Among the many expressions of Christianity and Islam around the world today, there is not a more unlikely set of bedfellows than Evangelicalism and Salafism. Fiercely committed to their respective ideologies, Evangelicalism and Salafism are among the fastest growing religious demographics within Christianity and Islam. Often wielding a disproportionately heavy influence in politics and society among their respective constituencies, these two movements are usually conceived of as polar opposites, as they represent the more “extreme” forms of Islam and Christianity. Misunderstood from all angles, especially by the media, by other branches of their own faiths, and by one another, might these two movements have more in common than it first appears? And if so, is there anything of benefit to the relationships between Islam and Christianity and between East and West that can be gleaned from a closer examination? In order to answer these questions, I am probing into the lives and theologies of the two most influential men from both movements – Jonathan Edwards and Muhammad Ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab, who were both born, interestingly enough, in AD 1703 / AH 1115.
I believe that an historical theological study of these two giants of early modern Christianity and Islam will provide much benefit for crucial discussion between the world’s two largest religions today. By investigating the numerous points of convergence as well as the critical points of departure in the lives and theologies of Jonathan Edwards and Muhammad Ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab, it is my sincere hope that a clearer forward path of understanding will be built between Christians and Muslims at large, and between Evangelicals and Salafis in particular.