A Comparative Study of World Religions

By Dr. Fazl-ur-Rahman Ansari


      When we analyse the concept of Religion, we find that this concept is constituted of three factors, namely, God, Universe and Man. All the different discussions that are involved in religious thought hinge on these three factors. Consequently, we shall have to approach the problem, by the study of the regions in the perspective of these factors and their connected problems, in which the most important and comprehensive is the problem of “scheme of salvation”.

Taking the last: So far as the concept of Salvation is concerned, the religions under discussion fall under two heads:-

(1) Religions of Salvation;

(2) Religions of Fulfillment


The Religions of Salvation are: Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Zoroastrianism. In fact, all the religions of the world, with the exception of Islam, are the religions of salvation.

As regards Religions of Fulfillment, there is only one, and that is Islam.

The religions of salvation are again divided into two categories:

(a) those whose concept of salvation is linear, namely they teach the advance of human life in the linear style wherein human life passes through the gateway of death to continue beyond the grave and to attain heave or hell;

(b) those whose concept of salvation is cyclic, namely: they teach continuous transmigration of souls in cycle upon cycle.

      Christianity, Judaism and Zoroastrianism belong to category (a),
Hinduism and Buddhism belong to category (b).


      Behind these differences in points of view concerning salvation and fulfillment are the philosophies of life which are grounded in definite notions concerning the nature of man, the nature of the universe and the nature of God.

      The concept of salvation originates essentially in the belief that this world is evil, that the sojourn of humanity on this planet is basically evil, and that consequently human beings should endeavour to find ways and means to escape from this evil world and this evil life, and thus attain salvation.

      The foundation of the concept of fulfillment, on the other hand, is the belief that the world is essentially good. According to Islam, which is the religion of fulfillment, God is Absolutely Good, and because He is Absolutely Good all His actions must of necessity be good. Consequently, all His creation is good, which means that the world is good, the human personality is good and the social relations are good. This being so all human beings are born sinless, and here Islam stands in contradistinction with Christianity which says that human beings are born in sin. Islam also differs with other religions in its ideal of saintliness. Thus, while, for instance, Hinduism, Buddhism and Christianity teach asceticism and renunciation of the world as the way to acquire Holiness, Islam is emphatic in the assertion that human life should be lived to the fullest, of course, within the legitimate bounds of healthy existence. According to Islam, God has the purpose of this endowment is that human beings should employ and develop those faculties and powers in the earthly life. These faculties and powers cannot, however, be brought into play except in social environment. Hence, social life and social relations are essentially good. It is through social morality and subjugation of the natural forces by means of physical science and personal spiritual development through all –pervading love for devotion to God Almighty that humanity can attain, according to Islam, the status of saintliness, or, in other words, the status of the Viceregency of God.

      We may take up the religions that have been selected for study and discuss their teachings under the three heads that we mentioned in the beginning, viz., God, Universe and Man.

Let us take Christianity first.

      Christian scholars class Christianity as a monotheistic religion. But it must be admitted that if Christianity is monotheism must be regarded as a peculiar or, at least, special type. For actually it preaches the conception of the Triune God. The members of the Christian Godhead are three: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost (or, from another point of view, Goddess the Mother). These three members of the Trinity are said to be one and yet three. The Christian formula of Godhead is: Three in One and One in Three. But the statement of the formula presents, to say the least, an enigma to human understanding. The three members say the least, an enigma to human understanding. The three members of the Godhead are three persons. If they had been three attributes of the same God, Christian “monotheism” would have been understandable. But, neither God the Father, nor God the Son, nor God the Holy Ghost is an attribute. Rather they are definite persons and, as far as human understanding is concerned, mutually exclusive individuals. This makes Christian “monotheism” a full-blooded polytheism.

      The Christian notion of Godhead is not only deeply mystifying but also flagrantly blasphemous. The belief in Jesus as the “only begotten Son of God” makes the Christian concept of God anthropomorphic, on the one hand, and hurls the greatest conceivable blasphemy on God, on the other. There are some more points of blasphemy also in the Christian faith in God inasmuch as the Old Testament forms a vital part of the Christian Bible. To those blasphemies we shall refer when we discuss Judaism.

      The view of Christianity with regard to the world is that it is evil. This fact emerges in the Christian notion which says, that human life on earth is essentially evil. Christianity regards the human soul as noble and holy, and the human body as evil and the playground of Satan. Consequently, the ideal of saintliness or godly life is that which is represented in the life of the biblical Jesus, viz., the ideal of asceticism and renunciation of physical pleasure and social relations. This ideal has been pursued from the very beginning in the form of the institution of monks and nuns.

      In connection with life after death. Christianity teaches a crude form of doctrine of heave and hell. It upholds salvation in a linear style as opposed to the cyclic order of Reincarnation.

      As regards Judaism, the religious thought of the Jews developed not all at once but through centuries. The texts on which Judaism is based are many. All of them combined together in one corpus are called “Torah” or the “Old Testament”.

      When we analyse the teachings of Judaism, the first thing that strikes us is the presence of conflicting views. Thus, in connection with the conception of God we find the most primitive and even blasphemous notions, on the one hand, and the idea of pure monotheism on the other. For instance, in the very beginning of the book we find the remark that God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh day – the day of the Sabbath. Now, this idea of rest casts a slur on the personality of God, because rest is always induced by fatigue and fatigue is caused by the consumption of limited energy. Hence, to say that God needed rest after six days of labour means that God’s energy had been consumed and He was thus suffering from fatigue. In other words, God’s power is limited. Namely, God suffers from lack of power. But he who suffers from lack of power cannot be called God because God must be infinite in His being as well as in all his Attributes.

      Another instance of blasphemy against God is to be found in the same story of Creation where it has been said that when Eve and Adam had committed the first sin, God repented. Now, repentance arises only on the basis of ignorance and lack of power to control one’s affairs. A man feels sorry only when he is unable to perform an act which it is necessary for him. Sorrow comes because of lack of power.

      Proceeding further in the story of Creation, we find that God refused to forgive Adam. Now Adam was the first human being whose offence was not a crime like the crime of murder. The only injury that Adam had done was to himself alone. It is a principle followed in the law-courts of the world that they take the first offence lightly and very often try to forgive the culprit or at least to mitigate the punishment. But, according to the Old Testament, God refused to forgive the first simple offence of the first simple human being. The only logical conclusion that we can derive from it is that He can never forgive anyone. Here the Old Testament teaches the absence of the will-to-forgive in the personality of God.

      The above discussion shows that, although Judaism preaches monotheism, which is its merit, its conception of God is extremely defective, nay even blasphemous. For a God who suffers from finitude in his power and knowledge and who lacks the power of mercy is actually no God at all. He is only a magnified human being. And this brings us to the anthropomorphic character of the Jewish conception of God. The Jewish monotheism is of a primitive type. The conception of Jehovah seems to be that of a tribal god and bears no comparison with the sublime, comprehensive and faultless Islamic monotheism.

      The Jewish outlook on human life is more realistic and practical than that of Christianity. The Jewish moral code has many elements of value, although it has been marred by racialism. Judaism emphasises the supremacy of man in creation andimportance of earthly existence. Its conception of salvation in the Next World is based on the notion of law with rewards and punishments in the form of heaven and hell.

      Hinduism is the most indefinable religion in the world. In deed, it is more of a social order than a religion in the strict sense of the word. A person who believes in one God can be a Hindu; a person who believes in three Gods can also be a Hindu; a person who believes in millions of Gods, he too can be a Hindu; and so also a person who believes in no God.

      Hinduism is actually the story of Central Asian Aryans who brought certain beliefs of nature-worship and certain principles of social organisation when they conquered the northern plains of India and subjugated its people. They foisted their beliefs on the conquered races and at the same time absorbed the beliefs and social habits of their subjects. Thus a hotch-potch was created in which mutually conflicting beliefs and mutually fighting gods and goddesses were accommodated. Indeed, when we study and investigate the beliefs and practices of Hinduism, we find that Hinduism stands not for one religion but a number of religious systems, among which the only common doctrines appear to be those of Karma and transmigration of souls.

      Hinduism, like Judaism, is the religion of a particular race. A Hindu is born and not made. For, unlike Islam and Christianity, Hinduism does not believe in the conversion of the non-Hindus to Hinduism, but also the caste system. Namely, not only is a Hindu tied to a certain race but also to a particular caste. Every Hindu is born either a Brahmin or a Khatriya or a Vaishya or a Sudra. No amount of moral greatness or acts of chivalry or any other distinction can enable a person to change his caste or to rise from the lower to the higher caste in his life.

      Hinduism has the peculiarity, among all the religions of the world, of excommunicating the members of its own fold, treating them as untouchables by reason of their birth and persecuting them in a manner which defies description. For instance, the great Hindu law-giv Manu has laid down the law that every member of the Brahmin caste is so holy and every member of the Sudra caste is so unholy and despicable that if any Sudra comes so near to a Brahmin that the voice of the Sudra is to be punished for defiling the holiness of the Brahmin by pouring molten lead into the ears of the Sudra. This being the case, the question of intermarriages and other social relations is ruled out completely. And when this is the treatment which Hinduism metes out to its own members, its attitude towards the members of other religions and races can be well imagined. Indeed, for a Hindu all non-Hindus are untouchables. They are, in his opinion, not only spiritually inferior but also socially condemned and contemptible. This means that Hinduism has absolutely no notion of common humanity and no idea of fundamental and universal human rights.

      As regards the theory of the Transmigration of Souls and its foundation – the theory of Karma – they appear to be irrational and unacceptable when weighed in the balance of human reason. The Hindu view of salvation is cyclic, viz., there are cycles upon cycles of rebirth through which every human being must pass times without number in order to attain salvation. According to Hinduism, if a person commits more vices than virtues in his life, he is born again in this world in a lower caste or even in a lower category of existence. This, according to Hinduisb, happens in order to punish him for his misdeeds and also to enable him to work his way to salvation. Thus a person may be born again and again.

      This theory of Karma does not stand the test of reason. In the first instance, to realise that a person is suffering or benefiting on any particular occasion in this life because of actions performed in previous life on this earth, it is necessary that every human being should have a complete picture of his supposed previous life at all moments and on all occasions. Otherwise, the purpose of his re-birth would be defeated. But no such picture exists in the mind of any human being. Secondly, if we pick up an immature seed from a tree and wish to get a tree from that seed in spite of its immaturity, we never paste or pin that seed back on the tree. Rather, we try to get the best of the seed providing better manure and better conditions. Similar is the case of the human personality. When a human being leaves this world without achieving that purity and maturity which are necessary for salvation, nature should not and would not paste and pin him again on the tree of earthly life, but should provide for him conditions whereby his impurity and immaturity may be remedied and he may be able to proceed on the path of evolution.

      Thirdly, evolution is an established law of the human personality, as well as that of the universe. But evolution is always linear and never cyclic. Hence, on this score also the theory of salvation through transmigration of souls is unacceptable.

      Buddhism was born in India as a revolt against certain principles and intuitions of Hinduism, although in its basic characteristics it was and initially an off-shoot of Hinduism. It was a revolt in as much as it broke off the fetters of the caste-system which forms the cornerstone of the Hindu social order. It was a revolt also in the sense that is substituted a virtually impersonal concept of non-existence of God – in contra-distinction to the anthropomorphic and pluralistic Hindu concept of Godhead. It was an off-shoot of Hinduism in as much as it retained the Hindu doctrines of Karma and Awa Gawan (reincarnation and transmigration of souls). Now, these two doctrines form actually the foundation and the basic distinguishing characteristics of the Hindu philosophy of religion. Consequently, there are scholars who are inclined to regard Buddhism as only one of the numerous sects of Hinduism.

      The starting point of the Buddhist movement is well known to the students of Indian History. We are told that Gotama was a member of a princely house of the Hindus, that he was deeply stirred by the sufferings, that he remained absorbed in contemplation and meditation for years, and that he attained Buddhahood, namely, Enlightenment, under a tree at Buddh-Gaya – a place in the province of Bihar, India.

      The solution at which Gotama Buddha arrived through his Enlightenment was that the only way to conquer suffering was to negate all Desire. This is called the doctrine of worldlife-negation. According to this doctrine, the world is unreal; it is an illusion; it is a trap. Therefore, it should be avoided. All sufferings come through the cultivation of a desire for possessing the things of the world. But because this world is a trap the wise man (Buddhist) should cut off all his relations with the world, including social relations born of marriage. He should live the life of a mendicant, namely, of a roaming beggar, should have no home, no worldly duties and no worldly aspirations. It is said about Gotama Buddha himself that when he left his home in search of truth he had his wife whom he left behind, and when after years of wandering he returned to his native place he did not return to his wife.

      Another doctrine of Buddhism is that of Ahimsa, namely total abstention from punishing anyone and killing anyone. The Buddhists are famous protagonists of this doctrine, although because of the doctrine is unnatural and non-human. No Buddhist community has been able to practice it in its logical implications. Rather, Buddhism had to continuously modify its teachings in order to meet the natural exigencies of social life and the rational demands of human nature. Thus Buddhists have been marrying and thereby perpetuating social relations and they have been engaging themselves in trade and industry and politics and even war. And still they have remained Buddhists! 

      Besides several minor sects of Buddhism there are three important sects, namely, the Mahayana, the Hinayana and the Zen.

      The Hinayana sect is so called because it formed the minority group of Buddhists after the famous Council of Patna. The followers of this sect seem to be the most orthodox and most loyal to the spirit and teachings of Buddha. They believe in asceticism and other worldliness. The Mahayana group has named itself so because it formed the majority group at the Council of Patna and it has remained so up to this day. It penetrated to the north and east of India and it adopted an outlook which accommodates the worldly duties of mankind. The ideal human beings, according to this sect also, are the ascetics; but it permits social relations as natural and necessary evil. Its comparative popularity over the Hinayana sect is in the main due to the concession it gives to worldly relations. But even this sect is averse to the military profession and it regards the act of taking up weapons as totally opposed to Buddhism. But war is a vital fact of human life and a necessary part of the activity of all nations, and even the Buddhists philosophy of life became more and more apparent, modification in Buddhist teachings went further and further. Thus when Buddhism entered Japan and it gained followers among the militarist Japanese, a new version of Buddhist philosophy emerged in the form of Zen Buddhism which permits and promotes fully the militarist aspirations. Thus, although Buddhism started as a pacifist movement it professes and fighting as virtues.

      Both Buddhist theology and moral philosophy appear to be based on wrong foundations from the point of view of human reason. Buddhist theology gives us an impersonal blind force in place of God, on the one hand, and naked anthropomorphism and all the evils of animistic idolatry, on the other. Thus Buddhism is a two-edged sword which murders the concept of God right through. In the domain of moral philosophy, the doctrine of the total negation of all Desire is a hopeless doctrine, because it turns human beings into stones. It is only the stones who may be conceived to have no desires. As regards human beings, desire is the first and foremost condition of their activity and the most vital foundation of their progress. The only other thing that can be wrong about desire is to have an evil desire or to have desire in a wrong measure. Therefore, a true moral philosophy would never negate all desires but only wrong desires and desire in wrong measure, as Islam teaches; while the negation of all desires would mean the negation of good desires also, which standpoint cannot be accepted by any rational human being.

      As regards the doctrines of Karma and Awa Gawan, while the former seems rational in its normal implications, viz., that the effect is conditioned by the cause, the doctrine of transmigration of souls has absolutely no foundation in human experience, as has been already discussed in connection with Hinduism.

      Islam was born in the broad daylight of human history. Indeed, it is the only religion which is fully historical and whose scripture exists today without the slightest change. It is also the only religion about whose founder’s life we possess a complete and most detailed information.

      The authenticity and purity of the text of the Holy Qur’aan stands in sharp contract with the veracity of the Christian Gospels, for instance. The Gospels were not dictated by Jesus (peace be on him), while the Holy Qur’aan was dictated word for word by the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him). The first authorised version of the Gospels was not in existence before 321 A.C., while the authorised version of the Holy Qur’aan was ready in the lifetime of the Holy Prophet. Then, there is only one version of the Qur’aan while there are four versions of the Gospels, viz., according to Mark, according to Matthew, according to Luke and according to John.

      As regards the historicity of the personalities of Jesus and Muhammad (God bless them both), the only period of the life of Jesus detailed information about his personality and character, which means that we cannot get any comprehensive guidance in our day-to-day life from the personality of Jesus. The only period  about which we know anything covers hardly two years, and there too we get only brief references to this The case with the Holy Prophet Muhammad  (peace be on him) is entirely different. From his birth to his last day on earth, we possess a record of his life and activity, of his personality and character, of his struggle which is so detailed that even the minutest events of private life are to be found there. Indeed, the comprehensiveness of information about the Holy Prophet’s life is so astounding in its dimension that it forms a unique phenomenon of human history. This historicity of Islam its scripture and its Teacher is the first basic characteristic of Islam as a religion – a characteristic which is denied to all other religions, including Judaism, Hinduism and Buddhism.

      The second characteristic of Islam is that among all the Teachers of Religion, it is only the personality of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) which is not only historical but also all-dimensional. There is not a single department of constructive and positive human activity and there is not a single role in the sphere of the greatness of mankind and nobility of human character which does not find expression in the life of the Holy Prophet.


      As a religion, Islam stands on seven articles of faith, namely, belief in:

(1) Existence and Unity of God;

(2) Angels, who are personalities made of Light and who function as executors of the will of God in the universe;

(3) The Scriptures and Messages sent by God to different communities of mankind all over the globe in different ages, beginning with the Divine Guidance received by Adam and ending with the Holy Qur’aan;

(4) The Messengers of God from among the human beings who were raised by God in all the communities of the world since the time of Adam until the advent of Muhammad, the last and final Messenger of God (peace be on them all);

(5) The Resurrection, namely, raising up of the dead and reviving  them with their total personalities at the breakup of the present physical order;







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