might be some things that are admirable in Islam — its insistence on almsgiving, for instance — it’s a bit imprudent to think there will be some happy median we can reach on doctrinal issues.
The gaps are too wide. Islam sees the Christian Bible as flawed, for instance. Instead, it holds that the Quran is the inspired and uncreated word of God – a tenet totally incompatible with Christianity. Islam doesn’t even believe that Jesus really died on the cross.
Trying to give some kind of equal status or dignity to Islam just doesn’t work, unless one is willing to compromise, implicitly or explicitly, key beliefs of Christianity.
Now, if you want to pray Christian prayers five times a day, or to wear the hijab, that’s OK.
But if the frequent prayer and the attire attract you, you need not look to Islam. The Catholic Church has its Liturgy of the Hours, which prescribes prayers and readings at various times throughout the day.
And then there is the mantilla, or veil, that some women like to wear to Mass or whatever they visit a church, as a sign of modesty and piety.
My guess is that in a general way what you lack in your life of faith is the sacramental dimension that is a hallmark of the Catholic Church. Sacraments confer grace through liturgical rites that can involve the senses: sight, touch (think anointings), smell (think holy oils and incense), taste (Communion) and sound (singing and sacred music in general).
We have Jesus really present in the Eucharist. And we have the confidence that Jesus works through the other sacraments to absolve sins, confirm people with the power of the Holy Spirit, and strengthen people amid serious illness.
Perhaps this is the kind of thing you are missing in your life. If that is the case, the Catholic Church has what you need.
To learn more about the faith, see the Compendium of the Catechism. To make yourself more aware of where Islam stands on key issues, you might look at Robert Spencer’s article “Islam and Catholicism.”
And count on my prayers.
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