Christianity and Islam are currently great religions that respectively boast 2.2 billion and 1.5 billion followers, but in the past they were rivals that competed for supremacy. Below we look at the intimately connected history of their relationship.
1) The Expansion of Islam
The Roman Empire officially recognized and established Christianity as the state religion in the 4th century, and it spread through the Mediterranean world, which was under the rule of the empire.
The 7th century saw the appearance of Islam, which would become its fateful rival. Muslims zealously carried out foreign wars (jihad) based on their religious causes and in order to expand the Islamic world. The period between the 7th and 8th centuries witnessed the first major triumphs for Islam.
Starting with Muhammad’s military victories on the Arabian Peninsula, Muslims would go on to cut away at the Christian world. They defeated the Byzantine Empire, and took control of Syria and Egypt. They also got hold of Jerusalem, which was the holy land for the Christians. Then, they advanced west through West Africa, crossed the Strait of Gibraltar, and clutched the Iberian Peninsula.
Today, Muslims say they preach peace and tolerance, but in light of the great military triumphs that immediately transpired after its establishment, it is simply not the truth.
2) The Golden Age of Islamic Civilization
Islamic culture experienced a great boom in the 9th to 10th centuries. Baghdad, the capital of Abbasid Caliphate, became a city of one million people. It achieved unprecedented prosperity. It preserved and developed areas of learning in Ancient Greece, which Western Europe had lost. Western Europe re-imported this learning, and it gave rise to the Renaissance and the scientific revolution.
Christians have a tendency to ignore this fact and to believe that they directly descended from Greek civilization. This ingratitude irritates Islam while at the same time the memory of this golden age has become the basis of the principle of Islam’s revival, “a return to the ideal age”.
3) The Period of the Crusades
At the end of the 11th century, the first Christian Crusade, whose just cause was to regain control of the holy land of Jerusalem, struck at the Islamic world. It temporarily seized Jerusalem, but it was recaptured about a century later. The Crusaders later reformed, but ultimately were driven back, unable to achieve their original aim.
The Crusades, which caused bloodshed everywhere, left a deep scar on the hearts of Muslims. In the 13th century, the Mongols invaded the Islamic nations, but many of them converted to Islam and the Islamic teachings once again triumphed. In contrast, the Christians, who did not respect Islam, invaded a land that they thought was full of difficult to redeem savages.
4) A Significant Period for the Ottoman Turkish
In the 14th century, Muslims established their Islamic nations around the world, and the Ottoman Turkish Empire was important to its relationship with the Christian world. The Ottoman Empire actively adopted expansionism, and thus became a direct threat to the modernized, Western European nations.
The Ottoman Empire overthrew the Byzantine Empire, which had continued for over a thousand years. It ruled the Balkans and Hungary. The empire also surrounded Vienna and threatened Europe. In addition, it defeated Spain at its pinnacle in a naval battle, and temporarily commanded the seas.
However, the Ottoman Empire entered a period of decline in the latter half of the 17th century when it failed in its second attempted to surround Vienna.
5) The Period of European Imperialism
The 18th century was a term when European military powers determined to the reverse the Islamic world’s expansionism. Europe, whose weapons capability dramatically improved due to the industrial revolution, encroached on the Islamic world. The Ottoman Empire, which was once proud of its significance, reduced its territory, and the Mughal Empire, which was the Islamic state of India, became a British colony.
Upon entering the 19th century, the Ottoman Empire was unable to withstand pressures from Britain, France, and Russia, and it split up. Iran’s Qajar dynasty narrowly escaped colonization, but was continually plagued by Russia’s southward advance. Africa, with its many Islamic nations, largely became a European colony.
6) The 20th Century Onwards
Defeated in World War I, the Ottoman Empire ultimately fell. This period of hardship for Islamic nations has continued to present.
Many nations gained independence after World War II, but conflicts existed between the governments that promoted modernization and the Western European nations that supported them, and the principles of Islamic revival that cried out for a “return to the ideal period for Islam”.
In 1948, when the Jews founded the state of Israel, after they drove out Palestine’s Muslim residents, wars in the Middle East repeatedly broke out between Israel and the Arab nations that did not recognize its establishment. The world’s Muslims have long nourished a feeling of hatred towards Israel and America ever since due to their supports of the Jewish state.
In 1979, the monarchy in Iran was overthrown, where the principles of an Islamic revival had previously intensified, and the Iranian Revolution, to install an Islamic jurist as supreme leader, took place. Western European nations strengthened in their state of vigilance.
Many Islamic nations also accepted the 1991 Gulf War, but afterwards when the US military continued its presence in Saudi Arabia, Islam’s second greatest holy land, some Muslims began to express their hatred openly.
Thus, the 2001 September 11 attacks were an explosion of their pent-up anger.. The situation has sunk into a vicious cycle whereby ordinary citizens have sacrificed themselves in the subsequent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Terrorism has been continuing to flare up as a form of retaliation.
In the background of this conflict between Christianity and Islam is a long historical connection. The first step towards a solution to this friction is still nowhere in sight.
A History of Challenges and Responses
Is Revenge the Next Step for Islam?
Christianity vs. Islam, a Timeline
Green indicates the dominance of Islam over Christianity and red indicates the opposite.
1. Islamic Expansionism (7th – 8th century) – Its Shocking Appearance on the Historical, World Stage
- Muhammad Gains Control of the Arabian Peninsula (around 630)
- Conquest of Syria (in 640) and Egypt (in 641)
- Westward Advancement Across North Africa (641 – 693)
- The Conquest of the Iberian Peninsula (710)
* In the east, there was the conquest of Iraq (641), Iran (651), and Central Asia (711).
2. The Golden Age of Islamic civilization (9th – 10th century)
———————-The memory of its prosperity remains even now.
- The Development of Islamic Culture and The Prosperity of the Abbasid Caliphate (with Baghdad as its capital)
- The Splitting Up of the Islamic World from the 10th Century Onwards
(Too many dynasties in North Africa, the Middle East. and Central Asia)
3. The Era of the Christian Crusades (11th – 13th century)
————————Trauma drawn out over a thousand years.
- The First Crusade (1096 – 1099). The Capture of Jerusalem
- Egypt’s Saladin Captures Jerusalem. (Christians aimed to recapture it in the third crusade (1189 – 1192), but failed in their quest.)
- Later Christians sent crusaders many times until the latter half of the 13th century, but every mission ended in failure.
4. The Period of Significance for the Ottoman Turkish (14th – 17th century)
——————————–The Christian world was terrified.
- Defeated allied Christian forces in the Balkans (1396).
- Captured the capital Constantinople, and overthrew the Byzantine Empire (1453).
- Gained control of Hungary through many battles in the first half of the 16th century.
- Vienna surrounded for the first time (1529).
- Defeated the combined Spanish fleet, among others, and thus commanded the sea (1538).
- Failed to surround Vienna a second time (1683).
- Entered into the Treaty of Karlowitz with the European nations, and lost control of its territorities (1699).
5. European Imperialism (18th – 19th century)
—————————-Islam encroached on Christian countries
- France pushed the British out of their country, and the British established control of India and Bengal (1757).
- With the assistance of Britain, France, and Russia, Greece gained independence from the Ottoman Empire (1829).
- France seized Algeria from the Ottoman Empire (1830).
- India’s Mughal Empire collapsed and became a direct holding of Britain (1858).
- Britain turned Egypt into a protected state (1882).
- In the Berlin West Africa Conference (1184 – 1885), Western Europeans redrew historic territorial divisions on the map of Africa.
6. The Present Age (from the 20th century onwards)
————War and the retaliation of terrorism
- The Ottoman Empire Collapsed (1922).
- With Western Europe backing, Jews founded the state of Israel in Palestine (1948).
- Wars in the Middle East broke out over the Palestine issue (wars 1 – 4, 1948 – 1973).
- The Iranian Revolution (1979).
- The Gulf War (1991).
- The September 11th Attacks (2001).
- The War in Afghanistan (2001 – date).
- The Iraq War (2003).