Series 9 - Comparisons Between Islam and Christianity
The Prayer of the Lost
More people pray to their gods regularly in Asia and Africa than the inhabitants of industrialized nations can imagine. Hindus, Buddhists, Jewish people, Muslims and adherents of other religions have not lost the ability for sincere meditation. Often, they adhere to strictly regulated prayer-times. Prayer appears natural to them. Not to pray would be considered a sign of decadence.
The innermost values of a person and his culture are expressed in his prayers. For this reason, when we recognize someone is praying, we should conduct ourselves with deepest respect.
Both Muslims and Christians possess their own prayer which they consider to be superior to all others: the Fatiha and the Lord's Prayer, respectively. Let us compare these two prayer treasures, so as to be better able to understand what unites and what divides these two world religions.
The Fatiha (Sura 1)
1 In the name of Allah the Merciful, the Compassionate One. 2 Praise be to Allah the Lord of the worlds: 3 the Compassionate, the Merciful One, 4 the owner of the Day of Judgment. 5 It is you that we worship and it is you that we ask for help. 6 Lead us on the straight path, 7 the path of those upon whom you have bestowed grace; not those upon whom one is angry nor those who go astray.
1. The Main Prayer of Islam: the Fatiha
The Fatiha means “The Opening“ or “The Opening of the Fortress“ because it is positioned before all the other Suras in the Qur'an. It is considered to be directly inspired by Allah and contains the words spoken by Muhammad 1,350 years ago. Since that time, this prayer has been repeated by countless Muslim worshippers.
The Fatiha is one of the few prescribed prayers in the Qur'an. It is regarded by all Muslims as unique and holy. However, it should only be uttered in Arabic, even in those countries where another language is spoken. A translation into Persian, Turkish, Urdu, Indonesian or Swahili is not considered valid or possible.
Arabic, in which the 114 Suras of the Qur'an are written, is described as the language of Allah. A direct translation of the Qur'an is prohibited, for the beauty, depth and power of the poetic language would be lost. Therefore, any translation that does occur is only regarded as an interpretation of the Arabic original.
About 80 percent of Muslims do not speak Arabic. As a result, they do not know what they are praying when they recite the Fatiha in the language of its original composition. However when they pray it, they are sure that the main prayer in the Qur'an is passing over their lips.
In the course of the five prayer-times, which the Shari'a (Islamic law) commands all Muslims to perform, the Fatiha is uttered up to 17 times a day. Thus, this prayer represents more of a “martyrdom“ for Muslims than the Lord's Prayer does for Christians. The adoration, pleas and hopes contained in it shape the subconscious mind of every Muslim.
The Fatiha advances around our planet five times a day, according to the earth's rotation and alignment with the sun, being uttered by Muslims from the 11,000 islands of Indonesia in the East to the Atlas Mountains in the West; from the Russian steppe in the North to the Cape of Good Hope in the South. It has even made inroads into Europe and America through the presence of foreign workers and students.
2. The Main Prayer in Christianity: the Lord's Prayer
The Lord's Prayer, as found in Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:2-4, contains the words of Jesus to his disciples when they asked him to teach them an appropriate prayer in the spirit of his New Covenant. This prayer, which was originally uttered in Aramaic or Hebrew by Jesus and his disciples, was handed down through Greek writings and has now been translated into more than 2,000 languages. Yet despite its appearance in numerous languages, the Lord's Prayer has not lost its original vitality, spirit and power.
Nearly all Christian denominations teach the Lord's Prayer as a main ingredient to their particular confession of faith, because it includes the basic tenets of the Gospel. Many Christians consider the Lord's Prayer to be the most concentrated form of the Gospel -- indeed one of the most valuable treasures in the Bible.
The Lord's Prayer embraces the whole world. It is not only uttered during certain prayer times or church services; anyone can pray it at any time, alone or with others.
The Lord's Prayer:
Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. 10 Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors. 13 And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen. (Matthew 6:9-13)
3. The Common Structure of the Fatiha and the Lord's Prayer
The Fatiha and the Lord's Prayer possess a similar inner structure and thought pattern. They can conveniently be divided into four sections:
We will examine and compare both prayers within the framework of their four sections, and discuss each concept according to how Muslims and Christians view them.