The powerful enemy that made his appearance during this century, and the one we’ve referred to a couple of times, was Mohammed, an illiterate man born in Arabia about 600 AD. Mohammed was a genius and was born with a flowing eloquence. Mohammed publicly declared that he was commissioned by God to destroy polytheism and atheism and then to reform first the religion of the Arabians and then the Jews and Christians. For these purposes, he delivered a new law which was called the Koran, meaning “The Book.” He was crowned with immediate success and before he died, he was master of all Arabia and many adjacent provinces.
It is difficult to reconstruct the character of Mohammed from this distance in time. The Greek writers gave him a black character because of his invasion of their territory. But the Arabian writers concealed the vice of their hero and held him out to be the most divine person in all the world. Mohammed was almost certainly a fanatic and doubtless his teaching would have been somewhat different had he not met with opposition and been forced thereby to adapt his teachings to the circumstances.
The success of Mohammed was due largely to the force of his arms, for he set out to win his converts by force and terror. It was also due to the fact that his teaching appealed to man’s barer nature, and he always found ready takers in that. We might add to these two reasons the additional reason that the Christians were busy fighting among themselves. The Nestorians, who we mentioned earlier, even allied themselves with Mohammed against the Greeks who had treated them pretty badly. After the death of Mohammed in 632 AD his fanatical followers extended his religion into Syria, Persia, Egypt and other countries. Mohammed did not wage war on the Christians, and in fact, allowed a Bishop of the Nestorians to live in Baghdad. The Nestorians flourished under the protection of the Saracens as they never had under the Greek church.
However, the fanaticism and success of the Mohammedans was more prosperity than they could stand, and they finally came to treat the Christians as slaves rather than citizens. One wonders how the history of the world might have been had Christianity not been so weak and disease-ridden so as to allow this new religion to get a foothold. Even today, Lebanon is slit and rioting with this as one of the causes. The country is part Mohammedan and part Christian, but only a Christian can be president according to the constitution.