Religion has been an essential pillar in human history and has been instrumental in shaping cultures, education, and civilization. There are many religions practiced around the world. However, there are few having millions of followers. Two of largest religions in the world based on the number of members are Christianity and Islam. These two faiths are closely related and are members of a larger religious group known as the Abrahamic Religions. Abrahamic religions are the religions which are based on an ancient Israelite religious figure known as Abraham.
Common Characteristics Of Abrahamic Religions
All religions which are defined as Abrahamic share several common characteristics. One feature shared among these religions is that they are all monotheistic. Monotheism is the practice of worshiping one deity. Although all Abrahamic religions worship one deity, each religion refers to the deity using a distinct name. These religions believe that God created the world and has absolute authority over the world and humanity. Another characteristic shared among Abrahamic religions is the belief in prophets as the link between God and humanity where God reveals himself to these select few people to offer guidance and instructions to humanity. The city of Jerusalem is also a unifying factor among Abrahamic religions with the city being of fundamental religious significance to all the religions. All Abrahamic religions believe in the afterlife where the dead are judged according to their actions with the righteous being rewarded by entry into paradise while those deemed to be evil are to be punished by casting into hell.
Judaism is the oldest of the four Abrahamic religions and is the religion of which the other three religions are founded. The Judaism religion is the religion which encompasses the cultural, philosophical, and religious beliefs of the Jewish people. Judaism has an estimated 17 million followers in the world making it the third largest Abrahamic religion behind Christianity and Islam. One of Judaism most important scriptures, The Tanakh outlines the history of the religion from the creation of humanity through to the 5th Century BCE. According to Judaism, Abraham is identified as the founding father of the Hebrews, and it is from one of Abraham’s descendants, Judah that the religion gets its name. As one of the world’s oldest religion in history, Judaism is traced back to the Bronze Age when it was already an established religion in the Middle East. Another sacred text in Judaism is the Talmud which is made up of historic Jewish legal rulings. Judaism is made up of three main groupings which are the Reform Judaism, Orthodox Judaism, and Conservative Judaism where the three differ in the interpretation of Jewish laws. All three Judaism denominations are stemmed from ancient Rabbinic Judaism.
Christianity is one of the major Abrahamic religions and is also the most popular religion in the world with the religion having more than 2.4 billion followers globally. About 33.06% of the world’s total population identify themselves as Christians. Christianity is primarily based on the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth (also known as Jesus Christ) a 1st Century CE Jewish teacher who Christians believe to be the Son of God. Jesus of Nazareth and his followers were originally believers of Judaism but later split to establish their religion. Christianity gets its name from the name “Christ” which translates to “Messiah,” and hence the term “Christians” means “followers of Christ.” The life of Jesus of Nazareth and his teachings are written in four books known as the Canonical Gospels. According to these books, Jesus Christ was born to a virgin woman, Mary and her husband Joseph whose lineage goes back to Abraham. Christians, therefore, identify themselves as descendants of Abraham through their belief in Jesus Christ. Christianity was originally practiced by few Jews from Judea, but the popularity of the religion grew after Emperor Constantine I recognized the religion in the 4th Century and promoted its growth in the Roman Empire. Christianity is made up of three main denominations which are The Eastern Orthodox Church, the Catholic Church, and the Protestants.
Islam is one of the four major Abrahamic religions. There are an estimated 1.8 billion people in the world who identify themselves as believers of Islam (also known as Muslims) and these account for 24.1 % of the world’s total population. The Islamic religion is particularly popular in countries in the Middle East where it is established as the dominant religion. The term “Islam” can be translated to mean “complete voluntary submission to God.” The religion is based on the teachings of a 7th Century teacher known as Muhammad who Muslim refers to as the seal of the prophets. According to early scripts, Muhammad, a resident of Mecca, is said to have received revelations from God (Allah) through angel Gabriel and the prophet dictated these revelations to his followers who later wrote them down to form Islam’s holy scripture, The Quran. Muslims identify themselves as descendants of Abraham through his son, Ishmael and also recognize key figures in Judaism and Christianity such as Moses and Jesus Christ. There are two main denominations that makeup Islam and these as Shia Islam and Sunni Islam.
Baha’i is another Abrahamic religion and is the youngest of the major Abrahamic religions. Baha’i followers in the world are estimated to number about 7 million people. The Baha’i religion is based on the teachings of its founder, Bahau’llah, a 19th-century preacher from Iran whose teachings were quite similar to those of other religious leaders in other Abrahamic religions and were mainly based on monotheism and the revelation of God through prophets. According to the Baha’is, the most recent prophet is Bahau’llah. The religion is recognized as the second-most widespread religion in the world after Christianity and has followers in all geographical regions of the world. Some of the most important texts in Baha’i are personal letters written by Bahau’llah, and these include Kitab-i-Aqdas and Kitab-i-Iqan.
Other Abrahamic Religions
There are other religions in the world which are closely related to the four major Abrahamic religions. These religions are also monotheistic and identify Abraham as a key figure in their history. Some of these religions are the Druzes, the Rastafarians, and the Samaritans.