Analyzing Islam and Buddhism from an Anthropological Perspective

It is estimated there is a total of approximately 4,200 religions across the globe. Here in the U.S. only, it is estimated that there is a total of 313 religions derive from different faiths or beliefs. Some believe in one God while others believe in many gods. There are also some that believe there is no God and that mankind is the result of evolution, not creation as persuaded by many other religions (Argosy University, 2015). In this assignment, we will evaluate two different religions and their beliefs and compare them in order to see their similarities differences.

The two religions chosen to do this assignment are: Islam and Buddhism. These two religions are some of the world oldest religions. Now let us analyze each of these religions separately and then compare them.

Religion of Islam and Its Beliefs

This religion is also known as Muslims. It was founded in the Middle East, about 7 century CE, by a prophet known as Muhammed According to research, the word Islam derived from the Arabic root "Salema": which stands for peace, purity, submission and obedience. In a religious viewpoint, the word Islam means, submission to the will of God (Allah) and obedience to his law. In other words, the religion of Islam stand for surrender and total submission to God (Allah) and his law. Unlike other religion, Islam or Muslim used as their bible the teaching of the Prophet Muhammed complied in a book known as the Quran (Levine M., 2006).

The Muslims also believe that Allah is the creator or the source of all good and evil. As a result, their understanding is that, everything that happens in the world happens according to God’s will. They believe that God is the ultimate judge, he is just and powerful, and will have merci on those who follow his teaching sufficiently and to the extent of their ability (Argosy University, 2015). The relationship between Allah and those who serve his is almost same as a relationship between a servant and his master. As of January 2015, it is estimated that there Islam is the second largest religion in the world, with a total of 1.57 billion around the world (Levine M., 2006).

The steps to follow in order to become a Muslim, there are five religious steps to follow and they are: 1. Repeat a creed about Allah and Muhammad; 2. Recite certain prayers in Arabic five times a day; 3. Give to the needy; 4. One month each year, fast from food, drink, sex and smoking from sunrise to sunset; 5. Pilgrimage once in one's lifetime to worship at a shrine in Mecca. At death -- based on one's faithfulness to these duties -- a Muslim hopes to enter Paradise. If not, they will be eternally punished in hell (Levine M., 2006).

Buddhism and its Beliefs

Buddhism by definition is a path of practice and spiritual development leading to Insight into the true nature of reality. Buddhism is been around for the past 2,500 years and was founded by Siddhartha Gautama in northern India. Meaning about 500 B.C. (Argosy University, 2015). Unlike the Muslims, Buddhism do not believe and do not worship any God. Many believe that Buddhism worship a God known as Buddha, which was the founder of this religion. However, when evaluated this religion closely it shows that they do not worship Buddha or anybody else. He is seen as a spiritual teacher who has attained a spiritual enlightenment, which they all are striving to attain. In order words, Buddha is seen as the spiritual example to follow in order to attain a spiritual enlightenment (Moreton D., 2015).

They do not believe in resurrection but reincarnation. According to the Buddhist spiritual view point a person has countless rebirths which inevitably include dying and suffering. Their beliefs is that, it is a person’s cravings, aversion and delusion that cause these rebirths. As a result, the goal of a Buddhist is to purify his/her heart and to let go of all yearnings toward sensual desires and the attachment to oneself. Meditation, self-values, and self-discipline are the center of the Buddhism religion, principles that everyone should live by. They believe by living those principles one might develop awareness, kindness, and wisdom (Moreton D., 2015).

Just like any other religion, they pray, but they do not pray one God. They believe through meditation one might may reach what they called “Nirvana”, which stands for “the Blowing out” of the flame of desire. It is estimated that there is a total of 350 million Buddhism followers across the world and their main locations are in China, Japan, Korea, and Southeast Asia. However, because of globalization this religion has widely expanded in other countries located in western civilizations. Buddhism is by far the fourth largest and one of the oldest religion in the world (Moreton D., 2015).

Compare and Contrast Islam and Buddhism Beliefs

Islam or Muslim is totally different from Buddhism. However, both their founders play an important role in their doctrines. Other than that there not much similarities between them. For example, Islam is focused on the Five Pillars of Islam, which is 1. Repeat a creed about Allah and Muhammad; 2. Recite certain prayers in Arabic five times a day; 3. Give to the needy; 4. One month each year, fast from food, drink, sex and smoking from sunrise to sunset; 5. Pilgrimage once in one's lifetime to worship at a shrine in Mecca. At death -- based on one's faithfulness to these duties -- a Muslim hopes to enter Paradise. If not, they will be eternally punished in hell (Khareng M. et al., 2014).

Buddhism on the other hand has two major branches which include the Theravada and Mahayana. Islam is based on the words of Allah from the Prophet Muhammed, while Buddhism is based on the words of the Buddha. They both pay a great deal of attention to their founders’ teachings. Islam believe in resurrection, while Buddhism do not believe in resurrection, but reincarnation. They believe one person can have multiple rebirths. Somehow, Buddhism believe in salvation in a religious viewpoint while Islam does not, but instead believe in grace (Khareng M. et al., 2014).

Buddhism worship in Monasteries, nunneries, pagodas and temples. Islam or Muslims on the other hand worship in Mosque/masjid or any place which is considered clean by Islamic standards. The used of Statutes is very common among Buddhists, while for Muslims, they not permitted to depict the image of God or any prophet. Buddhists live by the Buddha's teachings, known as the Dharma. Muslims live by the Sharia law (Khareng M. et al., 2014).

Islam is a religion that consider the existence of one God known as Allah. They believe in total obedience and submission to the will of Allah. While Buddhism do not believe in God, they just about to introduced the concept of God in their later doctrines. But, since their existence until now, their religious viewpoint has not make mention of any God or gods. And from an anthropologist viewpoint, Islam is a religion dominant in the Middle, even though because of globalization it has expanded in other countries and continents just like Buddhism does, but it still remains culturally different from Buddhism. Buddhism is a dominant religion found in China, Japan, and Southeast Asia, but was founded in India 500 BC (Moreton D., 2015 and Levine M., 2006).

The Coexistence of Islam and Buddhism

Despite the differences that exist between these two religions, Islam and Buddhism, from their teaching to the way they dress and worship, they both have greatly benefited from the globalized world. As explained before, the two religions have two different origins and doctrines. However, because of world globalization, they both has expanded to other countries and continents. It is estimated in the U.S. only, there is a total of 5 to 12 million Muslims, while for Buddhism it ranges from 2,450,000 to 3-4 million. Each of these two religions have a specific type of individuals they attract at followers (Khareng M. et al., 2014).


Argosy University (2015). Cultural Anthropology in a Globalizing World, 3rd Edition. Religion. Data Retrieved on 05/26/2015, from:

Khareng M. et al. (2014). Freedom of Religion in Islam and Buddhism: A Comparison Study of the Barriers That Determines the Freedom of Religion. Data Retrieved on 05/26/2015, from:

Levine M. (2006). OLIVIER ROY, Globalized Islam: The Search for a New Ummah (New York: Columbia University Press, 2004). Pp. 360. $29.50 cloth; BIRGIT SCHAEBLER AND LEIF STENBERG, EDS., Globalization and the Muslim World: Culture, Religion and Modernity (Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 2004). Pp. 400. $39.95 cloth. $19.95 paper. Data Retrieved on 05/26/2015, from:

Moreton D. (2015). Popular Buddhism In Japan: Shin Buddhist Religion & Culture. Data Retrieved on 05/26/2015, from:


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