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Christians owe a debt of gratitude to Muslims.
Why? Because Islam has done so much to bring belief in Christ to so many people.
I am not being facetious here, nor inflammatory. There is great historical and religious context for this sentiment.
After Muhammad died in 632 A.D.—or more correctly CE, the Common Era—a series of four Caliphs governed the new Islamic state: Abu Bakr (632-634), Umar ibn al-Khattab (Umar І, 634-644), Uthman ibn Affan (644-656), and Ali ibn Abi Talib (656-661). These leaders are known as the “rightly guided” Caliphs in Sunni Islam. They oversaw the initial phase of the spread of Islam, advancing the new religion through the Arabian Peninsula and Persia, the eastern Mediterranean and many islands, to Egypt and North Africa by the beginning of the 8th century. Today in European countries, Muslims number between 3 and 13% of any given country’s population. In Spain today two percent of the populace is Muslim, but at the height of early Islamic expansions into Iberia by 713, the area was entirely under Muslim control.
While the world’s population is projected to grow 35% in the coming decades, the number of Muslims is expected to increase by 73 percent—from 1.6 billion in 2010 to 2.8 billion in 2050.
At this same time in early Islam’s spread, Christianity had already been established throughout most of Europe and the edges of the Mediterranean well into present-day Turkey. Christ’s teachings even reached the edges of China by 618 CE. According to the Pew Research Foundation:
As of 2010, Christianity was by far the world’s largest religion, with an estimated 2.2 billion adherents, nearly a third (31 percent) of all 6.9 billion people on Earth. Islam was second, with 1.6 billion adherents, or 23 percent of the global population.
In 2015, Islam overtook Christianity as the world’s largest religion.
But it’s not a race, and people of intellect and faith realize there is, after all, only one religion, the religion of one God, with differing names and practices relevant to the age in which those great Faiths originally appeared. The Baha’i teachings embrace that unity and oneness:
The fundamental principle enunciated by Baha’u’llah… is that religious truth is not absolute but relative, that Divine Revelation is a continuous and progressive process, that all the great religions of the world are divine in origin, that their basic principles are in complete harmony, that their aims and purposes are one and the same, that their teachings are but facets of one truth, that their functions are complementary, that they differ only in the nonessential aspects of their doctrines, and that their missions represent successive stages in the spiritual evolution of human society…. – Shoghi Effendi, The Promised Day is Come, p. v.
In other words, I have one name, Rodney, but I wear different hats when needed: father, husband, employee, volunteer etc. No matter which hat I wear, even the title “Catholic” as I grew up, makes me no less a believer in one God, universal and indivisible, with a unified message for all humanity.
That message is simply to love and cooperate with each other. Christ taught it, and so did Muhammad.
We are forbidden to harm or kill each other. “Thou shalt not kill,” is a mighty Commandment. ” “Love thy neighbor as thyself,” the Golden Rule, is common to all true religion. So billions of Muslims have performed a great service in the name of the prophet Muhammad. Following his words in the Qur’an, Muslims absolutely believe in the divinity and holiness of Jesus Christ. The story of Christ’s birth recited in the Qur’an is moving and wondrous. In fact, Christ is mentioned in 93 of the Qur’an’s verses.
Bloodsheds and hatreds, even age-old vendettas will cease when we realize once and for all time, for our own good and our continued life on this planet, that religion was meant to be the source of amity and concord:
All the teaching of the Prophets is one; one faith; one Divine light shining throughout the world. Now, under the banner of the oneness of humanity all people of all creeds should turn away from prejudice and become friends and believers in all the Prophets. As Christians believe in Moses, so the Jews should believe in Jesus. As the Muhammadans believe in Christ and Moses, so likewise the Jews and the Christians should believe in Muhammad. Then all disputes would disappear, all then would be united. Baha’u’llah came for this purpose. He has made the three religions one. He has uplifted the standard of the oneness of faith and the honour of humanity in the centre of the world. Today we must gather round it, and try with heart and soul to bring about the union of mankind. – Abdu’l-Baha, Abdu’l-Baha in London, p. 43.