Islam may be truly ranked among missionary religions. Muhammad for thirteen years of his life was a preacher only, borrowing the missionary idea from Buddhism and Christianity. But it must be pointed out that the term ‘missionary’ cannot be restricted merely to the peaceful methods of conversion which are characteristic of the creeds of Buddha and of Christ, and which are now universally adopted by their followers. Muhammad, had not the patience to trust to Islam’s slow efficacy, but with an ardour more than Jewish, he threw the sword into the scale. The progress of Islam was due to the joint agencies of force and persuasion; but the employment of force has historically been the distinctive feature of Islam as a missionary religion.
Islam claims a political as well as a spiritual supremacy and the most flourishing periods for Islam have been at the times of its political ascendancy. The whole idea that one day India and China will be fully gathered into the Muslim fold, rests on reasoning more ingenious than solid. In West Africa there may be more of an attraction to Islam. Christianity requires a change of heart, a conviction of sin, and a perception of mysterious doctrines. Islam requires little except circumcision and six words by way of creed. Slavery and concubinage can thrive in the presence of Islam but there are so many barriers in the way of Christianity.
Within 500 years of Christ’s death Christianity had become paramount in the largest potion of the old world. It showed itself adaptable to the Oriental and the European, it had taken a strong hold in North Africa and Egypt, and was on equal terms with Buddhism in Central Asia, (Turkestan) and had planted itself firmly in the ancient Empires of India and China. Even Arabia, in which the national life was so strong, that its independence had never been entirely surrendered even to Rome, was showing signs of being Christianised. Najran was almost wholly Christian, and more than one tribe of Arabs had adopted the faith of Christ. It only needed that Arabia should come under the political influence of some Christian power, for Christianity to become the pervading religion. And this seemed on the eve of actual accomplishment. For the kingdom of Abyssinia, whose influence, had for a long time been strong in Arabia, made, in the latter half of the sixth century, a determined effort to enforce its claims to sovereignty over the unconquered Arabs.
It’s failure occurred at the time of the birth of Muhammad who was from the noble family of Hashemites, of the clan of the Qurraish. In a few short years Christianity was driven out of its ancient seats in Asia and Africa and had to contend for the possession of Europe. It was in Europe, when Abdul Majid (1823-1861) was Sultan of Turkey, that he was taken to see the fresco of our Saviour, then recently uncovered on the eastern wall of St. Sophia. He gazed at it for a few moments, and then solemnly said: ’Cover it up; His time has not yet come.’