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World Religions and Their Missions

Aaron J. Ghiloni

Schleiermacher maintained that «to make proselytes out of unbelievers is deeply engrained in the character of religion.» But why do religions proselytize? Do all religions seek conversions? How are religions adapting their proclamations in a deeply plural world? This book provides a detailed analysis of the missionary impulse as it is manifested across a range of religious and irreligious traditions. World Religions and Their Missions systematically compares the motives and methods of the «missions» of Atheism, the Bahá'í Faith, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Mormonism. The text also develops innovative frameworks for interreligious encounters and comparative mission studies.
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Chapter 7: Islam


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Islam is a missionary religion in the sense that it actively seeks converts and has the history and propensity for diffusion across a diversity of geographies and cultures. Starting in 610 CE with only Prophet Muhammad, Islam has now reached a population of more than 1.6 billion people spread across 57 countries as majority and the rest of the world as significant minorities. Islam exhorts its followers to pass on the good news and warning of heedlessness to the final revelation of God. While the energy to propagate the faith is certainly present, Islam restrains proselytizing fervor by the proclamation of no compulsion in religion. Interestingly, Islam did not produce a missionary class to spread the faith or unleash a continuous initiative; rather, it relied on the unorganized discretionary enthusiasm of Muslims as representatives of the faith. The spread of Islam consequently occurred as a slow process over centuries primarily through direct access to Islam and Muslims. This could sometimes be a conquering army removing empires, sometimes tradesmen, and other times a wandering dervish or just ordinary Muslims interacting freely with their non-Muslim neighbors. In modern times, the Islamic mission or da’wah acquired contemporary nuances and intermingled with Islamic revivalist movements.


A follower of Prophet Muhammad, Sufyan Ibn Abdillah al-Thaqafi, once asked him: “Tell me about Islam such that it should suffice me and I should not have...

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