The Prophet Muhammad knew Christians in his lifetime and respected them along with Jews as "People of the Book." Because of their monotheism and roots in the revealed Jewish Bible, the Prophet and his successors extended conquered Christians (and Jews) more freedoms than conquered pagans. In the approximately 1,300 years of history since the life of the Prophet, the relationship between Christianity and Islam has rarely been harmonious. As it spread, the Muslim Empire quickly conquered much of the Judeo-Christian Holy Land and the Christian Byzantine Empire. The Christian Crusades of the 11th through 13th centuries, waged in large part against Muslims, served only to widen the divide between the two faiths. Constantinople, the "New Rome" and the center of Eastern Orthodox Christianity, fell to the Turks in 1453 and has lived under Islamic rule ever since.
Christianity existed several centuries prior to the birth of Islam, and by the time Muhammad founded Islam in the Middle East, Christianity had moved its center to Europe, where it had firmly established itself as the official religion. But Christianity originally sprouted in the Middle East after Christ's resurrection in A.D. 30. The church began in Jerusalem and the surrounding area, and it initially preached the Gospel only to the Jews. It grew quite rapidly for a time-in fact, the book of Acts records the conversion of 3000 Jews in a single, extraordinary day. During this early period, however, Christianity did not expand far beyond Jerusalem and its vicinity. That would soon change. After the first few