Islam and Buddhism


Religion is one of the most researched topics, it is either an individuals choice or given by birth. There exist a large number of religious organizations throughout the world, according to Giddens, religion is a set of beliefs adhered to by members of a community, involving symbols, rituals in which member of the community engage. It is not a universal belief in supernatural entities nor is it monotheistic (Giddens 2006).

This aim of this research paper is to compare and contrast the doctrine, scared text, artifacts, traditions and rituals of two religions; Islam and Buddhism. Both are large religious organizations in the world and are very similar and different in terms of their practices, roots, worship and beliefs. This paper does not criticize any of the religion researched, its purpose is to examine the similarities and difference they share thereby enabling the reader to better understand both religions. In both religions there are many holy days, places, beliefs and practices, this paper will examine the major elements of both religions. First I will give a brief history of Islam and Buddhism then I will compare and contrast both religions by doctrine, scared text, artifacts, traditions and rituals.

Islam is the youngest and one of the largest religions in the world today, according to historians Islam was founded in Middle East, Asia now known as Saudi Arabia, 610 A.D. by Prophet Muhammed through divine revelations in which he stated was an angelic visitation however according the Islamic text, Islam existed before Muhammed and was given by God through the angel Gabriel. It is believe that Islam existed from the creation of the world and was taught by Abraham, Moses and Jesus however Muhammed was the last Prophet (All About Religion 2010).

The principle of Islam is that God created man and sent angels and messengers with the truth for Mulims; anyone who bears witness to God and the prophet Muhammed, to follow and live by. It is considers a way of life and is built around the belied in God; the creator, the belief in prophethood and belied in hereafter; life after death.

Buddhism is one of the oldest religions in the world; it was originated in Northern Indian by Prince Siddhartha Gautama later known as Buddha in the 6th century B.C.E. Guatama led a luxury life as he was the son of a king however his father prevented him from the contact to the outside world. By the age of twenty - nine Guatama determined to search for enlightenment and studied Hinduism however he found it disappointing and then devoted himself to asceticism in which he abstain from the wealthy world, still unhappy he eventually turned to meditation. One day while in meditation under a fig tree known as the Bohdi tree meaning tree of wisdom, Gautama experience enlightenment called Nirvana. He was then referred to as Buddha; the enlightened one and believed he found answers to many life question and spend his years teaching the enlightenment he discovered.


Sacred Text

Many religions consist of sacred texts, The Qur'an and the Hadith are two main sacred text used in Islam. In Arabic, the Qur'an is translated to mean recitation or reading. The Qur'an is believed to be the exact words of God revealed by Muhammed, the last Prophet from 610 until his death in 632 AD (Religious Facts: Islamic Text 2009). This text describes the origins of Man, Universe and their relationship to their creator; it sets out laws for society and morality (Knowledgerush 2009) and is used as the bases of law in some Islamic countries such as Saudi Arabia. The Hadith, the second scared text in Islam consist of quotes, words, deeds and practical examples of Prophet Muhammad, his companions and family. The Hadith in Arabic means narrative or report (Religious Facts: Islamic Text 2009) and is different from the Qur'an as it not considered as words spoken from God.

In Buddhism, there are a number of sacred texts; the Tripitaka which means "the three baskets" is the earliest collection of Buddhist writings. This was put together by Buddha's followers after his death and was organized into three subjects; the Vinaya Pitaka / Discipline Basket outlined rules and guidelines for living a monastic life along with rules for monks and nun. The Sutra Pitaka / Discourse Basket stated the Buddha's teaching on doctrine, meditation techniques and moral behaviour and the Abhidharma Pitaka / Special Teaching Basket contained stories, songs, and poetry of the Buddha (Religion Facts: Tripitaka 2009)

Where as in Islam the Qur'an is considered to reveal the truth of God, Buddhist text are not words of God but guidelines to the path of truth and were inspired by the life and teaching of Buddha.

Holy Days

Many religions celebrate days which are considered to be Holy as they symbolize a significant event in which the religion and its followers value. These special days are filled with varying festivities and worship. The two major Islamic celebrations are Eid-ul -Fitr and Eid-ul-Adha; Eid-ul-Fitr is determined by the citing of the moon and marks the end of Ramadan which is a month of fasting. Ramadan is the month in which Muslims believe the prophet Muhammad received the words of the Qur'an from Allah (Nalis 2008), during this month Muslims abstain from food and drinks starting at dust and ending at dawn. Eid-ul-Fitr is the special day in which Muslim give praise to Allah for giving them the strength and self control for the month of Ramadan and is celebrated with friends and families by giving gifts and giving of charity. Eid-ul-Adha is referred to as the feast of sacrifice in which it commemorates the obedience and faith of Ibrahim (Abraham) to Allah to sacrifice his son therefore Eid-ul-Adha involves the sacrifice of an animal usually sheep or goat which is shared with family, friends and charity. Secondly it marks the end of Hajj which is a pillar of Islam.

There are a number of holy days in Buddhism that vary according to the Buddhist tradition, the major days are; Wesak, marks Buddha's birth, Sangha Day, commemorates the day that 1250 arahants gathered to listen to Buddha preach. Parinivana Day, is a Mahayana Buddhist festival that marks the death of Buddha and Bodhi day which is celebrated by some Buddhist commemorating the day Buddha's enlighten.

Dress / Fashion

Dress in religion is way of custom required by the religion, it is a symbol of believer's faith and sometimes required a special type of dress apart from other religions. In Islam the purpose of dress is to display modesty and not for the purpose of attraction and status. Women are required to wear loose clothing which would not show any shape and are required to cover all parts of the body. Women are encourage to wear hijab which a piece of garment that covers their head and hair only showing their face.

Likewise in Buddhism men and women are encouraged to dress modestly, they wear loose fitting robes that cover their bodies. Buddhist men / monks wear brown/tan, orange, red, maroon, grey or black robes and women / nuns wear robes are that are usually maroon, pink, white, grey or brown. Like Islam their dress is for the purpose of covering their body parts (Buddhist Studies 2008). Buddhist men and women shave their heads as a reminder that they are not concerned with outward appearance, where as in Islam women are encouraged to cover their heads so men are attracted to them for the purpose of character and not physical appearance.

Sacred Place / City

Each religion has sacred places in which a significant events took place and for worship. In Islam there are a number of scared places, The Ka'ba in Mecca, Saudi Arabia is considered the most scared place in Islam, and this mosque is believed to be the place created on earth by Abraham. This place is also scared because muslins around the world offer their prayer in the direction of the Ka'ba, additionally pilgrimage to Mecca once a year is one of Five Pillars in Islam. Medina, is the second holiest place in Islam, it represent the place where Muhammed attracted followers after he was driver out of Mecca. Jerusalem is a scared city in Islam that represent the place in which Muhammed traveled to by night and ascended to heaven.

Likewise in Buddhism, there are a number of scared places; Lumbini, India is a holy place since it is the place of Buddha's birth; Bodhgaya is the site of Buddha's enlightenment. Sarnath, Deer Par, India is the place in which Buddha's gave his first sermon and lastly Kushinagar is the place that Buddha passed away


Each religions has many beliefs, Islam encompass the belief in six articles of faith which are, Belief in one God Allah, Angels, Holy books, Prophets, Day of Judgement and Predestination. Another beliefs is Jihad meaning struggle such as struggle, there are five pillars of Jihad which are overcoming anger, greed and hatred, not smoking, partaking in Muslim community activities, cleaning the floor of the mosque and learning the Qur'an. The belief in Polygamy in which a man is allowed to have more than one wife, believe in Jesus as a Prophet.

Buddhism involves the belief in four noble truths which are core of Buddha's teachings that he was enlightenment, the truth of suffering / Dukkha which states all human will endure pain, injury, old age and death. The second noble truth is the origin of suffering / Samudaya which comes from greed, ignorance and hatred. The third is the cessation of suffering through Nirodha, this is the unmaking of sensual craving and freeing oneself from attachment. Lastly the path to the cessation of suffering / Magga and thereby improve oneself, this is done through right principles knows as Midway and involves, understanding, right intention, speech, action, effort, concentration, mindfulness, and livelihood.

Karma refers to the cause and effect of our actions, it is used to explain how our past actions and thoughts have either a positive or negative effect in our future. In Buddhism Karma is not tough as people destiny but is determined by our own actions which determined our character.

Another belief is the wheel of life which is the Buddhist view of the world and illustrates the four noble truths. It is divided into six realms of life and is driven by the root of all evil; ignorance, greed and hatred.

Buddhist hold the belief of reincarnation in which we born over and over again, therefore the existence of humans are endless


In religion, worship is devoting oneself to something sacred, this can take the form of something supernatural or an object. Islam looks at the individual as a whole and therefore worship in Islam everything one says or does for the pleasure of Allah, this includes rituals, beliefs, social activities and personal contributions to the welfare of one's fellow human-beings (Islam 101 2008)

Practices, Traditions, Customs, Rituals,

There are five major practices in Islam, there are knows as the five Pillars of Islam in which Muslims are required to perform, the first is the recitation of Shahadah, this is declaration of faith in Islam in which a believer recites the belief in one God, Allah and the last prophet Muhammed. The second, Salat/ Namaz / Salah, consists of five obligatory prayer times throughout the day. Zakat is a calculated charity given to the poor, Sawm refers to fasting during the month of Ramadan by abstaining from food and drinks beginning at sunrise and ending as sunset. Hajj is the last pillar in Islam in which requires Muslims who can afford a three day pilgrimage to the city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia.

There are various Buddhist traditions which developed many different practices in different parts of the world, Ordination is the practice of accepting monastic lifestyle individuals become nuns and monks by living with minimum possessions. Second is the pilgrimage to scared sites such key locations in Buddha's life and its purpose is to foster spiritual discipline. Third is Meditation, a form of mental concentration that leads ultimately to enlightenment and spiritual freedom and have many types.

Another practice is the recitation of mantras; there are holy phrases, prayers and words that are believed to possess supernatural powers and there is also the scared hand gesture known as Mudras. These are using during meditation or rituals to evoke specific ideas, of Buddha or deity. Lastly the venerations of Buddha's and deities, this is done by offering to images of Budda.

Muslims place of prayer and worship take place in a Mosque / Masjid

A ritual a ceremony that is always performed in the same way, in order to mark an important religious occasion (Longman 2010). In Islam there is the birth rites where the child head is shaved on the seventh day, weighed and the equivalent in silver is given to charity. Another rituals is Ablution / Wudu which is purifying oneself from impurity whenever doing some form of worship ( 2010), this involves washing one's hands, feet and face.

Male circumcision is also practiced in Islam, this was adopted from the Jewish practice and done to imitate Prophet Muhammad who was circumcised (Patheos 2009). Marriage is strongly encouraged in Islam; it is a social necessity and a legitimate way for sexual intimacy between a man and woman. Handshaking in Islam is only permissible among same gender therefore the opposite sex is not allow to shake each others hand.

In Islam it is not permissible to eat pork as it is unhygienic and hinders one in attaining purity of the soul. In Buddhism there is no restriction in eating pork however some Buddhist are vegetarian where as some are not.

Buddhism regards fasting as a means of practicing self-control; they are advised to fast from solids after noon whereas in Islam fasting is a sacrifice of meals for fixed period of time to be aware of the less fortunate and therefore give alms.

Alcohol and other drugs that have an effects on an individuals minds is also not permissible in Islam, this is because under their influence, individuals will not be aware of the sinful acts the can make. It is also disregarded in Buddhism because Buddhust believe the mind is precious and therefore using alcohol hinders the mind and defies the purpose of meditation.

Buddhist are required to removed their shoes before entering the temple, the belief is the feet are the lowest and dirtiest party of the human and therefore will get the temple dirty and desecrate it. Likewise on entering a mosque, Muslims are required to removed their shoes before entering.

Buddhist are required to cover their arms and legs, however men are allowed to wear short pants.

Other practices by Muslims are Ear boring in girls, rejection of gambling, consuming of alcohol and pork, and the burying of the dead.

Before performing Salah, Muslims are required to perform the ritual of wudu / abolution, a specific way of cleaning oneself. Salah results in closeness to Allah and forgiveness from Allah. It brings physical and psychological serenity and spiritual pleasure to believers (Namaz Zanami 2008)

Symbols & Idols

Symbols are often used in religion in which they represent something of importance, the use of the crescent and star are commonly used on mosque and the flag of Islamic countries however it is not a Muslim origin. The symbol is a result of cultural diffusion and the spread of Islam to the Ottoman Turks who ruled a large area and also put the crescent moon and star symbol on their flag and therefore it has since become associated with Islam (Religion Facts 2009). The colour green is also used in Islam especially the colour of the mosque, it is said green was Muhammed favourite colour while others believe it represent vegetation and life (Religion Facts 2009). Muslims do not worship Idols as they believe its giving something preference over God.

In early Buddhism, symbols were used to represent the teachings of the Buddha, these involved symbols such as the Bodhi Tree, lotus, Buddha's footprints and the wheel of law. There are many other symbols used in the various traditions of Buddhism, the holiest symbol is the image of Buddha.


These religions researched in this paper are both rooted in east, it was seen that both religions have a variety of similarities and difference in their beliefs and practices however in the end both religion serve the purpose of MISSING


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