Jainism vs. Islam

Instructor: Matt Lamb

Matt has tutored for six years now, in a variety of subjects including reading, essay writing, chemistry, and theology. He is finishing his M.A. in Political Science this August.

In this lesson, learn about the five Pillars of Islam, the five vows of Jainism, and the deities of these two religions. Read about their special religious practices and celebrations and find out what Jains and Muslims believe happens after death.

Origins of Two Religions

Jainism's history is more mysterious than Islam's; researchers have just recently established about how old it is. Islam was founded in 622 A.D. by the Prophet Muhammed. It started around the Arabian Peninsula, among nomadic people. It is unclear exactly when Jainism began, but most estimates put the beginning at 600-100 B.C. with evidence of Jainism activity being identified back to between 100 and 200 A.D.

The Prophet Muhammed
The Prophet Muhammed

Gods and Prophets

Muslims believe there is only one god, Allah, and that Muhammed, who founded Islam, is his prophet. There is no one founder of Jainism; however, there are many tirthankaras, or prophets. Followers of Jainism believe that the tirthankaras are humans who proclaim a gospel of freedom and liberty and are taught the ways of the religion.

While Islam is a monotheistic religion, believing Allah is the supreme being, Jainism is a polytheistic religion. Although complicated to explain, Jains believe people freed from Karma become gods themselves.

A Jain monk
A jainist monk

Fundamental Beliefs and Religious Practices

There are five Pillars of Islam:

  1. Faith (Shahadah)
  2. Ritual prayer (Salat)
  3. Charity (Zakat)
  4. Fast during the holy month of Ramadan (Sawm)
  5. Make a pilgrimage to Mecca, the holiest city (Hajj)

Similarly, there are five vows of Jainism:

  1. Non-violence (Ahimsa)
  2. Truth (Satya)
  3. No stealing (Asteya)
  4. Not hoarding (Aparigraha)
  5. Living chastely (Brahmacharya)

Daily Life

The daily life of a Muslim is strongly intertwined with their religious beliefs as all of their actions are believed to be in service of Allah. Notably, many Muslims pray five times a day facing Mecca. They should make at least one pilgrimage to the holy city in their lifetime. There are also rules, such as Muslims should not eat pork products and they should not charge interest on loans (or take out loans with interest). Their sacred text is the Qu'ran, which includes the teachings of Muhammed.

A Jain's daily life also revolves around religious beliefs. Jainism is different, however, in that it's more of a spiritual religion, based on a broader idea of achieving a state of being freed from the temptations of sins. The first vow of Jainism, non-violence, extends to following a vegetarian diet and even avoiding killing insects. Jains believe their soul is bound by Karma, and through their everyday actions, they seek to free themselves from Karma. In Jainism, Karma roughly means physical substances that attach themselves to people when they sin. Ridding oneself of Karma involves avoiding temptations and evils that lead to Karma, such as lust, greed, gluttony, anger, and egoism.

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