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Symbols in Christianity and Islam

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keshini ramdass

on 30 October 2013

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Transcript of Symbols in Christianity and Islam

The Cross
The Ichthus
Turtle Dove
This symbolizes the “Star of Bethlehem and represents Jesus’ birth and incarnation. This star is also known as the Epiphany Star, it is used especially for church decoration during the Advent and Christmas seasons.
The Five-Pointed Star
This symbol is the most central image of the Christian faith. The cross is the Christian’s distinctive symbol of identity and hope. After reading Religion facts, it was noted that in the, “Greco- Roman world in which Jesus lived and died, the cross was an instrument of great suffering and shame”. ((Walter E. Gast) Since Jesus was crucified upon the cross, it was known for a public form of punishment for rebels. The transformation of the cross as a symbol came about through Jesus’ death and resurrection. Christians must always remember that the predictions in the Gospels are also resurrection prediction: each one ends with a mention of Jesus’ resurrection. There are many variations of the cross within the Christian community; the Greek cross, the Celtic cross, and the cross of Calvary are few of the common variation. Nevertheless, without the cross there would be no resurrection. The cross as the central Christian symbol takes in the entire paschal mystery and issues in the resurrection and exaltation of Jesus. This symbol is common in churches and commonly worn around their necks or in their lapel as a badge that identifies them publicly as Christians.
This symbol is said to be have chosen by the early Christians for several reasons: the Greek word for fish ( Ichthus), works nicely as an acrostic for Jesus Christ, God’s son, Savior. Also since the fish would not be an obvious Christian symbol to persecutors. This would enable people to display their belief without causing suspicions. Also, Jesus’ ministry is associated with fish; he chose several fishermen to be his disciples and declared he would not make them “fishers of men”. (Klein, 2000) It was also noted that, “during the persecution of the early church, a Christian meeting someone new would draw a single arc in the sand. If the other person was a Christian, he or she would complete the drawing of a fish with a second arc. If the second person was not a Christian, the ambiguity of the half- symbol would not reveal the first person as Christian.
Turtledoves are a symbol of fidelity in the Christian community, since their reputation for only taking one mate, to whom they are faithful for life. They are also known for their love of seclusion, a fact mentioned by St. Augustine. This sense of purity is not normally portrayed by the symbol of the dove.
Modern Cross
In today’s society the symbol of the cross can be seen not necessarily as a symbol of identity but as a form of decoration for the human body. It is used by many retailers as a form of fashion; they utilize the cross on clothing and jewelry. This change over the eras has changed the significant for the cross. When Christians adorn in the cross whether it be jewelry or a rosary, they wear it, to showcase their belief, in today’s society it can be seen on non-Christians. The two examples showcase the use of two variations of the cross. The display of the cross upon clothing can be worn by anyone; the symbol does not signify the belief in that faith, but just as a sense of fashion. Although the use of jewelry has been utilized before to display their belief in the form of a rosary, it is not meant in the same meaning in today’s society.
In today’s society the use of the Ichthus is seen on bumper stickers and businesses as a sign of Christian faith, since they do not need to conceal their identity as Christians.
In modern society the star is still seen as the decorative element, but it has also taken on the model of jewelry and clothing. It has also transformed into the brand image for boots. This new meaning as a brand does not signify the original meaning of the birth of Christ.
It can be worn as a necklace in today’s society, used as an ornament for decorating home during the holidays; these acts are done without knowing the true meaning of the symbol.
A symbol that is represented in the Islamic culture and seen all over the world is the wearing of the hijab. A hijab is a woman’s head piece worn to cover most of the head excluding the face. The clothing is intended to be worn in front of any man that could potentially be a husband to the female. Therefore, it is acceptable for the women not to wear the hijab in front of family, children, or other female.

In the Qur’an God tells women to “reduce some of their vision and guard their private parts. Which means they should not expose their beautification except those that necessarily appear thereof and to wrap a portion of their head and cover it up to their chest. They were told not to expose their charms to anyone except family or younger children who are not yet aware of the private aspects of a woman or any male whom does not have sexual desire.” (Qur’an, 24:30-31)One of the reasons why you should not show yourself in front of your potential husband is to decrease the chances of any negative or dirty thoughts or fantasy’s.

After reading the text The Muslim Veil in North America it is clear that in today’s society the rules of wearing a hijab has changed greatly and any people have different view on the matter. Firstly the book states “the Qur’an says that people should dress modestly and cannot wear short or tight clothing.” (Alvi, Hoodfar & McDonough, 2003)Later on page 57, it explains that in some schools female Muslim teachers and girls in grade 4 or over are required to cover their heads. This is enforced because it’s believed that when girls hit puberty they should be covering their heads. In grade 4 some girls, not all, begin to hit puberty, and to have only these selected few wearing hijabs would be to intimidating and embarrassing. Therefore, instead all girls in grade 4 or older would be seen wearing the hijab. Any girls younger are still free to wear the hijab; however, it is not mandatory until grade 4. Many people and students of these school however, see this more as wearing a uniform, that covering their heads for religious purposes. Many of the students made comments saying “it’s a uniform to some, because right after school the hijab’s are taken off”
The never ending change in society and modernization, has greatly affected the views of the hijab. Today there are many females that only wear the hijab to school if required, to mosques, or to religious functions. After leaving these places the females would remove their hijab even if they are still among males that are not relatives.

A negative strain has be placed upon the wearing the hijab because of the stereotypes revolving around terrorism and Islam. In western societies wearing hijabs or burka (also a heard covering that cover much of the face) is becoming harder because some people were wronging using it as a disguise.
Today many people see the colour green to be symbolic in the religion of Islam. It is said that green was the favorite colour of Prophet Muhammad who use to wear garments, such as the turban and his cloak, of this colour. At first no one other than the prophet himself was permitted to wear the colour. However, this just lasted a short while until everyone was allowed to. Green is seen as a symbol that represents nature and life. It is also found in many places belonging to the religion of Islam such as flags of Islamic countries, domes of the mosques, and the covering or binding of the Qur’an. During crusades Muslim soldiers would identify themselves by wearing green. All other countries would restrain from wearing the colour so that they were not mistaken for a Muslim. In the Qur’an is it also said that God stated that “inhabitants of paradise will wear green garments of fine silk.” (Quran 18:31)
The Qiblah
The most important Islamic sign is the Qiblah. This is an arrow that points to the direction of Mecca which is where Ka’ba is located. When praying Muslims need to face the direction of Ka’ba. Therefore these signs help Muslims easily identify where that is. (Senker, 2010)
Star and Crescent
Another very popular and frequently seen symbol is the star and crescent. The 5 pointed star symbolizes each of the 5 Pillars of Islam. (The 5 Pillars are also very symbolic to the Islamic faith)(Senkar, 2010)
1. Shahadah- The belief that there is only one GOD
2. Salah- Prayers: each Muslim should pray 5 times a day facing the direction of Mecca
3. Zakah – giving to charity; only to needy Muslims or for religious purposes.
4. Sawm- Fasting at Ramadan; every Muslim should fast during Ramadan with the exception of anyone with medical conditions that is unable to do so.
5. Hajj- Pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia; Every Muslim that is physically and economically able should try to make the pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in their lifetime.

Although the star and crescent is seen as a symbol to many people it was never really a symbol of Islam. It was the flag of the Ottoman Empire, which belonged to the Muslims for many years. Likely, because of this, the European world always associated the ottoman with Islam, and therefore, Islam adopted the star and crescent as a symbol and put meaning to it.
Preparing for Prayers
Being clean and pure is an important aspect to prayers. There are special actions all Muslims must perform when preparing for worship both at home or the mosques. Shoes are always removed before entering any area dedicated to prayers. This is done to keep the areas clean and show respect. They also do the wudu ritual, which is cleansing of the 5 senses; they wash their hands, arms, mouths, nose, face, neck and feet. (Senker, 2010) As stated before all Muslims are expected to pray 5 times a day, this is symbolic as it is seen that they are setting aside short periods of their day to focus on Allah. During Muslim prays there are special movements involved, symbolic of different things. These movements include; Ruku – leaning forward (keeping back straight) while placing hands on knees.(Senker, 2010) This is a symbol of love and respect for Allah; Sujud – Kneeling down with forehead, nose, hands, knees, and toes touching the ground. This shows that your love for Allah is greater than that for yourself. (Senker, 2010)
This is an important Islamic saying. It is a phrase that every person must recite before completely converting into a Muslim.
Welcoming a New Baby
New babies are always special, and different religious have different ways of welcoming them into the world. Islam has a number of small activities. When the baby is first born a prayer is whispered into their ear to initial their life as a Muslim. A piece of date or hones is also placed into the mouth of the child. This is for them to be a sweet and well behaved individual. About a week later the child is circumcised (cutting the foreskin of the penis) and his head is shaved. This symbolizes new life. (Senker, 2010)
Although the two religions presented are two different faiths, they share some similar symbols. For example the star for Christianity and the star from the Star and Crescent for Muslims, this symbol have different meaning in both faiths. These symbols have also gone through major restoration in today’s society since their initial meaning. The impact of modernization and global movement has distorted the meaning of some of the most common symbols we seek to identify our faith. The changes in meanings come from the movement of people from one area to another and adopting their culture into their lives, even if their religion does not condone it. The meshing together of two culture and faith can cause confusion and thus making people unsure what the true meaning might be.
The theme of this essay is to examine historical symbols of Christianity and Islam and how they are viewed and utilized in ancient time versus the present. Some of these symbols in Christianity includes: the cross, doves and Icthus (Christian fish symbol). In Islam the symbols includes: the crescent moon and star, and the hijab. These symbols will be examined from pass to present age, and their uses in place of worship, homes, and even used as accessories for clothing.
Alvi, Hoodfar, & McDonough, (2003). The Muslim veil in North America, Toronto, AGMV
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Moltmann, J. (1993). The crucified god: The cross of Christ as the foundation and criticism of
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Senker, C. (2010). Islam: Sign, symbols, and stores. New York, NY: The Rosen Publishing
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Created by: Keshini Ramdass
Jennifer Nanhu
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