MNE 347 Palestinian Studies
ISLAMS EARLY INTERACTIONS WITH JUDAISM AND CHRISTIANITY
Because of its harsh desert environment, the Arabian Peninsula was left relatively unmolested by the several competing empires that swept through the Fertile Crescent just north of it in the early centuries before Islam. At the beginning of the 7th Century, the Byzantine and Sassanid empires were embroiled in a 26-year war for supremacy, which had a lasting cultural impact on the Arabs of the Peninsula eventually leading to the emergence and subsequent explosion of Islam into the monotheistic sphere. The interaction Islam had with existing religions led to a unique monotheism better suited to the Arabs, yet still maintained traditional elements with Judaism and Christianity, even enabling it to fall under the Abrahamic title.
Monotheism was initially introduced through trade. According to Jonathon Berkey, “…the exchange of people and ideas between Arabs of the interior and predominantly Aramaic-speaking inhabitants of Syria was, and had been for centuries, a routine element of life. That exchange touched on religious matters…” (64).* Elements of these religions competed and intermingled with existing Arab paganism and traditions, creating a unique take on “the one God” that was much better suited to the Arabs than the politically-charged imperial baggage of the former traditions. Islam holds many similarities with the religions it sprung from besides its monotheism and devotion to the idea of a "true God," yet even these similarities come with a unique Arabian flavor. These include a prophet-messenger, a holy book of scripture, and an ancestral link to the Abrahamic line.
The idea of a special kind of person able to transcend mortal boundaries to commune with deity and transmit knowledge or specific messages to mankind has been an integral part of the Judeo-Christian experience. There are many prophets throughout Torah and Old Testament...