The Conflict Between Christendom And Islam
Since Islam came into being, it has clashed numerously with the already
established Christianity. Their rivalry has never ceased until today. Modern
Examples would be Bosnia and Lebanon.
There were not only military clashes
but political as well as economical. Although, the rivalry was incredibly intense,
ironically, Arabic or Islamic culture managed to severely influence the Christian
kingdoms. However, Christianity used all the advantages provided by Islam to
their advantage and through that they managed to keep the Arabs at bay.
Islamic civilization and its rise were thanks to one man and that is the last
prophet, Prophet Muhammad.
Islam came into being in 622AD and it was the last
of the great civilizations. Islam managed to push the Arabs into a new kind of
Unity , which at the same time spread far beyond Arabia, Persians, Indians,
North African countries and parts of Europe came under its domination.
The Arabs managed to capture most of the most powerful economic
areas. In the Mediterranean their navy conquered Cyprus and crippled Byzantine
They first clashed with the Christians when they tried to besiege
Constantinople. In 711 they started their raids into Spain and in 716 they
conquered it. They tried to conquer France but the Franks under the leader
Charles Martel handed the Arabs their first defeat. From the end of the 7th
century till the middle of the 11th, the Mediterranean remained something of a
Muslim lake and western trade with East Asia wasnt cut off during these
centuries, it was significantly diminished and carried on in awareness of Muslim
( Craig, Graham, Kagan, Turner, The heritage of western civ.
In the early Middle Ages the main power in Europe was always the Pope
and later in the 700s it was shared with Charlemagne. The combination of these
two managed to keep the Arab invasions at bay. But the Christians did benefit
with their contact with Islamic culture.
The aggressiveness of the Arabs forced
western Europeans to rely on their own resources and to develop their own
By diverting the focus and energys of the Byzantine Empire, the Arabs
prevented it from expanding into Western Europe allowing the Franks and the
Lombargs to gain power. And by controlling their Mediterranean Western access
to eastern trade and cultural influence was diminished. There was also a lot of
creative interchange between these two cultures. The Arab civilization taught
western farmers irrigation, the tanning of leather, refinition of silk and educated
Down to the 16th century the basic gynecological and childcare
manuals were compilations of the famous Iranian Islamic scholars physician and
philosophers like Razi, Kharazmi and Ibm-Sina were still utilized. These scholars
made some of the greatest discoveries. For example Kharazmi discovered the
significance of alcohol in medications. ( Cargill, Menzont, Interaction of civ.
Relations between the two during those times were not always
antagonistic. In 802 Charlemagne received, from the caliph, Harun-al-Rashid, a
white elephant. In truth the Christians made not only a great amount of wealth
due their contacts with the Arabs with a whole deal of knowledge which led to
their ascendancy of power during the Renaissance years. Civilization in Western
Europe gained much more than it could have ever before.
Another fact about the Islamic civilization was that they were quite a
tolerant and practical race. Their tolerance of certain religions like the Jews
provided more distaste between the Christians and themselves. This was an
antagonism between the two until recently when the Arabs revolted against the
new state of Israel. ( Jacobs, Fisher, Einzholdt, Islamic Heritage, Pp 192)
There were times when Islamic culture actually managed to influence not
only the culture but the religion of the Christians as well.
For instance, during the
siege of Constantinople in 730 when Leo III managed to repulse the invaders he
also got ideas to change certain parts of the Christian religion. He forebade the
use of images in Eastern churches and tried to enforce the ban in the West, even
though his efforts insulted the Western churches. ( www. UCLA
In 1071, the Byzantine Empire was handed a major defeat by the Muslim
Seljuq Turks who soon, rapidly, overran the eastern provinces of the Empire.
After twenty years of steady Turkish advances, the Eastern Emperor asked for
Western Aid in 1092. The reply in three years was the launch of the first
Crusades. A century later ( 1204 ) the Crusaders would inflict more damage on
Constantinople and Eastern Christendom than all previous non-Christian
The first crusade was a risky venture. But for the Pope and the nobility, it
was to their advantage to send large amounts of nobles to fight, mainly because
of the small feuds back home between idle and restless noble youths.
nobility also recognized the vast amounts of fortunes they could make in these
wars. However, in the first crusade, religion was almost the only motive
encouraging the crusaders apart from economics. The Christians thought the first
crusade was an immense success. The second crusade was a disaster.
Graham, Ozment, Turner, Heritage of world civ. Pp 347-350 )
In 1187, Saladin reconquered Jerusalem. The third crusade, in the 12th
century, enlisted the most powerful Western rulers like King Richard the lion
heart of England. But all it lead to was a lot of the peoples tax money being
Overall, the crusades were both a political and religious failure.
However, it did stimulate Western trade and interaction with the East.
The Arabs would not have been able to spread their beliefs in the
Mesopotamian areas if it wasnt for the already existing conflicts between the
different types of Christian sects. Even though they were all Semitic as a result,
many Egyptians and Syrian Christians, hoping for deliverance from Byzantine
oppression, may have welcomed the Islamic conquerors.
Even though the
Muslims were quite tolerant of other religions, they were quite sensitive and tried
to maintain the purity of their religion and culture, the Arabs forbade mixed
marriages. Special taxes on conquered people encouraged them to convert to
Islam. ( Jacobs, Fisher, Einzholdt, Islamic Heritage, Pp 235-241)
The conclusion, which I have come by, is that Islam and Christianity
had nothing against each other except for economics and power. Although at one
point they fought with each other, mercilessly, their conflict has managed not to
only destroy but to create as well.
Trade between the Eastern and Western side
of the world was one of the greatest interactions between the two. The Western
civilizations have managed to not only increase their material wealth but also at
the same time, gained immense knowledge, which helped them to develop at an
incredible pace. Knowledge which has increased their culture and development. I
think that throughout the centuries and millennias conflict has usually been the
source of not only devastation but also incredible creation.