The Holy Land: Birthplace of Three Religious Traditions
Three of the major religions of the world, the monotheistic faiths of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, all begin in the Middle East. The three faiths are inextricably intertwined: Jews, Christians and Muslims all worship the same God, their prophetic traditions are linked, and much of the religious law, doctrines, and views of morality and the afterlife are similar.
The histories of the three monotheistic traditions are also closely connected. Judaism arose first, almost two thousand years BCE, and Christianity was born from within the Jewish community and tradition. Hundreds of years later, Islam developed in the same region, drawing from both Christianity and Judaism as well as from local Arabian tradition.
All three faiths give particular importance to the patriarch Abraham. For Jews, Abraham is not only he who first expounded the faith, but also the forefather of the Jewish people, through his son by Sarah, Isaac. For Christians, Abraham's importance is more theological than genealogical, for he embodies the characteristic of faith, believing in God and his promise to Abraham without certain proof and against the beliefs of his society. For Muslims, Abraham is both an important prophet carrying God's message and the builder of the Ka'ba, the sacred structure in Mecca that is the geographical center of Islam on earth.
While there are certainly differences among these religions, and there have been conflicts amongst their adherents at some times, there has also been rich cultural interchange between Jews, Christians, and Muslims in the Middle East, Islamic Spain, Sicily and other places over the centuries of their shared histories.
Much of the material on this website focuses on the religion and the practioners of Islam, not only because it is the majority religion now in the Middle East, but also because it is the tradition that is least well known to Americans.