Jews, Christians and Muslims believe that God made a covenant, or agreement, with Abraham. It was to keep faith in One God and to worship Him, and to teach the practice of worship to his children down the generations.
In return, God would preserve, protect, and multiply the children of Abraham. This covenant became the legacy, or trust, for the children of Abraham to continue.
Abraham had two sons, Ishmael (son of Hagar) and Isaac (son of Sarah). He settled them in different parts of the Arabian Peninsula: Isaac near Jerusalem and Ishmael near Mecca.
According to the scriptures, Abraham’s offspring would become the fathers of great nations. The people of these nations are now called Jews, Christians, and Muslims. They are all monotheists, which means people who believe in one God, or the Creator of all that is in the universe and on earth.
The common core of Abraham’s story is his faith and obedience to the call of God. Judaic and Christian traditions convey this theme in the book of Genesis. God calls to Abraham, and he replies “Here I am” (Genesis 1:22).
Likewise, the Quran states “When his Lord said to him: ‘Surrender!’, he said: ‘I have surrendered to the Lord of the Worlds'” (2:131).
In fact, when Muslim pilgrims say “Labaik! Allahuma labaik!” as they approach the sanctuary at Mecca — which they believe Abraham built — they are repeating, “Here I am, Lord, at Your Command!”
There is also another act belonging to the common core of Abraham’s story. In this story, God tells Abraham in a dream to sacrifice his son. Abraham and his son were prepared to obey this divine command. But, instead, God redeemed the sacrifice with a magnificent ram. This miracle meant that God does not require human sacrifice, but only the willingness to obey.
While the story is the same among the monotheistic traditions, it is interpreted slightly differently. The Biblical account says the son to be sacrificed was Abraham and Sarah’s son, Isaac, while the Quran states it was Ishmael, whose mother was Hagar. The lesson of obedience and strength of faith, however, is the same.
Each Abrahamic faith observes a few major celebrations throughout the year. Both Judaism and Islam follow a lunar calendar for the timing of these celebrations. Some Christian feast days are also influenced by the lunar calendar.
Some key Jewish celebrations include Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Passover, Shavuot, Sukkot, Chanukkah, and Purim. These celebrations recall events in the dramatic history of the Jewish people.
Some key Christian celebrations include Advent, Christmas, Lent, Good Friday, Easter, and Pentecost. These events mark a few of the celebrations that commemorate events in the life of Jesus Christ.
Some key Islamic celebrations include: Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr; Hajj and Eid al-Adha. Ramadan is considered a holy month of fasting and is commanded in the Quran. Muslims abstain from eating or drinking from sunrise to sunset during that month. They also focus on forgiveness and on special prayers.
The feast day that ends Ramadan is called Eid al-Fitr. The ritual journey, or pilgrimage, to Mecca called the Hajj and Eid al-Adha both commemorate events in the life of Abraham and his family.
There are fasting days, for which people deny themselves the ordinary necessities of life for a time of remembrance — and feast days of thankfulness. Sharing food and other gifts with family, neighbors, and needy people are common ways to celebrate these days. People also attend special services of worship as part of these celebrations.
Belief in the need to worship God is common to all religions. The most basic form of worship is prayer. Each tradition prescribes specific words and requirements for prayer, which takes place at appointed times of day. Public prayer in houses of worship is common to all three faiths: for Jews on Saturday, for Christians on Sunday, and for Muslims on Friday, and during celebrations throughout the year.
All Abrahamic faiths recognize personal and private prayer of each believer. What’s more, the desire to speak with God is common among people everywhere, whether they follow a particular religious tradition or not.
According to most adherents of the Abrahamic faiths, prayers marking the times of day and the yearly cycle are among the most important signs of obedience to God. Such rituals are also the source of scientific efforts to achieve accurate timekeeping and calendars. The work of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim astronomers reflects this common and shared effort.
Fasting — going without food or certain kinds of foods — for a period of time is a common form of worship in the Abrahamic tradition. Fasts are often related to holy days in Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Fasting is also found in many other spiritual traditions in the world.
Charity and Purification
Another common practice in the Abrahamic tradition is giving charity as an act of kindness, to help the poor, or as a way to make up for bad deeds. The idea that wealth is purified through giving is also common to the three traditions.
Water also has a spiritual significance in the Abrahamic faiths. Purification of the body before prayer and in connection with other rituals is a common theme.
The three faiths also share similar concepts of a pilgrimage. Adherents of these faiths journey in search of knowledge to holy sites. There, they seek forgiveness and strengthen their connection with God.
However, each pilgrimage involves different destinations. Muslims make a pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in a lifetime, as one of Islam’s five pillars of faith. Christians celebrate a long tradition of visiting the holy land and other shrines. Meanwhile, Jews travel to the site of the temple in Jerusalem as a pilgrimage destination.
Individuals and communities follow ethical, practical, and religious laws. They also participate in worship. Leaders are those who are specially trained in knowledge of the faith and care of the community and its members. They play roles in guiding the faithful.
In Judaism, the leader is called a rabbi. Rabbis receive rigorous training in the scriptures and other Judaic writings. The word in Hebrew means “my master.” Rabbis preside over Jewish congregations in houses of worship called synagogues.
In Christianity, priests and pastors serve as part of a church hierarchy, or ranks of authorities. Only trained, ordained, or initiated priests can fulfill certain sacred functions of worship for the lay, or ordinary, people. Priests and pastors preside over Christian congregations in houses of worship called churches.
In Islam, there is no priesthood, ordination, or religious hierarchy. A prayer leader is called an imam, which means “one who stands in front” of the lines of worshippers. Imams can lead prayers for groups of men and women in Muslim houses of worship called mosques.
Leaders who offer advice on how to practice Islam, on the law, and other kinds of guidance are called alim (sing., AH-lim) or ulema (pl., oo-leh-MA). The word means “one who has knowledge.”