The term Abrahamic religion groups three of the major religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) together due to their historical coexistence and competition;[1][2] it refers to Abraham, a figure mentioned in the Hebrew Bible, the Christian Bible, and the Quran, and is used to show similarities between these religions and put them in contrast to Indian religions, Iranian religions, and the East Asian religions (though other religions and belief systems may refer to Abraham as well).[3][4] Furthermore, some religions categorized as "Abrahamic" also share elements from other categories, such as Indian religions, or for example, Islam with Eastern religions.[5]

From top to bottom: the star and crescent (Islam), the cross (Christianity), and the Star of David (Judaism) are the symbols commonly used to represent the three largest Abrahamic religions.

Abrahamic religions make up the largest major division in the study of comparative religion.[6] By total number of adherents, Christianity and Islam comprise the largest and second-largest religious movements in the world, respectively.[7][page needed] Judaism is the smallest of the three major Abrahamic religions. Samaritanism is the smallest Abrahamic religion. The Baháʼí Faith, Bábism, and Druzism are offshoots of Abrahamic religions.[8]



The term Abrahamic religions (and its variations) is a collective religious descriptor for elements shared by Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.[9] It features prominently in interfaith dialogue and political discourse, but also has entered Academic discourse.[10][11] However, the term has also been criticized to be uncritically adapted.[10]

Although historically the term Abrahamic religions was limited to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam,[12] restricting the category to these three religions has come under criticism.[13][14] The late 19th century Baháʼí Faith has been listed as Abrahamic by scholarly sources in various fields,[15][16] since it is a monotheistic religion, which recognizes Abraham.[17][18]

Theological discourse


The figure Abraham is suggested as a common ground for Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and the chance of a future reconciliation of these three faiths.[19][20] Commonalities may include, creation, revelation, and redemption, although such shared concepts may vary significantly within each Abrahamic religion respectively.[20] Proponents of the term argue that all three religions are united through the deity worshipped by Abraham.[19]

The Catholic scholar of Islam Louis Massignon stated that the phrase "Abrahamic religion" means that all these religions come from one spiritual source.[21] The modern term comes from the plural form of a Quranic reference to dīn Ibrāhīm, 'religion of Ibrahim', Arabic form of Abraham's name.[22]

According to Christianity, Paul the Apostle, in Romans 4:11–12, refers to Abraham as "father of all", including those "who have faith, circumcised or uncircumcised". Islam likewise conceived itself as the religion of Abraham.[23] The Bahá'í Faith states in its scripture that Bahá'ullah descended from Abraham through his wife Keturah's sons.[24][25][26]



The appropriateness of grouping Judaism, Christianity, and Islam by the terms "Abrahamic religions" or "Abrahamic traditions" has been challenged.[27] Adam Dodds argues that the term "Abrahamic faiths", while helpful, can be misleading, as it conveys an unspecified historical and theological commonality that is problematic on closer examination. While there is a commonality among the religions, in large measure their shared ancestry is peripheral to their respective foundational beliefs and thus conceals crucial differences.[28] Alan L. Berger, professor of Judaic Studies at Florida Atlantic University, wrote that "while Judaism birthed both Christianity and Islam, the three monotheistic faiths went their separate ways" and "each tradition views the patriarchal figure differently as seen in the theological claims they make about him".[29] Aaron W. Hughes, meanwhile, describes the term as "imprecise" and "largely a theological neologism".[30]

The common Christian beliefs of Incarnation, Trinity, and the resurrection of Jesus, for example, are not accepted by Judaism or Islam. There are key beliefs in both Islam and Judaism that are not shared by most of Christianity (such as abstinence from pork), and key beliefs of Islam, Christianity, and the Baháʼí Faith not shared by Judaism (such as the prophetic and Messianic position of Jesus, respectively).[31]




A Jewish Rebbe holds a Torah scroll.

Jewish tradition claims that the Twelve Tribes of Israel are descended from Abraham through his son Isaac and grandson Jacob, whose sons formed the nation of the Israelites in Canaan; Islamic tradition claims that twelve Arab tribes known as the Ishmaelites are descended from Abraham through his son Ishmael in the Arabian Peninsula.[32]

In its early stages, the Israelite religion was derived from the Canaanite religions of the Bronze Age; by the Iron Age, it had become distinct from other Canaanite religions as it shed polytheism for monolatry. Ancient Israelite monolatry fused at least two Canaanite deities; the supreme god of the pantheon El and the warrior-god Yahweh.[33] They understood their relationship with that deity as a covenant and that the deity promised Abraham a permanent homeland.[33] Recognizing one supreme deity, however, did not transform it to a universal one.[33]

While the Book of Genesis speaks of multiple gods (ʾĔlōhīm), comparable to the Enūma Eliš speaking of various gods of the Canaanite pantheon to create the earth, at the time of the Babylonian captivity, Jewish theologians attributed the six-day narrative all to Yahweh, reflecting an early conception of Yahweh as a universal deity.[34] The monolatrist nature of Yahwism was further developed in the period following the Babylonian captivity, eventually emerging as a firm religious movement of monotheism.[35][36][37]

With the Fall of Babylon, under influence of the Persian religion Zoroastrianism, Judaism adopted many later prominent concepts, such as messianism, belief in free will and judgement after death, conception of heaven and hell, angels and demons, among others, into their belief-system.[38][39][40]


Christianity is based on the teachings of the Bible
A Bible handwritten in Latin, on display in Malmesbury Abbey, Wiltshire, England. This Bible was transcribed in Belgium in 1407 for reading aloud in a monastery.

Christianity traces back their origin to the 1st century as a sect within Judaism initially led by Jesus. His followers viewed him as the Messiah, as in the Confession of Peter; after his crucifixion and death they came to view him as God incarnate,[41] who was resurrected and will return at the end of time to judge the living and the dead and create an eternal Kingdom of God.

In the 1st century AD, under the Apostles of Jesus of Nazareth;[24] Christianity spread widely after it was adopted by the Roman Empire as a state religion in the 4th century AD. Paul the Apostle interpreted the role of Abraham differently than the Jews of his time.[42] While for the Jews, Abraham was considered a loyal monotheist in a polytheistic environment, Paul celebrates Abraham as a man who found faith in God before adhering to religious law. In contrast to Judaism, adherence to religious law becomes associated with idolatry.[43]

While Christians fashioned their religion around Jesus of Nazareth, the siege of Jerusalem (70 CE), forced Jews to reconcile their belief-system with the destruction of the Second Temple and associated rituals.[44] At this time, both Judaism and Christianity had to systematize their scriptures and beliefs, resulting in competing theologies both claiming Abrahamic heritage.[45] Christians could hardly dismiss the Hebrew scriptures as Jesus himself refers to them according to Christian reports, and parallels between Jesus and the Biblical stories of creation and redemption starting with Abraham in the Book of Genesis.[46] The distant God asserted by Jesus according to the Christians, created a form of dualism between Creator and creation and the doctrine of Creatio ex nihilo, which later heavily influenced Jewish and Islamic theology.[47] By that, Christians established their own identity, distinct from both Greeks and Jews, as those who venerate the deity of Jesus.[48]

After several periods of alternating persecution and relative peace vis-à-vis the Roman authorities under different administrations, Christianity became the state church of the Roman Empire in 380, but has been split into various churches from its beginning. An attempt was made by the Byzantine Empire to unify Christendom, but this formally failed with the East–West Schism of 1054. In the 16th century, the birth and growth of Protestantism during the Reformation further split Christianity into many denominations. Christianity remains culturally diverse in its Western and Eastern branches, Christianity played a prominent role in the development of Western civilization.[49]


A cenotaph above the Cave of the Patriarchs traditionally considered to be the burial place of Abraham.

Islam is based on the teachings of the Quran. Although it considers Muhammad to be the Seal of the prophets, Islam teaches that every prophet preached Islam, as the word Islam literally means submission, the main concept preached by all prophets. Although the Quran is the central religious text of Islam, which Muslims believe to be a revelation from God,[50] other Islamic books considered to be revealed by God before the Quran, mentioned by name in the Quran are the Tawrat (Torah) revealed to the prophets and messengers amongst the Children of Israel (Bani Israil), the Zabur (Psalms) revealed to Dawud (David) and the Injil (the Gospel) revealed to Isa (Jesus). The Quran also mentions God having revealed the Scrolls of Abraham and the Scrolls of Moses.

The relationship between Islamic and Hebrew scriptures and New Testament differs significantly from the relationship between the New Testament and the Tanakh.[51] Whereas the New Testament draws heavily on the Tanakh and interprets its text in light of the foundations of the new religion, the Quran only alludes to various stories of the Tanakh and Biblical writings, but remains independent of both, focusing on establishing a monotheistic message by utilizing the stories of the prophets in a religious decentralized environment.[51]

In the 7th century AD, Islam was founded by Muhammad in the Arabian Peninsula; it spread widely through the early Muslim conquests, shortly after his death.[24] Islam understands its form of "Abrahamic monotheism" as preceding both Judaism and Christianity, and in contrast with Arabian Henotheism.[52]

The teachings of the Quran are believed by Muslims to be the direct and final revelation and words of God. Islam, like Christianity, is a universal religion (i.e. membership is open to anyone). Like Judaism, it has a strictly unitary conception of God, called tawhid or "strict monotheism".[53] The story of the creation of the world in the Quran is elaborated less extensively than in the Hebrew scripture, emphasizing the transcendence and universality of God, instead. According to the Quran, God says kun fa-yakūnu.[54] The Quran describes God as the creator of "heavens and earth", to emphasize that it is a universal God and not a local Arabian deity here.[54]

Common aspects


All Abrahamic religions accept the tradition that God revealed himself to the patriarch Abraham.[55][page needed] All of them are monotheistic, and all of them conceive God to be a transcendent creator and the source of moral law.[56] Their religious texts feature many of the same figures, histories, and places, although they often present them with different roles, perspectives, and meanings.[57] Believers who agree on these similarities and the common Abrahamic origin tend to also be more positive towards other Abrahamic groups.[58]

In the three main Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam), the individual, God, and the universe are highly separate from each other. The Abrahamic religions believe in a judging, paternal, fully external god to which the individual and nature are both subordinate. One seeks salvation or transcendence not by contemplating the natural world or via philosophical speculation, but by seeking to please God (such as obedience with God's wishes or his law) and see divine revelation as outside of self, nature, and custom.



All Abrahamic religions claim to be monotheistic, worshiping an exclusive God, although one who is known by different names.[55][page needed] Each of these religions preaches that God creates, is one, rules, reveals, loves, judges, punishes, and forgives.[28] However, although Christianity does not profess to believe in three gods—but rather in three persons, or hypostases, united in one essence—the Trinitarian doctrine, a fundamental of faith for the vast majority of Christian denominations,[59][60] conflicts with Jewish and Muslim concepts of monotheism. Since the conception of a divine Trinity is not amenable to tawhid, the Islamic doctrine of monotheism, Islam regards Christianity as variously polytheistic.[61]

Christianity and Islam both revere Jesus (Arabic: Isa or Yasu among Muslims and Arab Christians respectively) but with vastly differing conceptions:

However, the worship of Jesus, or the ascribing of partners to God (known as shirk in Islam and as shituf in Judaism), is typically viewed as the heresy of idolatry by Islam and Judaism.[citation needed]

Importance of Jerusalem


Jerusalem is considered Judaism's holiest city. Its origins can be dated to 1004 BCE,[63] when according to Biblical tradition David established it as the capital of the United Kingdom of Israel, and his son Solomon built the First Temple on Mount Moriah.[64] Since the Hebrew Bible relates that Isaac's sacrifice took place there, Mount Moriah's importance for Jews predates even these prominent events. Jews thrice daily pray in its direction, including in their prayers pleas for the restoration and the rebuilding of the Holy Temple (the Third Temple) on mount Moriah, close the Passover service with the wistful statement "Next year in built Jerusalem," and recall the city in the blessing at the end of each meal. Jerusalem has served as the only capital for the five Jewish states that have existed in Israel since 1400 BCE (the United Kingdom of Israel, the Kingdom of Judah, Yehud Medinata, the Hasmonean Kingdom, and modern Israel). It has been majority Jewish since about 1852 and continues through today.[65][66]

Jerusalem was an early center of Christianity. There has been a continuous Christian presence there since.[67] William R. Kenan, Jr., professor of the history of Christianity at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, writes that from the middle of the 4th century to the Islamic conquest in the middle of the 7th century, the Roman province of Palestine was a Christian nation with Jerusalem its principal city.[67] According to the New Testament, Jerusalem was the city Jesus was brought to as a child to be presented at the temple[68] and for the feast of the Passover.[69] He preached and healed in Jerusalem, unceremoniously drove the money changers in disarray from the temple there, held the Last Supper in an "upper room" (traditionally the Cenacle) there the night before he was crucified on the cross and was arrested in Gethsemane. The six parts to Jesus' trial—three stages in a religious court and three stages before a Roman court—were all held in Jerusalem. His crucifixion at Golgotha, his burial nearby (traditionally the Church of the Holy Sepulchre), and his resurrection and ascension and prophecy to return all are said to have occurred or will occur there.

Jerusalem became holy to Muslims, third after Mecca and Medina. The Al-Aqsa, which translates to "farthest mosque" in sura Al-Isra in the Quran and its surroundings are addressed in the Quran as "the holy land". Muslim tradition as recorded in the ahadith identifies al-Aqsa with a mosque in Jerusalem. The first Muslims did not pray toward Kaaba, but toward Jerusalem. The qibla was switched to Kaaba later on to fulfill the order of Allah of praying in the direction of Kaaba (Quran, Al-Baqarah 2:144–150). Another reason for its significance is its connection with the Miʿrāj,[70] where, according to traditional Muslim belief, Muhammad ascended through the Seven heavens on a horse like winged beast named Buraq, guided by the Archangel Gabriel, beginning from the Foundation Stone on the Temple Mount, in modern times under the Dome of the Rock.[71][72]

Significance of Abraham

An interpretation of the borders (in red) of the Promised Land, based on God's promise to Abraham (Genesis 15:18)[73]

Even though members of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam do not all claim Abraham as an ancestor, some members of these religions have tried to claim him as exclusively theirs.[15]

For Jews, Abraham is the founding patriarch of the children of Israel. God promised Abraham: "I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you."[74] With Abraham, God entered into "an everlasting covenant throughout the ages to be God to you and to your offspring to come".[75] It is this covenant that makes Abraham and his descendants children of the covenant. Similarly, converts, who join the covenant, are all identified as sons and daughters of Abraham.[76]

Abraham is primarily a revered ancestor or patriarch (referred to as Avraham Avinu (אברהם אבינו in Hebrew) "Abraham our father") to whom God made several promises: chiefly, that he would have numberless descendants, who would receive the land of Canaan (the "Promised Land"). According to Jewish tradition, Abraham was the first post-Flood prophet to reject idolatry through rational analysis, although Shem and Eber carried on the tradition from Noah.[77][78]

Christians view Abraham as an important exemplar of faith, and a spiritual, as well as physical, ancestor of Jesus. For Christians, Abraham is a spiritual forebear as well as/rather than a direct ancestor depending on the individual's interpretation of Paul the Apostle,[79] with the Abrahamic covenant "reinterpreted so as to be defined by faith in Christ rather than biological descent" or both by faith as well as a direct ancestor; in any case, the emphasis is placed on faith being the only requirement for the Abrahamic Covenant to apply[80] (see also New Covenant and supersessionism). In Christian belief, Abraham is a role model of faith,[81][non-primary source needed] and his obedience to God by offering Isaac is seen as a foreshadowing of God's offering of his son Jesus.[82][83]

Christian commentators have a tendency to interpret God's promises to Abraham as applying to Christianity subsequent to, and sometimes rather than (as in supersessionism), being applied to Judaism, whose adherents rejected Jesus.[neutrality is disputed] They argue this on the basis that just as Abraham as a Gentile (before he was circumcised) "believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness"[84] (cf. Rom. 4:3, James 2:23), "those who have faith are children of Abraham"[85] (see also John 8:39). This is most fully developed in Paul's theology where all who believe in God are spiritual descendants of Abraham.[86][a] However, with regards to Rom. 4:20[87] and Gal. 4:9,[88] in both cases he refers to these spiritual descendants as the "sons of God"[89] rather than "children of Abraham".[90]

For Muslims, Abraham is a prophet, the "messenger of God" who stands in the line from Adam to Muhammad, to whom God gave revelations,[Quran %3Averse%3D163 4 :163], who "raised the foundations of the House" (i.e., the Kaaba)[Quran %3Averse%3D127 2 :127] with his first son, Isma'il, a symbol of which is every mosque.[91] Ibrahim (Abraham) is the first in a genealogy for Muhammad. Islam considers Abraham to be "one of the first Muslims" (Surah 3)—the first monotheist in a world where monotheism was lost, and the community of those faithful to God,[92] thus being referred to as ابونا ابراهيم or "Our Father Abraham", as well as Ibrahim al-Hanif or "Abraham the Monotheist". Also, the same as Judaism, Islam believes that Abraham rejected idolatry through logical reasoning. Abraham is also recalled in certain details of the annual Hajj pilgrimage.[93]



The conception of God as universal remains a common feature of all Abrahamic religions.[94] The Abrahamic God is conceived of as eternal, omnipotent, omniscient and as the creator of the universe.[94] God is further held to have the properties of holiness, justice, omnibenevolence, and omnipresence.[94] Proponents of Abrahamic faiths believe that God is also transcendent, but at the same time personal and involved, listening to prayer and reacting to the actions of his creatures. God in Abrahamic religions is always referred to as masculine only.[94]

The Star of David (or Magen David) is a generally recognized symbol of modern Jewish identity and Judaism.

Jewish theology is unitarian. God is an absolute one, indivisible and incomparable being who is the ultimate cause of all existence. Jewish tradition teaches that the true aspect of God is incomprehensible and unknowable and that it is only God's revealed aspect that brought the universe into existence, and interacts with mankind and the world. In Judaism, the one God of Israel is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who is the guide of the world, delivered Israel from slavery in Egypt, and gave them the 613 Mitzvot at Mount Sinai as described in the Torah.

The national god of the Israelites has a proper name, written Y-H-W-H (Hebrew: יהוה) in the Hebrew Bible. The etymology of the name is unknown.[95] An explanation of the name is given to Moses when YHWH calls himself "I Am that I Am", (Hebrew: אהיה אשר אהיה ’ehye ’ăšer ’ehye), seemingly connecting it to the verb hayah (הָיָה), meaning 'to be', but this is likely not a genuine etymology. Jewish tradition accords many names to God, including Elohim, Shaddai, and Sabaoth.

The Christian cross (or crux) is the best-known religious symbol of Christianity; this version is known as a Latin Cross.

In Christian theology, God is the eternal being who created and preserves the world. Christians believe God to be both transcendent and immanent (involved in the world).[96][97] Early Christian views of God were expressed in the Pauline Epistles and the early[b] creeds, which proclaimed one God and the divinity of Jesus.

Around the year 200, Tertullian formulated a version of the doctrine of the Trinity which clearly affirmed the divinity of Jesus and came close to the later definitive form produced by the Ecumenical Council of 381.[98][99] Trinitarians, who form the large majority of Christians, hold it as a core tenet of their faith.[100][101] Nontrinitarian denominations define the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit in a number of different ways.[102]

The theology of the attributes and nature of God has been discussed since the earliest days of Christianity, with Irenaeus writing in the 2nd century: "His greatness lacks nothing, but contains all things."[103] In the 8th century, John of Damascus listed eighteen attributes which remain widely accepted.[104] As time passed, theologians developed systematic lists of these attributes, some based on statements in the Bible (e.g., the Lord's Prayer, stating that the Father is in Heaven), others based on theological reasoning.[105][106]

The word God written in Arabic

In Islamic theology, God (Arabic: الله Allāh) is the all-powerful and all-knowing creator, sustainer, ordainer and judge of everything in existence.[107] In contrast to the Judeo-Christian tradition, which depicts God usually as anthropomorph, the Islamic conception of God is less personal, but rather of a conscious force behind all aspects of the universe only known through signs of nature, metaphorical stories, and revelation by the prophets and angels.[108] Islam emphasizes that God is singular (tawḥīd)[109] unique (wāḥid) and inherently One (aḥad), all-merciful and omnipotent.[110] According to Islamic teachings, God exists without place[111] and according to the Quran, "No vision can grasp him, but His grasp is over all vision: He is above all comprehension, yet is acquainted with all things."[112] God, as referenced in the Quran, is the only God.[113][114] Islamic tradition also describes the 99 names of God. These 99 names describe attributes of God, including Most Merciful, The Just, The Peace and Blessing, and the Guardian.

A distinct feature between the concept of God in Islam compared to Christianity is that God has no progeny. This belief is summed up in chapter 112 of the Quran titled Al-Ikhlas, which states "Say, he is Allah (who is) one, Allah is the Eternal, the Absolute. He does not beget nor was he begotten. Nor is there to Him any equivalent."[Quran %3Averse%3D1 112 :1]



Christianity teaches Original Sin, the doctrine that humanity is inherently sinful since the fall of Adam.[115] Accordingly, salvation from death, suffering, and evil, the consequence of mankind's sinful nature, can only be brought by Death and Resurrection of Jesus[116]

Since humans obeyed the Devil by comitting sin, according to Christian teachings of salvation, the Devil has authority over humans.[117] Only the crucifixion of Jesus could save humans from the grasps of the Devil. Accordingly, Christianity rejects that actions and repentance alone could achieve salvation. The notion that only through the sacrifice of Jesus, salvation could be achieved is emphasized in the Bible:

"I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6).[118]

Salvation is thus, a grace bestowed by God, not an individual's work, and passages from the Bible are used in Christian theology to underline that message:

"surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid"[118](Isaiah 12:2)

Christianity understands acceptance of Jesus' sacrifice as a transformation of the individual, by that the person sheds off its former sinful nature and dissolves in the will of Jesus, an idea attributed to Paul in the Bible:

"If anyone is in Christ, he is a new cre-ation: the old has gone; the new has come."[118]

In Christianity, repentance is an external process; attained through faith.

Islam does neither acknowledge nor aspire salvation from evil in the world.[119] Instead, Islam teaches individual salvation from earthly and otherworldly sufferings through repentance (tawbah).[118]

There is no concept of original sin in Islam. The Fall of Adam is interpreted as an allegory for mankind's behavior; they sin, become aware of their sin, then repent.[120] Accordingly, Islam neither acknowledges nor aspires salvation from evil in the world.[119] Salvation is achieved by purifying one's soul, to go to paradise after death.[118] The importance of repentance is highlighted throughout Islamic scripture:

"Indeed, Allah loves those who are constantly repentant and loves those who purify themselves" (Surah 2:22)

Sometimes compared to the concept of original sin, the devils (shayāṭīn) are said to "touch" humans at the moment of birth and a devil is said to move through humans like blood in the veins, causing an urge to sin.[121] Thus, humans are expected to have a sinful nature, but it could be overcome through repentance:[118]

"Every son of Adam commits sin and the best for those who commit sin are those who repent." (Sunan Ibn Ma-jah)[118]

The devils as conceptualized in the New Testament are in odds with the Islamic idea of monotheism, thus closer to the Jewish understanding of Satan; not as an accuser, but a tempter.[122] According to Islamic monotheism, the devils are dependent on God.[122] According to Islamic teachings, evil is not traced back to devils, but to God, precisely to God's will:

"For indeed, Allāh sends astray whom He wills and guides whom He wills." (Surah 35:8).[123][122]

The origin of good and evil do not depend on a person's will, the devils, or universal laws, but solely on God's judgement.[122]


Preparing for a Jewish ritual circumcision.

Judaism and Samaritanism commands that males be circumcised when they are eight days old,[124] as does the Sunnah in Islam. Despite its common practice in Muslim-majority nations, circumcision is considered to be sunnah (tradition) and not required for a life directed by Allah.[125] Although there is some debate within Islam over whether it is a religious requirement or mere recommendation, circumcision (called khitan) is practiced nearly universally by Muslim males.

Today, many Christian denominations are neutral about ritual male circumcision, not requiring it for religious observance, but neither forbidding it for cultural or other reasons.[126] Western Christianity replaced the custom of male circumcision with the ritual of baptism,[127] a ceremony which varies according to the doctrine of the denomination, but it generally includes immersion, aspersion, or anointment with water. The Early Church (Acts 15, the Council of Jerusalem) decided that Gentile Christians are not required to undergo circumcision. The Council of Florence in the 15th century[128] prohibited it. Paragraph #2297 of the Catholic Catechism calls non-medical amputation or mutilation immoral.[129][130] By the 21st century, the Catholic Church had adopted a neutral position on the practice, as long as it is not practised as an initiation ritual. Catholic scholars make various arguments in support of the idea that this policy is not in contradiction with the previous edicts.[131][132][133] The New Testament chapter Acts 15 records that Christianity did not require circumcision. The Catholic Church currently maintains a neutral position on the practice of non-religious circumcision,[134] and in 1442 it banned the practice of religious circumcision in the 11th Council of Florence.[135] Coptic Christians practice circumcision as a rite of passage.[136] The Eritrean Orthodox Church and the Ethiopian Orthodox Church calls for circumcision, with near-universal prevalence among Orthodox men in Ethiopia.[137]

Coptic Children wearing traditional circumcision costumes

Many countries with majorities of Christian adherents in Europe and Latin America have low circumcision rates, while both religious and non-religious circumcision is widely practiced in many predominantly Christian countries and among Christian communities in the Anglosphere countries, Oceania, South Korea, the Philippines, the Middle East and Africa.[138][139] Countries such as the United States,[140] the Philippines, Australia (albeit primarily in the older generations),[141] Canada, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Equatorial Guinea, Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, and many other African Christian countries have high circumcision rates.[142][143][144] Circumcision is near universal in the Christian countries of Oceania.[139] In some African and Eastern Christian denominations male circumcision is an integral or established practice, and require that their male members undergo circumcision.[145] Coptic Christianity and Ethiopian Orthodoxy and Eritrean Orthodoxy still observe male circumcision and practice circumcision as a rite of passage.[136][146] Male circumcision is also widely practiced among Christians from Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine, Israel, and North Africa. (See also aposthia.)

Male circumcision is among the rites of Islam and is part of the fitrah, or the innate disposition and natural character and instinct of the human creation.[147]

Circumcision is widely practiced by the Druze, the procedure is practiced as a cultural tradition,[148] and has no religious significance in the Druze faith.[149][150] Some Druses do not circumcise their male children, and refuse to observe this "common Muslim practice".[151]

Circumcision is not a religious practice of the Bahá'í Faith, and leaves that decision up to the parents.[152]



Judaism accepts converts, but has had no explicit missionaries since the end of the Second Temple era. Judaism states that non-Jews can achieve righteousness by following Noahide Laws, a set of moral imperatives that, according to the Talmud, were given by God[c] as a binding set of laws for the "children of Noah"—that is, all of humanity.[153][d] It is believed that as much as ten percent of the Roman Empire followed Judaism either as fully ritually obligated Jews or the simpler rituals required of non-Jewish members of that faith.[154]

Moses Maimonides, one of the major Jewish teachers, commented: "Quoting from our sages, the righteous people from other nations have a place in the world to come if they have acquired what they should learn about the Creator." Because the commandments applicable to the Jews are much more detailed and onerous than Noahide laws, Jewish scholars have traditionally maintained that it is better to be a good non-Jew than a bad Jew, thus discouraging conversion. In the U.S., as of 2003 28% of married Jews were married to non-Jews.[155][page needed] See also Conversion to Judaism.

The Sermon on the Mount by Carl Heinrich Bloch (1877)

Christianity encourages evangelism. Many Christian organizations, especially Protestant churches, send missionaries to non-Christian communities throughout the world. See also Great Commission. Forced conversions to Catholicism have been alleged at various points throughout history. The most prominently cited allegations are the conversions of the pagans after Constantine; of Muslims, Jews and Eastern Orthodox during the Crusades; of Jews and Muslims during the time of the Spanish Inquisition, where they were offered the choice of exile, conversion or death; and of the Aztecs by Hernán Cortés. Forced conversions to Protestantism may have occurred as well, notably during the Reformation, especially in England and Ireland (see recusancy and Popish plot).

Forced conversions are now condemned as sinful by major denominations such as the Roman Catholic Church, which officially states that forced conversions pollute the Christian religion and offend human dignity, so that past or present offences are regarded as a scandal (a cause of unbelief). According to Pope Paul VI, "It is one of the major tenets of Catholic doctrine that man's response to God in faith must be free: no one, therefore, is to be forced to embrace the Christian faith against his own will."[156] The Roman Catholic Church has declared that Catholics should fight anti-Semitism.[157]

Islam encourages proselytism in various forms. Dawah is an important Islamic concept which denotes the preaching of Islam. Da‘wah literally means "issuing a summons" or "making an invitation". A Muslim who practices da‘wah, either as a religious worker or in a volunteer community effort, is called a dā‘ī, plural du‘āt. A dā‘ī is thus a person who invites people to understand Islam through a dialogical process and may be categorized in some cases as the Islamic equivalent of a missionary, as one who invites people to the faith, to the prayer, or to Islamic life.

Da'wah activities can take many forms. Some pursue Islamic studies specifically to perform Da'wah. Mosques and other Islamic centers sometimes spread Da'wah actively, similar to evangelical churches. Others consider being open to the public and answering questions to be Da'wah. Recalling Muslims to the faith and expanding their knowledge can also be considered Da'wah.

In Islamic theology, the purpose of Da'wah is to invite people, both Muslims and non-Muslims, to understand the commandments of God as expressed in the Quran and the Sunnah of the Prophet, as well as to inform them about Muhammad. Da'wah produces converts to Islam, which in turn grows the size of the Muslim Ummah, or community of Muslims.

Forced conversion to Islam has historically been a prominent strategy in the expansion of the religion, imposed extensively by Muslim conquerors on invaded populations.[158][159] The use of violence in such instances has been claimed to be justified by the Quran.[160]



Worldwide percentage of adherents by Abrahamic religion, as of 2015[161]

  Christianity (31.2%)
  Islam (24.1%)
  Judaism (0.18%)
  Baháʼí Faith (0.07%)
  Other (non-Abrahamic) (45.45%)

Christianity is the largest Abrahamic religion with about 2.3 billion adherents, called Christians, constituting about 31.1% of the world's population.[162] Islam is the second largest Abrahamic religion, as well as the fastest-growing Abrahamic religion in recent decades.[162][163] It has about 1.9 billion adherents, called Muslims, constituting about 24.1% of the world's population. The third largest Abrahamic religion is Judaism with about 14.1 million adherents, called Jews.[162] The Baháʼí Faith has over 8 million adherents, making it the fourth largest Abrahamic religion,[164][165] and the fastest growing religion across the 20th century, usually at least twice the rate of population growth.[166] The Druze Faith has between one million and nearly two millions adherents.[167][168]

Adherents of minor Abrahamic faiths
Religion Adherents
Baháʼí ~8 million[164][165]
Druze 1–2 million[167][168]
Rastafari 700,000-1 million[36]
Mandaeism 60,000–100,000[169][170]
Azali Bábism ~1,000–2,000[29][171]
Samaritanism ~840[172]

See also



  1. ^ "So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith."[citation needed] "In other words, it is not the children by physical descent who are God's children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham's offspring."Romans 9:8
  2. ^ Perhaps even pre-Pauline creeds.[citation needed]
  3. ^ According to Encyclopedia Talmudit (Hebrew edition, Israel, 5741/1981, Entry Ben Noah, page 349), most medieval authorities consider that all seven commandments were given to Adam, although Maimonides (Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot M'lakhim 9:1) considers the dietary law to have been given to Noah.
  4. ^ Compare Genesis 9:4–6.




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  3. ^ Kiel, Yishai. "The contours of Abrahamic identity: a Zoroastrian perspective." Geneses: A Comparative Study of the Historiographies of the Rise of Christianity, Rabbinic Judaism, and Islam (2019): 19-34.
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  9. ^ Gaston, K. Healan. "The Judeo-Christian and Abrahamic Traditions in America." Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Religion. 2018.
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  11. ^ Dodds, Adam. "The Abrahamic faiths? Continuity and discontinuity in Christian and Islamic doctrine." Evangelical Quarterly: An International Review of Bible and Theology 81.3 (2009): 230-253.
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  20. ^ a b Hughes, Aaron W. Abrahamic religions: On the uses and abuses of history. Oxford University Press, 2012. p. 17
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  22. ^ Stroumsa 2017, p. 7.
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Works cited


Further reading