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The Spread Of Christianity And Islam

1373 words - 5 pages

A strange historical significance seems to surround the Middle East. It has served as the birth place for many cultures and religions. Its Fertile Crescent contained one of the earliest culture hearths where civilization developed. In this area great kingdoms of the ancient world, such as Babylon and Persia, arose to shape history. Judaism had its roots in the Middle East, and Israel--the country of God's chosen people--was formed here. Later two of the largest and most historically important religions on earth--Christianity and Islam--also emerged and spread from the Middle East. As they expanded from this region, both of these religions had substantial impact on the course of history. Both of them also made considerable progress during their first 200 years of expansion. However, during the first two centuries of the existence of each religion there were fundamental differences between the expansion of Christianity and that of Islam, despite early similarities in the way they spread.Christianity existed several centuries prior to the birth of Islam, and by the time Muhammad founded Islam in the Middle East, Christianity had moved its center to Europe, where it had firmly established itself as the official religion. But Christianity originally sprouted in the Middle East after Christ's resurrection in A.D. 30. The church began in Jerusalem and the surrounding area, and it initially preached the Gospel only to the Jews. It grew quite rapidly for a time--in fact, the book of Acts records the conversion of 3000 Jews in a single, extraordinary day.1 During this early period, however, Christianity2 did not expand far beyond Jerusalem and its vicinity. That would soon change. After the first few years of relative peace for the church, a terrible persecution broke out following the stoning of Stephen.3 Jewish leaders hunted down the followers of Jesus and threw them into prison. At this time many in the church scattered to the surrounding countryside of Judea and Samaria. Christianity's worldwide expansion was beginning.When Islam was founded about 550 years later, around the beginning of the seventh century, its initial experience was strikingly similar to the early experience of the Christian church. In 610 A.D. Muhammad--a native of the Quraysh tribe in Mecca, Saudi Arabia--claimed that he received revelations from God that called him to preach a new religion called Islam. At first he began to do so secretly, but after three years he found the courage to proclaim his new faith publicly and gained a growing number of followers.4 However, his monotheistic message was not well received by many in his polytheistic city, where people were used to profiting from pagan pilgrims.5 As a result, the early Muslim converts faced persecution, just as the early Christians had. Islam's growth was limited during this time, and it did not spread far beyond Mecca. Eventually the harassment forced Muhammad to leave Mecca, so he fled to Medina. Here he gathered many...

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