By Ron F. Hale
After the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, Christianity grew rapidly as inspired evangels left Jerusalem “gossiping the gospel” along the paved highways and trodden trails of the Roman world. Conversely, the spread of Islam was wildfire fast after the death of Muhammad in 632 A.D.
Contrasting these two Abrahamic faiths will reveal that one grew by the spiritual conversion of individuals (especially within its first 300 years) while the other grew by the conquest of peoples and the confiscation of properties and possessions.
By Conversion …
Of Christianity, Bruce L. Shelley and R. L. Hatchett share in Church History In Plain Language (4th ed.) that it, “… began as a tiny offshoot of Judaism. Three centuries later it became the favored and eventually the official religion of the Roman Empire. Despite widespread and determined efforts to eliminate the new faith, it survived and grew. By the reign of Constantine (312-337), the first Christian emperor, there were churches in every large town in the empire and in places as distant from each other as Britain, Carthage, and Persia.”
The New Testament declares that when the fullness of the time had come, Jesus came into a ripe and ready world. The Jewish world was hungry for a promised Messiah; their scattered synagogues throughout the world served as starting points by Christian evangelists who were ethnically Jewish. The peace of Rome allowed missionary travels on the grandest road system the world had ever known. Since the Greek language was a common language throughout the empire, the communication of the gospel went unhindered.
Sociologist Rodney Stark in his book, The Rise of Christianity estimates that by 300 A.D. there were over 6 million Christians in the Roman Empire. These numbers represent conversion growth for they predate the times prior to Christianity becoming the official religion of the Roman Empire in 380 A.D.
By Conquest …
With a Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University and a prestigious 30-year career at Harvard, Dr. Wilson B. Bishai wrote his very informative Islamic History of the Middle East in 1968. He shares how Muhammad’s prophetic message found limited success in Mecca but he was warmly received in Medina where he became not only their prophet but their political leader. Dr. Bishai says that this gave Islam, “the characteristic of being a state as well as a religion.”
Muhammad converted few Christians of Mecca or Medina to Islam. Bishai shares that when the Prophet lost hope of converting them, “he apparently reversed his original esteem for Jesus Christ as a word from God, and announced that he was nothing but dust, created no better than Adam (Qur’an 3:59).”
The Jewish community took a harder edge towards the Prophet’s strong desire to convert them. Muhammad’s disdain of their attitude toward him was to change the direction of their Islamic prayers from the city of Jerusalem to the city of Mecca.
The most ill-famed act toward Jews during Muhammad’s life happened around 627 A.D. to the Jewish tribe of Quraydha. Per Dr. Bishai, the Prophet approved the beheadings of seven hundred Jewish men, while their women, children, and property was divided and the Prophet received one fifth of the wealth of the tribe. His actions have served as an example for jihadists as over 100 conquests took place during his life and leadership.
Dr. M.A. Khan (founding Director of Islamic Studies at University of Delaware University) in his book Islamic Jihad (2009) summarizes the Prophet’s legacy of jihad and how it served as the historic model for future jihadists after the death of Muhammad. The Prophet’s model is three-fold:
- Forced conversion of the infidels, particularly the Polytheists.
- Imperialism: the conquest of lands of the Polytheists, Jews, and Christians for establishing Islamic rule.
- Slavery and slave-trading: for example, the enslavement of the women and children of Banu Qurayza and selling some of them by Prophet Muhammad (page 71).
Dr. Khan’s historical perspective is that within a century after the death of the Prophet, Islamic jihadists had created the world’s largest kingdom or caliphate. The Islamic empire spread out of Arabia at whirlwind speed to Transoxiana (including all or parts of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan) and Sindh (India) in the East, conquering all of Egypt and North Africa, and had reached the heart of France in Europe.
Another noted expert and book, Dr. Andrew G. Bostom’s 759-page collection of well–documented accounts of Islamic conquests and systemic social exertion of dhimmitude (the subjugation of non-Muslims to Islamic law conformity) is found in The Legacy of Jihad: Islamic Holy War and the Fate of Non-Muslims (2005). This work outlines from Islam’s genesis the Prophet’s hope of fulfilling his global vision of imposing the “one true faith” upon the citizens of the world.
By Contrast …
Constantine was the first Roman emperor to become a Christian. Later, Theodosius the Great decreed Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire in 380 A.D. These two men wedded and welded Christianity to the power of the state. A religion once pruned enduringly by persecution and martyrdom was now sanctioned by imperial power.
Politically-motivated men and half-hearted pagans with their symbols and superstitions intact rushed under the umbrella of the state-church of Rome by the thousands. The name of Jesus would be marred and scarred as the emperors of Rome protected and expanded their power and prestige. When Theodosius spitefully slaughtered 7,000 Thessalonians in one day, Bishop Ambrose refused the ruler communion until he confessed his great sin.
Both religions can point to blood, gore, and guts. Only one can point to the Prince of peace! Jesus drew no sword. The only blood shed – was His very own.