The three main Semitic religions are. Christianity, Judaism and Islam. They are related by a common belief in God, the hereafter and the constant battle between good and evil.
origin. Israel, birth of Jesus of Nazareth (4BC-AD30 approx).
main text. The New Testament of The Bible.
followers. 1 400 million.
divisions. Roman Catholic; headed by the pope. Orthodox; headed by the patriarch of Constantinople. Protestant; founded by Luther following the Reformation of the 16th century.
deity. God, part of the Holy Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
The belief that Jesus is the Son of God is unique to the Christian faith although his existence is accepted by many other religions. Christians believe that God sent his only son, Jesus, to Earth to redeem mankind. This redemption was achieved through his crucifixion and subsequent resurrection, hence the importance of the cross as a symbol of Christianity. The principle commandments of Christ were to love God and one another.
The main Christian festivals are. Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter, Ascension Day and Pentecost. The two main rites or sacraments are baptism and the Eucharist.
origin. Mesopotamia, 2000BC.
originator. The Hebrew leader Abraham.
main text. The Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament containing 613 commandments and the Talmud, a collection of civil and religious laws.
holy city. Jerusalem.
followers. 18 million.
divisions. Orthodox Jews and Reform Judaism.
deity. Jehovah (God).
Judaism is an ancient Hebrew religion that developed after the Covenant between God and Abraham in 2000BC. This Covenant was renewed in about 1200BC by Moses as he led the 12 tribes of Israel to the promised land (Canaan) promised to them by God. Jews beleive that there is one eternal God whose will is revealed in the Torah. Ordained teachers are called Rabbis.
The sabbath is a day of rest and Yom Kippur is the day of atonement. Birth, the bar mitzvah, marriage and death are all significant occasions.
origin. Saudi Arabia, 6th century AD.
originator. Mohammed (570-632).
main text. The Koran (Qur'an) revealed by God to Mohammed over a period of 20 years and written down in 651. It details the complete way of life for Muslims.
holy city. Mecca.
followers. 840 million.
divisions. Sunni (about 90% of all Muslims), Shiite and Sufi.
deity. Allah (God).
Muslims believe that Allah is the one true God and that Mohammed is the prophet of Allah. There are five Articles of Belief: the oneness of God, the holy books revealed by God, the prophets, the angels and the hereafter.
Those who believe and obey the Articles of Belief and follow the 'Pillars of Islam' will be rewarded in paradise. The Pillars of Islam are
1. Profession of Faith - Believe in God and that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)
is the last prophet.
2. Praying 5 times a day
3. Zakat - Giving to charity
4. Fasting in the month of Ramadhan
5. Hajj - Pilgrimage to Mecca
Jihad means struggle and not 'holy war' (a popular misconception.
The hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca) celebrates the flight to Medina by Mohammed in AD 622.
origin. Persia, 1863. A Muslim splinter group.
originators. Mirza Ali Muhammed (Bab or Gateway) and Mirza Husain Ali (Baha'u'llah or Glory of God).
followers. 4.5 million.
deity. None, however Baha'u'llah proclaimed himself the manifestation of God.
The prophesies of Bab claim that Baha'u'llah was sent to cleanse the world. There will be no intervention by God but man himself will change returning the world to peace and high moral values. Followers regard Baha'u'llah as a divine healer, encompassing all other religions and beliefs.