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Last Updated: 2007/07/24
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What is the basic difference between spirituality in Islam and spirituality in Christianity?
What is the basic difference between spirituality in Islam and spirituality in Christianity?
Concise answer

The value and credibility of spirituality in every religion are connected directly to genuineness and validity of that religion itself. The religious sources of Christianity present such doctrines that are opposed to reason in such a stark way that even Christians themselves acknowledge not to mention the fact that the spirituality which emanates from such sources leads to numerous deviations. This is the basic difference between spirituality in Islam and spirituality in Christianity. That is to say, keeping it in view the value of Christian sources, spirituality in its traditional meaning is not acceptable and it is at times opposed to reason and it cannot help seeker of perfection reach his goal. On the other hand, the spirituality of the modern-day West is even deprived of this type of weak connection to revelation.  When it comes to spirituality in Islam, it originates from Islam’s revealed doctrines.  In Islamic culture, it is not correct to say that one part of your life is material and another part is spiritual. In fact all aspects of one’s life including marriage, work, studying, even entertainments, sleeping and so on can be spiritual, if they are connected to the real and genuine teachings which prophets brought down.

Detailed Answer

Spirituality is a concept referring to an ultimate or an immaterial reality; an inner path enabling a person to discover the essence of his/her being; or the "deepest values and meanings by which people live." Spirituality has been defined in Dehkhuda Dictionary as such: real, true, genuine, essential, absolute and esoteric. It is a meaning which is perceived by the heart only and the tongue has no knowledge or understanding of it.[1] Sometimes it is said that “spirituality” is derived from “spirit” which is “pure self” beyond the body. It is one's consciousness, conscience, thinking and feeling part of existence, and sensitivity which relate to the human soul, rather than to physical objects. Based on this simple linguistic definition which has been extracted from Islamic etymologic interpretations regarding spirituality, we can say that spirituality has a root in the “spirit” which, in the traditional interpretation, is also called as the ‘inner reality’.

It should be noted that this definition is based on the main difference between spirituality and things which concern with spirit. In reality, the root difference is in the fact that truth has several layers. It has two aspects: inner and outer aspects. The second aspect has several stages until it reaches the actual reality.[2]

In any case, given that spirituality means something different to everyone and it has different definitions in different areas, it is difficult to define it in such a way that is acceptable to all. In Christianity, spirituality is a well-known word which refers to the theory of life in Holy Spirit or materialization of disciple and discipleship. Today it seems that the word “spirituality” has two connotations: On the one hand, it refers to holiness and sacredness and on the other hand it makes reference to life.[3]

It is clear that such spirituality does not have a reality or actuality apart from man’s belief and attitude towards the world of existence.  Hence, a comparison between Christian and Islamic Christianity depends on knowledge of the worldview and ideology of these two religions.

The value and credibility of spirituality in every religion are directly connected to the value and validity of that religion itself. It is, therefore, necessary for us not only to compare between the teachings of these religions with each other but to also compare the value and validity of their holy scriptures so that their effects and functions in the domain of spirituality may become clearer.

“Spirituality in the Islamic tradition is a term referring to the essence and inner aspect of the religion and which came into being simultaneously with the revelation of the first verses of the Holy Quran upon the heart of the Prophet of Islam – peace be upon him and his family.

The Holy Quran has been and is the main source of spirituality affecting the heart and mind of its addressees. The Quran enjoys both sanctity and spirituality in the sense of giving meaning to the life.”[4] The case is not as such with Christians’ holy Book e.g. the Old and the New Testaments which consist of a total of nearly 73 books. These books have been tampered with and altered over the history in a way such that they are replete with doctrines that are opposed to reason.

The chain of transmission of Gospel is shaky and unreliable like its contents. Christians themselves believe in four Gospels which the disciples wrote long after Prophet Jesus. Thomas Michael who himself is a Christian bishop writes in this regard:

“During the early years, Christians did not have any holy book other than the Jews’ Book. By and by Paul and the authors of the four Gospels of Judas and Peter and others began to write on their faith and what God had materialized through Jesus – peace be upon him.”[5]

Else where, he admits that “all the writers of New Testament” are not known”.[6] In his book entitled Christian Theology in which he introduces Christianity and somehow tries to preach Christianity, Thomas Michael compares the Quran and Holy Scripture from Muslims and Christians’ perspectives as such:






Old Testament and New Testament

One Holy Book

A collection of several books





Its author is God.

Its author is God and human being.

The Prophet of Islam narrates what he has heard from God.

The human author narrates the message of God using his own method and thought.

Revealed within twenty three years

Provided within a few centuries

The message of God is primordial, eternal and exhaustive.

The message of God is primordial, eternal and exhaustive.

In any case, it does seem that the validity and authenticity of Gospel and its connection to divine revelation is weaker than the existing Torah because when a holy book, which had originally been one book, is divided into four books, it naturally makes one doubt its authenticity and genuineness. In order to reduce differences, the Church accepted only four Gospels out of nearly eighty different gospels. Those are Matthew, John, Mark and Luke. [7]

All scholars accept unanimously that the only religion that has a divine text (text brought down by angels and revealed to the Prophet) is the religion of Islam. Let’s assume that we had History of al-Tabari (Tarikh al-Tabari) or Biography of the Prophet by Ibn Hisham and the likes, then our situation would be similar to that of Christianity. The only difference is that Ibn Hesham gives an account of a reality whereas the author of their Gospel gives a report of his own experience of the religion and the divine.[8]

In addition, Christianity believes in trinity and considers three hypostases for God, the Exalted. They also maintain that Jesus is the manifestation and incarnation of God on earth.  This belief is so clearly opposed to reason that even some Christian scholars have confessed it saying: “The story of incarnation is a story which is in contradiction with reason, logic, sense, matter and philosophical terminology but we ratify it and believe that it possible, though it may not be rational.[9]

The belief in ‘original sin” and the doctrine of sin are other false and superstitious beliefs held by Christians. This doctrine claims that sin is hereditary and is passed to all humans through Adam. Human beings are sinners not because of the evilness of their own deeds but because they are the descendants of Adam.  Original sin means that human beings are born without fear of God and reliance on Him and with sexual desire.”[10]

The effects of sin, according to Aquinas, are three-fold: corruption, stain, and debt. He says: “The sin with which we have been born leaves three impacts on us: First it stains our soul. We are naturally inclined to escape from God and try to satisfy and restrain ourselves in a way which is opposed to reason and divine law. Second, we have been born to be corrupted by devil (satan)…”[11]

This doctrine is completely opposed to the Islamic doctrine of pure nature. According to Islam, man is born inherently pure and with divine nature. He has been created in such a way that he is naturally inclined to seek, know and worship God.  It is only through the God-gifted nature (fitra) and guidance of prophets and divine books that human beings are enabled to distinguish the right path and to reach perfection and his objectives by overcoming satanic temptations and carnal desires.[12]

The existing innovations and deviations in Christianity which are opposed to reason and teachings of Ahlul-Bayt (a.s.)[13] are distortions made and created in the original Christianity by an individual named Paul.

“Paul is considered to be the second founder of Christianity. He, who was once an opponent of Jesus (a.s) and endeavored to hurt and torment Jesus’ disciples and early followers, claimed all of a sudden that he had experience of religion caused by divine agency. So he repented and started to preach Christianity. However, the Christianity which he was preaching was an innovated mixture which Paul himself created though combining various Greek, Jewish and Egyptian thoughts.”[14]

Although the author of “Christian Theology” tries to defend Paul, what he has written implicitly and unwantedly proves our claim instead of giving him a higher place. That is because he seeks to degrade Jesus’ disciples in order to defend Paul. Without Paul being one of the disciples, he considers them superior to the disciples saying:

“According to Christians, Paul is the greatest theologian of the New Testament. It is surprising to know that he, despite not having lived in the lifetime of Jesus Christ, is the most important exegete and interpreter of the life and work of Jesus… He was one of the scholars who had learnt Jews’ holy books and was an expert of their Shari’ah but the twelve disciples and other students of Christ were naïve fishers. In addition, Paul had been brought up in city and he, therefore, had the ability to narrate Jesus’ message in such a way that could be understood by ordinary people in the cities of the great Roman Empire.”[15]

The spirituality which originates in and emanates from such sources entails numerous deviations. This is the basic difference between spirituality in Islam and spirituality in Christianity. That is to say, keeping in view the value of Christian sources, spirituality in its traditional meaning is not acceptable and it is at times opposed to reason and it cannot help seeker of perfection attain his objectives. One of the scholars says: “I do not know how spirituality can be out of the pale of reason or opposed to it. Is something, which is opposed to reason or is in contrast with reason, considered to be spirituality? I do not recognize such spirituality.”[16] Discussions such as monasticism, hermitage etc. which are just human interpretations from spirituality are deviations which emanate from such attitudes and approaches.

Indeed, we must note that all of these deviations and innovations are not in contradiction with salvation of some of the followers of this religion insofar as their choice had been out inculpable ignorance.

The fact that some of the followers of Christianity, like Muslims seek salvation, spiritual life and proximity to God, the Exalted, can be seen with the conducts and sayings of some of them.

It is necessary to mention that what is seen and preached today in West in the name of spirituality is also even devoid of the teachings of Christianity and it can be said that today’s Christianity of West is also deprived of this kind of weak connection to revelation.

In this regard, Mr. Rahim Pour Azghadi, expert of Islamic sciences, has given  a lecture part of which is worthy of attention. He says: “What was called modern spirituality in West from the nineteenth century onward has been over the last 150 years. Since Christian religious spirituality has been done away with for a long time, they created a secular spirituality instead of it so that it would do the task for the industrial mankind without they paying attention to its rational and legal implications. That is to say, spirituality is on the one hand detached from rationality and disconnected with justice on the other. A kind of pseudo and fake spirituality has come into being. In fact, it has turned into industry, spirituality, technology etc. Its function is to give peace and opiate the nerves of those who do not have any justification for living and who do not understand any meaning for life and intend to work out a meaning for it.

Justification of modern spirituality of West is a hypochondriac justification in the interest of materialism and world mongering. In fact, it is just like eating dessert after swallowing the pig of capitalism in the West’s modern culture.  Today, a dominant school in the West which is called modern spirituality or secular spirituality is ‘spiritualism’. It is a tendency whose epistemic and ontological roots have been severed. Then in order for them to make up for the urgent need of human nature to spirituality, they embarked on making and generating fake and pseudo spiritualities i.e. worldly and innovated spiritualities. As I stated, in the capitalist system they order secular spirituality in the same way as they order pizza.

This spiritualism which has come into being in West is, unlike the monotheistic and prophetic spirituality, a manipulated and assembled spirituality. Because one piece has been borrowed from Hinduism and Buddhism, another from Christianity and they have been assembled to make something out of it.  They have taken the atheistic and positivist doctrines and poured on it the existentialist material to make a combination that would give them peace without demanding them to do an act and without there being any law, morality and moral value and without requiring them to believe in anything. In fact, it is costless spirituality and a kind of giving spiritual service. Now you compare between this spirituality and the spirituality which emanates from the sayings of the Prophet (pbuh) and Infallible Imams (a.s). The West’s fake spirituality which was intended to replace the monotheistic and prophetic spirituality struck a dead end. Westerners themselves confess that the spirituality they have created is a subjective and individual matter without it having a concrete external reality. It has neither any origin nor any rational justification. It does not have any connection with rationality and human rights either. It does not contain anything, neither the truth, nor virtue nor justice. How does it give peace? Naturally, the peace and tranquility will not come into existence. Today they want to attain peace and spirituality through narcotics, LSD, weeds, marijuana etc.

As a matter of fact, when you remove spirituality from nature in an intellectual world, when you remove spirituality from the world, mind, intellect, body and soul of mankind and even from the nature of mankind and when you remove spirituality from everything and present a secular interpretation of everything and when it is said that the difference between man and animals is only physiological; when it is said that there is no difference between man and other animals; when you deny soul and fitra (God-gifted) nature; when you deny resurrection and the afterworld, how and by what means are you going to give peace to humanity?  Lately, in the third wave of biology and psychology in West the very physiological difference was denied and it was said that there is not even any difference between man’s and animals’ anatomy. When it is said that there is no difference between them, how would you create peace?

Now compare this pseudo spirituality with Quranic mysticism and spirituality. In its invitation to spirituality, the Quran tells us to prostrate ourselves and get closer. It intervenes in every aspect of the individual’s life. The same Quran says to promise wealthy people in society who do not give deprived people their rights with divine punishment. Islamic spirituality is not symbolic and imaginary spirituality. It is not for idle and having-nothing-to-do people. Islamic spirituality is not a job because living a spiritual life is not a profession to be adopted by mystics or holy people to the exclusion of others.  The mysticism and spirituality which the Prophet (pbuh) and Imams (peace be upon them) brought is a kind of graded spirituality with gradational levels. It exists in the most common and lowest level of people’s life as well. In Islamic spirituality, we do not have a professional mystic because mysticism is not a profession. Living a holy life is not a career to be adopted by a few people and not by others. Spirituality is not segregated from the material life. That is why, in Islamic culture it is not correct to say that one part of your life is material and another is spiritual. In fact all parts of one’s life including marriage, work, studying, even entertainments, sleeping and so on can be spiritual, if they are connected to the real and genuine teachings which prophets brought down. If you read their books, you will find out that they have such a perspective towards spirituality. Secular spirituality and modern spirituality serve the purpose of those who squeezed and sucked of the world whatever they could and now, after they have got tired, they are doing yoga to relieve stress and to digest what they have swallowed and to sit once again at the table of capitalism so as to eat and swallow more. Spirituality in this world is interpreted in such a way and it is for the same reason that they forbid others from speaking about this spirituality being true or false. They tell you to speak about the function and material benefits of spirituality.

When it comes to Islamic culture which I am speaking about today, the spiritual objectives are not pursuable with non-spiritual methods. There are people in our society who want to assemble spirituality with liberal democracy; spirituality with capitalist economy. Of course, some of them are in power. We tell them that the spirituality which you speak of can be of the Buddhist type or could be of the red Indian mysticism or Christian spiritualism but it cannot be Quranic spirituality. The Islamic spirituality should be understood in such a way that it is in harmony with rationality and social as well as economic justice. They should be related to and inseparable from each other. Islamic spirituality is not found behind clouds; it is not abstract and impracticable either nor is it for elites only.[17]

For further information, see: Question 1593 (site: 1588), Index: The Relationship between Religion and Spirituality.


[1] Dehkhuda, Ali Akbar, Dictionary, Term “spiritual”.

[2]  The Horizon of Truth, A Correct Understanding from Spirituality, Mehr News Agency, Religion and Thought Group.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Hasan Esmati, Baigi, Spirituality Discourse, Jam-e Jam Daily.

[5] Thomas Michael, Christian Theology, translated by Hussein Tawfiqi.

[6] Ibid, p. 116.

[7] Negaresh Islam be Saer Adyan wa Melal, Sayyid Muhammad Musavi Zadeh, p. 117.

[8] Irfan wa Nayaz be Ma’nawiyat dar Jame’a-e Emruz, Kitab Naqd, No. 40, Sayyid Yahya Yathrebi, p. 323.

[9] Islam Ayeen Bargozideh, Ahmad Masjid Jamei, p. 138.

[10] The Doctrine of Salvation according to Allamah Tabatabai with the Common View of Christianity, Mustafa Azadiyan, p. 19.

[11]  Faith and Reason, Michael Peterson, p. 469.

[12]  The Doctrine of Salvation, Mustafa Azadiyan, p. 328.

[13] Behar al-Anwar, vol.8, p. 311.

[14]  Sabah Research Periodical, p. 5

[15] Christian Theology, Thomas Michael, p. 55.

[16]  Rationality and Spirituality in Islam, Dr. Ibrahim Dinani, p. 10.

[17]  Bright Future website, Hasan Rahim Pour Azghadi, article code: 7601


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