On wednesday, November 21, 1979, Islam will reach another milestone. The adherents of the world’s second largest religion will begin a new century, Islamic year 1400.

Fourteen centuries have elapsed since the Muslim prophet Muhammad emigrated from Mecca to Medina. The date of that dramatic event, estimated to be July 16, A.D. 622, has been chosen by Muslims as the starting point of their calendar. Thus the letters “A.H.,” (“after the Hijra”) are added to all Muslim dates.

(The Muslim calendar is based on the movements of the moon rather than the sun. Each of the twelve Muslim months has 29–30 days, and each Muslim year has 354–355 days. It takes about 103 Muslim years to equal a Christian century, making it difficult to compare dates. A further problem for Muslims is that their year does not follow the solar seasons. At times, the month of fasting—the ninth month of the year—may fall during the hottest season in torrid climates, trying the patience and devotion of the faithful.)

Now is a good time to reflect on what has taken place in the lives of our Muslim brothers and sisters during the past century, and to consider their mood today. The subject is of considerable importance to both the world and the church. Economically, the world is virtually dependent on Arab oil. Politically, many of the world’s trouble spots are Muslim areas: Iran, the Middle East, and much of sub-Saharan Africa. Religiously, Muslims represent one of the great unreached peoples for Christian missions. Certainly, for the church of God, the world’s 700–800 million Muslims are one of the greatest challenges with which it must deal. Let us therefore try to catch a glimpse of the main developments of the fourteenth Islamic century, and their implications ...

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