In the early days of Islam, when the Muslims were weak and oppressed, the
religion was embraced by such seekers of truth as Salman Farsi, a Persian Christian who was directed by his mentor, a Christian monk, to seek the arrival of the final prophet in the “country of the datepalms.”
The Negus, the Christian ruler of Abyssinia, accepted Islam without ever having met Muhammad, and while the Muslims were still a small group, widely held in contempt and frequently fighting for their lives.
One wonders, if Christian scholars and Christians of prominent position accepted Islam during a time when the Muslims were a persecuted minority lacking wealth, strength, and political position with which to attract, much less protect, new Muslims, what drew these Christians to Islam, if not sincere belief?
History records that even Heraclius, the Christian emperor of Rome, considered accepting Islam, only to renounce his resolve when he saw that conversion would cost him the support of his people as well as his empire.
One of the most striking early conversions was that of Abdallah ibn Salam, the rabbi whom the Jews of Medina called “our master and the son of our master.”
Encyclopedia Judaica explains that when his coreligionists were invited to accept Islam as well, “The Jews refused, and only his immediate family, notably his aunt Khalida, embraced Islam. According to other versions, Abdallah’s conversion occurred because of the strength of Muhammad’s answers to his questions.
So the conversions started, and so they have continued to the present day.
Converts to Islam typically consider their conversion to be consistent with, if not dictated by, their own scripture. In other words, they discover that Islam is the fulfillment of,
rather than in conflict with, teachings of the Bible. This naturally raises the question: Are Jews and Christians, in the face of the revelation of the Holy Qur’an, defying God and His chain of revelation? This issue cuts at the very root of the theological debate.
Muslims believe that, as with those who denied Jesus Christ’s prophethood, those who deny the same of Muhammad may continue to be accepted by their people and regarded
highly by their peers but at the cost of disfavor with God. If true, this claim deserves to be heard. If not, the error of this conviction demands exposure. In either case, there is no substitute for an examination of the evidence. While there have always been significant numbers of educated and practicing Jewish and Christian converts to Islam, the reverse is not true, nor has it been true at any time in history. There are cases of those belonging to deviant sects of Islam who convert to different religions, but this is hardly surprising. Ignorant of the true teachings of the
Islamic religion, they are often seduced by the worldly permissiveness of other religions.
Examples of these deviant groups include the Baha’i, the Nation of Islam, the Ahmadiyyah (also known as Qadianis), the Ansar, extreme Sufi orders and many, if not most, of the Shi’ite sects.
These groups may identify with the label of Islam, but like a man who calls himself a tree, lack sufficient roots in the religion to substantiate the claim. More importantly, the illegitimate doctrines of these misguided sects separate them from orthodox (Sunni) Islam, demanding rejection by all Muslims.