The Similarities & Differences in Buddhism & Islam

Buddhists do not believe in God, while God is the center of Islam.
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Buddhism and Islam were founded more than 1,000 years apart in very different parts of the world, and this is reflected in their worldviews. Buddhism, founded in the fifth century B.C. in what is now Nepal, affirms the truth of reincarnation and is not concerned with any gods. Islam, founded in the seventh century in Arabia, believes people have only one life and that God should be the sole focus of that life. There are few similarities between the two religions.

1 Buddhism Overview

Buddhism was founded by Siddhartha Gautama, or the Buddha, who renounced his royal heritage to find the cause of human suffering. When seated under the famous Bodhi tree, where he had been for several years, the Buddha attained enlightenment. The Buddha's teachings are summed up in the Four Noble Truths: Suffering is inevitable in life, desire is the cause of suffering, suffering can end and there is a specific path to end suffering -- by following the ethical standards of the Eightfold Path and attaining enlightenment.

2 Islam Overview

Islam was founded by the Prophet Muhammad, who received revelations from the Angel Gabriel. These revelations are collected in the Quran, which is the Muslim holy book. The core of Muslim theology is that there is only one God, eternal and indivisible, and that Muhammad was the last prophet of God -- following other prophets such as Abraham, Moses and Jesus. Muslims believe that humanity will be resurrected on Judgment Day, living on with an eternal reward or punishment.

3 Similarities

Buddhism and Islam are very far apart religiously, but there are some similarities. Both religions share a faith in their founder, believing that he has earned the authority to teach others about the most important things in life. The Buddha was revered for his knowledge and attainment of enlightenment, while Muhammad was beloved because he was chosen by God to receive and interpret the Quran. Both religions also feature a set of ethical standards -- the Buddhist Eightfold Path and the Muslim Sharia.

4 Major Difference: God

While Muslims shape their entire lives around God -- praying to him, reading his words in the Quran and following his law in their daily lives -- Buddhists are unconcerned with the notion of a god. While a Muslim can pray to God and look to him for peace, a Buddhist can only rely on himself, wisdom and the teachings of the Buddha. Buddhists, however, should not be confused with materialist atheists, who do not believe in any transcendent reality.

5 Major Difference: Life After Death

A Muslim's goal is to live on, but a Buddhist's goal is to halt the cycle of life. Muslims hope for a positive judgment from God when they die, and the reward is entrance into eternal paradise -- a person is still who she was, but she is in a better place. For Buddhists, the ultimate goal is the exact opposite -- Buddhists seek to end what they believe is a never-ending cycle of birth and rebirth called reincarnation, and the only way to do this is by attaining enlightenment.

Michael Brenner has been a writer for almost 10 years for various outlets including the "Chicago Tribune," "St. Louis Post-Dispatch," other newspapers and various business websites. He holds two master's degrees from the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago in the areas of interfaith relations and world religions.