We regularly read in the mainstream media that Islam is the fastest-growing religion in the world. In 2015 Pew Research predicted that if current trends continue, then around 2070 Islam may surpass Christianity and become the world’s largest religion.
However many critics of Islam parrot the following line:
Islam is only the fastest-growing religion because Muslims have more babies than the rest of us.
This isn’t exactly something to be ashamed of though. If Islam pushes Muslims to be more prolific demographically it’s just the proof that, even from their own secular standards of neo-Darwinism and evolutionary psychology, Islam is the superior religion. It also highlights the fact that it’s not as if all other religions are growing solely through conversions. For instance, Hinduism only grows through Hindu fertility.
But we’ll see how conversions do in fact play a role in the worldwide rise and growth of Islam, and we’ll be looking at two specific cases in two different continents: Rwanda in Africa and The Philippines in Asia.
The Rise of Islam is a Prophecy
The Qur’an is a miraculous book, and among its miraculous features is its prophecies.
Among such prophecies, we find in the Qur’an (24:55):
Allāh has promised those who have believed among you and done righteous deeds that He will surely grant them succession [to authority] upon the earth just as He granted it to those before them and that He will surely establish for them [therein] their religion which He has preferred for them and that He will surely substitute for them, after their fear, security, [for] they worship Me, not associating anything with Me. But whoever disbelieves after that – then those are the defiantly disobedient.
This was fulfilled when, not too long after the passing away of the Prophet ﷺ, Muslims originating from “backwards Arabia” conquered the major centers of the old “civilized world,” and they did so with such great pace and strength that it continues to amaze even the most secular of historians.
Mufti Muhammad Shafi’ (may Allah have mercy on him) was an influential scholar from Pakistan who authored more than 100 books. He wrote in his commentary of the Qur’an, Ma’ariful Qur’an (volume 6, pp. 451-452):
Allah had made three promises to the Holy Prophet ﷺ, that his Ummah will be made His vicegerent on earth and will rule over it, and His favorite religion Islam will be made victorious, and Muslims will be given so much power and grandeur that they will have no fear of any one. Allah fulfilled His promise by conferring conquest over Makkah, Khaibar, Bahrain, and the whole of Yemen and the entire peninsula of Arabia even during the lifetime of the Holy Prophet ﷺ. Also he received jizyah (capitation tax) from the Zoroastrians of Hajar and some Syrian territories. The kings and rulers of Rome, Egypt, Iskandria, Oman and Ethiopia sent gifts to the Holy Prophet ﷺ, and gave him honour and respect. Then during his caliphate Sayyidna Abu Bakr crushed all the menacing uprisings. He also sent out Islamic armies to Persia, Syria and Egypt, Busra and Damascus also fell to Islamic State during this time.
British historian Hugh Kennedy wrote a book on the subject called The Great Arab Conquests. He begins the book by quoting a Christian monk who witnessed the triumph of Islam first-hand and whose amazement at the Islamic conquests is still shared:
In the 680s a monk called John Bar Penkaye was working on a summary of world history in his remote monastery by the swift-flowing River Tigris, in the mountains of what is now south-east Turkey. When he came to write about the history of his own times, he fell to musing about the Arab conquest of the Middle East, still within living memory. As he contemplated these dramatic events he was puzzled: ‘How’, he asked, ‘could naked men, riding without armour or shield, have been able to win… and bring low the proud spirit of the Persians?’ He was further struck that ‘only a short period passed before the entire world was handed over to the Arabs; they subdued all fortified cities, taking control from sea to sea, and from east to west – Egypt, and from Crete to Cappadocia, from Yemen to the Gates of Alan [in the Caucasus], Armenians, Syrians, Persians, Byzantines and Egyptians and all the areas in between: “their hand was upon everyone” as the prophet says’.
For John Bar Penkaye, pious monk that he was, the answer was clear: this was God’s will. Nothing else could account for this wholly extraordinary revolution in the affairs of men.
If the Prophet ﷺ was “insincere,” and if he was the “author” of the Qur’an as many insincere Orientalists and Christians missionaries allege, he wouldn’t have had such a great amount of certainty in these prophecies. No “average Arab” could have predicted such radical changes in world geopolitics.
It would be a more easily-believable claim for someone to say today, in 2022, that North Korea will dominate the entire world by destroying the US and China!
The Rise of Islam in Rwanda
We’ve all heard of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, when the minority Tutsis (and moderate Hutus) were subjected to extreme violence because of socioeconomic tensions socially-engineered by the Belgian colonialists – just like elsewhere in the colonial world where Europeans played races against each other in order to maintain power, without caring at all about the ethnic antagonisms they’d brewed and left behind.
What’s less known is that many Rwandans embraced Islam in droves because of what they perceived to be Christian passivity (and often complicity) during the genocide.
Since the genocide, Rwandans have converted to Islam in huge numbers. Muslims now make up 14 percent of the 8.2 million people here in Africa’s most Catholic nation, twice as many as before the killings began.
Many converts say they chose Islam because of the role that some Catholic and Protestant leaders played in the genocide. Human rights groups have documented several incidents in which Christian clerics allowed Tutsis to seek refuge in churches, then surrendered them to Hutu death squads, as well as instances of Hutu priests and ministers encouraging their congregations to kill Tutsis. Today some churches serve as memorials to the many people slaughtered among their pews.
Four clergymen are facing genocide charges at the U.N.-created International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, and last year in Belgium, the former colonial power, two Rwandan nuns were convicted of murder for their roles in the massacre of 7,000 Tutsis who sought protection at a Benedictine convent.
In contrast, many Muslim leaders and families are being honored for protecting and hiding those who were fleeing.
Since the advent of European colonialism in the country in 1884, Roman Catholicism has been the dominant religion in Rwanda.
But in the last 25 years, Islam has become an alternative for thousands of Rwandans who lost their faith in Christianity during the genocide.
Muslims made up one percent of the population before the genocide. Although no census has been conducted, today “12 percent to 15 percent of the total population is Muslim”, according to Salim Habimana, a former Mufti of the country.
We could present numerous other reports too, but what’s evident is that in just a few decades, the number of Muslims rose not only in absolute numbers but in overall percentage too. What is even more impressive is that that this percentage went from 1-5% before the genocide to 10-15% of the country’s population now. This means that the percentage of Muslims has doubled or tripled in such a brief period of time!
This is something truly extraordinary considering that Muslims didn’t have the state apparatus, education propaganda, etc., that the European colonialists did when they promoted Christianity. Then there’s also the fact that all of this is happening at a time when Islam is constantly being demonized by the global liberal media.
The Rise of Islam in the Philippines
While the Protestants can still gleefully point out conversions taking place in Sub-Saharan Africa (throwing money at poor Africans brings in a lot of converts), Catholics have not been so successful. Not only are Catholic missionary activities in the modern world more or less a failure, but they’re even losing against Protestants in their own backyards (such as in Brazil).
So The Philippines, an archipelago in Southeast Asia, gives them a ray of hope. Especially when contrasted with how Catholicism is dying in its old strongholds such as France. The Philippines is a nation with a population of over a 100 million where 80% identify as Catholics.
But I’ve got some news for the Catholics: many Filipinos are embracing Islam.
There’s even a name for them: “Balik-Islam,” which means “returnees to Islam,” as Islam reached The Philippines before Christianity did, and many of these converts to Islam say that their ancestors were Muslims who were forcefully converted into Christianity by the European colonialists (the Spanish in particular).
Luis Lacar writes in one of the few articles that exist regarding this phenomenon:
Balik-Islam are individuals who have made a ‘paradigm shift in their ordered view of life from one perspective to another’. The ‘paradigm shift’ is from Christianity to Islam. Recent available data on the number of Bali-Islam in the Philippines indicate that it is a rapidly growing phenomenon. While they may be denominated as converts to Islam, without exception, none of them wants to be called a convert. They insist on being designated as Balik-Islam (‘returnees’ to Islam) rather than converts.
In note 4 of his article he mentions that the number of Muslim converts as of the year 1995 is 98,500. In note 5 he mentions that many of these converts “were former ordained preachers or lay ministers in their respective Churches.”
But the numbers must have risen since 1995, especially as Lacar himself termed it “a rapidly growing phenomenon.” In a 2020 thesis about Balik-Islam submitted to Temple University, we read on p. 5:
Lacar, Angeles, and Borer et al. explore various aspects of an Islamic movement in the Philippines that have spanned several decades and reportedly grown in numbers that range from 200,000 to two million.
And Islam didn’t spread there by the sword. The Muslims of The Philippines, who make around 5-10% of the population, are a besieged minority that fought the central government for many decades through insurgences.
Although the situation somehow calmed in 2019, when president Duterte ratified a law allowing the Bangsamoro autonomous region in the Muslim-majority Mindanao island group, the point here is that the Muslims of the country don’t have the political authority nor the financial means to potentially convert millions into Islam.
We can provide many other cases too.
Take the Igbos in Nigeria for example.
Nigera is divided roughly through the following ethnoreligious lines: the Hausas and Fulanis in the north are 99% Muslims; the Yorubas in the south-west are roughly 50% Muslims and 50% Christians; and the Igbos in the south-east are predominantly Christians.
In fact, Igbos are known to be the “staunch” Christians of Nigeria.
But this may be changing.
In a 2020-book, The Conversion of Igbo Christians to Islam, published by Langham Publishing (with a Christian editor), the author’s shock is quite explicit within the very first pages:
After having served as a missionary in various parts of Muslim West Africa and Sudan, in a bid to see Christ ardently worshiped among Muslims there, I returned home in 2012 and learned that my own people, the Igbo, were converting to Islam. This realization was heartrending and overwhelming. I wept day and night for my people, read some online Muslim da’wees’ conversations sharing how Christians in the Nigerian universities were converting to Islam in large numbers. This knowledge further wrenched my heart and sparked an interest to investigate the reasons why the Igbo were converting to Islam.
In recent years, conversion to Islam has significantly increased in areas formerly hostile to Islam. For instance, good numbers of Americans are converting to Islam, South Korean Christians are converting to Islam, and native-born British as well. This phenomenon is also being observed in Igboland, the Christian heartland of Nigeria, where a growing number of mosques, Islamic schools/institutions, and Igbo converts to Islam can be observed. Though most people have argued that the Igbo are converting to Islam primarily for the economic motif, which may have been accurate in the past, closer examinations shows that this is no longer the case. According to this current research, the Igbo are nowadays primarily converting to Islam for the intellectual motif.
We could also present the case of India, where Mawlana Kaleem Siddiqui was jailed a few months ago by the BJP government because of a “conversion racket.” The Indian police accepts that he converted 500,000 people to Islam, but accuses him of doing it with outside “funding” (mainly from the vilified Gulf) and claiming that he is encouraging “terrorism.”
That’s the Da’wah of a single man, so we can only imagine how many Indians have actually converted and embraced Islam…
Anyway, our point was to show that if Islam really does grow through “higher fertility rates,” it also grows due to conversions, and the examples we have provided from different continents show how Islam grows even when the Muslims are an oppressed minority.
So again, what sword?
Many would argue that, in this day and age, the religion which is really being spread by the sword and brutal domination is liberalism.