Islam began in the year 610 AD when Muhammad supposedly received his first revelation from Allah through an angel. You may think that because this was 1700 years ago, Islam’s origins are not important for modern-day Christians to understand. However, learning about the history of Islam gives us insight into the life and teachings of its founder and how this impacts Muslims today. Read about Muhammad’s life in this post here.
Many Christians stop learning about Islam’s history once they learn about the life of Muhammad, but there’s plenty we can learn about Islam when we see what happened after Muhammad’s death. It shows us the true nature of this religion.
What happened in the Islamic empire when Muhammad died?
After Muhammad’s death in AD 632, the many Arab tribes that he had conquered and forced to convert to Islam revolted against the Islamic political and religious regime. For twelve months, the entire region of the Arabian Peninsula was filled with bloody battles as people fought for their freedom.
Muhammad’s successors won and continued to expand their territory and Islamize the surrounding countries. Within less than 50 years they controlled all the Middle East and North Africa, including Jerusalem.
During the first few decades, Muhammad was succeeded by new leaders for Islam, called Khalifs: Abu Bakr, Umar ibn al-Khattab, Uthman ibn Affan, and Ali ibn Abi Taleb. They ruled in that order, the first three being assassinated, then Ali was in power. Ali was Muhammad’s nephew and he had married Muhammad’s daughter Fatima.
The great split in Islam
In AD 656, there was a rebellion against Ali by Talha ibn Ubaydillah and Al-Zubair Al-Zuhri, who had the support of Aisha. Aisha was Muhammad’s youngest and supposedly most loved wife. First Ali defeated this uprising but he was later killed by a disillusioned follower.
After Ali’s death, people were divided on who should be the next leader of Islam. Some stated that Ali’s sons were the proper Khalifs because they were from Muhammad’s bloodline. Others pointed out that one of Ali’s sons surrendered his position of power to Mu’awiya, who ruled over Syria and Egypt. These two groups became known as:
- The Shiites: those who supported Ali and his sons.
- The Sunnis: those who followed Mu’awiya.
You can learn more about these sects of Islam here.
How Islam’s history has shaped its future
Today, Islam continues to try to grow its “empire,” even though it is not as obvious as it might be in the history books. Similar to how Islam spread rapidly in the first few decades, you can see the way Islam has found a prominent foothold in many European countries today such as England, Holland, France, Sweden, and Germany.
In Europe specifically, Pew Research Center says that if the current migration numbers remain high because of refugees, the Muslim population might triple in the next thirty years, equaling around 11% of Europe’s total population by 2050. Even if migration levels were at a medium level, the population could almost double from 4.9% to 7.4% of Europe’s total population.
Because Muslims believe they must have children, they have a higher fertility rate than any other group in the United States. The Muslim population is expected to double by 2050 in the United States according to Pew Research Center, to make up 2.1% of the population.
The incredibly fast growth of Muslim population is not purely due to Muslim families multiplying. In the past few decades, many Islamic nations have begun financially funding the spread of Islam in western countries. It is not a violent takeover, but it is still an orchestrated expansion in order to get power (read more about this here).
Your Muslim friend is not responsible for any of Islam’s history, but it has shaped the way they were raised and taught. Don’t assume the worst of your Muslim friend’s intentions. Focus on loving them and being a good friend to them!
How can understanding Islam’s history help you share the Gospel?
You may wonder what Islam’s early history may have to do with your friendship with your Muslim friend today. We always want Christians to remember that their Muslim friends most likely do not follow Islam’s rules like purists and extremists do and they are not violent.
However, knowing the religion that your Muslim friend is under gives you insight into the worldview they have been taught– to view anyone outside of Islam as someone to be subjugated, never respected. Your Muslim friend might not look down on you the way they have been taught to, but understand that Islam is inherently prejudiced against outsiders. If you’ve been able to gain their trust, this is an amazing thing!
Dear Lord, thank you for helping me gain my Muslim friend’s trust. Please help us grow our friendship so that I can tell them about Jesus’ love for them. Touch their heart so that they are open to hearing the truth. Amen.