As for those born Muslim and raised in ignorance of their own religion, their
conversion to other religions cannot fairly be viewed as turning away from Islam—since the individuals never truly embraced Islam in the first place. And, of course, not every person born into a religion is an example of piety, even if knowledgeable of their religion.
Then there are those weak of faith, who find religious conviction pushed aside by worldly priorities or the allure of more permissive faiths. But the sum total of these apostates simply doesn’t match 1,400 years of Jewish and Christian clergy converting in the opposite direction. Conspicuously absent from the equation is the conversion of sincere and committed, educated and practicing Sunni Muslims, much less scholars (the Islamic equivalent of the convert rabbis and priests).
Still, the question remains: Why do some Jewish and Christian scholars embrace Sunni Islam? There is no pressure upon them to do so, and significant worldly reasons not to things like losing their congregation, position and status, friends and family, jobs
and retirement pension. And why don’t Islamic scholars turn to something else?
Other religions are much more permissive in matters of faith and morals, and there is no enforcement of a law against apostatizing from Islam in Western countries.
So why have Jewish and Christian scholars embraced Islam, while educated Muslims remain firm in their faith? Muslims suggest that the answer lies in the definition of Islam. The person who submits to God and not to a particular ecclesiastical body will recognize a divine sense to revelation. Islam represents a continuum from Judaism and
Christianity which, once recognized, sweeps the sincere seeker down the smooth road of revelation. Once a person sees past Western prejudices and propaganda, the Muslim believes, doors of understanding open.
The Islamic viewpoint is that, between the missions of Jesus and Muhammad, those who recognized Jesus as the fulfillment of Old Testament prophesies bore witness to the one true God, and Jesus as his prophet. By Islamic definition, these early “Christians” were Muslims for all intents and purposes. Modernday Muslims remind us
that Jesus could not have taught things that did not exist in the period of his ministry, such as the label of “Christian” and Trinitarian doctrine, which was to evolve over the,first few centuries in the postapostolic age. What Jesus most certainly did teach was the simple truth of God being One, and of God having sent himself as a prophet. The Gospel
of John says it best: “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3), and “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in me” (John 14:1).
Hence, the Islamic viewpoint is that whatever this group of early followers called themselves during the forty years following Jesus (before the word Christian was even invented), they lived in submission to the truth of God as conveyed in the teachings of Jesus. And despite whatever label they identified with back then, today their character would be defined by a word attributed to those who live in submission to God via the message of revelation—that is, Muslim.