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What are the Abrahamic Religions?

The Abrahamic religions—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—share a common spiritual ancestry tracing back to the patriarch Abraham. They are monotheistic, each with unique narratives and practices, yet they converge on the belief in one God. Their profound influence shapes global history and culture. How do these faiths intertwine, and what can we learn from their shared roots and divergent paths? Explore with us.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Abrahamic religions are religions that share the patriarch Abraham in their lineage, although he plays different roles in different belief systems. Islam, Christianity, and Judaism are all considered to be part of this group, because Abraham appears in the religious texts of all of these faiths. The Druze, Bahá'í, Samaritans and others are considered to be members as well. All told, more than half of the people in the world are believed to identify themselves as members of these religious groups.

Religious Traditions

Abraham's s covenant with God is an important story in the Jewish faith.
Abraham's s covenant with God is an important story in the Jewish faith.

In addition to sharing Abraham, numerous other figures, such as Noah, can be found in the tradition of all of the Abrahamic religions, and these religions share several common traits as well. All are monotheistic, believing in one god, and they have Semitic origins. In the case of Judaism, Islam, and certain Christian sects, Abraham is viewed as one of the literal fathers of the religion, in the direct lineage of various prophets and other important religious figures. In most of Christianity, Abraham is considered to be more of a spiritual father, because Christianity is derived from Judaism in some ways.

Abraham's Life

Hasidic man praying at the Kotel (Wailing Wall).
Hasidic man praying at the Kotel (Wailing Wall).

Abraham's story is well documented in numerous religious texts, and during his long life, he participated in many religious and historical importance in the eyes of religious believers. He is perhaps most well known for making a covenant with God that allowed him to have many children with his wife, Sarah, long after the two were past the age of childbearing. These children are considered to be the ancestors of the Semitic people.

Views of Abraham

Abraham is a spiritual father within Christianity.
Abraham is a spiritual father within Christianity.

In Judaism, Abraham is recognized as the “father of many,” and his covenant with God is an important story in the Jewish tradition. In Islam, he is considered to be a prophet, and his son Ishmael is in the lineage of the prophet Muhammad ibn ‘Abdullah. For Christians, Abraham is important because he is the father of the people of Israel and therefore a forebearer of Christ. As a result, he is a crucial figure in all of these Abrahamic religions, along with other religions that use scriptures derived from them.

According to tradition, Abraham's son Ishmael constructed the original Ka'aba in Mecca.
According to tradition, Abraham's son Ishmael constructed the original Ka'aba in Mecca.

There is some debate over which religions should be classified as part of this group. This is especially true among smaller religions that might be inspired by such belief systems, but might not view Abraham in the same way. Along with the Abrahamic religions, the other major category of religious belief is that of the Eastern religions, which include faiths such as Buddhism and Hinduism.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the Abrahamic religions and why are they called that?

Islam is one of the three major Abrahamic religions.
Islam is one of the three major Abrahamic religions.

The Abrahamic religions are a group of monotheistic faiths that recognize a spiritual tradition identified with Abraham, a patriarch depicted in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, the Quran, and the Christian Bible. They are called Abrahamic because they all share the worship of the God of Abraham and trace their origins back to him. The three primary Abrahamic religions are Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, which together account for over half of the world's religious adherents.

How do the Abrahamic religions differ from each other?

Many Jews consider Abraham's covenant with God to be a major event in the Judaic tradition.
Many Jews consider Abraham's covenant with God to be a major event in the Judaic tradition.

While Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all share a belief in the God of Abraham, they differ significantly in doctrines, rituals, and interpretations of sacred texts. Judaism is based on the covenant between God and the Israelites, with a focus on the Torah. Christianity emerged from Judaism, believing in Jesus Christ as the Messiah and the New Testament as scripture. Islam recognizes Muhammad as the last prophet and follows the Quran. Each religion has its own set of practices, holidays, and guiding principles.

What is the significance of Jerusalem to the Abrahamic religions?

Jerusalem holds profound significance for all three Abrahamic religions. For Jews, it is the site of the ancient Temple and the eternal capital of Israel. Christians revere it as the place where Jesus was crucified and resurrected. Muslims honor Jerusalem as the location of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, where the Prophet Muhammad is believed to have ascended to heaven. This shared reverence makes Jerusalem a pivotal and often contested spiritual center.

How have the Abrahamic religions influenced global culture and civilization?

The Abrahamic religions have profoundly shaped global culture, law, philosophy, art, and history. Judaism's monotheistic belief system and ethical laws laid the groundwork for Western morality and social justice. Christianity's spread through Europe influenced the Renaissance, Reformation, and the shaping of Western political thought. Islam's golden age fostered advancements in science, mathematics, and literature, and its cultural impact extends from the Middle East to Africa and Asia.

Are there any other religions considered to be part of the Abrahamic tradition?

Beyond Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, other religions are sometimes considered part of the broader Abrahamic tradition due to their historical roots or theological elements related to Abraham. These include the Bahá'í Faith, which sees itself as a continuation of the Abrahamic tradition, recognizing figures from all three religions and adding its own prophet, Bahá'u'lláh. Druze and Rastafarianism also draw on Abrahamic elements, though they are distinct in their beliefs and practices.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a CulturalWorld researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Learn more...
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a CulturalWorld researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Learn more...

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Discussion Comments

anon999866

May they come to their senses in the mid-east, reform themselves, so they all can live together in peace.

anon993585

Terah (Abraham's father) led a rag tag tribe that was forced out of Ur and followed the fertile crescent to modern day Turkey, picking up ne'r-do-wells, indigents, fugitives,etc. along the way. Forced by the sheer size of the tribe, Abraham and his brothers had to divide up the tribe and go their separate ways. Eventually, the saga of himself and his wife Sarah and her handmaid led to being the progenitor of the Jews, Arabs, and other cultures originating in the Sinai. See the story of Isaac and his two boys. Seems that no one else was procreating. If you are a Christian, Jew, or Moslem, you have to give credence to this fantastic story or your religion is based on nothing. How gullible is the human race?

serenesurface

Some comments have been made here about the differences between the Abrahamic religions. But I think that instead of looking at the differences, we should concentrate on the commonalities. Especially because the commonalities are much more than the differences. The belief in Abraham being such a good example.

Yes, there are controversies about his life, his wives and children. But that's bound to happen. We're talking about someone who lived a long time ago and multiple books that describe him. Let's not let the small differences prevent us from realizing that the Abrahamic religions are the same or similar.

literally45
@fify-- That's a good question, but how can other religions be included when they do not believe in Abraham and their religious texts also do not mention him?
fify

I wonder who came up with the term "Abrahamic religions?"

It sounds like this category was made based on religious rhetoric and the mention of Abraham in them. But from the point of view of Islam, there is only one religion and that is the religion of Abraham.

Islam says that Abraham was the first prophet and since religion has been sent for all people on earth, not just one community, technically that makes Abraham everyone's prophet. It also means that everyone comes from the lineage of Abraham.

Mammmood

@nony - Different religion’s beliefs are a good thing, but that doesn’t mean we should all be religious. In our town the local atheists association started putting up billboards saying that you could be good with God. They meant to spark a controversy, no doubt, especially since we live in the Bible belt.

I don’t think anyone has been bent out of shape about it; but I agree with the basic premise. As an agnostic, I choose to recognize the good in all faiths, while believing that we can be good just because we choose to, not because we are told to by any particular faith.

nony

@hamje32 - My discussions with people of other faiths (I am a Christian) tend to revolve around their view of our English Bible, and the variety of Bible versions that exist today. I have to point out that there are different versions because there are different source texts, but that they all tell the same story.

Actually, the multiplicity of texts that explain the same story validates, rather than dilutes, the integrity of the Bible in my opinion. If you have a lot of corroborating texts, then that should prove that the accounts are accurate; if you had only one text, how would you know if it was true?

hamje32

@SkyWhisperer - The real difference between religions like Christianity and Islam is of course the fundamental question, "Is Jesus God?" I have a Muslim friend and he explained his beliefs to me.

The Muslims definitely respect Jesus as a prophet, so much so that in Muslims countries they will not tolerate any of the so called expressions of art which we have in the United States that depict Jesus in an unflattering manner.

However, they do not view him as God. When I pressed him for why, it’s because it violates a fundamental belief they have: God is One, and He has no sons. I suppose I can understand this.

We have had cordial discussions about our faiths. Obviously we don’t agree on some fundamental doctrines, but we do share a respect for the Abrahamic tradition and the Ten Commandments.

SkyWhisperer

One important point to note about the three Abrahamic religions is how they view Ishmael and Isaac. For example, Christians and Jews believe and teach that God ordered Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac on the mountain (of course he was not actually sacrificed in the end).

Muslims, on the other hand, believe that God ordered Abraham to sacrifice Ishmael. They even have a holiday to celebrate this tradition.

I am not a Muslim so I am open to correction if I don’t understand this correctly, however I lived in a Muslim nation for some time and this has been my understanding. Ishmael and Isaac are one of the major divides between Christians and Muslims.

robbie21

I hadn't heard the term, either, although I'm pretty well educated in religion. So many people today seem to know so little about their *own* religion, much less the religions of others and how they fit together and relate to each other. I've met teenagers who describe themselves as Christian but don't understand, for instance, the relationship of Catholicism vs. Christianity or what the word Protestant means.

I'm not a believer myself, but I think the Bible is a fantastic piece of literature and I wish that more people who profess to believe it would spend more time not only reading it, but studying its place in world history.

SailorJerry

This is interesting! I had no idea that there was a way to refer to Islam, Judaism, and Christianity together other than by saying all three of their names. But the three go together, so it's a handy term.

I also like how the term joins together such a huge chunk of the world's population. When you think about how many different kinds of Christianity there are (from Eastern Orthodox to Mormon and everything in between) and how divisive these minor religious divisions can be, it's nice to think of the Abrahamic faiths as forming one body.

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