Buddhism and Islam seem on the surface world apart. Muslims believe in one god Allah. While, Buddhism is a religion with no gods. In this paper I will discuss the similarities of the teachings of Muhammad and Buddha but also the differences. I will also discuss similarities and differences in the belief systems, stereotypes and the treatment of women. First I will start with a brief introduction of the Muhammad and Buddha.
There are and estimated 480 million Buddhists worldwide.(1) Siddhartha Gautama aka Buddha was the founder of Buddhism. Buddha was born in the 6th century BCE. He was born in what is now known as Nepal. He was heir to the throne of Shakya clan. When he was 29 he decided to leave home in search of a way to end human suffering. Buddha spent much time with a Hindu ascetics but he rejected their path. He did not believe following their path would give him the answer to end human suffering. He sat in a spot by the river to meditate, where he remained until he reached enlightenment and achieved Nirvana. Buddha then began teaching other how to reach enlightenment by understanding the 4 Noble Truths. The 4 Noble Truths is the basis of the Buddhist belief system.
There are and estimated 1.6 billion Muslims in the world today.(2) Islam was brought into this world by the prophet Muhammad. Muhammad was born in 570 CE in Mecca, which is now Saudi Arabia. Muhammad was a business man who was married and had many children. When he was 40 years old, while reflecting in a cave on Mt. Hira, he received the first of many revelations from god. Muhammad received revelations from god for 22 years. These messages were recorded and became what we call the Quran. The Quran is the main religious test of Islam and is considered the best in classic Arabic literature.
Buddhists believe in no gods but like the Hindu religion, they do believe in Samsara (cycle of life, death and rebirth) and Karma ( law of cause and effect). The Buddhist belief system is centered on the 4 Noble Truths. 1st Truth is that life is characterized by Dukkha (suffering) and suffering is unavoidable. 2nd Truth is dukkha is the result of Tinha (desire) and desire can never bring true peace. 3rd Truth is suffering can be eliminated by abandoning desire. 4th Truth is abandoning desire can be done by following the Eightfold Path. Through the Eightfold Path humans can free themselves from karma. The Eightfold Path is eight necessary aspects of life that must be accomplished. These aspects are right views, right speech, right conduct, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration. The aspects are guidelines on how to act, speak, think, treat others even the right way to earn a living. By following the 4 Noble Truth and the Eightfold path you will attain enlightenment, reach nirvana and free oneself from samsara.
Islam is a monotheistic religion. Muslims believe in one true god Allah. They have on central belief and 4 Pillars, together they make the 5 Pillars. The 5 Pillars represent a total way of life rather than a private belief system. Muslims believe in the importance of respect for god, charity and neighbors. 1st Pillar is that there is one god Allah he is all powerful and one sin that god cannot forgive is not believing in him. One must pray daily to prove their devotion. 2nd Pillar is prayer both formal (certain words and certain actions required) and informal (can pour out heart, say anything). 3rd Pillar is Zakat or almsgiving, which all adult Muslims must give 2 ?? percent of all their wealth to the poor. 4th Pillar is the pilgrimage to Mecca (Hajj). This must be done on a specific time of year and only if you can afford it. Muslims believe doing these things bring them closer as a community and closer to god.
Before Buddhas teaching women did not lead happy lives. Women were considered burdens to their families. Buddha believed women were not inferior to men on the contrary women were equally useful to society. Husbands and wife’s should do their duties with equal dedication. Wives were expected to manage their husbands affairs when they were away. Women have equal rights to education and religion. Women can become Buddhist nuns and are allowed into the order. Some Buddhist believe that women cannot attain enlightenment and must be reborn as men to reach nirvana. This belief differs depending on which sect one belongs to. Some female Buddhist nuns are given different rules then the monks but this also depends on the sect you belong to. Many nun orders are working towards better conditions and education for women.
In Islam man and woman are moral equals and are required to fulfill the same duties. Islam improved the status of women compared to earlier Arab cultures. Islamic law gives the dowry to the woman not her family and guarantee inheritance. It also give women the right to own and manage property and stopped the killing of female babies at birth. Muhammad is said to consult woman ad seriously considered their opinions. Islamic law requires women to cover certain parts of the body it also requires men to cover body parts. Both men and women are required to practice modesty. Women also have the right to and education and to choose who they want to marry. While some Islamic county’s oppress women most do not. Women today are active in improving treatment of women. Many Muslim women have been heads of state and active in their country’s politics.
While Buddhism and Islam are very different the basic principles are the same. One should be kind and live right. One should treat their neighbor with respect and live righteously. Whether, the outcome is nirvana or Jannah (heaven). Islam and Buddhism both have had issues with stereotypes and misinformation. In regards to the treatment of women both the teaching of Muhammad and Buddha say woman should be respected and regarded as equals with men. Some countries and or sects have had issue with equal rights to women and women are fighting back. Both, Muhammad and Buddha wanted to make the world a better place and help people.
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