Islam and Christianity share many things in common, worship the same god (called Allah in Arabic) and follow some of the same scriptures. To properly approach discussions about Islam, it is important for non-Muslims to understand both the similarities and differences between the two religions. For example, Christians and Muslims both believe in a "Holy Spirit" but interpret its nature and identity in different ways.

The Trinity

Most Christians believe in the Holy Trinity, which is the idea that God consists of three parts: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. They believe that God is the Father, Jesus is a manifestation of the Son and the Holy Spirit is sent to carry out acts of God on earth. Mainstream Christianity teaches that the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are not just different aspects of God, but actually three distinct "persons" who together form the one God.

Objections

Though Christians, Jews and Muslims all believe in one all-powerful God, Christianity is the only one of the three that portrays God as a trinity. Jewish scholars argue that it is not logical to divide God into parts, whether they are "aspects" or persons. Meanwhile, Muslims reject the Trinity because of Islam's major emphasis on the oneness of God. To Muslims, belief in the Trinity seems too similar to "tritheism," or a belief in three gods rather than just one.

Jesus

Another objection Islam and Judaism have with the Christian Trinity is that they do not consider Jesus to have been God at all. Jews consider Jesus to have been a minor figure in their history--not the messiah (a savior who most Jews believe has still not yet come). Muslims do revere Jesus but only as one of many human prophets arriving prior to the final prophet, Muhammad. They do not believe that Jesus was divine and sometimes even argue that the Christian Bible does not claim Jesus is God.

The Holy Spirit

Like the Christian Bible, the Quran also includes references to a Holy Spirit. However, because they do not believe in the Trinity, Muslims do not consider the Holy Spirit to be a part of God. According to Islamic scholars, the Holy Spirit referred to in the Quran is in fact the angel Gabriel, or Jibril as he is called in Arabic. As in the case of Jesus, some Muslims argue that even the Christian Bible has been misinterpreted, and that the Gospels also intended the Holy Spirit to be another name for God's messenger Gabriel.