By Robert Marquand, writer of The Christian Science Monitor
The Christian Science Monitor
IN the religious pluralism of America today, Muslims emphasize the similarities between Islam, Judaism, and Christianity.
All three faiths are "Abrahamic." Jews and Christians trace their lineage to Abraham's son Isaac. Muslims trace their lineage to Abraham's son Ishmael, whom God saved in the wilderness in the book of Genesis. Islam embraces the moral and ethical teachings of Moses and Jesus. Honesty, dignity, decency, and equality are central to the Prophet Muhammad's message.
Yet Islamic and Christian beliefs are profoundly different when addressing such concepts as God, spiritual history, and the roles of Jesus and Paul.
The greatest difference may be Islam's claim as a final truth. In Islam, Christianity is an important but incomplete expression of Islam. "The only particularity Islam imposes ... is the fact that it considers Islam to be the last expression of the long chain of prophetic utterances," writes the Iranian Shiite-Sufi Seyyed Hossein Nasr in "A Young Muslim's Guide to the Modern World." "Allah willed that the last assertion of the truth concerning the nature of reality should come with the Koran."
In Islam, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus are viewed as early Muslims - paving the way for Muhammad's revelation of truth in AD 621. Muslims agree that God chose Isaac to bring forth Moses and Jesus.
Yet after Jesus' mission on earth, say Muslims, it became clear to God that Jews primarily, and Christians secondarily, had been unfaithful to Jesus. In 621, as one Islamic scholar puts it, "God switched."
God appointed the line of Ishmael to inaugurate a new chosen people responsible for keeping the word of God as revealed to Muhammad. …