Sunday, July 7, 2013

( 5 ) " Islam Meets Eastern Christianity. "

By Sodium

This is the third time I write a review to this topic. And in each of the three times, I have found myself compelled to change the narrative of the review, for a variety of reasons. Some of these reasons has to do with the length of the review. Another reason has to do with what is important to include in, and what is un-important to exclude out of this current review. However, the main reason was the deletion or disappearance of most of the first two posts I personally posted on the Internet. The other reasons mentioned in the foregoing were by-products of the deletion or disappearance that had occurred initially. What has caused the deletion or disappearance, I simply do not know. I can only assume and my assumption could be totally wrong.

In short, the readers who are interested in the struggles within the realm of Christianity and within the two competing Roman Empires, in Rome and Constantinople respectively, before the appearance of Islam, can read or consult (3) Power, Heresy, and Evolution of Christianity; and topic (4) Byzantium versus Rome: Warring Christian Polarity. Both topics have already been covered, as integral parts of the whole review, from beginning till end. Therefore, there is no need, of me, to go all over again discussing or even listing the factors that had made the whole Greater Syria ready to embrace the new spirit the conquering Muslim Arabs brought with them from Arabia. That brings us to the essence of this topic." Islam Meets Eastern Christianity. "  In other words, what had the conquering Muslim Arabs had done to the Christians of Greater Syria which they ruled ?  The first allegation surfaced in Christendom was that the conquerors had spread their Islam, in the territories they conquered and ruled, was by the power of their swords. Let us put this allegation under scrutiny and then decide upon  its validity. How can we do that ?  Well, one avenue available is to read what some of the professional historians have written about such an allegation and I quote below what they have written, precisely as they are quoted in the book entitled, " A World Without Islam " by Graham Fuller:

Historian Arnold Toynbee:
" In the first place we can discount the tendency -which has been popular in Christendom- to overestimate the extent of the use of force in the propagation of Islam. The show of adherence to the religion exacted by the Prophet successors was limited to the performance of a small number of not very onerous external observances....In the conquered provinces of the Roman and Sassanian Empires the alternatives offered were not "Islam or death" but "Islam or a super-tax"- a policy traditionally praised for its enlightenment when pursued long afterwards in England by Laodicean [religiously disinterested] Queen Elizabeth."

Historian of Islam, Ira Lapidus:
" The Arab conquerors did not require the conversion as much as the subordination of non-Muslim peoples. At the outset [the Arab conquerors] were hostile to conversions because new Muslims diluted the economic and status advantages of the Arabs."

" At the time of the conquest, Islam was meant to be a religion of the Arabs a mark of caste unity and superiority. The Arabs had little missionary zeal. When conversions did occur, they were an embarrassment because they created status problems and led to claim for financial privileges."

" And this privileged position for Arabs within Islam, of course, directly contrary to the final address of the Prophet himself:

[    O' people ! Verily your Lord is one and your father is one. All of you belong to one ancestry of Adam and Adam was created out of clay. There is no superiority for an Arab over a non-Arab and for a non-Arab over an Arab; nor for white over the black nor for the black over the white except in piety. Verily the noblest among you is he who is the most pious.]

" The Arabs were changed from a clan or tribal people into an "urban" peple, mingled with non-Arab peoples, abandoned military affairs, took on civilian occupations and lost their monopoly on Islam. Correspondingly, non-Arab peoples entered the military and government services, converted to Islam, adopted the Arabic language, and claimed a place in the government of the empire in which they were initially subjects."

Professor of Medieval Islam, Merlin Swartz:
" Most of the Jewish population was discontented with their persecuted status within the Byzantium Empire and welcomed the Muslim armies, whose rule would turn out to facilitate a new flowering of Jewish culture."

The author has quoted more quotes, but the above quotations should suffice to refute the allegation that Islam was spread by the sword as Muslim Arabs conquered and ruled Greater Syria and other Christian provinces of the Eastern Roman Empire.

Jerusalem and Caliph Omar ibn al-Khattab:
The following story is not in the  book, but from me, based on what I have already read about how the city of Jerusalem when it fell, without blood shed, into the hands of the conquering Muslim Arabs. In my views, It is a fascinating story that must repeatedly be told over again and again to prove one point: one of the fundamental abstract characteristics of Islam is, indeed, tolerance. Here below is the story:

As the conquering Muslim Arabs surrounded the walled city of Jerusalem, they demanded from the city's leaders, who were mostly Christian religious leaders, to surrender peaceably to avoid blood shed. The city leaders responded that they would surrender the city key only to Caliph Omar ibn al-Khattab to ensure safety for the city's population. The Commander of the sieging Arab army sent a message to Omar, informing him of the response received from the city's religious leaders. In order to avoid blood shed, he ( Omar ) accompanied his servant and traveled, on a camel, from Mecca to Jerusalem-a very long ride. Omar instructed his servant that he ( Omar ) and his servant should take turns in riding the camel in order both of them could arrive to Jerusalem in acceptable physical shape.. So it was: The Caliph Omar rode the camel for a few miles and then his servant rode it for a few miles while the Caliph Omar walked on foot and led the camel and they kept taking turns until they reached Jerusalem.

When they arrived to Jerusalem gate, it happened that it was the turn of the servant riding the camel and the Caliph Omar on foot leading it. As the camel parked near the gate, the religious leaders of Jerusalem ran towards the person who was riding the camel to welcome him to the great city of Jerusalem, wrongly assuming the servant was the Caliph Omar ibn al-Khattab. As the servant explained to them how they traveled on one camel from Mecca until they reached Jerusalem, the leaders of Jerusalem were so impressed by the fairness and humility of Omar, they immediately and gladly offered him the key of the city of Jerusalem. As they showed the Caliph of all Muslims every where, the major monuments in the city, it was Islamic prayer time as they were in the Christian Church that was built on the spot where Christians believed that Jesus Christ was buried. It is called the" Church of the Holy Sepulchre "  While in that Church, Omar expressed his wish to be excused for a few minutes to pray outside the premises of the Church. The Christian leaders offered him to conduct his Islamic prayer inside the Church where he and they were. Omar politely declined accepting their offer, saying to them that if he accepted their offer to pray inside their Church, the Muslims may insist on building a mosque on the spot where he prayed. So, Omar stepped outside the Church and on his small little carpet conducted his prayer, in Mecca's direction. Indeed, what Omar had predicted then what the Muslims would do had happened: They built a mosque on the spot where Omar prayed outside the greatest and holiest Christian Church in Christendom, the "Church of the Holy Sepulchre," in the city of Jerusalem.

Such a disciplined conduct of Omar has to do with the very old Arab culture of " Murrowah " whose meaning was covered, on this website, in an essay entitled," ( 1 ) Arabia Before Appearance of Islam. Some Arabs pronounce " Murrowah " as " Muro'ah. "  Either way, the meaning of either word remains the same.

Because of the fact that the religious leaders of Jerusalem could not agree among themselves who should keep the key of the city of Jerusalem, they had chosen a Muslim or a Muslim family to keep the key of the city of Jerusalem. And the key has been in the safe hands of a Muslim, ever since and through the ages. As Israel illegally annexed occupied Jerusalem, one may wonder if the key is still in the safe hand of a Muslim, or has been confiscated by the government of Israel, as it has brutaly confiscated Palestinian lands and homes, on daily basis, in the West Bank of Palestine. One must wonder !

This story of Caliph Omar ibn al-Khattab in Jerusalem is profoundly telling, as to how Islam had once met Christianity within the walls of the city of Jerusalem and at the greatest and holiest Christian Church in Christendom, in the absence of blood shed. This story stands in a striking contrast to what the pages of the recorded human history tell us: Conquerors showed no empathy, let alone mercy, towards their victims, the conquered people, How the Muslim Arabs had handled their conquest of Jerusalem was ( and will remain ) truly one of the many peaceful and positive characteristics of Islam.

Yes, indeed, Islam had met Eastern Christianity in the Church of Holy Sepulchre, in the city of Jerusalem, in the 7th century of the Christian Calendar, in a humane and splendid way.


Next topic will be topic number ( 6 ) The Great Crusades.


  1. Richard The Lion HeartJuly 14, 2013 at 1:30 PM

    Sodium, I cannot challenge you on the Muslim Caliph Umar ibn Al-Khattab's fairness. I checked different sources written about him and all were not negative. But, I challenge you to prove that the Arabs conquered the Roman Empire's provinces of Greater Syria without wars. I cannot remember the names of the battles the Muslim Arabs waged to spread Islam, but there were violent battles, in that part of the world as Islam appeared-Seventh Century, I believe.

  2. Richard The Lion-heart,

    Why in the world you used the worlds " I challenge you " ? We are not here to challenge each other, but to learn from what knowledgeable authors write.

    I refrain from responding to your " challenge," because it is beneath the dignity of scholarship to do so.

    I am prepared to answer your inquiry without the unwarranted " Challenge " of yours. Grow-up !

  3. Richard The Lion HeartJuly 16, 2013 at 10:00 AM

    Okay. Sodium, I shall follow your rules: I cannot deny the historical fact that Jerusalem fell into the hands of the Arabs peacefully, but I could not find a similar case with regards to Greater Syria, as it was conquered by the Arabs in 7th century A.D.

    I look forward to read your response.

  4. Richard The Lion Heart,

    To deny that the Arabs conquered Greater Syria and other places without wars would be as saying the sunrise begins in the West and the sunset ends up in the East. All empires, as recorded in human history were built through military battles and wars. The Arab Empire that was built so swiftly was no difference in that regards.The difference has always been in the way the conquered peoples were treated by the Empire's Rulers, Generals, or Governors. Based upon the assessments of most well recognized historians, the Arab rule of the conquered peoples was the least brutal. You need not take my word. Check it out. I can give you names of historians who said so in their writings, but I refrain from doing so for sake of neutrality. Therefore, I feel that you should do the research required on your own and as you see fit.

    Thank you for your constructive and sincere inquiry you have clearly exhibited in your last post, addressed to me..