Who is a Muslim; Time to Learn from the Christians?

Written and collected by Zia H Shah MD, the Chief Editor of the Muslim Times

I bet you that even the most informed Muslims, including the majority of the Muslim reliogious leaders, don’t know that there are three broad divisions among the Christians, namely the Roman Catholics, the Protestants and the Eastern Orthodox. When they meet or see a Christian they could care less what the details of the different denominations are, but, as soon as they see a Muslim, most of them cannot begin to see the person, without defining the denomination. What a pity?

The Muslims may have the best understanding of theology or Monotheism, but, when it comes to coexistence and politics, we can definitely learn a thing or two from the fellow Christians.

The Muslims first divide themselves into two camps the Sunnis and the Shiites. I belong to a sect among the Sunnis called the Ahmadis, which are regarded as heretic by most other sects. Nevertheless, the Ahmadis are further divided into at least two sects depending on how we understand the status of our Founder, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad Qadiani.

The Shiites make only 10% of the Muslim population but are divided into several sects including twlevers, seveners, Ismaili, Dawoodi, Nizari, Bohra, Hafizi and Zaydi.

Not recognizing the faith of other sects and belittling others is common place among the Muslims and I am not going to document that any further in this article.

The point being that divisions and subdivisions are endless. Here is a picture with geographic distribution of some of the sects:

Now let me explain the three main groups among the Christians, the Roman Catholics, the Eastern Orthodox and the Protestants and how they came about.

Over the last century, the Orthodox Christian population around the world has more than doubled and now stands at nearly 260 million. In Russia alone, it has surpassed 100 million, a sharp resurgence after the fall of the Soviet Union.[1]

What divides the Catholic and the Orthodox churches has been labelled as the Great Schism for the last thousand years.

The East–West Schism, also called the Great Schism and the Schism of 1054, was the break of communion between what are now the Eastern Orthodox and the Roman Catholic churches, which has lasted since the 11th century.[1]

A succession of ecclesiastical differences and theological disputes between the Greek East and Latin West pre-dated the formal rupture that occurred in 1054.[2][3][4] Prominent among these were the issues of the source of the Holy Spirit, whether leavened or unleavened bread should be used in the Eucharist,[a] the Bishop of Rome‘s claim to universal jurisdiction, and the place of the See of Constantinople in relation to the Pentarchy.[8]

A host of disputes – ranging from theological to political – have divided Orthodoxy from Catholicism for nearly 1,000 years.

Nevertheless, today, four-in-ten Orthodox Christians in the vast majority of countries surveyed say they favor their church reconciling with the Roman Catholic Church.

At the same time, Orthodox majorities in most countries say their religion and Catholicism have a lot in common, and Orthodox majorities across most of Central and Eastern Europe say Pope Francis has helped improve Orthodox-Catholic relations. Regarding Pope Francis in general, however, Orthodox opinion is mixed; half or fewer of Orthodox respondents in most countries surveyed say they view him favorably, including just 32% in Russia.[2]

catholicism and orthodox

While relatively few favor a hypothetical communion between their churches, Orthodox Christians and Catholics generally say their religions have a lot in common. Majorities in 10 of the 14 Orthodox populations surveyed say this, as do majorities in seven of the nine Catholic populations.

Proximity to people of the other faith often seems to be a factor; respondents from these two traditions are especially likely to say their denominations have a lot in common if they live in countries with sizable populations of both. In Bosnia, for example, 75% of Orthodox Christians and 89% of Catholics say their religions have a lot in common. In Belarus, 70% of Orthodox Christians say this, as do 75% of Catholics.

Ukrainian Catholics are among the most likely in the region to say Catholicism has a lot in common with Orthodox Christianity. In part, this may be because most Ukrainian Catholics identify as Byzantine Rite Catholics and not Roman Catholics.

Read further on this theme in Pew Research Center website.

Now let us talk about the second division in Christianity. How do the Protestants differ from the Catholics?

The Ninety-five Theses or Disputation on the Power of Indulgences[a] are a list of propositions for an academic disputation written in 1517 by Martin Luther, professor of moral theology at the University of Wittenberg, Germany, that started the Reformation, a schism in the Catholic Church which profoundly changed Europe. They advance Luther’s positions against what he saw as abusive in the practice of clergy selling plenary indulgences, which were certificates believed to reduce the temporal punishment for sins committed by the purchasers or their loved ones in purgatory. In the Theses, Luther claimed that the repentance required by Christ in order for sins to be forgiven involves inner spiritual repentance rather than merely external sacramental confession. He argued that indulgences led Christians to avoid true repentance and sorrow for sin, believing that they could forgo it by purchasing an indulgence. They also, according to Luther, discouraged Christians from giving to the poor and performing other acts of mercy, believing that indulgence certificates were more spiritually valuable. Though Luther claimed that his positions on indulgences accorded with those of the Pope, the Theses challenge a fourteenth-century papal bull stating that the pope could use the treasury of merit and the good deeds of past saints to forgive temporal punishment for sins. The Theses are framed as propositions to be argued in debate rather than necessarily representing Luther’s opinions, but Luther later clarified his views in the Explanations of the Disputation Concerning the Value of Indulgences.

Luther sent the Theses enclosed with a letter to Albert of Brandenburg, the Archbishop of Mainz, on 31 October 1517, a date now considered the start of the Reformation and commemorated annually as Reformation Day. Luther may have also posted the Theses on the door of All Saints’ Church and other churches in Wittenberg in accordance with University custom on 31 October or in mid-November. The Theses were quickly reprinted, translated, and distributed throughout Germany and Europe. They initiated a pamphlet war with indulgence preacher Johann Tetzel, which spread Luther’s fame even further. Luther’s ecclesiastical superiors had him tried for heresy, which culminated in his excommunication in 1521. Though the Theses were the start of the Reformation, Luther did not consider indulgences to be as important as other theological matters which would divide the church, such as justification by faith alone and the bondage of the will. His breakthrough on these issues would come later, and he did not see the writing of the Theses as the point at which his beliefs diverged from those of Rome.

Over the centuries the Protetants and the Catholics have had their bloody conflicts. The most dramatic was the Thirty Years’ War, which was a war fought primarily in Central Europe between 1618 and 1648. One of the longest and most destructive conflicts in human history,[19] as well as the deadliest European religious war in history, the war resulted in eight million fatalities.

Initially a war between various Protestant and Catholic states in the fragmented Holy Roman Empire, it gradually developed into a more general conflict involving most of the great powers. These states employed relatively large mercenary armies, and the war became less about religion and more of a continuation of the France–Habsburg rivalry for European political pre-eminence.

Notwithstanding, the good and the bad history of the last five centuries, as the Protestants prepare to mark the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, new Pew Research Center surveys show that in both Western Europe and the United States, the theological differences that split Western Christianity in the 1500s have diminished to a degree that might have shocked Christians in past centuries. Across Europe and the U.S., the prevailing view is that Protestants and Catholics today are more similar religiously than they are different. And while the Reformation led to more than a century of devastating wars and persecution in Europe, both Protestants and Catholics across the continent now overwhelmingly express willingness to accept each other as neighbors and even as family members.

catholics and protestants

Although Martin Luther and other Protestant reformers in the 16th century held that eternal salvation is attained solely through faith (a belief known in Latin as sola fide), the surveys show that many Protestants today say instead that eternal salvation is attained through a combination of faith and good works – which is the traditional Catholic position. Indeed, in most of the Western European countries surveyed, the Protestants who believe that salvation depends on both faith and works outnumber those who say salvation comes through faith alone.[3]

In other words the two groups namely the Protestants and the Catholics have learnt from each other over the centuries and in many ways minimized their differences. At least when it comes to human rights and respect of life, property and honor of each other, they are almost always on the same frequency.

Going back to the Muslim world, as the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia tries to trigger a broader conflict among the Sunnis and the Shiites, to please his Western masters, thoughtful Muslims should cater and develop a common Muslim identity, disregarding all the sectarian differences, not different from the Western Christian identity, to focus on our earthly human rights and leave the salvation and theological issues between humans and God, for the final Day of Judgement. This is what each and every Muslim needs if we are to avoid the catastrophe that has met many in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen.

How beautiful would that be to find all the Muslims united in the bond of universal brotherhood and sisterhood?

Anyone who calls him or her a Muslim is a Muslim and let us find out what we have in common with him or her, rather than in which minutiae we differ!


1. http://www.pewforum.org/2017/11/08/orthodox-christianity-in-the-21st-century/?utm_content=buffer179a0&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

2. http://www.pewforum.org/2017/11/08/orthodox-christians-support-key-church-policies-are-lukewarm-toward-reconciling-with-roman-catholic-church/?utm_content=buffer980b6&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

3. http://www.pewforum.org/2017/08/31/after-500-years-reformation-era-divisions-have-lost-much-of-their-potency/?utm_content=buffere60c7&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

25 replies

  1. No community is divided other then Muslims so vast and wide.A Tragedy for Muslims that they can’t come out of communal barrier. If they get united and come to one platform then no power can move them a inch.This is not difficult but impossible

    • @ Muhammad
      I strongly believe Muslim cannot be united forever, Why?
      Base on Al Quran: look at History of Jews and Christian.
      Thousands years ago, God destroyed Israel, millions Jews became refugee other coutries.
      Hundread years ago, Allah destroyed Erupe ciuntries, millions Christians became refugee in other countries( USA). Why?
      Because they became extremist, turned away from Gods books.. they believed in idol ( extremist Rabbies, extremist Priest).
      God: Extremist deceive his followers and bring disaster on them.

      Now in 21th Century, Allah has been destroying extremist Muslim and others since 11/9 2001. Why?
      Islamic teaching has been contaminated with IDOL teaching ( Hadith), Idols teach hatred each other, soeacislly hostile toward Jews and Christians.

      These verses from God:

      They have taken their rabbis and their priest as gods beside Allah, Q 9:31

      This is) a book sent down to you. Therefore, your heart must not be straitened because of it. 2 (It is revealed to you) so that you may warn through it, and it may be an advice for the believers. (2) O humankind,) follow what has been sent down to you from your Lord, and do not follow any masters other than Him. 3 Little you heed to advice! (3) How many a town We have destroyed! Our punishment came upon them at night or when they were having a nap at midday. (4) So, when Our punishment came upon them, they could say nothing but cry, Q. 7:2-4

      Hopefully Islamic clerics REJECT the book of Hadith
      and turn to Al Quran alone. Amin

      All ❤️

      • You are overlooking one item: If the Promised Messiah and Mahdi has come whoever follows him, and his Khalifas, will be blessed and will be on the right path. Yes, Islamic Unity can only be achieved by following the path blessed by Allah. Open your heart to the words of the Khalifa of this time, watch his sermons on http://www.mta.tv and you will achieve what you seek.

  2. On his last pilgrimage and farewell address, the Prophet (saw) said I leave with you 2 things which if you follow you will never go astray and that is the Quran and my Sunnah. No where did he say follow any hadith. The hadith was written 150 or so years after the Prophet’s (saw) demise. Some hadith may be right and some may be wrong. But the muslims of today tend to follow the hadith instead of the Quran and the Sunna, hence they have gone astray.

    • Good argument, I agree, there are good hadith and many false hadith. If there is 1 False hadith will deceive Muslim and go astray as we see today, right?

      To follow Allah and the sunnah, do not follow and read Hadith, but follow Al Quran alone! You will be save from worship IDOL ( Hadith)

      Put aside your hadth, you be save from unforgivable sin
      Hadith creared by men, ancient imam of lack of knowledge. I agree if Saudi arthority to abrogate all violent hadith from the book of hadith. It will be greate

      Million Muslims around the world have been misled or deceived by extremist clerics to follow Hadith Muslim Bukhari which is called Sahih Hadith.

      I urge Muslims around the world to seek the truth by investigating Taurat, Zabur, Gospel and Al Quran.
      Without investigating it is impossible to get the truth. right? Please open your mind abd heart, insya Allah will get the true Islamic teaching. Amin

      All ❤️

    • @ Rafiq—I am sorry Rafiq— the promised Meshish and Mahdi I am wating for is the Mashiah and Mahdi who reform:
      First, is to reform spiritual Islam. Spirituality is the core of Islamic teaching in order people can clean their soul to enter Peradise. Without clean spirituality of people cannot enter Allah Peradise.

      Second, is to reform how to earn money for living / how to strengthen economy, in order Muslim can live in prosperity by enterpricing / trading. Prosperity is second core in Islamic teaching.

      Unfortunately, Ahmadiyyah’s Mashiah and Mahdi is concentrating on a reformation of spiritual only.

      Ahmadiyyah was born 100 years ago, in Pakistan. The fruit of Ahmadiyyah teaching that we can see today: there is no prace, no harmony and prosperity among Ahmadiyyah community soecislly who live in Islamic countries. This is the fact.
      My hope to Ahmadiyyah, is to concentrate how to strengthen economy, create many jobs for community by building many facturies etc

      May Allah guide Ahmadiyyah leaders to strive in sprituality and prosperity. Islam will become a role model again. Amin
      All ❤️

      • Somi: in all religious history – throughout the ages – results by prophets or Messiahs did not happen ‘in an instant’, but took time. It is not logical that such result will be any different with the present Imam Mahdi.

      • I wish Somi would listen today’s Friday Sermon by Hadhrat Khalifatul Masih V – Hadhrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad – about the Imam Mahdi, that has already come. I am sure you will find it on http://www.mta.tv or on youtube. Listen and watch with an open heart!

    • @Barrie, how do you know he said that? Any thing the Holy Prophet said is considered a Hadith and you do t believe in Hadith as per your comment so why are you making all Hadith invalid using a Hadith. How do you know what he said is authentic or not, we’re you there? You have quote a Hadith so have you gone astray as well?

  3. @ Rafiq===Hadhrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad –===

    There is a commandment from God and our Prophet, but most Islamic clerics including Ahmadiyyah, Hadhrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad –ignore or neglect this most important commandment — WHY?
    as follow:

    We have indeed sent Our messengers with clear proofs, and sent down with them the Book and the Balance, so that people may uphold equity. And We sent down (iron , gold, selver, Gass, oil etc ) in which there is strong power, and benefits for the people; 10 and (We did it) so that Allah knows the one who helps Him and His messengers without seeing (Him). Surely Allah is Strong, Mighty. Q 57:(25).

    Ahmadiyyah young Muslim should strive to strengthen economy from oil, gold, gass, silver, etc in order Muslim to be prosperous and produce many kind of arms to protect Islam and country from enemy.

    Most Islamic clerics, scholars and imams including Ahmadiyyah NEVER talk about this commandmend in mosque or Islamic blog.

    No wonder, Islamic countries became poverty, weak of protection from enemy. Saudi always beg to USA helps and others Islamic countries including Pakistan.

    @ Rafiq, please ask to ahmadiyyah Imams or clerics why they think that that commandment is not important?

    All love❤️

    • Somi Tempo

      PLEASE learn how to type, learn proper grammar I can not understand anything. What is the point of your arguments if you don’t know how to write?

      • Ohhh thank you! No body perfect in this world.. dont judge others.. you will be judged— try to undestand by learning different english! You will be OK like others— I try my best—
        With love❤️

    • Our Khalifa always encourages education – including and especially science – in order that the above mentioned should be achieved. I agree however that others seem to be better in this regard, like for instance the followers of Prince Kareem Aga Khan. Yes, we need to struggle for success in this life and the next.

    • The best and highest of all Prophets was Mohammad (may peace and blessings of Allah be on him) and the progress of Islam took some time. Why should the work of Imam Mahdi have immediate results? The Imam Mahdi prophesied that the victory of Islam will take 300 years, 120 years gone so far. Somi, have a little patience please. As you can see the Khalifatul Masihs – all of them – worked and work tirelessly for peace.

      • @ Rafiq… believe me thst peace can be achieved by peace if people are hangry ad we see in poor countries. The rich will oppress the poor.. the poor will be slave to the rich as we see today in Islamic countries

        Islam will be strong if 2 things shorld be in agenda
        1. To strive in spiritual thing
        2. To strive in wealth or prosperity

        Allah has provide every thing for His people in order NOT to be poor or weak or hungry.

        And We sent down ( iron , gold, silver, oil, etc ) in which there is strong power, and benefits for the people; 10 and (We did it) so that Allah knows the one who helps Him and His messengers without seeing (Him). Surely Allah is Strong, Mighty. Q57:25

        QS 28;77.But seek, with that (wealth) which Allâh has bestowed on you, the home of the Hereafter, and do not forget your portion of lawful enjoyment (like ;treasure many of the types of gold, silver, selected horses, cattle and vast rice fields again fertile, beautiful home. ), (wealth etc.) in this world, and do good as Allâh has been good to you.Q 28:77

        This golden rule is found in Kristen and Yudaism;
        Proverb 21;20.Wise People live in wealth and luxury,but stupid people live in Poverty.

        QS 7;10.And surely, We gave you authority on the earth and appointed for you therein provisions (for your life). Little thanks do you give. FEW people will enter Paradise on earth and the Next. All clerics who mislead Muslim will enter to Hell first.

        99.00 percent of Islamic clerics neglet or ignore this warning from God. Therefore, Islamic clerics should be blamed for their wrong teaching of Islam that cause or lead million Muslim live in poverty.

        My advice to Ahmadiyyah community:
        Beside to achieve a good spirituality also do not forget your worldly Heaven, live in wealth and luxury. For that we have to work harder and strive to strengthen our economy or out finacial through enterprice or trading.

        May Allah open Ahmadiyyah mind and heart to the truth of Islamic teaching. Amin.

        With love❤️

  4. Somi Tempo. Surely you are not advocating a life as shown in the above video. It is vulgar and indecent in the extreme and has nothing to do with spirituality. I don’rt know who that group/sect is, but it isn’t what I would recognise as religious. Liberty for women? That to me means justice and equality for all, not women reshaped by plastic surgery and made up for the stage. My idea of religion is modesty and moderation, with focus on good deeds to others, love and peace, for all to enjoy decent standards, not luxury and indulgence. Are you a follower of Donald Trump or perhaps the princes of Saudi Arabia? Seems more like their standards.

    • @ Renate— Most our clerics claim that we are a true follower of the Sunnah or Prophet, Every Mosque’s Imam say that, actully they are not honest to himself snd to his followers, they deceive his followers who do not understand the truth.

      I think I am a true followers of prophet, I follow the sunnah professionally. For example:
      1. I follow the way of prophet to earn money, but I do not follow the way of dressing, beard and marriage etc

      In contrary, most clerics or imam of mosque follow the way of sunnah to dressing and growing beard and many wives.

      To strengthen economy is obligation to protect Islam and Muslim from enemy. The weak Muslim/ Islam can be defeated easier than the strong Muslim / Islam.

      The reasult of the wrong teaching of Islam by clerics specially in Arab countries are poverty. Most Islamic countries were defeated by the Westren countries for hundred years? This is a fact, can you deny the truth?

      Therefore, I strongly urge young Ahmadiyyah to reform the Islamic teaching and concentrade in 2 ways:
      1. Sprituality
      2. Prosperity.
      If Ahmadiyyah can do it, I believe Ahmadiyyah will be a role model of Modern Islam. I pray for that

      With ❤️

  5. We have to know that Islam is a Religion of Wealthy or Prosperty, is NOT Poverty. Muslim who follow the right teaching of Islam will be guarantee to live in wealth / rich: prosperity. If Muslim live in poverty these Muslim do not follow the right teaching of Islam or they have been deceived by his clerics. Very sad and pity. Allah has provided every thing aboundly and free. Woow! Allah is All Generous, Rahman and Rahiim.

    Read more detail here:


    • Well, I must admit that I do have something in common with Somi (!).’ When walking through the supermarkets in Jordan it got on my nerves that practically nothing was ‘made in Jordan’ or even ‘made in any Muslim / Arab country’. In fact I would say that of all Arab countries it was Syria who had most of ‘made in Syria’ goods. Textiles, food stuff, household items etc. etc. Well, that is now all successfully destroyed, thanks to the US ‘coalition’. ‘Made in Jordan’ was first grade Olive Oil. That’s about it. Some jam started to be produced in Jordan by a Syrian refugee, who moved his factory from Syria to Jordan. – Among Muslim Communities I suppose it is Aga Khan’s Ismaili community, who is good at stressing productivity (and trade). Our Humanity First could also learn from the Aga Khan Development Network. There is a Hadith which says ‘seek knowledge, even if you have to go to China’ (not sure what Somi will say about that one, some people actually say it is a ‘weak’ hadith). Let me say ‘seek knowledge, even if you have to go to the Aga Khan’s Ismaili Community. (that is in respect to development etc., the spiritual side, as Somi also points out, is well taken care of by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at.

  6. ==There is a Hadith which says ‘seek knowledge, even if you have to go to China’ ==

    & Rafiq— from my observation that Hadith is not against Al Quran.

    Prophet Muhammad say in Al Quran 49:13

    O mankind, We have created you from a male and a female, and made you into nations ( China, Japan, America etc ) and tribes, so that you may learn one another. Surely the noblest of you, in Allah’s sight, is the one who is most pious of you. Surely Allah is All-Knowing, All-Aware.

    So that Hadith is sahih and true.
    Only the extremist extremist clerics say that that Hadith is weak hadith. The extremist cleric from Arab forbid Muslim study from other country because they are KAFIR , infidel.
    The extremist clerics deceived his followers for centuries.

    Saudi Arabia used to forbid Arab student study in USA or Eutope, but now, thousand Arab student study in USA.
    Hopefully the educated young Arab can bring a reformation soon like King M. Salman

    Most Islamic clerics say that those who follow God and his Messenger ( Muhammad) are a Muslim. That is not true! They mislead Muslim for centuries.
    The extremist Clerics accuss ahmadiyah, Syah and Sufi are not Muslim.
    Whereas God already said clearly in Al Quran 22:78 that all Jews, Christian s who follow his Taurat and Gospel are Muslim. So Jews, Christians and Muslim are Brotherhood in Islam.

    Most clerics hide this verse to his followers. Unfortunately his followers never investigate Al Quran and Bible by themselve. They believe in their Clerics blindly.

    All our ❤️
    Please do not delete my respond, be fair and love.

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