In , when he was about forty years old, he had his first revelation and began his call to Islam. This call at first elicited mockery, opposition, threats and persecution. Muhammad persisted nonetheless. By AD, the year of his death, he had united virtually all or most of the Arabian Peninsula for the first time in history.
He created out of hitherto feuding Arab tribes a mighty united community under the banner of Islam. In the following half-century or so, Arabs were in control of a territory stretching from central Asia and the Indus River in the east to Spain in the west. Wherever the Muslim Arabs went, they took with them their language and their religion. As a religion, Islam is no stranger to Christianity and Judaism. When Muhammad was challenged by his opponents to produce evidence for the existence of Allah, he cited the Jewish and Christian prophets who preceded him, Abraham, Moses and Jesus, 1 Jesus being acknowledged only as a prophet.
Muhammad told the Meccans that Allah had sent the same message earlier to Jews and Christians; that Allah was the same God for all; and that Islam fulfills and completes the earlier revelations. They also share the duties of fasting, prayer, performing pilgrimages, feeding the hungry and promoting justice.
Christianity in Saudi Arabia - Wikipedia
While they share these similarities, there are a few differences as well. Islam accuses Christians and Jews of having corrupted the divine revelations they had received from God.
Islam also rejects the divinity of Jesus, and rejects the Trinity as a form of shirk , or creating associates to Allah. Also, Islam denies the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, though it accepts his virgin birth and his miracles. Islam teaches that Jesus was uplifted alive to Heaven where he awaits the end of time to fulfill his mission. Important as these differences are from a Christian viewpoint, Christians do well to acknowledge signs of respect for Christ and Mary in the Islamic tradition.
The Koran , the Muslim holy book, holds Jesus and Mary in high esteem. One whole chapter in the Koran Sura 19 is devoted to Mary. Jesus is referred to as the son of Mary, a vindication of his sinless birth. In light of the above, how did Muhammad deal with the Christians and Jews he encountered in the Arabian Peninsula? At first, Muhammad considered Christians and Jews as allies and potential converts to Islam, since his message was similar to theirs.
They, however, rejected him and did not recognize him as a prophet of the stature of Moses and Jesus. Our God and your God is one. To Him we surrender ourselves. The Christians of Banu Taghlib got preferential treatment. They were declared allies of Muhammad and did not have to pay tribute. And by Allah, I hold out against anything that displeases them.
It ended with the admonition that its terms were binding on all Muslims till the Day of Judgment. It was not until the conquest of Iraq, Syria and Egypt that the Arabs came in contact with large numbers of Christians and Jews. Damascus surrendered in , Iraq in , Jerusalem in , and Alexandria in Iraq, Syria and Egypt were predominantly Christian at the time of the conquest.
In dealing with an overwhelmingly Christian population, Arab commanders and Caliph Umar I followed the example set by Muhammad in Arabia. Thus, Khalid ibn al-Walid, the Arab commander to whom Damascus capitulated, issued the following declaration to the people of Damascus:. This is what Khalid ibn al-Walid would grant to the inhabitants of Damascus if he enters therein: he promises to give them security for their lives, property, and churches.
To Rome through Mecca
Their city shall not be demolished, neither shall any Muslim be quartered in their houses. Thereunto we give them the pact of Allah and the protection of his Prophet, the caliphs, and the believers. So long as they pay the poll tax, nothing but good shall befall them. The fall of Jerusalem was not substantially different.
Jerusalem has had a special place in Islam. Following the retreat of the Byzantine army northward, the city came under the control of Patriarch Sophronius, who refused to surrender the city except to Caliph Umar himself. Accordingly, Caliph Umar came especially from Medina to receive Jerusalem.
While touring the Church of the Holy Sepulcher about noontime, Umar went outside to perform the noon prayer. Under the Byzantines, Jews were barred from Jerusalem. The Arabs allowed them in again. We have records of Muslim rulers helping found Christian monasteries. The highlight of his research, however, was a seventh-century canon law permitting Christian priests to administer last rites to Muslims as well as perform exorcisms to heal Muslims using Christian relics.
Thus, in return for submission and the payment of the jizya , the poll tax, Islam guaranteed the people of the Book security of life, property and protection in the exercise of their religions. Each community exercised jurisdiction over matters of personal status, such as marriage, divorce and inheritance. So long as they submitted to the Muslim state and paid the jizya , Christians and Jews were left alone to run their own lives without interference. The jizya , which adult, sane dhimmi males paid for protection and exemption from military service, was reasonable and not oppressive.
It was paid either in money or in kind. Peasants in rural areas usually paid one gold dinar or 12 silver dirhams in addition to one jarib of wheat per head. Urban dhimmis paid from a minimum of one gold dinar or 12 silver dirhams to a maximum of four gold dinars or 48 silver dirhams , depending on their wealth.
Women, children, old men, slaves, poor monks, and the mentally sick were exempt. Monks in Egypt were exempt until the period of Umar II, — Thereafter, they paid the jizya. Positions in government administration and the economy were open to dhimmis. In fact, from the Arab conquest to the beginning of the eighth century, the language of the administration remained Persian in Iraq and Greek in Egypt and Syria. Only dhimmis , especially Christians, had the linguistic and administrative skills to keep the government functioning. The well-known St. John of Damascus, his father and grandfather, served the Umayyad state in high office in Damascus.
John was also noted for his theological dialogues with Muslims regarding the divinity of Christ. Jews, of course, were not excluded from government posts and Arab courts.
The Jewish physician — philosopher ibn Maimoun, or Maimonides — , distinguished himself in the service of the Ayyubid Court in Cairo. Furthermore, Jewish and Christian merchants played significant roles in banking and the economy. Between and , over the course of two centuries, Christian translators, among others, made available to the Muslim mind virtually the whole Greek and Syriac philosophical, medical and scientific body of knowledge in Arabic. The Shia Fatimid Caliphate based in Cairo was noted for its tolerant attitude to Christians and Jews, except for the period of Caliph al-Hakim — Several individuals of Jewish and Christian background reached the second highest position in the state, that of wazir.
Between and , the Arabs were in control of almost all of the Iberian Peninsula. Spanish cities usually surrendered without a fight, as the natives were assured of security of life, religion and property. Spain, called Andalus by the Arabs, became a model of toleration and religious coexistence.
It flourished economically, intellectually and socially. Cordoba, capital of Muslim Spain, rivaled Baghdad and Constantinople in the tenth century as a cosmopolitan city, noted for trade, culture and learning. The closest library to it in Europe was in Switzerland with books. Christians and Jews, along with Muslims, shared in the wealth of Cordoba and occupied high positions in society and the royal court.
In the towns and cities, Jews found themselves in unique positions as intermediaries between Muslim-dominated Spain and the rest of the world. Having suffered severe discrimination at the hands of the Visigoths, Jewish communities under the Muslims enjoyed more freedom, affluence, and social standing than any Jewish community would until the nineteenth century.
Where is the layman who now reads the Latin commentaries on the Holy Scriptures, or who studies the Gospels, prophets and apostles? All the talented young Christians read and study with enthusiasm the Arab books — they despise the Christian literature as unworthy of attention.
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As was the case in the Arab state, the attitude of the Ottomans to Christians and Jews was essentially the same. So long as they submitted, paid the jizya and stayed away from seditious acts, they were left alone. Ottoman subjects were organized into three millets , or religious communities: the Muslim millet, the Greek Orthodox millet and the Jewish millet. Each millet was autonomous under its religious chiefs who served as links between the Ottoman government and their flocks.
Religious chiefs were sometimes responsible for collecting Ottoman taxes from their communities. Issues of personal status were also under their control. No effort was made by the Ottomans to convert people to Islam. When conversion did occur, it was not the result of pressure. The Ottomans did not proselytize.
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When Constantinople fell to Muhammad II in , its population was declining. The talks were held in Mecca, which is barred to non-Muslims.