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What is Your Religion

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Judaism and Islam in one important way stand closer together than either does to the third companion in the trilogy of monotheism, Christianity. That way is their conviction that law embodying public policy as much as theology sets forth religious truth. In their classical statements, Islam and Judaism agree that the religious regulation of everyday life, extending to acutely detailed dimensions of ordinary conduct, is required to establish a godly society, a people and state formed in accord with God’ s will. Both stress norms of behavior as much as of belief, emphasis upon the formation, by the faithful, of a state governed by God’ s law as interpreted and applied by God’ s representatives.

Judaism, appealing to the prophet Moses, and Islam, responding to the prophet Muhammad, concur that the community of the faithful form not only a religious but a political entity. Israel envisioned by Moses governed itself by the law revealed by God to Moses at Sinai, and the abode of Islam envisioned by Muhammad would constitute a community meant to realize the law of God set forth in the Qur’ an and associated teachings.

This is not to suggest that Christianity took the position of indifference to public policy or left law outside of its realm of governance; far from it. But Judaism and Islam tell themselves the story of origins within the framework of the godly state, Israel called into being by God at Sinai through the prophet Moses, for example, being instructed about constructing courts and settling claims of damages for the goring ox, not only building a tabernacle and setting up an altar for offerings to God.

Islam from the beginning understood itself as a political entity, with the realization of the divine will through revealed law as its reason for existence. For its part, Christianity spent three centuries without thinking a great deal about law beyond the realm of Church order, paying slight attention, except as victim, to matters of public policy and politics.

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