Back in the 7th century Muhammad had very limited success trying to convince others to adopt his new politico-religious ideology. From 610-622 his followers totaled about 100 when one considers those that earlier escaped to Abyssinia. It was from 623-632 that Muhammad swelled his ranks by practicing political and militant Islam whereby the possessions of his vanquished enemies [Jews, Christians and pagans] became the possessions of Muslims and where the slave trade became lucrative.
Muslims who apostatized were killed on Muhammad’s order and those who left Islam after Muhammad’s death were soundly defeated by Abu Bakr [the first kaliph] in the Ridda Wars which lasted from 632-634.
Kaliph Umar over the next 10 years spread Islam in the Near East through invasion. He employed a harsh Dhimmitude which emphasized the loss of politico-legal and economic rights for Jews and economic benefits for Christians and Jews who refused to convert to Islam. Dhimmi could not: buy or sell real estate except within their own families; own weapons; serve in civil government or military; perform any religious ceremonies outside their homes or religious buildings [and the latter could only be built or expanded with government approval]; and they had the legal standing of slaves [thus could not sue Muslims nor bring criminal charges against them, and their testimony was worth only half that of a Muslim]. ANY real or perceived resistance or rebellion by dhimmis was a capital offense, with all their property reverting to the Muslim occupiers to transfer to their followers.
Over the next 455 years Islam conquered 2/3 of all Christendom including Spain and Portugal. Muslim forces invaded the Italian peninsula and sacked Rome in 852 AD. The Crusades [initiated based on the “reforms” of Pope Gregory VII by his successor Pope Urban II] defended Western Christendom from Muslim invaders and rolled back part of Islam’s expansion into the previously Christian and predominantly Greek Levant from the end of the 11th to the end of the 13th century.
By the 14th century Turkish Ottomans invaded Greece and the Balkans, while North African Muslims known as Moors raided European coasts as far north as southern Ireland. Nearly all of the lands of the Orthodox Church not under Russian rule were under Muslim rule by the end of the 14th century. The Ottomans used the enslaved sons of Christians to swell their Janissary ranks while both Ottomans and North African raiders took European Christian women [who were not dhimmi under the Sultan’s protection] and sold them in the slave markets. Ottoman expansion reached the gates of Vienna in 1529 and 1683 only to be defeated on both occasions by Western Christian [primarily Roman Catholic] armies.
With Muslim armies unable to conquer and loot new lands, increasing independence and rebelliousness among regional sultans whose obedience to the Kaliph became little better than “lip service,” and constraints upon and disruption of trade, banking, and the rise of industry, the Ottoman kaliphate and its nominal sub-states began to fall behind the Christian West in the ability to develop new technology and new wealth. A long decline ensued which culminated in the collapse of the Ottoman Empire after its defeat in World War I, the abolition of the Turkish Sultanate in 1921, and the abolition of the Sunni kaliphate in 1924.
ISLAM’S RESURGENCE — ISLAMISM
In the absence of the kaliphate, Sunni Salafists [inspired by 14th century Muslim scholar Ibn Tamiyyah ] expanded the Wahhabi movement in Arabia [founded in the 19th century], and the Deobandi movement in the northern Indian sub-continent. Other Islamists, hoping to succeed where the “Young Turks” who had sought to modernize the Ottoman Empire had failed, established the Ikhwan Muslimiya [Muslim Brotherhood] in Egypt. A similar movement was also initiated in Iran by Imami “Twelver” Shi’a clerics, most prominently Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who were forced into exile after WWII, but returned and seized power through a Leninist-style infiltration and take-over of the largely secular anti-monarchist movement which exploded in 1979. Moving towards the 21st Century, hijacking, suicide bombings and other terrorist acts against “heretical” or “apostate” Muslims and non-Muslims [kafirs/kuffars] became commonplace.
With secular Arab socialist regimes across the Maghreb, Levant, and Mesopotamia continually losing wars to Israel and the West, while the traditionalist Arab monarchies being perceived as “apostates” who had having “sold out” to the “Zionists and Crusaders,” the Salafists and Khomeiniists became the vanguard of a resurgent Islam seeking to reunite political and religious authority and either restore the kaliphate [salafi’ists] or establish an Islamic republic [Shi’a Khomeini’ists and, more recently, the Sunni Arab Ikhwan Muslimiya and Turkish AKP]. They looked back at Islamist success in Afghanistan against the Soviets in 1988 as an impetus for recruitment. These groups, including Egyptian Gama’at al-Islam, Islamic Jihad, Armed Islamic Group, Tunisian Combat Group, Al-Qaida and its many affiliates, the Islamic State and their affiliates to include Somali Al Shabaab and Nigerian Boko Haram [Islamic State of West Africa]. The Shi’a Islamist [Khomeini’ist] movement has its own Islamist insurgent/terror group, Hizb’allah, the largest contingent of which is in the Levant but has cells worldwide. The 2011 Arab Spring gave rise to Sunni vs Sunni conflicts in North Africa and a regional Shi’a/Sunni civil war being fought in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen.
CHALLENGE FROM BIBLICAL CHRISTIANITY
Given this reality, many Muslims have been raised to expect constant religious and sectarian conflict. With the advent and expansion of the internet and satellite TV, Biblical evangelical Christianity, which is proscribed by law and cannot be openly practiced in most of the Islamic world, is making its way into the homes and hearts of many. For the past 1400 years, Muslims have approached the Jewish/Christian Bible as being a corrupted text since that is asserted by Muhammad in the Qur’an and Hadith [the authenticated sayings and actions of Muhammad]. In some Muslim countries, owning a Bible is a capital offense except for foreigners with appropriate visas. In others, it is legal for non-Muslims to own Bibles, but a crime to show or give one to a Muslim. With the availability of the internet and satellite TV, Muslims for the first time can watch Christian programming and read Christian material. Perhaps with the perspective of proving to themselves Christianity is false, they begin to compare the words in the Bible with the Qur’an, Hadith and Sira. For those who inwardly have doubts concerning what Islam teaches, coupled with the observed behavior of many Muslims towards other Muslims and non-Muslims, these Muslims begin to see that the words and deeds of Jesus and his disciples in the Bible stand in stark contrast to the decrees of the Qur’an and the words and actions of Muhammad and his followers.
As these Muslims read or hear about Jesus in the Bible, whom they believe is a prophet of Islam, they learn that Jesus behaves very differently from Muhammad, his successors, or even many Muslim leaders they know about. The Jesus of the Bible is selfless, loving, a healer, wise and one who desires that all will be saved who come to believe in him. He performed amazing miracles in the name of God. He was acknowledged even by pagans as having been without sin, yet died that others might be freed from sin. He rose from the dead, and his resurrection was witnessed by hundreds, many of whom accepted torture and death rather than deny his resurrection. They also know that Muhammad performed no miracles, and when he died, he stayed dead. He promised eternal life to those who believed in his teachings; Muhammad only said that Allah was merciful and just — he never could give any assurance of eternal salvation. They cannot ignore the fact that Jesus was condemned by the Jewish religious leaders for blasphemy — claiming that he was the Son of God. This means that he equated himself with God, and therefore could not be a prophet of Islam. If the words describing Jesus in the Bible are true, then the Qur’an cannot be true. With this they turn back to Muhammad’s testimony of the words of Allah seeking a character who can match or exceed that of Jesus. What they find is sobering as compared to the Biblical Jesus.
After comparing these texts, they reflect upon the Islamic world as it is today:
* Sunni literalists vs. Sunni Secularists
* Shi’a Khomeiniists vs. Shi’a Secularists
* Advocates of Stealth Jihad (Muslim Brotherhood) vs. Advocates of Violent Jihad (Al-Qaida/ISIS)
* Sunni Salafists [Muslim Brotherhood, Deobandis, Wahhabis] vs. Shi’a Imami 12ers, Ismaili 7ers
* Sunni and Shi’a vs. the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community
* Sunni Salafists and Shi’a Khomeini’ists vs. Sufi mysticism
When the authoritative texts of Islam are examined against 1400 years of Islamic expansion, strife, un-forgiveness and hatred for non-Muslims and other Muslims, the words of Jesus in the New Testament begin to resonate. There is still fear of Muhammad’s decree as recorded in the kHadith Sahih Bukhari (52:260), “…The Prophet said, ‘If somebody (a Muslim) discards his religion, kill him.'”
However, prayerful consideration — and often conversations, online chat, or email exchanges — with Christians brings many of them to the decision point. Consider the following comparison:
And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Bukhari:V5B58N266: “[…] Uthman [bin Maz’un] fell ill and I nursed him till he died, and we covered him with his clothes. Then the Prophet came to us and I (addressing the dead body) said, ‘O Abu As-Sa’ib, may Allah’s Mercy be on you! I bear witness that Allah has honored you.’ On that the Prophet said, ‘How do you know that Allah has honored him?’ I replied, ‘I do not know. May my father and my mother be sacrificed for you, O Allah’s Apostle! But who else is worthy of it (if not Uthman)?’ He said, ‘As to him, by Allah, death has overtaken him, and I hope the best for him. By Allah, though I am the Apostle of Allah, yet I do not know what Allah will do to me [emphasis added].’ By Allah, I will never assert the piety of anyone after him. That made me sad, and when I slept I saw in a dream a flowing stream for Uthman bin Maz’un. I went to Allah’s Apostle and told him of it. He remarked, ‘That symbolizes his (good) deeds.’”
How can any Muslim who is questioning the faith he/she was raised into deny that Jesus spoke with authority concerning eternal life? Jesus said “I give them eternal life and I am the way…no one comes to the Father but by me.” On the other hand Muhammad gives no assurances — nor can he. “ I hope the best for him” and I am the Apostle of Allah, yet I DO NOT KNOW what Allah will do to me. “Jesus gives an assurance that Muslims cannot gain from Allah or Muhammad — unless they are killed in jihad [and therefore identified as “martyrs”]:
Qur’an 3:169-171: “And think not of those who are killed [slain] in Allah’s way [Jihad] as dead. Nay, they are alive, being provided sustenance from their Lord, rejoicing in what Allah has given them [bounty]out of His grace, and they rejoice for the sake [with regard to] of those who, being left behind them, have not yet joined them [in their bliss], that they [the martyrs] have no fear, nor shall they grieve. They rejoice for Allah’s favour and His grace, and that Allah wastes not the reward of the believers.”
The Muslim who accepts a personal relationship with Jesus comes to realize that Jesus has the answer for the sinful heart. Jesus came into this world to take the sin penalty that we all deserve by dying the worst of deaths. The story did not end there as his tomb was found empty days later and shortly thereafter many of those who believed in him saw him and spoke with him with his wounds still visible. The blood on Jesus hands was his blood. The blood that Muhammad often had on his hands was the blood of someone he had slain. It is at this point that many Muslims come to faith and create their own network of believers at great risk to themselves and all who associate with them. This occurs when the love of Christ for others overcomes the spirit of fear that permeates the Islamic world. They then begin to engage others to help bring them to knowledge of the truth and if they can accept it, eternal life through Jesus the Messiah and our Lord.