Muslims believe that Islam (meaning "submission to Allah") is the original religion since the creation of Adam, the first prophet. Since the beginning of time, all people who submit to Allah are called Muslims. Over the centuries, Allah appointed thousands of prophets to warn and guide mankind. Prominent among them were Ebrahim (Abraham), Musa (Moses), Dawud (David), and Isa Al Masih (Jesus the Messiah).
Mankind habitually strayed from the way of Allah revealed through the prophets. About AD 610 in Arabia, Allah sent the last prophet, Muhammad, who united the Arab tribes and turned them from idolatry to Islam.
After the death of Muhammad in AD 632, Sunni Islam rapidly spread from Arabia under the leadership of the first four "rightly guided" rulers (caliphs) who were close companions of Muhammad. Shia Islam began to rapidly spread through the teachings of "infallible" Imans from the bloodline of Muhammad. To Muslims, the military and economic expansion of Islam liberated people suffering under the corrupt Byzantine and Persian Empires.
Christians also trace their religious history back to Adam, who brought the curse of sin upon all mankind. (Gen. 1-3) In the Bible, Jesus is known as the second Adam, who came to remove this curse of sin. (Rom. 5)
God's plan unfolded carefully over history. Abraham (Ebrahim in Arabic) was promised the blessing to carry out God's eternal purposes. He was blessed so he could be a blessing to all the families of the earth. (Genesis 12:1-3; Galatians 3) Jesus is the promised seed of Eve who would crush the head of Satan (Shaytan in Arabic—Genesis 3:15) and bring the blessing of the "Good News" (Injil in Arabic).
A great war has been raging throughout the Creation, a struggle in which Satan has twisted all good things—even religion—into weapons to discredit God. The decisive battle of this war was won on the cross when Jesus destroyed Satan's power and overcame the curse of sin. By rising from the dead, Jesus conquered death, a consequence of the curse, and thereby offers the blessing of eternal life to mankind.
Religious history between Christians and Muslims is covered with blood and war, much like all of human history. God's name has been used by both sides to justify murder and mayhem. Several key events in history continue to affect the perceptions of Christians and Muslims. These events include the Islamic expansion (AD 600 to 800's), the Crusades (AD 1000 to 1200's), the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948, the attack on the World Trade Center, the Gulf Wars of 1991 and 2003, and many other events.
Historians have pointed out that these "holy wars" of history were more about economics than faith. Yet economic struggle cannot explain the intense hatred, cruelty and malicious evil of a Crusader, Nazi, or suicide bomber. Behind these horrors is a deeper spiritual war and a vindictive enemy, namely Satan. Christians and Muslims should not lose sight of Satan, the "enemy of souls." By recognizing the common enemy, Christians can create a context in which they can build relationships with Muslims.