Sample Religious Studies Paper on Religious authority

Religious authority is a social structure that attempts to enforce its order and reach the people for the intended good. The structure is characterized by the ability to have one’s ruling to be obeyed without being coerced or forced by an external power. In all religion around the world, believers have set of sources that legitimize their societal roles, beliefs, and norms. Therefore, the Islamic religion have fundamental concepts that draws its authority such as the five pillars of Islam, the Qur’an, Muhammad, Sharia, and Ijma.

The Islamic religion follow various sources as an assurance of authority. Firstly, Muhammad—as a source of authority—is the founder of the Islam religion and people regard him as Allah’s messenger and prophet (Kotelnikov). He was born in 570 CE in the city of Mecca where he gained few followers but moved to Medina in the year 622, which also marks the Islamic calendar. The prophet received revelations from Allah known as Ayats, which he would spread to his followers.

Secondly, the Qur’an is also an important tool that signifies Islamic authority. The Holy book is a source of all certainty that Muhammed received from Allah, which is a copy of the original version inscribed in heaven (Kotelnikov). However, later revelations claim that the book is a revision of the Christian Bible that had errors. Furthermore, Muhammad’s life is contained in the sira, which describes his actions and teachings. Thirdly, Ijam is ‘the agreement of Islam’ that shows authority in the religion. Ijma embodies a sense of past community in the present day, which is also a crucial tool for resolving theological clashes.

Fourthly, Sharia is the sacred law of Islam that is a source of authority. For Muslims to establish a new ruling, they follow the analogy of their religion, on the basis of coexisting with each other in harmony (Kotelnikov). The laws are based on teachings and revelations in Qur’an and sunna (traditions). Sharia guides the believers to embrace each aspect of their lives such as, prayer and purification, family ties and relations, taxation, inheritance, as well as observe that there lacks distinction between religious and secular ordinance.

In addition, the five pillars of Islam are another concept that shows authority in the religion. The shahadah is their declaration of faith in which the believers state that they bear witness in one omniscient God and that Muhammad is Allah’s prophet; by reciting the shahadah one enters the Islamic faith (Kotelnikov). Salaah is a requirement for each Muslim to pray a minimum of five times a day and further wash themselves before praying and face Mecca’s direction during prayers. Zakat is a charitable act in the Islamic pillars that emphasizes the followers to give a percentage of their income to the needy, regardless of the religious backgrounds. Saum (fasting) is commemorated once a year during Ramadan, which runs for one lunar month. During this period, the Muslims are encouraged to reflect on their actions and strive to correct their thoughts (Kotelnikov). Hajj is the fifth pillar of Islamic faith in which they mark their annual pilgrimage. Although it is not a compulsory undertaking, financially-capable individuals are encouraged to visit Mecca at least once in their lifetime.

Just like other religions, Muslims have important concepts that show the authority. They range from the Qur’an, Muhammad, the five pillars of Islam, Ijma, and Sharia. With such sources of authority, Muslims can legitimize their beliefs and societal norms. Thus, assessing and following the sources of authority, Muslims are able to live in accordance to their teachings.

Judaism is one of the three oldest monotheistic religions analogous to Christianity and Islam. Each religion has scriptures of distinct groups of laws, prophets, and writings. Although Judaism (Jews) emerged from the religion of Israel (Hebrews), the former shares similar concepts as the latter while also incorporating discordant views on religion.

The religion of Israel and Judaism are ethical religions that have both parallel and dissimilar teachings. One of the basic Judaism laws and tenets are derived from the first five books of the old testament and defined as Torah (“About the Jewish Religion”). The most important tenet of Judaism is the belief of one eternal God, who is merciful and just. Just like the Hebrews, Jews believe that they are created in God’s image and should treat each other with respect.

Besides the concept of monotheism, “the Covenant” is another distinct aspect of Judaism and Israel religion. The Torah teaches the Jewish people to pray, study and observe God’s commandments as a sign of the covenant. However, unlike other religions, Judaism do not have to follow a set of beliefs to be seen as God’s people (“About the Jewish Religion”). Consequently, they maintain that one’s actions is the determinant of their inclination to religion. Thus, the Jewish people focus on personal self-identification.

In addition to the covenant, the sacred writings are other vital concepts in Judaism. The Jewish religious scripture consists of the books of the Prophets, the Torah, and the Writings. However, during the Temple’s destruction in the year 70 CE by the Roman authorities, religious scholars compiled Mishnah and Gemara that were used to remind the people their customs and laws for the five centuries (“About the Jewish Religion”). Furthermore, Brit Milah is the practice of circumcising boys on the eight day after birth that both Hebrews and Jews share. Therefore, together with the Talmud, the two manuscripts serve a source of religious teachings.

The Jewish religious life is another significant notion that shares its roots with the Hebrews. All believers observe their religious prayers three times a day and most are centered in their homes. Jewish people also visit synagogues, their house of study, to pray and listen to reading in Hebrew from the Prophets and the Torah (“About the Jewish Religion”). In most synagogues, there should be a knowledgeable member to conduct services mostly a rabbi or ordained tutor. Furthermore, a rabbi can perform professional duties concerning application of laws and traditions in people’s lives. Thus, besides centering the religious observance in homes, Judaism also regards synagogues as their houses of prayer.

In addition to the religious life, dietary laws are vital aspects in both Judaism and Hebrew religion. The book of Leviticus has laws that prohibits consumption of dairy products and meat at the same meal, inhumane slaughtering of animals, and eating shell-fish, blood and pork. However, modern trends in Judaism (Orthodox, Conservative, Reform) have varying degree of observance of the dietary laws (“About the Jewish Religion”). Therefore, dietary laws from the ancient Israelites’ religion may change in modern Jewish believers.

While Judaism arose from the religion of Israel (Hebrews), they have both similar and discordant concept. From the belief of one God, the Covenanted people, dietary laws, circumcision, to religious life, the two sects prove to have the same origin, although Judaism incorporates other aspects that are not in accordance to the religion of Israel. All in all, although Judaism and the religion of Israel have the same origin, the former incorporates other aspects to distinguish itself from the latter.

Works Cited

Kotelnikov, Vadim. “Islam: Key Beliefs, the Five Pillars, and Key Concepts.” 1000 Ventures, Accessed 14 April 2020.

“About the Jewish Religion.” Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 1 Jan, 2014, Accessed 14 April 2020.